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Why ‘Union Joe’ Chose to Make it Illegal for Rail Workers to Strike

After campaigning as the most pro-union candidate ever, Biden decided the economy was a bigger priority than rail workers' bargaining power This article is part of The D.C. Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to get stories like this sent to your inbox. Want to know how worried Washington was about a rail strike? Typically reliable union champions Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi successfully rallied rank-and-file Democrats to side with railroad execs over their workers. You read that correctly: Biden decided the broader economy was a bigger priority than 100,000 freight rail workers having any paid sick leave in their next contract. After campaigning as the most pro-union presidential candidate in history, Biden signed into law a measure that makes a rail strike illegal. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Like the auto and Wall Street bailouts, the rail-worker order is likely to be an unpopular move—but ultimately one that defines a Biden legacy as much as his green-energy agenda, his infrastructure investments, and his reboot of U.S. foreign policy in the post-Trump era. It was a tough call for the White House and for Biden personally, but one that ultimately is the kind that only gets to a President’s desk when everything else fails. It may deflate part of his political base—Biden carried union households over Trump by 14 points in 2020, and Democrats carried them by 15 points last month—but it may also sustain his governing power. The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would force management and labor to accept a White House-negotiated deal that eight of the 12 unions at the table had already agreed to. (The remaining four, however, represent more than half of the nation’s unionized freight rail workers.) On Thursday, under pressure from the White House and Wall Street alike, the Senate followed. And by Friday afternoon, Biden was in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to sign a deal that leveraged the government’s power to keep workers on the job if they are linked to interstate commerce. “I know this was a tough vote for members of both parties,” Biden said on Friday. “It was tough for me.” For sure there were sacrifices. A companion proposal that would have introduced sick leave for workers was cleaved from the package and died in the Senate, another blow to union members. “We’re going to avoid the rail strike, keep the rails running, keep things moving, and I’m going to go back and we’re going to get paid leave, not just for rail workers, but for all workers,” Biden said at a news conference on Thursday. With Republicans set to take control of the House come January and Washington’s urgent must-do list finding fewer and fewer hours ahead of the holiday recess, it’s not entirely clear how Biden might get any federal guarantee of paid time off through Congress. The White House-brokered deal still has plenty for workers to embrace, including a roughly 24% pay increase by 2024 and a ratification bonus of $11,000. Still, the contract guarantees just one paid personal day off and no dedicated sick days, although there is some flexibility to step out for doctor appointments. The quick fall of dominos stands as a reminder that, when it has to, Washington can set aside pettiness and summon unity and might to avoid a crisis. The rail workers had eyed Dec. 9 as a potential start to a strike, a protest that could have sent the whole economy into a crippling recession and cost as many as 750,000 jobs, according to one estimate. Another scary figure: a rail strike could cost the broader economy $2 billion per day. Biden, who calls himself “Union Joe” in front of friendly union crowds, had the option of standing in solidarity with the freight workers—and, symbolically, all members of the labor movement—or steering the locomotive onto safer tracks. The choice was hardly an appealing one, but this is why voters opted for Biden in 2020—the promise of steadier leadership. Biden’s calculation was that his longtime pals will understand the terrible choice he faced and accept why he did what he did. Make sense of what matters in Washington. Sign up for the D.C. Brief newsletter......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEDec 4th, 2022Related News

Prince William’s Earthshot Prize Winners Include a Seaweed-Based Plastic Startup and Cleaner Cookstoves

Prince William's Earthshot Prize awarded over $6 million to five projects seeking to solve the world’s most urgent environmental problems. There is no shortage of environmental problems that need to be solved. And today in Boston, Mass.—at a ceremony marked by celebrity appearances and calls to action from around the world—Prince William through his Earthshot Prize handed out over $6 million dollars to help accelerate five solutions to tackling issues on conservation, air quality, oceans, waste, and climate change. The annual Earthshot Prize, an independent charity founded by Prince William and the Royal Foundation in 2020, awards $1.2 million each to winners in the five categories. The initiative aims to bring the same level of urgency and ambition to today’s environmental challenges as John F. Kennedy’s “moonshot” space-race challenge. (Marc and Lynne Benioff, TIME’s owners and co-chairs, have been among the philanthropic supporters of the effort.) [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Among the panel of judges selecting this year’s high-profile awards are naturalist Sir David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett, musician Shakira, and Christiana Figueres, former head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The winners were selected from a group of 15 finalists from 10 different countries, and included, among others, grassroots organizations dedicated to forest protection and biodiversity conservation, along with start-ups exploring clean battery technology and alternative leather derived from waste. [video id=kAxye98N autostart="viewable"] This year’s winning solutions “prove we can overcome our planet’s greatest challenges,” said the Prince of Wales at the ceremony. “And by supporting and scaling them we can change our future.” Here are the 2022 Earthshot Prize winners: Mukuru Clean Stoves tackles clean air in Kenya Mukuru Clean Stoves is a female-founded business, staffed mostly with women, which aims to bring cleaner-burning stoves to women in Kenya. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 950 million people rely on heavily polluting wood and charcoal for cooking, a number estimated to grow to 1.67 billion by 2050. The startup was founded in 2017 by Charlot Magayi, who used to sell charcoal for fuel in Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, and whose daughter was severely burnt by a charcoal stove, prompting a search for a better solution. According to the company, Mukuru’s stove emits 90% less pollution than cooking over an open fire, and 70% less pollution than using a traditional cookstove. Costing just $10, the stove is fueled by biomass created from charcoal, wood, and sugarcane; fuel expenses are also half that of traditional sources. Kheyti is protecting and restoring nature in India Start-up Kheyti has developed a “greenhouse-in-a-box” to help the world’s approximately 570 million smallholder farmers protect their crops from unpredictable, harsh weather, and pests—two challenges made worse due to climate change. According to the company, its modular greenhouses are 90% cheaper than standard greenhouses, employ drip irrigation to help use 98% less water than growing crops outdoors, and can boost yields seven-fold compared to typical agricultural methods. Together with training provided by Kheyti, farmers are able to double their incomes, according to the company. So far, some 1,000 farms are using the greenhouses; by 2027 the company hopes to reach 50,000 farmers. The Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network is helping revive Australia’s oceans Indigenous rangers in Australia work to protect the Great Barrier Reef from storms and ocean acidification as well as land-based environments from forest fires and degradation. Yet, in Queensland, Australia, only 20% of these rangers are women. Over the past four years, the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network has helped train over 60 women in combining modern conservation techniques, such as using drones, with traditional knowledge sharing. The data collected by this network provide vital information on ecosystems in order to better protect them. The organization’s hope is to gain enough support to help expand these conservation methods around the world. Notpla’s circular solution to waste in the U.K. Looking for an alternative to fossil-fuel-based plastics? London-based start-up Notpla (short for “not plastic”) was launched in 2019 by Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Carcia Gonzalez, who both studied in a Innovation Design Engineering program run jointly by the Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. Together, they created a biodegradable seaweed-based packaging for everything from liquids and food. Notpla tackles environmental issues on two fronts: first, its environmentally friendly alternative to plastic can help make a dent in the some 6.3 metric tons of plastic waste currently clogging the world’s streets and sea, and second, the seaweed the product is based on can capture carbon 20 times faster than trees. So far, Notpla has provided more than 1 million take-out containers to JustEatTakeaway.com, a global online food-delivery marketplace. [video id=kAxye98N autostart="viewable"] The 44.01 Project in Oman is turning CO2 into rock This Oman-based start-up takes its name from the molecular weight of carbon dioxide: 44.01 grams per mole. In an effort to reduce the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, 44.01 sucks CO2 from the atmosphere using direct-air-capture technology, dissolves it into water, and then pumps the resulting carbonated water into underground seams of peridotite—an igneous rock formed from Earth’s mantle—where it’s stored in a process known as mineralization. Their system is powered by energy derived from heat, solar, and biofuels. Founded by Talal Hasan, 44.01’s first project in Oman—home to the world’s largest concentration of peridotite—will mineralize 1,000 metric tons of CO2 each year until 2024, emissions equal to driving 215 gas-powered cars for a year. It also hopes to expand internationally, and store 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2040......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEDec 4th, 2022Related News

Sam Bankman-Fried’s Shadow Loomed Over Congress’ First Crypto Hearing Post-FTX Collapse

“The risks of trading crypto have come into sharp focus in the past few weeks,” one senator said at the hearing. Less than a month after the stunning collapse of the crypto exchange FTX, Congress held its first hearing on Thursday on what Washington should do amid the fallout. Senators called for swift legislative action to safeguard consumers but many disagreements still exist over the shape of those actions. Debates will likely continue for months on how, exactly, crypto should be regulated in the U.S. The hearing was hosted by the Senate Agriculture Committee, and didn’t feature the person at the center of the FTX saga: CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who is expected to testify at a House hearing later this month. The only person invited to testify on Thursday was Rostin Behnam, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an agency that regulates derivative markets and is among those lawmakers are considering tasking with reining in the freewheeling world of cryptocurrency. Behnam pressed the Senate to give his agency oversight of most crypto markets, calling for “comprehensive market regulation.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] However, Behnam’s testimony was complicated by his close working relationship with Bankman-Fried over the last year. And the bill that Behnam and other senators advocated for on Thursday was the same one championed by Bankman-Fried himself, raising many eyebrows. Here are the main takeaways from the hearing. Senators are divided over the path to take on crypto Many of the senators who spoke on Thursday emphasized the need for some sort of action following the FTX crash. “The risks of trading crypto have come into sharp focus in the past few weeks,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, who co-led the hearing with John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican. “The lack of clear consistent rules has allowed crypto to flourish despite the harmful conflicts of interest, an absence of responsible governance and risk management and a failure to safeguard customer assets.” Many senators voiced support for the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, a bill sponsored by Stabenow and Boozman and aims to give the CTFC greater control over crypto. But another bill from Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, and Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, the Responsible Financial Innovation Act, is competing for attention. And many other crypto bills are floating around in the House, all of them proposing different levels of involvement by the US government in a financial world that has quickly amassed hundreds of billions of dollars in value. Many members of Congress are still struggling to understand exactly how cryptocurrency works. Some senators on Thursday, including Republican Senators John Thune of South Dakota and Roger Marshall of Kansas, raised the possibility of at least temporarily banning crypto in the US altogether, though it was unclear if they understood how such a ban would work. “Do you ever consider that there should just be a pause in this cryptocurrency digital world until we get our arms around it?” Marshall asked Behnam. “I don’t have the luxury to sit back,” Behnam responded. “No matter what, whether it’s in the US or offshore, these markets are going to exist.” Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is often a leading progressive voice on regulations, was not present at Thursday’s hearing, but will likely present formidable opposition to any bill that is remotely friendly to crypto: At a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, she called FTX “not much more than a handful of magic beans.” The CFTC wants control over crypto At the moment, the CFTC is jockeying for regulatory control over crypto with the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) and other agencies. Thursday’s hearing gave Behnam a chance to make the case for his agency, which is much smaller than the SEC and often perceived as much more crypto-friendly. Behnam refuted this idea on Thursday: “If individuals took a harder look at our record, they would understand we’re the farthest thing from a light-touch regulator,” Behnam said. Behnam sought to distance himself from Bankman-Fried, who has served as the main face of crypto on the Hill. Bankman-Fried said on Wednesday at the New York Times’ DealBook summit that he spent “hundreds, probably thousands of hours” in Washington trying to secure meetings with regulators. Bankman-Fried, along with former FTX Digital Markets CEO Ryan Salame, also contributed tens of thousands of dollars to lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture Committee for their election campaigns this year. Behnam admitted at the hearing to meeting with Bankman-Fried ten times over the last couple years in his office. But he said that the meetings were related to FTX’s “dogged” pursuit of a proposal that would let investors make sophisticated bets with borrowed money directly on FTX instead of through a broker. The proposal was highly controversial, with detractors arguing it could destabilize markets. “We did not have flexibility to put it on the side of the desk or disregard it…knowing the importance of the issue and the very strong feelings on both sides,” Behnam said. Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, also sought to distance Bankman-Fried from the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, which Bankman-Fried publicly supported. In October. Bankman-Fried tweeted in October that the bill would “provide customer protection on centralized crypto exchanges.” “It’s been widely discussed in the media that the Stabenow-Boozman bill is an SBF bill,” Booker, who co-sponsored the bill, said. “Sam Bankman-Fried did give a lot of feedback, as did many others, from industry, academia, from the policy community, and beyond.” Behnam said that the bill would have to be “strengthened” in the wake of the FTX crash, including with regard to conflicts of interest and the financial information cryptocurrency exchanges should be required to disclose. Some are skeptical that Congress will do anything While Behnam and some senators used the hearing to push hard for the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, the bill has received criticism from both crypto supporters and skeptics. Crypto supporters worry it will heavily restrict the sprawling crypto ecosystem known as decentralized finance (DeFi). Miller Whitehouse-Levine, policy director of The DeFi Education Fund, told TIME in a phone interview that “I don’t think this hearing is indicative of momentum behind the DCCPA. If anything, I think it has added much more to think about in the next few months.” Crypto detractors, on the other hand, argue the bill lacks teeth in protecting customers from shady practices and that the CFTC might be the wrong agency to police it. Americans for Financial Reform released a letter in September arguing that the CFTC was too small and ill-equipped to regulate the crypto market. Dennis Kelleher, the president of the advocacy group Better Markets, went a step further, arguing that the CFTC should be investigated over “how much access influence Sam Bankman-Fried bought” at the agency. He points to one strategy FTX took of hiring a slew of former CFTC officials, including Mark Wetjen, Ryne Miller, and Brian Mulherin. After Thursday’s hearing, Kelleher expressed frustration that it had unfolded “as if the FTX blowup didn’t happen.” “When something like this happens, typically you have an overreaction of elected officials of the need to crack down on the industry,” he says. “Instead, this hearing is to push a bill that was endorsed and pushed by FTX.” The hearing was the first in a series of congressional meetings about FTX. The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on its collapse on Dec. 13, and expects Bankman-Fried to testify there. As congress mulls whether to pass legislation, federal agencies including the CFTC, the SEC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have reportedly launched investigations of FTX......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEDec 2nd, 2022Related News

Elon Musk Delivers Tesla’s Electric Semi Trucks to PepsiCo

Electrifying big commercial vehicles is crucial to transitioning to more sustainable, climate-friendly transportation. Tesla Inc. handed over the first of its electric Semi trucks, a milestone for the automaker more than five years after it unveiled the vehicle. “If you want the most badass rig on the road, this is it,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said Thursday at Tesla’s battery factory near Reno, Nevada. He capped off the delivery event with a handover of key cards to two PepsiCo Inc. executives. While passenger cars get most of the buzz, electrifying big commercial vehicles is crucial to transitioning to more sustainable transportation. Tesla estimates that while combination trucks are just 1% of the US vehicle fleet, they account for 20% of vehicle emissions. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Tesla has designed the Semi around the driver, with a central seating position, room to stand up and ample storage space. The company released footage of a 500-mile (805-kilometer) demonstration run carrying a full load from its plant in Fremont to San Diego on one charge. To quickly replenish the Semi’s battery, Tesla developed a liquid-cooled cable capable of one-megawatt charging. Musk said the technology coming to the company’s superchargers next year also will be used for the upcoming Cybertruck. Tesla shares were little changed as of 5 a.m. Friday in New York, before the start of regular trading. During Tesla’s last earnings call, Musk said the company is aiming to produce 50,000 Semis for North America in 2024. He appears to have taken the product off the back burner after the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which makes tax credits of as much as $40,000 available to commercial vehicles. Musk didn’t discuss production volume or pricing Thursday evening. Large fleet operators like PepsiCo, Walmart Inc., Meijer Inc. and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. were among the companies that placed non-binding reservations for the Semi starting in 2017. The first deliveries are going to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay plant in Modesto, California. Tesla will put the Semi to work carrying freight between the company’s factories in Nevada and California so that engineers can continually refine the product, Dan Priestley, the program manager for the truck, said on stage. He thanked customers for sticking with the company through setbacks to the model initially scheduled for production in 2019. “Sorry for the delay,” Musk said. “The sheer amount of drama between five years ago and now is insane. A lot has happened in the world, but here we are, and it’s real.” —With assistance from Ed Ludlow......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEDec 2nd, 2022Related News

Your Next House Could Be Made on an Assembly Line

Building homes—or at least pieces of them—in a factory could help address America's housing shortage. Walking down the assembly line as the bell dings, marking a lunch break, Ken Semler points to a man carefully sealing the frame of a house with foam as evidence that this factory can build houses faster, cheaper, and better than traditional homebuilders. “There’s no way you can do quality work in the field to the level you can in the factory,” says Semler, a tall, chatty man with a bristly mustache who is the president-elect of the Modular Home Builders Association. Factories like this one, run by a company called Apex Homes, may also be the key to solving America’s affordable housing crisis. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Sitting on the assembly line are so-called modules—pieces of a house—that will be wrapped in insulation and trucked to their final destination, which in this case is a ranch in Wyoming. There, a crane will put them together like a 3D puzzle. The whole process can be completed in a fraction of the time and at a lower cost than it would take to build a home on site. “People are looking for an alternative way to build,” Semler says. “The old way is just getting too hard.” The term “factory-built housing” might conjure the image of the small, boxy trailer-like home that sprung up to help address the housing crisis after World War II. But the modular homes manufactured here and in other factories are indistinguishable from the site-built homes in the neighborhoods they end up in. Unlike manufactured housing, which is wholly assembled in a factory and conforms only to a federal standard, modular housing is assembled on site and is required to follow specific state and local building codes. Companies build modular in styles like ranch, colonial, and chalet—Semler is building himself a 4,500 square foot modular home in Virginia in what he calls “Southern Living” style architecture. Semler, who is also the CEO of a modular building company called Impresa Modular, has tried for years to convert the construction industry to off-site building (an industry term for modular.) A climate-controlled factory is a much easier place to build, he and other modular advocates argue, than a plot of land that is often remote, and that comes with unpredictable weather conditions. But in 2021, just 24,000 homes were built off-site, accounting for about 2% of all homes completed that year. Still, the conditions may be right for modular single-family housing construction to finally take off, driven by a worsening shortage of construction workers and a growing housing affordability crisis. Home prices in September were 32% higher than they were in the same month in 2020, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, and though higher interest rates may drive prices down, there is still a gaping shortage of housing in the United States. The country needs about 3.8 million more homes to keep up with population growth and make housing more affordable in its most high-opportunity areas. Evan Angelastro for TIME A motivational slogan in the Apex factory above some completed modular housing projects and spec homes. “In the United States, we’re under-supplied and housing needs to be more affordable. I think this is definitely part of the solution,” says Ryan Marshall, the CEO of PulteGroup, America’s third-largest home construction company, about offsite manufacturing. In January 2020, PulteGroup acquired Innovation Construction Group, a Florida-based company that builds house wall panels, roof trusses, and floor systems in a factory. In mid-November of this year, PulteGroup announced that it was opening a second factory, in South Carolina. Marshall says he hopes to open eight factories across the country in the next decade, which will supply parts for 70% of the homes the company builds annually. Off-site manufacturing can reduce the amount of time it takes to frame a home by 75%, he says, and the factory’s use of robotic saws and nailers helps build homes more precisely. Modular also helps the company do more with fewer workers. “Our fundamental belief is that the available labor that exists in our country to build homes is retiring quickly,” he says. A broken construction industry Marshall is correct that there is a growing labor shortage in the construction industry. The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) says that there were a record 449,000 unfilled job openings in the construction industry in April. That and pandemic-related supply shortages have lengthened the amount of time it takes to build a house, to eight months or longer, according to the NAHB. Modular homes, on the other hand, take about half as long to build—up from 5-6 weeks before the pandemic—and can cut costs by 20%, according to a 2019 McKinsey report. Many housing analysts argue that the traditional construction industry has a productivity problem. Even before the pandemic, it took, on average, 7 months from start to completion on a house, according to Census data. In 1971, by contrast, the same process took just 4.8 months. Evan Angelastro for TIMEKen Semler stands in an Apex spec home on the factory property. “It’s the only industry with negative traction,” says Margaret Whelan, who runs Whelan Advisory, an investment bank that works with construction companies trying to innovate. She calls the traditional construction industry and its big building companies “pale, male, and stale,” and suggests that is why they haven’t changed very much in decades. The slow speed of housing construction has a very real impact on the average American, whether or not they are homeowners. If construction lags population growth, there is more demand for housing than there is supply, driving up costs. Read More: Steamboat Springs’ Challenging Effort to House Everyone Modular can speed up the construction process, advocates say. Modular home factories like Apex’s in Middleburg, Pa. can finish a home in a few weeks. Once the modules are shipped from the factory, the house can be assembled on site in a matter of days, or sometimes hours. “If [modular construction] takes hold, it could give the industry a huge productivity boost, help solve housing crisis in many markets, and significantly reshape the way we build today,” a group of McKinsey partners wrote in the 2019 report, which also estimated that switching to modular could slash the time it takes to complete construction projects by 20% to 50%. Building affordable housing faster The bustling Middleburg factory shows just how efficient construction can be. Walk from one end of the cavernous factory to the other and you’ll see how a 64-foot by 13-foot floor—roughly the size of an oversized truck load—becomes a piece of a house, as workers add walls, windows, electrical wires, insulation, and siding as the module moves from one station to another on a rail track. At peak times, this happens quickly—Apex can move the modules down the assembly line as frequently as three times a day, meaning the floorboards of a house can move to the next station, where they get walls, insulation, and electrical wires. The company makes 175 to 200 homes a year, according to CEO Lynn Kuhns. Some of the tasks that workers do on the assembly line might look familiar to anyone who has been on a construction site—at one station, a worker is hammering nails into the floorboards, while at another further down the assembly line, a worker pushes insulation into the walls. But certain technologies are unique to the modular sector, Semler says, like spray foam insulation, which helps create a thermal envelope that leaks less heat in the winter and cold air in the summer. Because the work on the assembly line is repetitive, modular companies can bring in new workers who don’t have a lot of construction experience and train them to do one task, Semler says, which could help address the labor shortage in the construction industry. Read More: The Cure for Inflation Means More Pain for Renters The faster speed of the off-site construction industry appeals to people who don’t want to wait for years for a new home. Lori Griffin Schubert decided to buy a modular home after traditional builders told her that it would be at least a year and a half before they could start building her a home on a plot of land she and her husband had bought to retire on in western North Carolina. Schubert and her husband ended up paying $165 a square foot for their modular home, compared to the $400 per square foot they were getting quoted from on-site builders. It’s customized with a wood-burning fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows, and 36-inch door, in case they need wheelchair access in the future, she says. The whole building process was completed in a few months, she says. Evan Angelastro for TIMEEarly in the process, prefabrication work being performed at the Apex Homes factory. “The more people we talked to, the more we heard that the [traditional] builders are getting inferior labor and inferior supplies, but the modulars have to go through inspections in every single step and the quality is so high,” she says. Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County recently finished two modular homes—one with two bedrooms, one with three—for low-income families in Wappingers Falls, about 75 miles north of New York City. The nonprofit’s CEO, Maureen Lashlee, says that during the pandemic, her organization had a hard time finding volunteers, even though the region has a huge need for affordable housing, with 6,000 families who are priced out of the market and who would need to rely on Habitat if they want to own a home. “We have to find a way to step up our game and I honestly believe that modular is the way to do that,” Lashlee says. In an effort to boost capacity, the Habitat for Humanity in Buffalo, N.Y. is leasing a warehouse space to test building its own modular houses, creating an assembly line where volunteers can come and learn the basics of building. It allows the nonprofit to buy materials in bulk and have more control over variables like weather and pace. “We anticipate it will be a cost-saver,” says Stephanie Lawson, director of development and communications at the nonprofit in Buffalo. A sometimes risky bet For the modular sector to really take off, people like Semler need to convince more big homebuilders like D.R. Horton and Lennar, America’s two largest, to build homes, or at least pieces of them, off-site in a factory. But the cost of failures is high in the construction industry. There have already been some high-profile modular companies that went bust. Katerra, a modular builder that received $500 million in funding from SoftBank, filed for bankruptcy in June 2021 because of pandemic-related financial challenges. Blu Homes, a much-heralded modular company founded in 2007, was sold to another company in 2020 with some observers speculating its homes were too niche. And in the U.K. this summer, a joint venture between Japanese modular giant Sekisui House and British developer Urban Splash, backed by Britain’s housing and regeneration agency Homes England, also collapsed. Because offsite construction still isn’t very common, modular builders also run into regulatory hurdles that may prevent the industry from growing, says John Burns, the founder of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Every city and town has its own zoning laws and few have the resources to explore and understand new types of construction. “The biggest issue they have with single-family homes is that local cities don’t want to see it” because it complicates the jobs of housing inspectors and officials, Burns says. In most places, states delegate third-party inspection companies to work with modular builders, Semler says. The third-party company reviews and approves the building plan, which allows the customer to get a building permit, and then the third-party company performs an inspection at the factory while the modules are being built. Local building inspectors are supposed to accept factory inspections, but, Semler says, many are still learning how the process works. “If you’re the first modular into that county,” he says, “You got a lot of explaining to do.” Some of modular construction’s cost savings come from the labor differential between how much workers are paid in the modular factories and how much they would be paid on site, which has made construction labor unions skeptical of the industry. As modular construction spreads, some labor groups are trying to make sure their jobs don’t get outsourced to rural factories. In the spring of 2022, New York State Senator Member Jessica Ramos, the chair of the Committee on Labor, introduced a bill that would require electrical and plumbing work for New York City modular construction to be supervised by a New York City-licensed worker—even if that work is usually done in a factory hundreds of miles away. The bill was passed by both the state Assembly and state Senate, and is awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature, even though affordable housing advocates say it would be a blow to their efforts to reduce the cost of construction in New York City. “We believe a bill like this will tack on additional costs even as the cost of construction goes up year after year,” says Katrell Lewis, VP, Government and Community Partnerships at Habitat for Humanity of New York City and Westchester County, which is building a few modular homes in Queens and has plans to use more modular units in its construction to reduce costs. Evan Angelastro for TIMEA finished modular home by Apex in Middleburg. Opposition like New York’s may hurt factories like the one in Pennsylvania, that build whole modules in a factory and that usually work on custom projects. This suggests that companies like the one acquired by PulteGroup, which builds parts in a factory, rather than whole homes, may have an easier time growing. Marshall, of PulteGroup, says that he chose this method because it still requires local plumbers and electricians and complies with local building codes. It also allowed PulteGroup to continue building the floor plans that it has used for years, he says, which consumers know and love. There are other forces that might drive more modular construction. In May, President Joe Biden announced a plan to increase housing supply over five years that included promoting modular housing. And in Europe, homebuilders trying to reduce emissions and meet ESG goals have turned to modular construction because it generates 37% less carbon dioxide and half the construction waste of site-built homes. Construction industry data suggests that homebuilders are starting to think a little more about modular. About one-quarter of builders surveyed in September 2020 said they planned to use a type of modular roofing going forward, compared to just 15% who said that before the pandemic, according to Home Innovation Research Labs, a subsidiary of the NAHB. About 16% planned to use factory-built open wall panels, compared to 9% who said that before the pandemic, setting the stage for the acquisition of modular companies, as PulteGroup did. Read More: 3-D Printed Homes Could Help Solve the Housing Crisis Even if the housing market starts to falter, Semler is confident that modular will still do well. Because the process is so fast, he argues, modular construction will appeal to investors who are building homes to turn into rentals—they’ll be able to start collecting rent more quickly if they build with modular, he says. If nothing else, he’s determined to build a community of modular homes to show that it can work. Semler’s company, Impresa Modular, has its own factory in South Carolina, and it inked a deal last year with developer SLV Windfall Group, to build hundreds of homes for Savannah Lakes Village, a private lakefront community. The modular homes are traditional-looking 3,500 square foot houses with finished basements and porches. Impresa has agreed to build more than 100 homes a year for the foreseeable future there to help meet current demand. “I think the perfect storm of rising material costs and shortage of labor means that modular’s moment is here,” Semler says.  .....»»

Category: topSource: TIMEDec 1st, 2022Related News

WATCH: Quitting Time, a Short Documentary About Work and Play

The story of Luis Jimenez, a New York City bus driver with an unexpected hobby. As the world has slowly returned to work following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, we have spent much of the year talking about the future of work and subjects like hybrid workplaces and “quiet quitting,” an idea that swept across social media and advocated for doing the bare minimum at work. At the heart of it all is often the question about what a good work-life balance looks and feels like. In this short film, which is part of an ongoing series called Quitting Time, filmmakers Laura Coxson and Cameron Yates feature the story of Luis Jimenez, a New York City bus driver with an unexpected hobby. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] TIME spoke to the filmmakers and the star of the documentary about the importance of finding your passion. TIME: Why did you choose to focus on this subject, and how did you come up with the title, Quitting Time? Cameron Yates: I’ve always been intrigued by how people in various professions move between work and home and what they do to release after quitting time. How do introverts in extroverted positions—where they have to interact with customers all day—recharge before another shift? Although Luis is definitely not an introvert. TIME: Why do you think there has been so much chatter about things like quiet quitting and burnout around work lately? Laura Coxson: I haven’t heard much specifically but definitely feel post-COVID, people want to manage their time and work ethic in a way that works best for them. After working with so many older people I can see how having a passion for what you do energizes every aspect of your life. Yates: Most of the subjects with whom we filmed, and especially Luis, couldn’t quit quietly, because the bus wouldn’t show up at the bus stop, construction workers wouldn’t be able to build safely, and restaurant trash cans would be overflowing. I think some folks might be contemplating it, because through remote work they’ve lost a physical connection to their office and their colleagues. TIME: What does Quitting Time mean in this context—and what are you trying to say with this film? Coxson: I spent a lot of time thinking about bus drivers in NYC, and how many of their colleagues died during COVID, but still would go to work. I thought it was a hard job before COVID! I think seeing how close Luis’ family is and how much they support him in work and play (his daughter pushed him to try out for the team) and knowing after you sit in a bus all day you need to move… his release was just a perfect example of what we’re trying to showcase in our series. TIME: Luis, how is your quitting-time hobby part of your work success? Luis Jimenez: They’re intertwined together! My duty is sitting down for a certain amount of the day, driving that bus, and the hope is this: when we get together before we even start going over a routine, we warm up. Remember we’re all over 45 years old. We are from the 40s to 80s in the group [The Timeless Torches, a dance squad with the WNBA]. So when I get on the bus, even though I’m sitting down, I’m constantly stretching and doing actual moves. Sometimes, at a red light, I work out some of the moves that we do when we are performing. Sometimes with my arms, I’m doing certain moves, and people see me and they be like, ‘what are you doing?’ But they don’t know that I am doing a certain movement—to the left and the right— that we actually go ahead and do when we’re performing. We do it so many times, over and over and over, that it’s like…all you have to do is put [on] that song that we did for the film, and right away, the movement comes up. It’s the dancing that is helping me to go ahead and to be able to drive that bus. TIME: Luis, can you tell us why you agreed to be the subject of this film? What do you hope people will get out of it? Jimenez: I agreed to it because of the [subject] matter, the reason why it was being made, the whole showing of that time that we went through, a worldwide situation that even today we are dealing with.…still, it’s going to take a whole lot of time before we can actually say, “Wow, we survived this.” Wherever you might be in life, you need support. That someone you go to and lean on and to help you go ahead—and at times forget all the ugliness that you might be going through. That you need that freedom to be able to dance. TIME: In the film we meet the Timeless Torches, a group of men and women who are cheerleaders for The New York Liberty WNBA team. Luis, is that group part of your support system? Jimenez: It was awesome to have them. We would check on each other. “How you doing? How you doing?” But as you already know, I was actually still on the frontline. I was still there working those twelve-hour shifts. And actually making sure that at least somewhat, we kept New York moving. TIME: Luis, how did COVID change the way you feel about your work? Jimenez: Was I scared of being sick? I was. I’m human. Of course. It took a lot for me to go ahead and get up and get out there and do it. But because of my faith and because of family, I was able to get up and go ahead and go on that journey. And help those that needed the help. TIME: Are there any professional skills and talents that cut across your job and your hobby? Jimenez: I am going to give you an example—when you come up into an avenue, you cannot just focus on one certain area. You have to open up your wide lenses to look from one sidewalk to the other sidewalk. In seconds. You’re moving a 40-foot-long bus down the avenue at 5 to 15 mph, and now you gotta add the regular vehicles that are next to you, and what are they gonna do? Then you add the bicycles, now you add the scooters, and plus you gotta add the walkers that are trying to squeeze between cars to cross the street. Anybody will come on the bus and will say “just drive the bus, bus driver.” But do you know how much it takes for me to drive this bus safely through that avenue? When I’m dancing with the group I have to know what each and every one of them is doing at the same time as me, not forgetting what I’m doing, so we can look in sequence, so we can go ahead and know what the next step will be. Remembering what the next steps will be. We gotta go left, now we gotta lift up, we gotta kick high, we gotta kick low, we gotta kick to the left, we gotta kick to the right…these are things that help me when I’m going ahead and driving that also is helping me like “hey, this cab driver is getting ready to cut me off, this one is trying to cut me off, this one is going by me.” TIME: Laura and Cameron, what did you learn following Luis around? Coxson: Luis is happy! Our first time meeting, Luis had a watermelon in the windshield of the bus, and it was during that summer torrential rain (where all the subways flooded), and we got off the bus with him and took the subway and just glowed in the warmth of his oversized personality. It helped that he was holding this huge watermelon, and he has such an infectious laugh. Also learned that he is a fruit-pusher, always giving away bananas, and his wife makes the best smoothies. I was also surprised how many regulars he knew on his bus route. Yates: As Laura says, I couldn’t believe how many people Luis knew on his bus route and on his commute home from the depot. It was incredible to see how much joy he has walking home every day, listening to music and rehearsing along the way, while greeting neighbors and colleagues on the street, grabbing an ice cream. He radiates good vibes and people around him can’t help but smile......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEDec 1st, 2022Related News

Zero-COVID Protests in China Have Rattled Global Markets

Global stock markets and oil prices are fluctuating as the world's second-biggest economy struggles to contain rare mass protests. Global markets jittered as Chinese citizens took to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s strict “zero-COVID” strategy over the weekend. The protests’ immediate impact on global markets is raising questions about the way forward for the world’s second-biggest economy. On Monday, the Dow fell more than 500 points after declines in the European and Asian indexes, along with a plunge in oil prices as U.S. oil fell to its lowest price in nearly a year. Cryptocurrencies also saw a slump as one economist told Bloomberg that zero-COVID policies posed a challenge to stabilizing domestic demand for crypto assets. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Most markets had regained ground by Tuesday after Chinese health authorities reported an uptick in senior vaccination rates. The pan-European Stoxx 600 was flat, while in the U.S., the S&P 500 hovered around the flatline and the Dow lost 41 points. Oil steadied after OPEC+ kept its output unchanged, with Brent crude futures up 48 cents at $83.67 a barrel. Read More: Protests Against Zero-COVID Are Rocking China. Here’s What You Need to Know China’s economy is already inflexible under the central control of the Communist Party, led by President Xi Jinping, but experts fear that it will become more sluggish if widespread lockdowns continue to threaten the global supply chain and fuel civil unrest. Shortly after Xi began his third term in October, the government again buckled down on its zero-COVID policies, leading to an underwhelming stock market, a weakening renminbi and capital outflows—making it a difficult year for the country’s economic outlook and for China’s investors. Most analysts suggest that the government will need to take a more pragmatic approach to fix its economy, including loosening its COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinating higher numbers of the elderly, which is considered vital to reopening the economy. According to the latest official statistics, 32% of China’s 267 million people over the age of 60 have still not received their third vaccine dose. On Monday, Mi Feng, a spokesman from the National Health Commission, reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to the zero-COVID measures. He added that complaints about the strict prevention and control measures fell under the purview of the local authorities, saying they must respond to and resolve “reasonable” COVID-19 requests from the public in a timely manner. But rumors abound that authorities may ease restrictions with a zero-COVID exit plan, with the hope that an eventual reopening would lead to a rise in the Asian markets. Michael Hirson of 22V Research told Yahoo! Finance that the possibility of reopening is increasing as the population and local governments clearly reach exhaustion from maintaining zero-COVID policies. However, he warned that “a chaotic pivot [in government policies] is likely to be highly disruptive to the economy–quite possibly worse than zero-COVID, at least in the near term.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2022Related News

Twitter Says It Stopped Policing COVID Misinformation Under Musk

The move was a part of Elon Musk’s mission to remake the social network as a place for unmoderated speech. Twitter Inc. said it ended a policy designed to suppress false or misleading information about COVID-19, part of Elon Musk’s polarizing mission to remake the social network as a place for unmoderated speech. By discarding the COVID rule, the company will no longer apply labels to posts containing falsehoods about the disease or provide supplemental corrective information as it did before. It will apparently no longer remove inaccurate tweets or ban offending accounts either. The company disclosed the change in a note added to a page on its website outlining the old COVID policy. It says Twitter stopped enforcing the rule on Nov. 23. Read More: Twitter Was a Lifeline for People With Disabilities. Musk’s Reign Is Changing All of That Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Sky News reported on the revision earlier Tuesday. Over 11,000 accounts had been suspended and over 97,000 pieces of misleading content had been removed from the time Twitter introduced the COVID policy in January 2020 to when it ended last week, according to data on Twitter’s website. Twitter has received frequent criticism for its lack of action against disinformation and misinformation over the last decade. The critiques were heightened during the presidency of Donald Trump due to his controversial and prolific tweeting, including ones that violated Twitter’s policies on coronavirus misinformation. Musk moved to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account this month, though the former president has yet to post from it......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2022Related News

Qatar Says Worker Deaths for World Cup ‘Between 400 and 500’

The number is a drastically higher than any other previously offered by Doha. DOHA, Qatar — A top Qatari official involved in the country’s World Cup organization has put the number of worker deaths for the tournament “between 400 and 500” for the first time, a drastically higher number than any other previously offered by Doha. The comment by Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, appeared to come off the cuff during an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan. It also threatened to reinvigorate criticism by human rights groups over what the toll of hosting the Middle East’s first World Cup for the migrant labor that built over $200 billion worth of stadiums, metro lines and new infrastructure needed for the tournament. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The Supreme Committee and Qatar’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In the interview, portions of which Morgan posted online, the British journalist asks al-Thawadi: “What is the honest, realistic total do you think of migrant workers who died from – as a result of work they’re doing for the World Cup in totality?” “The estimate is around 400, between 400 and 500,” al-Thawadi responds. “I don’t have the exact number. That’s something that’s been discussed.” But that figure hasn’t been discussed publicly previously. Reports from the Supreme Committee dating from 2014 through the end of 2021 only include the number of deaths of workers involved in building and refurbishing the stadiums now hosting the World Cup. Read More: A Qatar-Style World Cup Building Boom May Not Be Possible in a Hotter World Those released figures put the total number of deaths at 40. They include 37 from what the Qataris describe as nonwork incidents such as heart attacks and three from workplace incidents. One report also separately lists a worker death from the coronavirus amid the pandemic. Since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the country has taken some steps to overhaul the country’s employment practices. That includes eliminating its so-called kafala employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had say over whether they could leave their jobs or even the country. Qatar also has adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275) for workers and required food and housing allowances for employees not receiving those benefits directly from their employers. It also has updated its worker safety rules to prevent deaths. “One death is a death too many. Plain and simple,” al-Thawadi adds in the interview. Activists have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers. Al-Thawadi’s comment also renews questions on the veracity of both government and private business reporting on worker injuries and deaths across the Gulf Arab states, whose skyscrapers have been built by laborers from South Asia nations like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem Research, a labor consultancy that has published reports on the toll of the construction on migrant laborers, said he was surprised by al-Thawadi’s remark. “For him now to come and say there is hundreds, it’s shocking,” he told The Associated Press. “They have no idea what’s going on.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2022Related News

Elon Musk Threatens War With Apple, Jeopardizing Vital Relationship

In a flurry of tweets Elon Musk said Apple had cut its Twitter advertising and threatened to bump the social network from Apple’s app store Elon Musk’s tumultuous month atop Twitter Inc. has already included firing most of the company’s employees, tinkering with key features and restoring banned accounts. Now he’s embarking on what could be his riskiest gambit yet: a war with Apple Inc. The billionaire attacked the iPhone maker with a flurry of tweets Monday, saying the company had cut its Twitter advertising and threatened to bump the social network from Apple’s app store. He asked whether Apple hated free speech, criticized its app fees and even pondered whether the tech giant might go after another of his companies, Tesla Inc. In taking aim at Apple, Musk is challenging a company that’s vital to Twitter’s livelihood. Apple was consistently one of the top advertisers on the social network, which had an entire team of employees dedicated to helping maintain the relationship, according to people familiar with the matter. The ad spending was well above $100 million annually, one of the people said. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “Elon Musk now represents risk, and Apple is not going to take that risk on,” said Lou Paskalis, a senior marketing and media executive who previously helped direct advertising for Bank of America Corp. Apple also operates an essential gateway for Twitter users: the App Store. If Musk’s company loses access to that, it will be cut off from more than 1.5 billion devices around the world. But the billionaire has some leverage of his own. In portraying his struggles as a fight for free speech, he can rally his millions of fans. And his disdain for Apple’s app store fees are shared by software developers, lawmakers and regulators around the world, giving him a potential advantage. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Some Twitter users said Monday that they continue to see Apple advertising in their feeds, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed that the company has pared back the ads. The Cupertino, California-based company holds meetings with Twitter to discuss various issues — roughly once a week — just as it does with other major social networking apps, including Facebook and Instagram. Apple has historically relied heavily on Twitter because it doesn’t advertise on Facebook, according to one of the people with knowledge of its strategy. Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America? — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022 Apple joins a number of large companies in scaling back their ads on Twitter since Musk acquired the company for $44 billion last month. The exodus has included General Mills Inc. and Pfizer Inc., and he previously acknowledged that the defections led to a “massive drop” in revenue. The overall online ad market is in a slump, but marketers are particularly wary about Twitter over fears that it’s becoming more chaotic. Since the takeover, Musk has cut thousands of jobs at Twitter, fueling concerns that the platform won’t be able to combat hate speech and misinformation. A new approach to verifying accounts also opened the door to trolls impersonating major brands, as well as Musk himself. Musk, 51, is trying to make Twitter less reliant on advertising by steering users toward its Blue subscription service. But ad services generated nearly 90% of its $5.1 billion in revenue last year, with a good chunk coming from Apple. Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022 The barrage of tweets criticizing Apple began with one saying that the company had “mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.” Musk asked: “Do they hate free speech in America?” He then directed a tweet at Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook: “What’s going on here?” A few minutes later, he claimed that Apple might boot Twitter from its app store “but won’t tell us why.” Read more: How Twitter’s survival as a paid service hinges on Apple Earlier this month, longtime Apple executive Phil Schiller, who oversees the app store, deleted his Twitter account. The timing raised eyebrows. It was shortly after Musk reinstated the account of former President Donald Trump, who had been booted from the platform in the wake of the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021. Musk had earlier said he would create a content council to review whether to reinstate Trump’s account, but he then made the move based on the results of a Twitter poll instead. “He says the right things, but he does the wrong things and that’s almost worse,” Paskalis said. Apple’s Cook has continued to use Twitter personally since Musk’s acquisition. He posted a Thanksgiving message last week “wishing everyone a joyful day.” Musk has previously tweeted that if Twitter is removed from the Apple and Google app stores, he will make an alternative phone that can work with the platform. Fans of the idea — and its detractors — have begun calling it the “Tesla phone,” and that term was trending on Twitter Monday. Musk, who also runs Tesla and SpaceX, has said that his mission at Twitter is maximizing free speech. He frequently uses his personal account, which has more than 119 million followers, to criticize perceived adversaries and the mainstream media. Musk has said before that Apple charges an exorbitant fees on in-app purchases, and he renewed that line of attack Monday. He posted a meme that suggested he would rather “go to war” than pay the company’s 30% commission. The meme signals that Musk could be considering taking the path of Epic Games Inc. and sidestepping Apple’s fees. When Epic made such a move, Apple removed the hit game Fortnite, sparking a multiyear legal fight. pic.twitter.com/uKEY9mVujp — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022 But if Musk wanted to start selling the Twitter Blue subscription service through the web — bypassing Apple’s 30% — he could already do so. The app store allows services available on multiple platforms to use that approach. The issue would be if Twitter advertised the workaround within its app or added a button directing users to the web payment option. That move could risk getting Twitter bumped from the app store. In another tweet, Musk suggested that Apple has made demands on Twitter’s content moderation. He also posted a yes-no survey: “Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.” In controlling the two major mobile app stores, Apple and Google are frequently referred to as a “duopoly,” a term Musk used in his tweets. US Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, took up that idea Monday. He quoted one of Musk’s tweets and said the US should end the app store duopoly before the end of the year. “No one should have this kind of market power,” he said. Apple has strict rules for its app store that limit objectionable content, including discriminatory content related to religion, race and sexual orientation. It also restricts overly realistic violence and pornographic material. Apple and Google have previously removed social networks, including Parler, from their platforms because of inadequate content moderation. In the case of Parler, the app was ultimately restored to both app stores after the social network followed a series of steps to ensure it was moderating content. After directing several barbs at Apple, Musk promised more information on free speech suppression in “The Twitter Files,” which will be published — where else? — on Twitter. “The public deserves to know what really happened,” he said......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2022Related News

Crypto Lender BlockFi Goes Bankrupt in Aftermath of FTX Meltdown

It's the latest crypto firm to collapse in the wake of crypto exchange FTX’s rapid downfall. BlockFi Inc. filed for bankruptcy, the latest crypto firm to collapse in the wake of crypto exchange FTX’s rapid downfall. BlockFi said in a statement that it will use the Chapter 11 process to “focus on recovering all obligations owed to BlockFi by its counterparties, including FTX and associated corporate entities,” adding that recoveries are likely to be delayed by FTX’s own bankruptcy. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a company to continue operating while working out a plan to repay creditors. The petition, filed in New Jersey, lists BlockFi’s assets and liabilities at between $1 billion and $10 billion each. The company said in the statement that it had around $257 million of cash on hand, and is starting an “internal plan to considerably reduce expenses, including labor costs.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Citing “a lack of clarity” over the status of bankrupt FTX and Alameda Research, the Jersey City, New Jersey-based company earlier halted withdrawals and said it was exploring “all options” with outside advisers. More from TIME [video id=an5ZK4kt autostart="viewable"] FTX US is listed in the company’s petition as one of its top unsecured creditors, with a $275 million loan. The company’s largest unsecured creditor, Ankura Trust Company, is owed about $729 million, according to the petition. Ankura acts as a trustee for BlockFi’s interest-bearing crypto accounts, according to its website. BlockFi in July received a capital injection from a now-collapsed FTX US, and also had collateralized loans to Sam Bankman-Fried’s trading firm Alameda Research. The company is the latest crypto firm to seek bankruptcy amid a prolonged slump in digital asset prices. Lenders Celsius Network LLC and Voyager Digital Holdings Inc. also filed for court protection this year. The case is BlockFi Inc., 22-19361, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey (Trenton)......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 29th, 2022Related News

U.S. Shoppers Kick Off Holiday Season With a Muted Black Friday

U.S. consumers are still spending, but they’re growing more cautious with inflation at an all-time high U.S. retailers discounted heavily on Black Friday to clear out bloated inventories but customers responded with only modest traffic, leaving profitability in doubt for many chains. Crowds were thin in the late morning at Connecticut’s Stamford Town Center mall, with few shoppers at Kay Jewelers and just a small line at Forever 21. A couple at a Walmart Inc. supercenter near Dallas reveled in the lack of crowds as they bought presents for their grandchildren. At the Stonestown mall in San Francisco, shoppers were few and far between. “It feels like a normal day,” said Miguel Martinez, 35, a warehouse supervisor walking through a Target Corp. store on Chicago’s North Side with his 12-year-old daughter, Jaylen. Martinez said he’s been cutting back on cable TV and Netflix to afford presents for his four children. He described the Black Friday discounts as “pretty good” as he picked up a couple of Amazon Echo Dot speakers, Nerf guns and a Disney Encanto doll. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] U.S. consumers are still spending, but they’re growing more cautious after contending this year with the highest inflation rates in four decades. They’re also keeping a sharper lookout for deals, and retailers — many of them still heavy with inventory after misjudging an erosion in demand — are trying to stand out by dangling the deepest discounts since before the pandemic. Modest Growth The US holiday shopping season is likely to see modest to break-even growth in annual sales, said Melissa Minkow, director of retail strategy at digital consultancy CI&T. “That’s still a win,” she said, contrasting the outlook with the UK, where high inflation has caused consumers to pull back noticeably on spending. Still, the steep Black Friday discounts are likely to squeeze retailers. “Profits will not be where retailers want them to be,” Minkow said. That’s in part because they “couldn’t pass all of the inflationary costs off to consumers.” Read more: Bloomberg tracks Black Friday across the country E-commerce spending on Black Friday rose 2.3% to $9.12 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. That’s far less than the US inflation rate of almost 8% during the 12 months ended in October. Salesforce Inc. said the average consumer discount on Black Friday was expected to be greater than 30%, up from 28% last year and close to the 33% rate in 2019. The biggest discounts were in home appliances, apparel and health and beauty. But shoppers are cutting back in reaction to higher prices, said Rob Garf, Salesforce’s vice president of retail. “People are just plainly buying less products because their dollar isn’t going as far as it used to,” Garf said. Lonely Middle At Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York, low-cost brands and higher-end buzzy retailers had the most foot traffic, while the middle-market stores were desolate. Gap Inc.’s Old Navy, which was offering 60% off most items, had a line so long that some shoppers turned around as soon as they entered the store. Drawing big crowds at the higher end were athleisure favorite Lululemon Athletica Inc., which had only a few racks of discounted merchandise, and American Eagle Outfitters Inc.’s Aerie, a popular intimates brand among Gen Z shoppers. Meanwhile, stores like Gap’s Banana Republic, Macy’s Inc. and Urban Outfitters Inc. had no lines at all, and only a handful of shoppers. The healthy traffic at some retailers shows that many US consumers are still spending at a robust clip. A crowded Best Buy Co. store near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport had half a dozen cars pulled up by the door to pick up large televisions and other electronic goods. Grapevine Mills, a nearby discount mall, was so crowded that Shawanda Miller threw up her hands and left. “I don’t even want to talk about it, it was so crowded in there,” said Miller, 43. “I’m going to come back another day.” No Wait But crowds like that appeared to be an exception. The checkout line at the toy section at a Macy’s in Stamford, Connecticut, had no wait and the cashier said the store had prepared for more shoppers. A Walmart in suburban Dallas also had cashiers standing at the ready with no lines, which was just fine with Veronica Gonzalez and Carlos Garcia, a couple visiting from Corpus Christi, Texas. “What’s good about it is you don’t have to come in at 5 o’clock in the morning, and everything is here that we’re looking for,” Gonzalez said. Garcia said “everything’s for the grandkids” as he pushed a shopping cart full of bed sheets, suitcases and toys. The era of Black Friday crowds came to a halt with the pandemic, and it probably isn’t coming back as more consumers shop online and spread their spending out over a longer period. “The historic raucous atmosphere of Black Friday may be in the past,” Edward Yruma, a retail analyst at Piper Sandler, said in a report. Behind the moderate crowds are people such as Therese Pociask, 60, who was shopping at Target in Chicago for her small day-care center. She was also looking for gifts for her nieces and nephews. In her cart were an Epsom-salt gift pack, Fujifilm Instax camera film, three stuffed dinosaurs and a puzzle. Pociask said she’s planning to spend about $2,000 during the holidays — about the same as last year. But with inflation high, her money isn’t going as far as it did. “I’m trying to stay within my budget, but I’m finding I have to spend more for it to look the same,” she said......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 26th, 2022Related News

Why FTX Account Holders Are Unlikely To Get Their Money Back 

Customers who trusted FTX’s platform are likely at the back of the queue for receiving whatever assets a bankruptcy judge can extract from the company. Roughly two weeks after the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy, its customers are losing hope they will ever see their money again. The latest blow to FTX account holders came on Tuesday at a bankruptcy hearing in U.S. federal court, when lawyers for FTX painted a grim picture of the Bahamas-based firm’s finances and disclosed that a “substantial amount of assets” from user accounts have either been stolen or are missing. They said FTX had faced cyber attacks on the day it filed for bankruptcy, referring to the hundreds of millions of dollars in FTX assets that were moved in unauthorized transactions. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] FTX’s claim that it was hacked diminishes the likelihood that users will recover their money, legal and banking experts say. Without a clear understanding of how much cash FTX has left—and where it’s located—customers could be waiting years to recover their lost funds, and it’s possible none is returned. “I highly doubt users will get their money back,” says Darian Ibrahim, a professor at William & Mary Law School who specializes in securities law and cryptocurrencies. “They’re unsecured creditors like everyone else in a bankruptcy where there’s apparently an $8 billion shortfall. It’s a bizarre situation.” Court documents filed earlier this month show that the firm owes $102 million to customers and at least $3.1 billion to roughly 1 million creditors. Once the darling of the crypto world, FTX filed for bankruptcy in early November after a run on deposits caused a liquidity crisis. The firm’s collapse has sparked investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department in the U.S. and by authorities in the Bahamas. The inquiries largely center on whether FTX improperly moved customers’ assets to Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund owned and run by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who resigned as CEO at the time of the bankruptcy filing. The Wall Street Journal reported that Bankman-Fried allegedly used $10 billion worth of FTX customer assets to fund risky bets at Alameda Research. “This company was run by inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially personally compromised individuals,” said FTX’s own lawyer James Bromley, in a bankruptcy hearing on Nov. 22. “It is one of the most abrupt and difficult company collapses in the history of corporate America.” The cryptocurrency industry has faced a painful reckoning this year after seeing a surge in popularity during the pandemic. Crypto asset values were falling, even before FTX’s collapse which Ibrahim says is endemic of a “bad offshore bank” rather than a failure of the industry. The value of a single Bitcoin, for instance, has fallen precipitously, from roughly $68,000 a year ago to $17,000 now. But customers who trusted FTX’s platform are likely at the back of the queue for receiving whatever assets a bankruptcy judge can extract from the company. As the firm undergoes its bankruptcy proceedings, U.S. law allows the court to rearrange priorities based on equitable principles, meaning creditors will likely take first priority while investors in the company are second and account holders are last. Alan Rosenberg, a corporate bankruptcy attorney in Florida, says it’s “too early to tell” if customers will recover their funds, though a number of legal determinations in the coming months or years should make the outcome more clear. He says the first question that the courts will have to answer is what property the bankruptcy estate holds and whether FTX has “bare legal title” for the cryptocurrency traded on its platform, which would establish if FTX has any equity in those assets. The courts will also have to decide the different classes of creditors, which could include customers if a judge determines they are unsecured creditors. “What makes this worse is that Sam Bankman-Fried seems to suggest that the firm’s financial records are not reliable at all,” Rosenberg says. “That means it could be impossible to determine whose crypto was used, whose crypto was not used, and what’s remaining.” A litany of other legal issues could drag the case on for years, including avoidance litigation, fraudulent transfer litigation, preference litigation and insurance litigation, Rosenberg adds. “There appear to be assets,” he says, “but the question is: Who’s laying claim to them, what are the priority of those claims and what additional assets can be brought in through litigation?” Read More: The FTX Crash Will Have a Lasting Impact on the African Crypto Community The implosion of FTX has also put a spotlight on the unregulated world of cryptocurrencies, an industry that has intentionally operated outside traditional banking and finance rules. When a traditional U.S. bank fails, the government insures customer deposits, making them whole up to $250,000 via the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). But, for now, no such mechanism exists for cryptocurrencies. “We have a growing asset class that’s largely unregulated at the global level,” says Eric Soufer, a partner at Tusk Strategies, where he leads the firm’s Crypto and FinTech practice group. “The FTX collapse raises calls for regulators to finally get into the game. We’ve had enough of the turf wars in Washington and finger pointing between the ultimate soup of agencies over who can do what and when.” An effective set of regulations would likely give investors more confidence to invest in the currency, crypto experts say, though policymakers in Washington are still struggling to make sense of the FTX implosion. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, said FTX’s collapse “reinforces the urgent need for greater federal oversight of this industry” and continues to push a measure through Congress. Ibrahim, the securities law professor, has called on regulators to require that any digital asset come with both a whitepaper explaining how the native blockchain works and a “warning box” that discloses potentially harmful features of that asset, a protection that would have warned customers about FTX loaning client funds to Alameda. Of course, any movement on crypto regulation in the upcoming months won’t help to get FTX customers their funds back. The lack of good news is prompting some account holders to sign on to a class-action lawsuit filed last week against Bankman-Fried and the celebrities who endorsed FTX, such as Tom Brady and Stephen Curry, as another chance to recoup lost money. “If I’m trying to sue Tom Brady for my FTX losses, I might be saying he’s an underwriter and a securities offering,” Ibrahim says. “He’d be liable under the securities laws for that.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 25th, 2022Related News

Why El Salvador’s Bukele Is Doubling Down on Bitcoin Despite the Crypto Crash

President Nayib Bukele is buying more Bitcoin, despite the Crypto crash. The cryptocurrency crisis, worsened by the dramatic collapse of fast-growing crypto exchange FTX in mid-November, has raised questions about the future of these digital currencies. Bitcoin, the largest and most well known among them, has fallen to a two-year low in recent days. But one of the cryptocurrency’s most prominent backers is doubling down. On Nov. 17, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, who last year made his country the first in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, responded to the crypto slide with a pledge that the government would purchase one Bitcoin every day going forward. On Nov. 22, Bukele’s administration sent a bill to El Salvador’s Congress that would allow it to sell $1 billion in so-called “volcano bonds”—government debt, denominated in U.S. dollars and paying out 6.5% interest a year to bond holders—in order to buy even more of the cryptocurrency and build a coastal “Bitcoin City.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] It may be difficult to understand why Bukele remains so enthusiastic about a policy that has been, by almost all metrics, a disaster. Bukele’s attempt to get Salvadorans to use the notoriously volatile cryptocurrency has left the country looking like a much riskier place to invest. The policy has stalled El Salvador’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $1.3 billion loan, needed to plug big gaps in its public finances. Bukele’s government has been courting alternative sources of cash, announcing new trade talks with China on Nov. 9. But few economists believe Salvadoran vice president Félix Ulloa’s claim that China is willing to help El Salvador with the all-time-high $21 billion debt burden it owes to foreign lenders. If it can’t find new creditors to help service that debt, El Salvador runs the risk of a default early next year. Though Bukele has refused to disclose how much taxpayer money he has spent on Bitcoin, the best guess, based on his purchase announcements, is $107 million, with a further $200 million on administration and infrastructure—equivalent to nearly 4% of the developing country’s 2023 budget. El Salvador’s Bitcoin holdings are now worth less than $40 million. To cap it all, Salvadorans just aren’t that into Bitcoin: an in-person survey of 1,269 residents published by the José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) in October found that less than a quarter of respondents had used the cryptocurrency in 2022. Just 17% said the Bitcoin rollout had been a success, while 66% said it was a failure. And 77% want Bukele to stop using public funds to buy Bitcoin. Marvin Recinos—AFP/Getty ImagesA government worker is seen at an ATM of the state-owned Chivo electronic wallet in San Salvador, on November 17, 2022. And yet, Bukele’s Bitcoin policy hasn’t hurt his approval rating, which has remained reliably above 85% since he took office in 2019. In fact, the cryptocurrency is arguably giving the President exactly what he wants. On the world stage, Bitcoin has pulled media focus from El Salvador’s long-running problem with gang violence, and from the authoritarian moves that Bukele has made to deal with it, including mass arrests, ousting supreme court judges who oppose his agenda, and launching an unconstitutional bid for reelection in 2024. At home, Bitcoin is a key part of the narrative that Bukele is pushing, both of El Salvador—as a rejuvenated, innovative country, delivering new opportunities for young Salvadorans—and of his presidency. He presents himself not as a classic strongman, but as a provocative young visionary challenging the Western financial elite. That means Bukele has little incentive to abandon Bitcoin—despite mounting losses for his country, says Tiziano Breda, Central America analyst at Crisis Group. “It’s Bukele’s ultimate [goal] to rebrand the country,” he says. “And he doesn’t seem like a person who can admit failure. He will go until the last consequences of this experiment.” Why Salvadorans don’t care about Bitcoin Most credit the President’s wide-ranging crack down on gang violence for his sky-high approval ratings. Bukele has overseen the arrest of more than 50,000 alleged gang members and a dramatic fall in El Salvador’s murder rate. Watchdogs say that has come at the cost of “eviscerating human rights” both for gang members and innocent Salvadorans caught in the crossfire. But civil society pushback has been relatively weak, Breda says, with Bukele successfully dismissing protest groups and critical media as puppets for the two establishment parties who ruled El Salvador for three decades before him. Though most Salvadorans don’t like Bitcoin, they view the policy more as an eccentricity of Bukele’s than as a serious threat to economic security, says Ricardo Castaneda, a San Salvador-based economist at the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies. Mounting concern about public finances hasn’t yet translated into severe economic pain, he says: the government has shielded the population from the worst of global inflation by subsidizing gasoline prices. And remittances from the U.S., which make up a staggering 26.7% of El Salvador’s GDP, have not slowed. Marvin Recinos—AFP/Getty ImagesSoldiers listen as El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele addresses them near a military barracks on the outskirts of San Juan Opico,west of San Salvador, on November 23, 2022. Bukele, meanwhile, insists that Bitcoin is the long-term solution to El Salvador’s economic problems. Like most crypto enthusiasts, he says the price will soon rally and eventually deliver huge profits to El Salvador. In the meantime, the President’s Twitter account shows an endless stream of retweets of foreign crypto influencers: they’re celebrating El Salvador’s coffee and beaches, and sharing tales of Salvadorans who left their country decades ago and now, apparently thanks to Bitcoin, have decided to return. A looming credit crunch There are clouds on the horizon for Bukele’s Bitcoin dream, though. El Salvador has to come up with a way to pay around $667 million in bonds that come due in January 2023, and another $1 billion in 2025. The government has announced plans to buy back portions of that debt by using reserves from its central bank, in hopes of inspiring enough confidence in the market to allow it to sell new bonds. Analysts say such moves might help El Salvador avoid default next year. But with shrinking cash reserves and unsustainably high levels of debt to service, the risk will remain. If Bukele can’t find buyers for his “volcano bonds” or another way to plug the fiscal hole, he may be forced to return to negotiations with the IMF. The lender would likely make a loan conditional on Bukele removing Bitcoin as legal tender and introducing tighter regulations on the use of cryptocurrencies, to reduce the risk of criminal groups using El Salvador to launder money. Bukele will only accept those terms when the economy starts to struggle enough that Salvadorans feel it, per Castaneda. “There is already a small crack there,” he says, noting that 58% of respondents to the October UCA poll identified El Salvador’s greatest problem as the economy—a 15% spike from May and the highest proportion in the last decade. (The drop in concern about crime likely helped). “If things don’t improve, that crack will get bigger and bigger, and then the applause will turn into boos.” Until then, Bukele will likely keep rolling the dice on Bitcoin. “He’s like a gambler in a casino who’s losing,” Castaneda says. “Instead of walking away or being more careful, they go all in.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 25th, 2022Related News

Elon Musk Plans to Relaunch Twitter Premium Service

Elon Musk said Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week, in a fresh move to revamp the service after a previous attempt backfired. It’s the latest change to the social media platform that the billionaire Tesla CEO bought last month for $44 billion, coming a day after Musk said he would grant “amnesty” for suspended accounts and causing yet more uncertainty for users. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Twitter previously suspended the premium service, which under Musk granted blue-check labels to anyone paying $8 a month, because of a wave of imposter accounts. Originally, the blue check was given to government entities, corporations, celebrities and journalists verified by the platform to prevent impersonation. In the latest version, companies will get a gold check, governments will get a gray check, and individuals who pay for the service, whether or not they’re celebrities, will get a blue check, Musk said Friday. “All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates,” he said, adding it was “Painful, but necessary” and promising a “longer explanation” next week. He said the service was “tentatively launching” Dec. 2. Twitter had put the revamped premium service on hold days after its launch earlier this month after accounts impersonated companies including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., Nintendo, Lockheed Martin, and even Musk’s own businesses Tesla and SpaceX, along with various professional sports and political figures. It was just one change in the past two days. On Thursday, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” for suspended accounts, following the results of an online poll he conducted on whether accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam” should be reinstated. The yes vote was 72%. Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots. Musk also used one before restoring former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account. Read More: What Trump’s Twitter Reinstatement Means for TRUTH Social “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted Thursday using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.” Online safety experts predict the move would spur a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation. It’s also likely to put the company on a crash course with European regulators seeking to clamp down on harmful online content with tough new rules. Zach Meyers, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform think tank, said giving blanket amnesty based on an online poll is an “arbitrary approach” that’s “hard to reconcile with the Digital Services Act,” a new EU law that will start applying to the biggest online platforms by mid-2023. The law is aimed at protecting internet users from illegal content and reducing the spread of harmful but legal content. It requires big social media platforms to be “diligent and objective” in enforcing restrictions, which must be spelled out clearly in the fine print for users when signing up, Meyers said. Britain also is working on its own online safety law. “Unless Musk quickly moves from a ‘move fast and break things’ approach to a more sober management style, he will be on a collision course with Brussels and London regulators,” Meyers said. European Union officials took to social media to highlight their worries. The 27-nation bloc’s executive Commission published a report Thursday that found Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared with 2021. The report was based on data collected over the spring—before Musk acquired Twitter—as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s voluntary code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021. The numbers may yet worsen. Since taking over, Musk has laid off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce along with an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Many others have resigned, including the company’s head of trust and safety. Read More: Twitter Is Collapsing, and Nothing Can Replace It Recent layoffs at Twitter and results of the EU’s review “are a source of concern,” the bloc’s commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders tweeted Thursday evening after meeting with Twitter executives at the company’s European headquarters in Dublin. In the meeting, Reynders said he “underlined that we expect Twitter to deliver on their voluntary commitments and comply with EU rules,” including the Digital Services Act and the bloc’s strict privacy regulations known as General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Read More: Big Tech Layoffs Are Hurting Workers Far Beyond Silicon Valley Another EU commissioner, Vera Jourova, tweeted Thursday evening that she was concerned about news reports that a “vast amount” of Twitter’s European staff were fired. “If you want to effectively detect and take action against #disinformation & propaganda, this requires resources,” Jourova said. “Especially in the context of Russian disinformation warfare.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 25th, 2022Related News

The FTX Crash Will Have a Lasting Impact on the African Crypto Community

Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing crypto communities, and many investors there lost thousands in the FTX crash. The Zimbabwean NFT artist Liam Vries signed up for an FTX account this past summer. He knew of the crypto exchange because some American friends recommended it and also through its aggressive advertising in Africa. He hoped to safeguard his crypto holdings—some of which came from the sale of his surrealist collage NFT art—while also growing it through FTX’s interest rates and trading opportunities. “As an artist, I wasn’t selling as much, but knew my money could make money,” he says. But after FTX collapsed in a stunning turn of events this month, Vries found his account, which he says contained 2 ETH (approximately $2,260), frozen and inaccessible. “It was a little bit gut wrenching,” he says. “I feel like I should have known better.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] On Nov. 11, FTX filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Filings indicate the company potentially owes over $3 billion to one million creditors. Ripple effects are being felt across the world, from Miami to Singapore to the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. And Africa stands to be significantly affected, as FTX and its founder Sam Bankman-Fried had invested heavily in the continent, eyeing it as a crypto market with enormous potential. “One thing that a lot of people miss is the enormous amount of good that you can do in Africa, for instance,” he told Vox in 2021. “That’s where the most underserved globally are and where there’s a whole lot of lowest-hanging fruit in terms of being able to make people’s lives better.” Last week, the Nigerian crypto company Nestcoin counted itself among the crash’s victims: it announced layoffs after its FTX account was frozen following the platform’s bankruptcy. And African crypto investors and entrepreneurs believe the fallout will continue to impact a nascent and vital ecosystem. Africa is home to one of the world’s fastest-growing crypto ecosystems, with adoption proliferating across commerce, decentralized finance, remittances and art NFTs. In the twelve months leading up to June 2021, Africa received $105 billion worth of cryptocurrency, making it the third-fastest growing crypto economy, according to the analytics firm Chainalysis. Crypto proponents argue that developing economies like those in Africa stand to gain the most from the new technology, in that it offers efficient and decentralized alternatives to entrenched predatory banking systems. But FTX’s spectacular meltdown threatens that momentum. “Many were already skeptical in Africa, and this is not going to help: It’s going to backdate the Third World countries even further,” says Vries. Crypto Adoption in Africa While the total volume of crypto transactions in Africa is lower than other continents, studies have consistently shown that adoption is happening extremely quickly. A September report by Chainalysis documented hotspots in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, with crypto used for small retail and peer-to-peer payments. “Crypto usage is driven by everyday necessity, as opposed to speculation by the already well-off,” the report reads. The use of stablecoins—crypto tokens that hold the value of a U.S. dollar—has skyrocketed, says John Samson Karanja, a Kenyan CEO of the blockchain accelerator Bithub.Africa. “People who are digitally native are using Bitcoin and USDT [a leading stablecoin] as a way to hedge against their own currencies,” he says. “They’re realizing it’s better to keep their money there rather than the Naira [the official currency of Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa].” Crypto’s collapse is a setback for the region. Sinclair Skinner, blockchain organizer and entrepreneur, believes crypto has potential to make an impact in combating the long tail of colonialism. He points out, for instance, that many consumer money transfers between African countries flow through banking networks in New York. “That doesn’t make sense,” he says. “So Bitcoin gave folks an alternative: a digital highway where you can take encrypted data and exchange it almost instantaneously.” FTX in Africa While there are a variety of Africa-based crypto exchanges, a large number of Africans used FTX to store their money. The exchange was started in 2019 by Sam Bankman-Fried, who quickly made a name for himself with purported altruistic values, marketing savvy, and huge investments into the crypto ecosystem. Over the last couple years, FTX and its sister company Alameda Research invested in a slew of African companies, including the Nigerian-based Nestcoin; the Kenyan-based remittance company Chipper Cash, which raised $150 million last year at a $2 billion valuation; and the Kenyan digital finance start-up Mara, which raised $23 million. FTX didn’t seem too bothered by regulatory hurdles on the continent. Reuters reported that when South African authorities published a warning that FTX and other crypto exchanges were not authorized to operate there, the company entered into a commercial agreement with a local exchange and continued to do business in the country. FTX also spent money educating and onboarding newcomers to the crypto space. They hired a PR and marketing manager for the continent and partnered with Nigerian universities to hold seminars and conferences. They enlisted university campus ambassadors, giving them commissions for any FTX users they signed up. One of the people who signed up for an FTX account this year was Vries, who makes art under the moniker Vintagemozart. In 2021, Vries sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of his dreamy collages on platforms like Opensea and SuperRare. He used his newfound popularity to co-found the African NFT Community—which now has 25,000 followers on Twitter—and spread the word about the power of blockchain technology. When his NFT sales slowed this year, Vries became interested in crypto-based decentralized finance (DeFi) as an alternate income stream. And the first site he chose to purchase crypto was FTX. He selected it for several reasons, including advice from American friends as well as its omnipresent branding, which appeared next to luxury brands at high-profile sporting events. “The normal human brain is assuming something is safe because it is associated with bigger brands,” he says. “I never saw Binance [a rival crypto exchange] at Formula One.” FTX was also easier to use than its competitors, Vries says. Its interface was more streamlined and intuitive, and the app had fewer barriers to entry. “With Coinbase, you needed to provide your proof of address and all this other kind of stuff. With FTX, all I needed was my national ID and a bank account,” he says. Driven both by institutional investors and smaller holders like Vries, FTX gained a massive user base and credibility. But behind the scenes, Bankman-Fried was blurring the lines between FTX’s funds and those of its sister company, the investment firm Alameda Research. In early November, Binance openly questioned the amount of cash that FTX had on hand and pulled a $500 million investment. The move, combined with mounting evidence that FTX’s books weren’t as ironclad as promised, sent the market into a panicked sell-off. FTX soon found itself unable to repay all of the customers who wanted to pull their money from the exchange, and halted withdrawals. A representative for FTX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read More: Crypto Is Crashing. This Time, Blame FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried Vries, who moved to the U.K. this year, says he reported the missing funds to the British Action Fraud office but doubts he will be made whole. And he says he knows other people who lost thousands after the FTX crash. New York Magazine contributor Reeves Wiedeman reported that several Nigerians he spoke to had lost their entire life savings. The Nigerian startup Nestcoin, meanwhile, wrote in a letter to investors that a “significant” portion of the funding it used for day-to-day operations was tied up on FTX. As a result, the company is shaving almost half of its 100 employees, the Financial Times reported. Yele Bademosi, the CEO and co-founder of Nestcoin, declined an interview with TIME, writing in an email: “My focus is on supporting our internal stakeholders through the ongoing changes at Nestcoin.” Looking Forward Beyond the many investors nursing immediate losses, Vries and Skinner both say the consequences of the FTX crash could be much longer-lasting for the African crypto ecosystem. The African NFT art market was already in a slump, and Vries predicts it will likely continue its slide, as it consists of many middle class collectors who don’t have a financial cushion to soften a blow. “When they lack liquidity, they cannot spend,” he says. “Right now, we don’t have a formula to tell artists how to sell their work anymore.” Skinner says the FTX crash will likely make institutional investors and regulators in Africa much more leery about jumping into crypto. “It will hurt all of us. Why would a politician or a policymaker want to be exposed to looking like an idiot? So the meetings get pushed off, the emails get slower. These political folks are looking at this exposure and don’t want to be on another headline.” Karanja agrees that the crash will make the general public more “afraid of crypto.” However, he has a rosier outlook: he argues that the African crypto ecosystem is slightly insulated from FTX ripple effects because so much of the trading there is from peer to peer as opposed to through large platforms. (The Chainalysis study confirms this.) “A lot of people trade directly with each other on their phones. The intermediaries still have a huge presence, but they’re not critical,” he says. For small investors like Vries, this debacle is a learning lesson: a reminder to keep cryptocurrency in more secure offline storage (like a Ledger wallet) and to scrutinize intermediaries offering unrealistic interest rates and premiums. “The more I think about this, it was too good to be true,” he says. “Now we know we need to do background checks on which exchanges we’re using.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 25th, 2022Related News

Elon Musk Says He Will Grant ‘Amnesty’ to Suspended Twitter Accounts

Twitter's new owner said Thursday he will grant "amnesty" to suspended accounts—experts predict a rise in harassment, misinformation. SAN FRANCISCO — New Twitter owner Elon Musk said Thursday that he is granting “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which online safety experts predict will spur a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation. Read More: Twitter Is Collapsing, and Nothing Can Replace It The billionaire’s announcement came after he asked in a poll posted to his timeline to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” The yes vote was 72%. “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last last weekend before reinstating the account of former President Donald Trump, which Twitter had banned for encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Trump has said he won’t return to Twitter but has not deleted his account. Read More: What Donald Trump’s Twitter Reinstatement Means for TRUTH Social Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots. In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say it’s been on the rise on the world’s de facto public square. That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup soccer players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on. The uptick in harmful content is in large part due to the disorder following Musk’s decision to lay off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce, fire top executives, and then institute a series of ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit. Also let go were an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Among those resigning over a lack of faith in Musk’s willingness to keep Twitter from devolving into a chaos of uncontrolled speech were Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth. Read More: Big Tech Layoffs Are Hurting Workers Far Beyond Silicon Valley Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform. On Oct. 28, the day after he took control, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints that would consider the cases. On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he’d agreed to at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activists groups” who later ”broke the deal” by urging that advertisers at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business. Read More: Elon Musk Is the Lord of Twitter. We Are the Peasants A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID misinformation policies. Musk, meanwhile, has been getting increasingly chummy on Twitter with right-wing figures. Before this month’s U.S. midterm elections he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican. A report from the European Union published Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared with 2021. The report was based on data collected over the spring — before Musk acquired Twitter — as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021......»»

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Epstein Accusers Sue JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank in New York

JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank were accused of enabling the sexual abuse of Jeffrey Epstein in a New York class action lawsuit. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG were accused of enabling the sexual abuse of Jeffrey Epstein in a New York class action lawsuit.The two lawsuits, filed separately in a New York court, said the banks had “knowingly benefited and received things of value for assisting, supporting, facilitating, and otherwise providing the most critical service for the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking organization.” JPMorgan were accused in the suit of “financially benefiting from participating” in the alleged sex trafficking through providing financial support from 1998 to August 2013, the suit said. Deutsche Bank was accused of knowing that they would “earn million of dollars” from its relationship with Epstein. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and asks for the suit to be certified as a class action. Representatives for JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank in London didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.“Epstein and his co-conspirators could not have victimized without assistance from wealthy individuals and financial institutions,” Bradley Edwards, a lawyer at Edwards Pottinger, one of the firms bringing the suit, said. We will not stop fighting for the survivors until everyone is held responsible.” Read More: 23 of Jeffrey Epstein’s Accusers Finally Got Their Day in Court. Here’s What They Said [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Epstein was found dead in his U.S. jail cell in 2019, after being arrested and charged with sex trafficking. Epstein spent decades cultivating ties to U.S. and British elites including several Wall Street figures. A Who’s Who of prominent financiers, entrepreneurs, politicians and even royals have been tainted by their association with the convicted pedophile. The U.K.’s Prince Andrew had to withdraw from public duties after a disastrous television interview about his ties to Epstein. Jes Staley abruptly stepped down as chief executive officer of Barclays Plc last year after U.K. regulators shared with Barclays the preliminary findings of their multi year probe into what he told the bank’s board about his relationship with Epstein. Staley has said that he knew Epstein since 2000 when he was head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s private bank and was told to strike up a professional relationship with the financial adviser. Read More: After Barclays CEO’s Departure, Here Are Some of the Other Business Executives Linked to Jeffrey Epstein “Staley made sure Epstein and his illegal sexual abuse organization was absolutely protected by the bank,” according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 24. A lawyer for Staley declined to comment. The anonymous claimants are being represented by David Boies of Boies Schiller Flexner, who represented Virginia Giuffre in a case against Prince Andrew that subsequently settled. None of the allegations made against Staley in the suit have been publicly proved. After reviewing Deutsche Bank’s relationship with Epstein, the New York banking regulators found that “although the bank properly classified Epstein as high-risk, the bank failed to scrutinize the activity in the accounts for the kinds of activity that were obviously implicated by Epstein’s past,” the lawsuit said. —With assistance from William Shaw and Jonathan Browning......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 24th, 2022Related News

Bob Iger’s 2019 Predictions About His Disney Successor Were Eerily Prescient

Disney's returning CEO Bob Iger told TIME the key qualities he thought his successor would need in 2019. Here's how Bob Chapek fell short. Late in 2019, during a conversation with TIME, longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger outlined the key qualities he thought his successor would need. By that time had already outlasted—or moved along—several of his would-be successors, and he was very tight-lipped on who would be replacing him when his contract expired in 2020. His ultimate choice, Bob Chapek, who had previously been in charge of Disney’s parks division, abruptly left the company on Nov. 20 after fewer than three years, and was replaced by Iger, which surprised everybody— including, reportedly, Iger. But looking back at his words from three years ago, Iger seemed to quite clearly predict why Chapek didn’t work out. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] He suggested that there were four key qualities a new Disney chief needed. The ability to keep the creators on side “Obviously having an appreciation for creators and the creative process is very important,” Iger told TIME in 2019. “Most of the value proposition, or all of this company, emanates from creativity. So one must appreciate that.” Not too long after Chapek took over, he got involved in a public spat with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson, ruffled the feathers of Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Simu Liu and oversaw a corporate reorganization that gave the creatives at the company less free rein. He also suggested in an interview that animated films were not for adults, which came as news to the team at Pixar. “Chapek… made controversial management and reporting changes that appear to have disrupted the culture at Disney,” wrote Macquarie Capital analyst Tim Nollen in a research note on Disney’s changing of the guard. Good PR chops “I think it probably takes someone capable of being on stage a lot, meaning a public-facing person,” said Iger. “Disney has a place on the world stage, and the person running Disney typically has a place on the world stage as the face and the spokesperson of the company.” Chapek appeared to be doing a good job at this until recently. Only five months ago, Chapek’s contract was renewed for another three years, and until last month, Iger was still denying any possibility of going back to his old job, despite swirling rumors of unhappiness in the ranks. But then came the fourth quarter earnings call, during which some investors felt that Chapek did not set the right tone when announcing an unexpected blowout of expenditure on the company’s streaming service Disney+, which led to a disastrous balance sheet. The stock plummeted and the board felt it had to act. A knack for balancing legacy and progress “There’s a set of values someone must have,” said Iger. “I think appreciating the heritage and the legacy of the company and its place in the world has value, without letting it get in the way of innovation.” Customers have balked at the cost of going to Disney’s parks, which Chapek formerly ran, and the introduction in October 2021 of the Genie, a new app that was designed to help guests navigate their way around the park. Some visitors have found Genie labor intensive and ineffective and have objected to being on their phones when they’d rather be interacting with their families. The app’s upgraded sibling Genie+ allows guests to skip queues, but is expensive and doesn’t cover every ride—access to others has to be purchased at even more additional cost. Before Iger was reinstated, the parks announced plans to raise prices; the most expensive entry fee will be $189 a day. Read More: ‘I Hope Bob Iger Has One Foot Out the Door.’ Abigail Disney on Iger’s Stunning Comeback Ruthless prioritization skills “It’s someone that has to have an ability to manage just a tremendous amount of responsibility all at once,” Iger noted, observing that Disney is a complex business; it has its tentacles in sports, movies, parks, cruises, hospitality, merchandise and TV, among other things, a few hundred thousand employees and a global reach. “That takes energy, it takes the ability to prioritize, to compartmentalize. It takes the ability to really know what’s important and what isn’t.” Chapek’s flip-flopping on the state education legislation in Florida that many believed was anti-LGBT demonstrated that he didn’t have a clear vision of his priorities. “One of Iger’s strengths is his people skills; Chapek’s handling of the “don’t say gay” controversy alienated many staff and consumers,” wrote Nollen. And in an era when everything is about politics, Nollen suggested this might have played a role as well: “Perhaps it’s just interesting timing, but in the immediate wake of the Republicans winning the House,” he wrote, “Iger may be considered more adept at managing the social issues that Chapek was dragged into.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 23rd, 2022Related News

‘I Hope Bob Iger Has One Foot Out the Door.’ Abigail Disney on Iger’s Stunning Comeback

Abigail Disney spoke to TIME after the company her grandfather co-founded replaced chief executive Bob Chapek with his predecessor Bob Iger. In a move that shocked many on Wall Street and beyond, Disney ousted its chief executive Bob Chapek over the weekend, after less than three years in the job, bringing back his predecessor Bob Iger to run the storied company. TIME spoke to Disney shareholder Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, who founded the entertainment giant with his brother Walt, about the latest developments at the company. The film producer and activist released the documentary The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales earlier this year, which examines the widening disparity in the salaries of the workers at Disney’s parks and its top executives, especially that of Bob Iger. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. You were pretty critical of Bob Iger in your movie American Dream and Other Fairy Tales. What did you feel when you heard he was coming back? Bob Iger chose to step down just minutes before the pandemic became what it was in this country. It was already what it was in China. He knew well what was headed our way, and I don’t think wanted to be at the helm when it happened. I think that’s the only thing that explains the rushed nature of his transition because as much as he’d been there for 15 years and there had been talk of succession planning, all of his previous succession plans had gone up in smoke. I think Bob Chapek was the one who happened to be standing around at the time Iger wanted to leave. It really is important to see his return as a sign that there was a very unsound succession process. There was irresponsibility during [former CEO Michael] Eisner’s term and now irresponsibility during Iger’s term. The weakness of that plan was very clear from the drop with Bob Chapek. He made a lot of rookie mistakes right out of the gate and then he made a whole series of rookie mistakes all along through his tenure. I don’t think he ever moved out of rookie mistake territory. The bottom line is that this was very poor succession planning and the onus of that has to land squarely on Bob Iger’s shoulders as well as the shoulders of the board of directors. You don’t believe Iger always planned to leave when he did? I think he always wanted to leave at some point, but the proximal motivation was the way that COVID was looking to come down on the United States. It would be foolish to think anything else: He left at the end of January. He’d already had a whole series of things in China shut down and he knew what was coming our way. He is not a sloppy man and that was a haphazard departure. I hope it triggers some reflection at the board level because ultimately, this is the board’s job, to hire and fire CEOs. I hope to see something better happening next time around. I hope Bob [Iger] has one foot out the door. The brand is taking a terrible beating right now for a lot of reasons, all of which have the same root cause, which is that the Wall Street ideology about shareholder value has infected every aspect of the way the company runs. That triggers poor behavior on the part of managers toward employees, it triggers poor behavior on the part of the parks around their customers, poor behavior on the part of the channel in the way it treated Scarlett Johansson. They need to have a good long check in with their values, what this company is about and think very carefully about how to go forward without p—ing away their brand. Your movie dealt with the discrepancy between the salary of the CEO and the salary of the park employees. Iger’s new salary is, reportedly, $1 million a year, an extra $1 million for performance, and then $23 million in stock incentives. I wondered if you had any thoughts on that? It’s like this self-reinforcing circle. If you set up a person’s rewards on the basis of performance, that sounds very sound when you first think about it. But if the only way you measure performance is in share price, then the only way that they will perform is around share price. So it’s just this self-confirming logic. I can’t imagine that nobody competent would step up to run a corporation for say $10 million dollars a year or something more rational. And I can’t imagine that a CEO, in good faith, would object to having a more complex measure of success than simply something as blunt and silly as share price. The share price has lost more than 40% of its value in the last two years, which is pretty cataclysmic for people who rely on pension funds and things like that to live their lives. I hate it. But it’s not enough of a way to know if the company is doing well or not. The CEO salary should rise as a company succeeds in its long-term investment in human life and enterprise and that means investing in employees and caring more about your customers rather than treating them like lemons to be squeezed. The final straw with Chapek seemed to be the big losses on Disney+ as well as his cavalier attitude towards those losses. Wouldn’t paying employees [more] also cost the company a lot more? Compared with the losses on streaming, what it would cost to pay employees enough that they would only need the one job is nothing, it’s a drop in the bucket. I’m not of the belief that the way Wall Street operates is particularly rational. When the streaming services came online it was the beginning of the pandemic; everybody wanted streaming services. It was a hot moment and so the share price leaped irrationally. Share prices were already high because there was this long honeymoon of very low cost debt that all companies were partying with like crazy. But also, Bob Chapek inherited a business plan for streaming that involved Disney losing money for a long time. There isn’t a streaming service that you can name that didn’t lose a ton of money in the process of building its way to profitability. He inherited a business plan that [people] thought was sound. Suddenly he’s being punished for something that was always the plan. Would Disney’s woes ever cause you to disinvest? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be because I thought the streaming service wasn’t being run well. It would more be a moral decision on my part that the company had totally abandoned the idea that people should be paid fairly and customers should not be abused. While I think it’s dangerously close to that point, I think that the better part of valor is to stay and fight. Who do you blame most for the current turmoil? This reflects badly on the board for the way they handled it and the fact that they never have succession in mind, really, in a serious way. It reflects badly on Chapek because he performed really badly, and it reflects badly on Bob [Iger] because, really honestly, this is an affirmation that he failed with succession planning. Do you sense any opportunity here for Iger to fix mistakes he made the first time? It’s an opportunity to press reset for everybody. I really hope he’s done some reflection on the larger questions, not just whether or not he did a good job planning his succession. Disney really is in a bad moment in terms of brand. What it really needs is an injection of that ineffable thing that made the brand so special. And I really do hope he thinks very seriously about what needs to be reawakened at the company to make it really live over the long term. In practice, what would that look like? It’s really hard to put this into concrete terms because the shift that needs to happen at the company needs to be inside in its soul. You make strategic decisions based on higher principles, hopefully, and the higher principles have sort of disappeared and it’s all strategic decisions now. That’s a great way to lose your way. You get reactive and you just deal with the crisis in front of you. Bob Iger said some really good things about what he would have done differently around [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis and the ‘don’t say gay’ [legislation] and one of the things he said was that he has a certain set of filters he runs things through as to whether or not it’s appropriate for him to weigh in on: How does this affect our employees? How does this affect the company? How does this affect our customers? And in his view that bill was a terrible threat to all three and that therefore, he would have handled things initially differently than Chapek did. I think that’s a really good filter to run everything through right now: is everybody thriving? Are customers thriving and employees thriving? I think that those are the questions and then the answers will present themselves. I know that sounds very glib and it’s much easier to say than to do. But I do think there’s a real dearth of running things through our deepest moral filters. Do you wish Iger well? Yes, I absolutely do. I still insist he’s a nice man, and I think he means well, and I think that he is coming back to the company because he’s troubled by the condition it’s in right now and wants to see it do better. So, I think he’s coming back with good intentions and I give him every benefit of the doubt......»»

Category: topSource: TIMENov 23rd, 2022Related News