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How One CEO Improved Results By Investing in His Workers

For the past 40 years or so, frontline workers in America have been getting a smaller and smaller slice of the economic pie. As corporate profits and executive compensation packages have soared, employees at many of the country’s biggest companies wound up taking an effective pay cut, year after year. Income growth for the bottom… For the past 40 years or so, frontline workers in America have been getting a smaller and smaller slice of the economic pie. As corporate profits and executive compensation packages have soared, employees at many of the country’s biggest companies wound up taking an effective pay cut, year after year. Income growth for the bottom 90 percent of American households has trailed gross domestic product growth for the past four decades, meaning that even as the country has gotten richer overall, most people have received a shrinking share of that wealth. Things are worst of all for those at the bottom. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be more than $25 an hour. Instead, it is stuck at $7.25. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] In my new book, The Man Who Broke Capitalism, I trace this dramatic shift in our collective fortunes back to the reign of Jack Welch, who took over as the CEO of General Electric in 1981. Over the next 20 years, Welch reshaped the company and the economy, unleashing a series of mass layoffs and factory closures that destabilized the American working class, becoming the first CEO to use downsizing as a tool to improve corporate profitability, and embracing outsourcing and offshoring in an endless quest for cheap labor. And because GE was so influential, and Welch was so successful in his prime, these strategies became the de facto law of the land in corporate America. More than two decades after he retired, we are all still living in the world Jack Welch helped create. Today however, there are tentative signs that change is afoot. Some companies are investing in U.S. manufacturing, doing their part to combat climate change, and trying to clean up their supply chains. At a few select companies CEOs are even trying to push back on the forces that have led to such drastic income inequality in America and invest more in their workers. Companies like Target, Walmart and Chipotle have raised wages in recent years. And at PayPal, the online payments company, CEO Dan Schulman has embarked on an ambitious effort to improve the financial wellbeing of his frontline employees—going well beyond simply raising wages and creating a comprehensive financial wellness program that stands apart in corporate America. When Schulman took over PayPal, the online payments company, in 2014, he embraced the idealistic language of Silicon Valley, trumpeting a corporate mission statement that suggested technology could solve all the world’s problems. “Our mission as a company is to try and democratize the management and movement of money,” Schulman said. “It’s a very inclusive statement.” Schulman assumed that most all of PayPal’s employees were well off. After all, the company is worth more than $80 billion, and Silicon Valley behemoths are known for their generous compensation. But several years ago, Schulman learned that many of PayPal’s lowest-paid employees were having a hard time making ends meet. In 2017, the company set up a $5 million fund to help employees who were experiencing unexpected financial crises. As soon as the fund was announced, it was overwhelmed with applications. “We found urgent requests for help were increasingly the result of everyday events, like an unexpectedly steep medical bill, a student loan payment, or a car breaking down,” he told me. The next year, PayPal decided to survey its low-paid and entry-level employees, a group that included many men and women working in call centers, and which accounted for about half the company’s workforce. Schulman went into the exercise with high hopes. “I thought the results that would come back were going to be really good, because PayPal is a tech company, and we pay at or above market rates everywhere around the world because we want to attract really great employees,” he said. That was not the case. Two thirds of respondents said they were running short on cash between paychecks. “We got the survey results back and I was actually shocked to see that our hourly workers—like our call center employees, our entry-level employees—were just like the rest of the market, struggling to make ends meet,” he said. At an enormously profitable technology company, more than 10,000 employees were barely making enough to survive. “What we found out is that employees were making trade-offs, like do I get health care or do I put food on the table?” he said. “That’s ridiculous.” Schulman was stunned. “What it told me is that for about half our employees, the market wasn’t working. Capitalism wasn’t working.” Schulman resolved to do something, but he knew it wouldn’t be enough to just hand out some bonuses and hope for the best. Instead, he looked for data that would tell him whether or not whatever interventions PayPal devised were making a difference. He wanted a way to measure “the financial health of our employees” that went beyond basic metrics like the minimum wage, the purchasing power of which varies by zip code. Over the course of a few months, PayPal worked with academics and nonprofit groups to create a new metric: “net disposable income,” or NDI. That, Schulman explained, amounted to “how much money do you have after you pay all of your taxes and your essential living expenses, like housing and food and that kind of thing.” PayPal and its partners estimated that an NDI of 20 percent was about what was needed for a family to meet its needs—basics like rent and food, plus things like medical expenses, school supplies, and clothes—and still be able to save. With the new metric in hand, Schulman’s team revisited the survey data. The results were grim. About half of PayPal employees had an NDI of 4 percent, leaving them with just a small fraction of their paycheck after paying for basic necessities. It was a bleak statistic, but now Schulman had a target. The goal would be to get all PayPal employees to at least an NDI of 20 percent. There wasn’t one silver bullet that would easily accomplish that. Instead, PayPal created a four-part financial wellness program for its lower-paid employees that was unique among big companies. First, PayPal raised the wages for those employees with low NDIs. The company already paid above minimum wage everywhere it had offices, but that clearly wasn’t enough. So it upped hourly compensation for its call center workers. It then gave every employee, even entry-level ones, an opportunity to own stock in the company. That was hardly a token gesture. Given the disproportionate amount of value that is created through the appreciation of public company stock, it could be a meaningful way for workers to accumulate real wealth. And sure enough, PayPal stock doubled in the year after the program was introduced. Next, PayPal rolled out a comprehensive financial literacy program for its employees, offering pointers on saving, investing, and managing money. All of that was above and beyond what most big companies were doing, but Schulman then took one more critical step. One surprising finding from financial wellness survey was just how much health care was costing PayPal employees. Each month, workers had to choose between medical care and textbooks, between prescriptions and gas for the car. Health care costs were consuming a meaningful part of their NDI. So Schulman lowered health care costs for the company’s lowest-paid employees by 60 percent. It was the most impactful of PayPal’s interventions. “I think if we had just done health care, it would have been a gigantic relief for our employees,” Schulman said. Several months after the program was implemented, PayPal surveyed its employees again. This time, many of the targeted employees had net disposable income of more than 20 percent, with the lowest coming in at 16 percent. Many other companies have raised wages in recent years. What PayPal did was different. Between the raises, the stock grants, the financial literacy training, and the additional support for healthcare costs, Schulman and his team effectively rewrote the social contract with their lowest paid employees, proving that companies can still be highly profitable while taking exemplary care of their employees, too. The financial wellness program at PayPal cost tens of millions of dollars, money that didn’t go out the door in buybacks or dividends. “It was a significant material investment in our employees,” Schulman said. But he likened it to investments in other parts of the business, be it advertising or infrastructure. “I believe very strongly that the only sustainable competitive advantage that a company has is the skill set and the passion of their employees,” he said. Schulman insists that the expense was worth it. In the months after the program began, customer satisfaction ticked up, employees were more engaged, and PayPal’s stock continued to soar. And in recent months, PayPal has changed the vesting schedule for some of the stock awards to give employees more chances to cash out. “Over the medium and long term, that investment will pay back to shareholders,” Schulman said. “This whole idea that profit and purpose are at odds with each other is ridiculous. I mean, if you ever have any chance of moving from being a good company to a great company, you have to have the very best employees, that love what they’re doing, that are passionate about what they’re doing. Everything else will emanate from there.” Adapted from “The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America–and How to Undo His Legacy.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIME1 hr. 28 min. ago Related News

Both Republicans and Democrats Are Wrong on Gas Prices

On June 13, the price of gasoline reached a historic high of $5 per gallon. There followed an avalanche of accusations across the political spectrum. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, blamed oil companies for gouging consumers in order to boost their own profits. Republicans countered that the high prices were due to Biden’s mismanagement and… On June 13, the price of gasoline reached a historic high of $5 per gallon. There followed an avalanche of accusations across the political spectrum. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, blamed oil companies for gouging consumers in order to boost their own profits. Republicans countered that the high prices were due to Biden’s mismanagement and energy policies that discourage domestic oil production. In truth, neither side has accurately framed the current energy crisis. A complex array of economic, political, and geopolitical factors have converged to cause the national energy dilemma, which is unlikely to improve in the near future. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] In Summer 2021, the price of gasoline nationwide was $3. A year later, it spiked to $5. What happened? To answer that question, it’s necessary to turn the clocks back to 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. The world was awash in oil, thanks to the shale boom in the U.S. that had caused domestic production to double from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to 12.3 million barrels per day in 2019. Then came COVID-19. In early 2020, demand for oil collapsed as the global economy went into lockdown. The price of oil fell to a historic low of -$30 in April. While oil producers in OPEC cut production, private oil companies cut costs and shed unprofitable assets. Some of those assets included aging refineries in the U.S. and Europe. As the global economy came back online in 2021, OPEC and private U.S. companies brought new oil onto the market very slowly. They had good reasons to be wary: the price had collapsed twice in a decade, COVID still wasn’t totally gone, and future demand looked uncertain due to growing concerns over climate change. Companies neglected investing in more capacity and instead offered dividends and buybacks to shareholders. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 threw a fragile global oil supply situation into utter chaos. The world’s second largest oil exporter, Russia, faced sanctions from the U.S., Canada, and the E.U. over its aggression. Millions of barrels of Russian crude suddenly went without a buyer. Global oil prices spiked to $130 per barrel. At the same time, the companies’ decision to shut down several oil refineries during the COVID slump left the U.S. with a deficit in refining capacity. While oil prices were high, the price of gasoline and diesel—in short supply for lack of operating refineries—was even higher. As gas prices spiked to $5, both sides of the American political spectrum point fingers. Democrats have been highly critical of private oil companies, arguing that the current high prices are the result of price gouging and corporate greed. Some have suggested creative economic policies to reduce U.S. exposure to the volatile global oil market, including windfall profit taxes and bans on oil and gasoline exports. While attacks from Democrats rightly point out the huge profits oil companies have earned from the current spike in prices, such windfalls are a product of oil’s volatile market and stem from forces outside the companies’ control. Some Democrat proposals such as an export ban on refined products would do little to mitigate crude oil prices, which are set on a global market, and would be counterproductive to lowering the price of refined goods like gasoline, since they would discourage further investment in domestic infrastructure. Republicans, on the other hand, have framed high prices as a result of Biden’s energy policies, which they contend have cut into US oil production. In his first year in office, Biden suspended new oil and gas leases on federal lands and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried crude oil from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. “Unshackling” the industry would allow the U.S. to achieve “energy independence,” and avoid price shocks, they contend. Republican attacks on Biden are unwarranted. While it is true the President has undertaken several measures to limit the expansion of domestic oil production on federal land, such measures have not had an appreciable impact on oil output, which is set to exceed its historic high of 12.5m barrels per day in 2023. Oil executives have cited capital discipline, high costs, and scarce labor for holding back additional investment in new production. Claims that the U.S. could be energy independence obscure the fact that the price of oil is set by a global market, one that the U.S. cannot influence unilaterally. It is doubtful the U.S. could become self-sufficient in oil and gas, no matter how much it produces. President Biden’s response has been a mix of measures, from releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to using federal power to encourage more investment in renewable energy to bring down demand for oil. On June 24, the administration proposed suspending the federal gasoline tax. In July, President Biden will visit Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to push Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to increase Saudi oil production in order to bring down world oil prices. Republican rhetoric aside, there is little the U.S. can do to bring down oil or gasoline prices in the short term. There are material constraints to boosting domestic oil production, and even with more output the U.S. cannot lower crude oil prices on its own. Similarly, President Biden’s gas tax holiday is unlikely to lower prices very much or for very long and may even contribute to the problem by encouraging more gasoline consumption at a time when supply and demand are extremely tight. Rather than boosting production or encouraging greater demand, the President could take positive steps to rein in demand and encourage conservation, short of triggering a recession. Improving energy efficiency, subsidizing public transportation, campaigns to promote energy conservation, or other fairly simple measures could all have an appreciable impact. Other policy measures, such as suspending the Jones Act—a century-old condition that restricts domestic energy from traveling by sea to U.S. ports—or taking control of private refining capacity in order to boost gasoline output for the domestic market would help alleviate high prices without adding to demand. The current shock was years in the making and stems from a variety of economic, political, and geopolitical factors, most of which lie outside U.S. control. Unless demand for gasoline falls, prices are likely to remain high throughout the summer—and beyond......»»

Category: topSource: TIME1 hr. 28 min. ago Related News

Sale Puts Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Back in West Bank, Kind Of

The company said it does not agree with the decision by its parent Unilever A new agreement in Israel will put Ben & Jerry’s ice cream back on shelves in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank despite the ice cream maker’s protest of Israeli policies, according to Unilever, the company that owns the brand. The Vermont company, which has long backed liberal causes, said it does not agree with the decision, and it’s unclear if the product—which would only be sold with Hebrew and Arabic labeling—would have the same appeal to customers. We are aware of the Unilever announcement. While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it. (🧵1/3) — Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) June 29, 2022 Israel hailed the move as a victory in its ongoing campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS aims to bring economic pressure to bear on Israel over its military occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a future state. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Unilever, which acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 but distanced itself from the ice cream maker’s decision last year to halt sales in the territories, said Wednesday that it had sold its business interest in Israel to a local company that would sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream under its Hebrew and Arabic name throughout Israel and the West Bank. When Ben & Jerry’s was sold, the companies agreed that the ice cream maker’s independent board would be free to pursue its social mission, including longstanding support for liberal causes, including racial justice, climate action, LGBTQ rights and campaign finance reform. But Unilever would have the final word on financial and operational decisions. Unilever said it has “used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel.” In its statement, Unilever reiterated that it does not support the BDS movement. It said it was “very proud” of its business in Israel, where it employs around 2,000 people and has four manufacturing plants. Unilever sold the business to Avi Zinger, the owner of Israel-based American Quality Products Ltd, who had sued Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s in March in a U.S. federal court over the termination of their business relationship, saying it violated U.S. and Israeli law. Zinger’s legal team said the decision by Unilever was part of a settlement. He thanked Unilever for resolving the matter and for the “strong and principled stand” it has taken against BDS. “There is no place for discrimination in the commercial sale of ice cream,” Zinger said. Ben & Jerry’s said that its parent company had taken the decision. “We do not agree with it,” the ice cream maker said on its Twitter account, adding that it would no longer profit from sales of its products in Israel. “We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it added. Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch for Israel and the Palestinian territories, said Unilever sought to undermine Ben & Jerry’s “principled decision” to avoid complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, which his organization says amount to apartheid, an allegation Israel adamantly rejects. “It won’t succeed: Ben & Jerry’s won’t be doing business in illegal settlements. What comes next may look and taste similar, but, without Ben & Jerry’s recognized social justice values, it’s just a pint of ice cream.” Israel hailed the decision and thanked governors and other elected officials in the United States and elsewhere for supporting its campaign against BDS. It said Unilever consulted its Foreign Ministry throughout the process. “Antisemitism will not defeat us, not even when it comes to ice-cream,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said. “We will fight delegitimization and the BDS campaign in every arena, whether in the public square, in the economic sphere or in the moral realm.” BDS, an umbrella group supported by virtually all of Palestinian civil society, presents itself as a non-violent protest movement modeled on the boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa. It does not adopt an official position on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved, and it officially rejects antisemitism. Israel views BDS as an assault on its very legitimacy, in part because of extreme views held by some of its supporters. Israel also points to the group’s support for a right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees — which would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state — and BDS leaders’ refusal to endorse a two-state solution to the conflict. Ben & Jerry’s decision was not a full boycott, and appeared to be aimed at Israel’s settlement enterprise. Some 700,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed and considers part of its capital. Israel captured both territories in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Palestinians want them to be part of their future state. Most of the international community views the settlements as a violation of international law. The Palestinians consider them the main obstacle to peace because they absorb and divide up the land on which a future Palestinian state would be established. Every Israeli government has expanded settlements, including during the height of the peace process in the 1990s......»»

Category: topSource: TIME1 hr. 28 min. ago Related News

New Corporate Policies on Abortion Travel Spark Worries About Employees’ Privacy

More than 25 companies, including Disney, Meta and Dick's Sporting Goods, announced that they would cover employees who need to travel to receive abortion care In the hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, several major U.S. corporations announced they would cover travel expenses for employees who had to cross state lines to obtain an abortion. Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would provide up to $4,000 in travel expense reimbursement to employees who live in states with abortion restrictions, so they “can access the same health care options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them,” CEO Lauren Hobart said in a LinkedIn post. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said it would offer travel expense reimbursements “to the extent permitted by law” for employees who need to access reproductive care in another state. “We are in the process of assessing how best to do so given the legal complexities involved,” a Meta spokesperson said. Disney told employees that a benefit offering them access to care in other states extends to “family planning (including pregnancy termination),” according to a company spokesperson. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] They’re among more than 25 companies—many of them household names—that announced such policies in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision or after the official ruling on Friday. But as the dust settles in a post-Roe America, companies’ involvement in their employees’ abortion care also raises a host of new legal and privacy issues. And abortion-rights advocates are frustrated that people who become pregnant in states where abortion is illegal or heavily restricted will have to depend on their employer as they navigate complex health decisions. “Certainly women who have to access care are not overjoyed that this is where we find ourselves. This is a policy failure. This is a systemic failure,” says Erika Seth Davies, CEO of Rhia Ventures, a fund focused on reproductive health care that has encouraged companies to improve access to abortion. “And now we’re having to look to the private sector to just see to it that people can get what they need, and that’s a very precarious position.” Kayte Spector-Bagdady, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Michigan who focuses on health data, says she appreciates companies that are making well-intentioned efforts to support employees’ access to abortion. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding what these policies will actually mean for employees; whether the benefits will be managed by health insurance providers, supervisors, or a human resources department; whether employees can use their health savings accounts for abortion care; and how employees’ privacy will be protected. Read More: What Abortion Providers in Anti-Abortion States Will Do Post-Roe “People think of health information as being protected because it’s about your health, and that’s not accurate,” she says. “I have a lot of concerns regarding the legality of the way they arrange this funding for travel, as well as the kinds of privacy protections that are in existence to protect the kind of information being generated in these relationships.” She acknowledges that company reimbursements are a valuable resource for people who could otherwise not afford to travel for abortion care, but sharing that kind of personal information with an employer poses additional challenges. “It’s a terrible position to put people into,” she says. The end of Roe v. Wade has given rise to new concerns about how sensitive abortion data—including period-tracking apps or internet searches for abortion-inducing medication—could be exploited amid efforts to criminalize abortion and potentially penalize people who have an abortion and those who help them. Read More: Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers Are Collecting Troves of Data That Could Be Weaponized Against Women So far, no states have criminal penalties for people who seek abortions—but there are signs that such laws may be coming. Texas and Oklahoma passed laws allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and others who help someone get an abortion. It’s not yet clear if companies paying for employees’ abortion-related travel could also be liable, though a group of Republican lawmakers in Texas pledged to introduce legislation that would stop corporations from doing business in the state if they pay for abortions in other states, the Texas Tribune reported. And earlier this year, a Republican in Louisiana introduced a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and would allow prosecutors to criminally charge abortion patients. The bill was withdrawn after criticism, but it alarmed abortion-rights advocates. Roughly half of Americans receive health insurance through an employer—and experts note that employers have previously had access to other sensitive health information for their employees, which is often protected by federal health data privacy laws. But it’s not yet clear how every company will handle their new abortion-access policies—especially if threatened with legal or financial penalties. “When we’re talking about telling your employer that you’re going to get an abortion and the employer giving you cash to support that decision, that is far outside any scope of protected health data,” Spector-Bagdady says. “And also, I fear, opens women up to additional layers of potential discrimination.” She says companies need to prioritize data privacy to protect employee information as much as possible, while they roll out new policies supporting abortion access, “both to protect the company itself, but also in some states, the woman from criminal liability.” Read More: What to Know About Abortion Pills Post-Roe So far, no states have passed laws restricting patients’ ability to travel out of state for an abortion. But reproductive rights advocates worry that anti-abortion lawmakers could also pursue that in the future. “Employers should make sure that in providing these payment systems, they are standing in the shoes of the employee for a moment and thinking, ‘You know, what protections are necessary to ensure that employees can be comfortable taking advantage of them?’” says Liz Brown, an associate professor of business law and ethics at Bentley University in Massachusetts. One of the most important protections, she says, is confidentiality, “so that an employee doesn’t have to, for example, ask their boss or have their boss know.” With Roe overturned, 26 states are likely to ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for abortion rights. And low-income people and women of color are likely to be most heavily affected by lack of access to abortion, further exacerbating racial disparities in healthcare. Brown says it’s important for companies to keep that in mind and extend abortion-access policies to all front-line retail or service workers, not just employees in corporate offices. “I would strongly encourage employers to broaden access to this particular benefit as much as possible, considering the racial imbalance in the population that’s going to be most affected by these restrictions,” Brown says. So far, many large retailers have remained silent on this issue. That’s also why United for Respect, a nonprofit advocating for retail workers, has called on Walmart to follow other companies and enact a similar abortion-access policy for retail employees. (A spokesperson for Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) “With a heavy concentration of retail locations in the south—where several states have abortion trigger laws in place—Walmart has an opportunity and a duty to step up and ensure its associates are supported in decisions they make about their own bodies,” Bianca Agustin, corporate accountability director at United for Respect, said in a statement. “As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart executives can set the standard for other companies by supporting their associates and providing adequate maternity leave, paid sick leave, and covering the cost of expenses for associates who need to travel across state lines to access abortion services.” And many advocates for reproductive rights have called on companies to do more than offer health benefits, but to stop donating to legislators who have supported anti-abortion legislation. “We should have never gotten here—to this point where corporations are reactively—and falsely —committing to fighting for abortion access,” UltraViolet, an organization that advocates for gender equality and reproductive health, said in a tweet. The group says that corporations have donated more than $195 million collectively to anti-abortion lawmakers since 2020. Davies thinks that companies’ abortion-access policies represent a step in the right direction, but it’s only a start. She would like to see more companies lobby Congress for federal policies that support reproductive health care and protect abortion access. “We don’t have to be in this position of having to, again, look to the private sector for this coverage and this access,” she says. “How are companies leveraging their political spending? Is it in alignment with the values that they espouse? And if it’s not, then it should be.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIME14 hr. 44 min. ago Related News

E.U. Proposes Ban on Flavored Heated Tobacco Products

The proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the bloc The European Union’s executive branch proposed Wednesday a ban on the sale of flavored heated tobacco products, including some vaping items, as part of its plan to fight cancer. The European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc. A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5 % of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region. The ban would not cover all vaping devices, only those delivering heated tobacco. Many e-cigarettes only contain nicotine. Read more: It’s Too Simple to Call the Juul Ban a Public Health Triumph “With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by tobacco, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,” said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food Safety. According to E.U. figures, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the bloc of 450 million residents. There are about 1.3 million cancer deaths and 3.5 million new cases per year in the E.U. An estimated 40% of E.U. citizens will face cancer at some point in their lives, with an annual economic impact estimated around 100 billion euros ($120 billion). The European Commission previously said it wanted to ensure that less than 5% of the population uses tobacco by 2040. The ban’s proposal now goes to member nations and European Parliament lawmakers for review......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 29th, 2022Related News

Airbnb Permanently Bans Parties At Its Rental Locations

Airbnb is making permanent its ban on parties at homes listed on the site for short-term rentals. SAN FRANCISCO —Airbnb is making permanent its ban on parties at homes listed on the site for short-term rentals. The San Francisco company believes the ban has worked, saying Tuesday that reports of parties at listed properties have dropped 44% from a year ago. Read More: Airbnb Co-Founder Calls Offering Temporary Accommodation to 20,000 Afghan Refugees an ‘Easy Call’ More than 6,600 guests were suspended last year for related violations, Airbnb said. Airbnb began to crack down on parties in 2019 after a fatal shooting at a party in a house in California. At that time, the company prohibited advertising parties at Airbnb locations on social media. The number of parties at Airbnb locations increased during the pandemic, Airbnb said, as people moved gatherings from bars and clubs to rented homes. That led to a temporary ban in 2020. While making the ban permanent, Airbnb said it will lift a limit of 16 people at rented properties. It said the cap was prompted by health concerns before vaccines against COVID-19 were available......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 29th, 2022Related News

Why a Recession Isn’t Inevitable

The chances a recession will take hold are lower in the U.S. and Asia than in Europe. An ugly word has been shooting around the media like it’s going out of fashion: Recession, usually defined as two back-to-back quarters of a shrinking economy. Judging by recent headlines and rhetoric from experts, you’d think we are already there. But as with many things, the truth is more nuanced. To be sure, no one in their right mind wants to see a recession, as these periods of malaise usually coincide with higher unemployment and lower corporate profits. While there are growing risks of a recession as the world economy slows, the chances a recession will take hold are lower in the U.S. and Asia than in Europe. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] For now, what we have is a global economy in deceleration mode. “In a slowing economy, investors get anxious because that R-word may be right around the corner,” says Amanda Agati, chief investment officer at PNC Asset Management Group. Where the fear comes from The current worries aren’t just investor paranoia, however. First-quarter economic growth in the U.S.—the world’s largest economy—slowed to 3.5%, down from 5.5% during the last three months of 2021. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve instituted its most aggressive interest rate hike in nearly thirty years this month, as part of its war on rising prices. Inflation recently soared to an annual rate of 8.6%, up from 5.3% in August. A primary issue for investors is the Fed’s historic lack of skill in reducing inflation while avoiding a recession. “The Fed has never orchestrated a soft landing once after completing a tightening cycle,” Agati says. Indeed, the Fed’s inability to effectively get its timing right may be the biggest risk. Still, there are many reasons for optimism. “We don’t see the probability of a recession in 2022,” Agati says. “We think the economy holds up,” She sees a mere one-in-three chance of a U.S. recession next year. Overblown worries That makes sense to a handful of other economy-watchers, who see many signs of strength among perceived risks that are probably overblown. Sure, investors are alarmed by a weak stock market. So far this year, the S&P 500 index lost more than 20%, ushering in a bear market. Such a dramatic downdraft in the stock market could augur a recession. But it doesn’t always. In October 1987, stocks fell more than 20% in one day. There was no imminent recession. In late 2018, the same index retreated nearly 20%. Again, no recession followed. Similar, although smaller, declines occurred in late 2015, and the middle of both 2011 and 2012, again with no subsequent recessions. Another likely phantom worry is the recent softness in the U.S. housing market. Sales of new homes in the U.S. dropped to an annualized rate of 591,000 in April, from 831,000 in January. While that doesn’t sound good, the slowdown likely won’t be prolonged or severe, experts note. Over the last decade, home builders have constructed fewer houses than necessary to keep pace with population growth and the essential replacement of dilapidated structures. That means there will almost certainly be a bounce-back in demand for real estate. “It is universally agreed that we have a housing shortage,” says Jay Hatfield, CEO of Infrastructure Capital Management. “We don’t think housing goes into a death spiral.” The homebuilding downturn likely means the U.S. economy will not grow as fast as it has recently. But that is different from a six-month-long contraction of the whole economy, which defines a recession. “We see a slowdown,” says Thomas A. Martin, Senior Portfolio Manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta. Hidden Bright Spots Meanwhile, the job market looks vibrant. “Employment remains strong,” Martin says. The recent monthly employment report shows that the U.S. added 390,000 jobs during May, which exceeds the growth in the pool of active workers. And the unemployment rate remained steady at a historically low 3.6%. That’s the opposite of typical recession news. In April 2020, the peak of the pandemic-led recession, unemployment jumped to 14.7% up from 4.4% the previous month. Recessions tend to hit corporate profits hard. And yet Wall Street is forecasting the opposite. New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs is currently predicting an increase in earnings for the companies in the S&P 500 index of 8% this year and 6% in 2023. The U.S. energy sector is also booming. Consumers are contending with higher gas prices, but at the same time, the U.S. is exporting liquified natural gas to Europe to supplement now-reduced energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A Chinese recovery Beyond the U.S., things look good too. China, the world’s second-largest economy and the driving economic force in Asia, looks likely to see a growth burst following temporary COVID-19-related lockdowns. The result of the restrictions was annual growth recently fell to 4.8% in the first quarter, down from 18.3% a year before. “I expect growth to recover, and they have all the means to cut rates and use fiscal measures,” says Adrien Pichoud, chief economist at Syz Bank. He expects Chinese growth to be strong, meaning it won’t be in recession. He says after the post-lockdown rebound, the Chinese economy will likely stabilize with annual growth of 5% to 5.5%. “If China stabilizes it will be good for the rest of Asia.” Real Concerns for Europe Europe is a different story. The single-currency area known as the eurozone is currently benefiting from government assistance to help deal with soaring energy and food costs. That amounts to around 1% of GDP. “We’re not talking small numbers here,” Pichoud says. However, the benefit of the subsidies will likely end by 2023, raising the risk of a European recession as the continent suffers from energy shortages. “We may face an environment where momentum is softer, and the headwinds of tighter financing raise the risk of recession,” Pichoud says......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 28th, 2022Related News

AT&T’s CEO John Stankey Is Facing the Most Challenging Time of His Career

Even iconic companies can endure a grueling identity crisis. AT&T has long been one of the most respected names in corporate America. Many Fortune 100 companies rely on the telecom giant for vital communications infrastructure and it is a leading provider of wireless phone service for consumers, including 5G. It’s a fast emerging player in… Even iconic companies can endure a grueling identity crisis. AT&T has long been one of the most respected names in corporate America. Many Fortune 100 companies rely on the telecom giant for vital communications infrastructure and it is a leading provider of wireless phone service for consumers, including 5G. It’s a fast emerging player in broadband with a high-quality fiber offering. It is routinely one of the most significant annual investors of capital in the U.S., investing more than $135 billion in its networks and spectrum over the past five years, according to company sources. Yet for the past six years, AT&T has been on a costly and distracting foray into the media business, gobbling up DirectTV and Time Warner in huge acquisitions. The company is now back to its core business of connecting businesses and consumers to each other. The consensus view on Wall Street is that AT&T has spent the last two years undoing what it did in the previous six. It has spun off DirectTV and Warner Media to refocus on building on the telecom infrastructure that is the backbone of much of the modern connected economy. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Directing this effort is the CEO since 2020, John Stankey, who has spent his entire 37-year career at the company. For Stankey, 59, it’s been a challenging and sometimes emotional process. In a recent interview, Stankey, made the case for the streamlined AT&T and discussed what he says is the most challenging business environment of his career. Stankey spoke to TIME on June 1, from a conference room outside his Dallas office, where he was testing out a new Microsoft video conference camera that slowly moved to focus on whoever was speaking. “I refer to us as Microsoft’s biggest beta tester.” (For coverage of the future of work, visit TIME.com/charter and sign up for the free Charter newsletter.) This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. When was the last time that you used an actual landline? I’m probably a bit of an outlier. There is still one in the house and my mother-in-law calls the landline first. My wife and my mother-in-law are active users of it. I sometimes have to pick it up. How many customers still have landlines? It’s a very small number, less than 20% of our peak. My landline is $10 or $12 a month. Are you losing money on the landline business? Ten dollars does not cover the cost of the landline. Costs of landlines are going up because scale has gone down and the fixed cost structure largely hasn’t changed. When I talk about transforming the business, and altering the cost structure, a major part of that work is shedding all that cost structure associated with excellent, great products for many, many decades that have now run their course. All that cost structure is being re-engineered out of the business right now. And our hope is over the next four or five years, we free ourselves of that. Why has buying entertainment companies proved to be such a minefield for outside companies? Every industry has unique characteristics. I think some of the unique characteristics of the media business are incentive structures that are quite a bit different than many publicly traded operations. The incentive structure is very much built around the contributions of an individual or individuals as opposed to inherent value that the corporation owns or builds. Are you referring to the stars or directors taking a huge cut of a movie or hit show? It’s not just stars and directors. It’s people who write and showrunners; it’s executive producers who bring packages and talent together. Everybody kind of has a different dynamic around how they can sell and that is very different than many other businesses and verticals. I’m not talking about the cut per say, but what I am suggesting is that a company that has management expertise in their current line of business maybe struggles a little bit when you motivate and incent people in the media industry. It’s just utterly different and very, very unique and bespoke to a particular individual or particular individual’s capabilities. Right after the deal was announced you paid a visit to HBO headquarters in New York. The meeting was leaked to the press and you were presented in an unflattering light as a sort of clueless telcom guy that didn’t really get the creative business. Is the entertainment industry more of a snake pit than the telco industry? I think they just are motivated differently. It’s natural for me to walk into a group of 200 people in the communications business and talk about what we need to do to get perfect broadband out to millions and millions of people. It certainly isn’t going to be the kind of an approach that works in media. It’s all about being unique and special and different and your own intellectual property. I don’t find it to be a snake pit. I found it to be a different creative process with people who are incented and motivated differently. A lot of what you laid out that day for HBO and got so much blowback about, like increasing volume and production, has paid off. HBO added something like 3 million customers in the last quarter. If I were to be criticized for anything I did that day, it is that I told the truth. HBO is now for the first time in over a decade growing subscribers, growing in relationships, growing the number of hours that people spend watching the service and it’s not lost any of its creative edge. I think that’s pretty damn good. And now there is advertising on HBO. (And Netflix recently confirmed that it is working on adding an ad-supported optioned to its streaming service.) There are some customers who choose to pay less per month to get served advertising or a light advertising load and I think that’s probably a good thing because not everybody is wealthy, white-collar upper-middle class, and sometimes people want to pay a little bit less. (For coverage of the future of work, visit TIME.com/charter and sign up for the free Charter newsletter.) On a macro basis what is your reading of the health of consumers right now? Is it still your view that people are a bit flush? There’s still an awful lot of money sitting in people’s bank accounts from what I would consider to be some of the government-subsidized distributions that took place and changed people’s cash position. I do think consumers are still relatively healthy but it only takes a couple of quarters of 8% of inflation…[to eat into those cushions.] We’re going to see a softening of the economy that’s going to be driven by the fact that people aren’t going to have discretionary money and that softening will probably cause the economy to slow down. You will probably see things kind of normalize on jobs and employment. What is your operating assumption for inflation going forward? Six percent for the balance of this year, We may be in a position by this time next year where the Fed is successful in halving the current rate of inflation AT&T buys a lot of stuff. Where have you been hit the hardest in supply chain issues and shortages? Anything that has chips in it. What else? We deploy backup generator cell sites so when the power goes out, the power stays on for cell sites. The manufacturer we were working with ran out of a small plastic silicon part. It cost about a buck. Everything else is there: engines, transfer switches, and here’s one thing and it holds up a $30,000 generator because you can’t get that one little plastic $1 product. Have you readjusted wages in this tight job market? Our annual pay increases this year are at a level that I haven’t seen in the better part of a decade. In some of our tech disciplines, we did some fairly sizable, double-digit base adjustments to deal with the dynamics of the market. Do you think the current restrictive immigration policy has contributed to the labor crisis? Do I think a more informed immigration policy would be good for the United States? Yes, I do. What the pandemic taught us is that there’s an awful lot of work that can be done from any place and that companies are learning to run much more distributed operations. If that’s the case, if we can’t bring the workers to us, that would really not be healthy for the United States [because well-paying jobs will go to remote workers overseas who would prefer to be in the U.S. and could be contributing to the U.S. economy and communities.] With the variety of challenges—inflation, labor, supply chain—can you recall a more challenging environment for a business to operate in your career? No. My timing was impeccable. I walked into this job with a pandemic and a high degree of social unrest. You forgot that in your list. We still have a more polarized society on social issues than we’ve ever had; a supply chain that is as fragile and as broken as it’s ever been; a policy that has driven record levels of inflation; the oddest job market I’ve ever seen in terms of people’s motivation. I’ve never operated in this dynamic an environment. And right now we got war thrown in on top of that. How is your fiber business and the competition with cable going? I used to go to cocktail parties and the question was, ‘Why can’t I have better wireless service in my house?’ Now the question is, ‘When do I get fiber in my house? I hear it’s really good.’ We’re building as fast as we can. The issue is how fast we can build to address a market that is incredibly receptive. You refer to this time as the Golden Age of Connectivity and you are investing heavily in your networks. You project a five-fold increase in data over your network over the next five years. What’s going to drive that? That’s a very conservative view of what’s likely to happen. Case in point: the day after you get your 5G phone you use nearly 40% more data than you use the day before. Why is that? Because it’s faster, you wait less, you surf more. It wasn’t some killer application that drove it. What happens if Mark Zuckerberg is successful building the metaverse? What happens if that window of autonomous vehicles emerges and we need to pull data down to truly become self-driving, shared-use vehicles? Those kinds of things could impact that forecast only upwards. What happens if remote medical imaging takes off? All these things are all in play right now. What services will consumers be paying for in five years that they don’t pay for now? Well, that’s a hard question. If regulations change where the consumer isn’t the product that list could be very long. I believe Europe is going to do some things that will probably make privacy a higher priority. I suspect there will be some structural changes in how people ultimately price products and services and you may have to pay 30 cents a month for an email account in a market that is a little bit more protective of privacy. For your company, what is the single most challenging technical problem you’re trying to solve in the near term? We as a company have to get really good at writing software that allows our network to do better things for you. You recently sported a new look, a new hairstyle. Tell us about that. I made a bet with the company earlier that if they delivered the financial plan for the year I would shave my head. They had a great financial year and I shaved my head in January and was a chrome dome for a period of time. The temperatures are back up to 90-plus degrees here in Dallas. I’m thinking of taking it off again this weekend. Correction: June 27, 2022 The original version of this story misstated John Stankey’s age. He is 59, not 60......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 28th, 2022Related News

Leonardo Del Vecchio, Billionaire Ray-Ban Owner, Dies at 87

The tycoon held a controlling 32% stake in EssilorLuxottica Leonardo Del Vecchio, the Italian entrepreneur who started off with a tiny optics workshop in the Dolomite mountains and ended up as the undisputed world leader in eyewear, has died. He was 87. His death was confirmed on Monday by Paris-based EssilorLuxottica, the optics giant he created, after earlier reports in the Italian media. Raised in a Milan orphanage, Del Vecchio struck out from the northern city to set up shop in the town of Agordo, in the Alps north of Venice, beginning as a small supplier of frame parts to local eyeglass makers. With Del Vecchio as chairman, the eyewear colossus that would eventually become EssilorLuxottica rode a series of often brazen acquisitions to become the world leader in the industry. Iconic brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley were among the scores of targets Del Vecchio snapped up on his way to the top. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Del Vecchio’s net worth was $25.7 billion as of June 1, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The tycoon held a controlling 32% stake in EssilorLuxottica, which was formed from the 2018 merger of his Luxottica SpA with French lens maker Essilor. The company, which produces frames for fashion houses like Armani and Prada in addition to owning brands like Ray-Ban, has more than 180,000 employees, operations spanning the globe and a foothold in the luxury and medical technology sectors. EssilorLuxottica is both the world’s top eyeglass retailer and its biggest producer of corrective lenses. Shy and Secretive Shy and secretive by nature, Del Vecchio spent decades carefully avoiding the media spotlight. During a rare conversation with a reporter earlier this year, he was asked how he built his empire. “I’ve always strived to be the best at everything I do—that’s it,” Del Vecchio said. Describing the drive that took him to the top, he said simply, “I could never get enough.” In addition to a controlling stake in EssilorLuxottica, Del Vecchio’s Delfin holding also had interests in Italian financial companies such as Mediobanca SpA, Assicurazioni Generali SpA and UniCredit SpA. Born on May 22, 1935, Del Vecchio grew up poor in Milan. Unable to care for her son, his mother — widowed five months before he was born — sent him to an orphanage when he was seven. He began working as an apprentice to a tool and dye manufacturer in Milan when he was 14. Del Vecchio moved to Agordo in the 1960s and started a small business making eyeglass frames designed by others. He founded Luxottica in 1961 with a dozen workers on land he got free from the town in a bid to stimulate the local economy. Luxottica started producing its own designs in the late 1960s, and in the 1980s, Del Vecchio began buying up companies in the US. In 1999, he purchased Ray-Ban for $640 million. In the early days of his career, Del Vecchio said he “put work before everything else,” dedicating little time to his children. “The factory became my real family,” he said, adding that he had made up for some of the lost time in recent years, spending time with his extended family in Milan, or at his homes on France’s Cote d’Azur and the island of Antigua. Del Vecchio’s final goal, he said in what would be his final interview, was to push EssilorLuxottica into the exclusive club of companies valued at more than 100 billion euros ($107 billion). He was the biggest shareholder in investment bank Mediobanca with a stake of just under 20%, and one of the main investors at Generali, Italy’s top insurer. Del Vecchio was a key part of a group of investors that tried unsuccessfully to force out Generali Chief Executive Officer Philippe Donnet in the first half of 2022. At Mediobanca, he periodically clashed over strategy with CEO Alberto Nagel. Del Vecchio said his skirmishes in the finance industry resulted from thinking big. “You need to be brave enough to keep doing things, to move forward,” he said......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 28th, 2022Related News

Russia Defaults on Foreign Debt for First Time Since 1918

It’s a grim marker in the country’s rapid transformation into an economic, financial and political outcast Russia defaulted on its foreign-currency sovereign debt for the first time in a century, the culmination of ever-tougher Western sanctions that shut down payment routes to overseas creditors. For months, the country found paths around the penalties imposed after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. But at the end of the day on Sunday, the grace period on about $100 million of snared interest payments due May 27 expired, a deadline considered an event of default if missed. It’s a grim marker in the country’s rapid transformation into an economic, financial and political outcast. The nation’s eurobonds have traded at distressed levels since the start of March, the central bank’s foreign reserves remain frozen, and the biggest banks are severed from the global financial system. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] But given the damage already done to the economy and markets, the default is also mostly symbolic for now, and matters little to Russians dealing with double-digit inflation and the worst economic contraction in years. Read more: How Sanctions on Russia Will Hurt—and Help—the World’s Economies Russia has pushed back against the default designation, saying it has the funds to cover any bills and has been forced into non-payment. As it tried to twist its way out, it announced last week that it would switch to servicing its $40 billion of outstanding sovereign debt in rubles, criticizing a “force-majeure” situation it said was artificially manufactured by the West. “It’s a very, very rare thing, where a government that otherwise has the means is forced by an external government into default,” said Hassan Malik, senior sovereign analyst at Loomis Sayles & Company LP. “It’s going to be one of the big watershed defaults in history.” A formal declaration would usually come from ratings firms, but European sanctions led to them withdrawing ratings on Russian entities. According to the documents for the notes whose grace period expired Sunday, holders can call one themselves if owners of 25% of the outstanding bonds agree that an “Event of Default” has occurred. With the final deadline passed, focus shifts to what investors do next. They don’t need to act immediately, and may choose to monitor the progress of the war in the hope that sanctions are eventually softened. Time may be on their side: the claims only become void three years on from the payment date, according to the bond documents. “Most bondholders will keep the wait-and-see approach,” Takahide Kiuchi, an economist at Nomura Research Institute in Tokyo. During Russia’s financial crisis and ruble collapse of 1998, President Boris Yeltsin’s government defaulted on $40 billion of its local debt, while declaring a moratorium on foreign debt. The last time Russia fell into default vis-a-vis its foreign creditors was more than a century ago, when the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin repudiated the nation’s staggering Czarist-era debt load in 1918. By some measures it approached a trillion dollars in today’s money, according to Loomis Sayles’ Malik, who is also author of ‘Bankers and Bolsheviks: International Finance and the Russian Revolution.’ By comparison, foreigners held the equivalent of almost $20 billion of Russia’s eurobonds as of the start of April. Russia Debt Held Abroad Below 50%, First Time Since 2018: Chart “Is it a justifiable excuse to say: ‘Oh well, the sanctions prevented me from making the payments, so it’s not my fault’?” Malik said. “The broader issue is that the sanctions were themselves a response to an action on the part of the sovereign entity,” he said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine. “And I think history will judge this in the latter light.” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov dismissed the situation on Thursday as a “farce.” With billions of dollars a week still pouring into state coffers from energy exports, despite the grinding conflict in east Ukraine, he reiterated that the country has the means, and the will, to pay. “Anyone can declare whatever they like,” Siluanov said. “But anyone who understands what’s going on knows that this is in no way a default.” His comments were prompted by the grace period that ended on Sunday. The 30-day window was triggered when investors failed to receive coupon payments due on dollar- and euro-denominated bonds on May 27. The cash got trapped after the US Treasury let a sanctions loophole expire, removing an exemption that had allowed US bondholders to receive payments from the Russian sovereign. A week later, Russia’s paying agent, the National Settlement Depository, was also sanctioned by the European Union. In response, Vladimir Putin introduced new regulations that say Russia’s obligations on foreign-currency bonds are fulfilled once the appropriate amount in rubles has been transferred to the local paying agent. The Finance Ministry made its latest interest payments, equivalent to about $400 million, under those rules on Thursday and Friday. However, none of the underlying bonds have terms that allow for settlement in the local currency. So far, it’s unclear if investors will use the new tool and whether existing sanctions would even allow them to repatriate the money. According to Siluanov, it makes little sense for creditors to seek a declaration of default through the courts because Russia hasn’t waived its sovereign immunity, and no foreign court would have jurisdiction. “If we ultimately get to the point where diplomatic assets are claimed, then this is tantamount to severing diplomatic ties and entering into direct conflict,” he said. “And this would put us in a different world with completely different rules. We would have to react differently in this case — and not through legal channels.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 28th, 2022Related News

Company Buying Trump’s Social Media App Faces Subpoenas

The new probe could make it more difficult for Trump to finance his social media company. The company planning to buy Donald Trump’s new social media business has disclosed a federal grand jury investigation that it says could impede or even prevent its acquisition of the Truth Social app. Shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. dropped 10% in morning trading Monday as the company revealed that it has received subpoenas from a grand jury in New York. The Justice Department subpoenas follow an ongoing probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Digital World broke rules by having substantial talks about buying Trump’s company starting early last year before Digital World sold stock to the public for the first time in September, just weeks before its announcement that it would be buying Trump’s company. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: What to Know About Digital World, the Company Funding Trump’s New Social Media Platform ‘TRUTH Social’ Trump’s social media venture launched in February as he seeks a new digital stage to rally his supporters and fight Big Tech limits on speech, a year after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The Trump Media & Technology Group — which operates the Truth Social app and was in the process of being acquired by Digital World — said in a statement that it will cooperate with “oversight that supports the SEC’s important mission of protecting retail investors.” The new probe could make it more difficult for Trump to finance his social media company. The company last year got promises from dozens of investors to pump $1 billion into the company, but it can’t get the cash until the Digital World acquisition is completed. Stock in Digital World rocketed to more than $100 in October after its deal to buy Trump’s company was announced. The stock traded at just around $25 in morning trading Monday. Digital World is a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, part of an investing phenomenon that exploded in popularity over the past two years. Such “blank-check” companies are empty corporate entities with no operations, only offering investors the promise they will buy a business in the future. As such they are allowed to sell stock to the public quickly without the usual regulatory disclosures and delays, but only if they haven’t already lined up possible acquisition targets. Read More: What’s Allowed on Trump’s New ‘TRUTH’ Social Media Platform—And What Isn’t Digital World said in a regulatory filing Monday that each member of its board of directors has been subpoenaed by the grand jury in the Southern District of New York. Both the grand jury and the SEC are also seeking a number of documents tied to the company and others including a sponsor, ARC Global Investments, and Miami-based venture capital firm Rocket One Capital. Some of the sought documents involve “due diligence” regarding Trump Media and other potential acquisition targets, as well as communications with Digital World’s underwriter and financial adviser in its initial public offering, according to the SEC disclosure. Digital World also Monday announced the resignation of one of its board members, Bruce Garelick, a chief strategy officer at Rocket One......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 28th, 2022Related News

G7 Leaders End Summit Pledging to Hurt Russia Economically

Leaders said they would explore far-reaching steps to cap Kremlin income from oil sales that are financing the war Leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies struck a united stance to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” as Russia’s invasion grinds on, and said they would explore far-reaching steps to cap Kremlin income from oil sales that are financing the war. The final statement Tuesday from the Group of Seven summit in Germany underlined their intent to impose “severe and immediate economic costs” on Russia. It left out key details on how the fossil fuel price caps would work in practice, setting up more discussion in the weeks ahead to “explore” measures to bar imports of Russian oil above a certain level. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] That would hit a key Russian source of income and, in theory, help relieve the energy price spikes and inflation afflicting the global economy as a result of the war. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to our unprecedented coordination on sanctions for as long as necessary, acting in unison at every stage,” the leaders said. Read more: What To Know About the 2022 G7 Summit Leaders also agreed on a ban on imports of Russian gold and to step up aid to countries hit with food shortages by the blockage on Ukraine grain shipments through the Black Sea. The price cap would in theory work by barring service provides such as shippers or insurers from dealing with oil priced above a fixed level. That could work because the service providers are mostly located in the European Union or the U.K. and thus within reach of sanctions. To be effective, however, it would have to involve as many consuming countries as possible, in particular India, where refiners have been snapping up cheap Russian oil shunned by Western traders. Details on how the proposal would be implemented were left for continuing talks in coming weeks. Before the summit’s close, leaders joined in condemning what they called the “abominable” Russian attack on a shopping mall in the town of Kremechuk, calling it a war crime and vowing that President Vladimir Putin and others involved “will be held to account.” The leaders of the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, the U.K., Canada and Japan on Monday pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” after conferring by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The summit host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said he “once again very emphatically set out the situation as Ukraine currently sees it.” Zelenskyy’s address came hours before Ukrainian officials reported a deadly Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk. From the secluded Schloss Elmau hotel in the Bavarian Alps, the G7 leaders will move to Madrid for a summit of NATO leaders, where fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will again dominate the agenda. All G7 members other than Japan are NATO members, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been invited to Madrid. Zelenskyy has openly worried that the West has become fatigued by the cost of a war that is contributing to soaring energy costs and price hikes on essential goods around the globe. The G7 has sought to assuage those concerns. While the group’s annual gathering has been dominated by Ukraine and by the war’s knock-on effects, such as the challenge to food supplies in parts of the world caused by the interruption of Ukrainian grain exports, Scholz has been keen to show that the G7 also can move ahead on pre-war priorities. Members of the Group of Seven major economies pledged Tuesday to create a new ‘climate club’ for nations that want to take more ambitious action to tackle global warming. The move, championed by Scholz, will see countries that join the club agree on tougher measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) this century compared with pre-industrial times. Countries that are part of the club will try to harmonize their measures in such a way that they are comparable and avoid members imposing climate-related tariffs on each others’ imports. Speaking at the end of the three-day summit in Elmau, Germany, Scholz said the aim was to “ensure that protecting the climate is a competitive advantage, not a disadvantage.” He said details of the planned climate club would be finalized this year......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 28th, 2022Related News

Hackers Steal $100 Million by Exploiting Crypto’s Weak Link

Hackers looted about $100 million from a so-called cryptocurrency bridge, again exposing a key vulnerability in the digital-asset ecosystem. Hackers looted about $100 million from a so-called cryptocurrency bridge, again exposing a key vulnerability in the digital-asset ecosystem. Blockchain Harmony said in a tweet that the hack of its Horizon bridge, which lets people swap coins between different blockchains, took place Thursday morning. It has “begun working with national authorities and forensic specialists to identify the culprit and retrieve the stolen funds.” 1/ The Harmony team has identified a theft occurring this morning on the Horizon bridge amounting to approx. $100MM. We have begun working with national authorities and forensic specialists to identify the culprit and retrieve the stolen funds. More — Harmony (@harmonyprotocol) June 23, 2022 [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Most of the crypto world is divided into silos: The Bitcoin and Ethereum networks, for example, can only operate using Bitcoin and Ethereum tokens. As more cryptocurrencies gain adoption and traders demand the ability to interact seamlessly with one another, projects like Harmony are developing platforms known as bridges that can accept a variety of tokens and move them fluidly between blockchains. Read More: The Man Behind Ethereum Is Worried About Crypto’s Future But bridges are particularly vulnerable to hacks, as their technology is complex and they are often run by anonymous teams. The way they safeguard funds is often unclear. Sophisticated hackers have repeatedly targeted them. Harmony’s native ONE token, used to pay transaction fees, earn rewards or vote on changes to the platform, dropped 12% over the past 24 hours, according to CoinGecko. The underlying Harmony blockchain has more than $1 billion in total value locked to the project, according to its website. It wasn’t immediately clear whether any user funds had been stolen. ‘Private Key Compromise’ The attack on Horizon, which offers cross-chain transfers between Ethereum and Binance’s Smart Chain, marks the third major bridge hack this year. In February, hackers stole more than $300 million from the Wormhole bridge, followed by a $620 million theft from the Ronin bridge a month later. Even before to the Horizon hack, more than $1 billion had been stolen from bridges, researcher Chainalysis has estimated. In Horizon’s case, “the theft seems to have happened due to a private key compromise,” said Xuxian Jiang, chief executive officer of security firm PeckShield, which has been contacted by Harmony for support. Harmony did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Horizon bridge is managed and secured by four wallets, Jiang said, and an authentication from at least two of the wallets—each supported by multiple signatures —is required to validate and execute a transaction. On this occasion, an attacker was able to compromise the private information required to access these wallets, and then trigger transactions that withdrew assets from the Horizon bridge to an external wallet, Jiang said. The hackers made off with cryptocurrencies including Ether and BNB as well as stablecoins Tether, USDC and DAI, researcher Elliptic said in a tweet. Those tokens were then swapped for Ether using so-called decentralized exchanges in what Elliptic called “a commonly-seen technique with these hacks.” Ronin Hack Horizon uses a security mechanism similar to the one employed by the Ronin bridge, linked to the popular blockchain game Axie Infinity, which required five out of nine validators required to sign off at the time it was hacked. Harmony is popular for blockchain games like Mars Colony and DeFi Kingdoms, according to its website. After the Ronin attack, which was attributed to a North Korean hacker group, owner Sky Mavis sharply increased the number of validators required to sign off on transactions—pledging to eventually boost it to over 100. Read More: Bitcoin Is Coming to Your 401(k). But Your Employer Probably Won’t Let You Invest in It Thursday’s attack on the Horizon bridge followed an exploit related to five user wallets on Harmony’s network in January, in which the company said a thief had siphoned 19,314,598 ONE tokens, worth roughly $5.8 million at the time. The amount of money locked on bridges connected to the Ethereum blockchain declined 60% in the last 30 days to less than $12 billion, per tracker Dune, triggered by a wider crypto market slump and liquidity concerns surrounding several large crypto players including Celsius Network, Babel Finance, Three Arrows Capital and Voyager Digital. (Updates to add context from third paragraph and throughout) –With assistance from Suvashree Ghosh and Tanzeel Akhtar......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 24th, 2022Related News

Ads Are Officially Coming to Netflix. Here’s What That Means for You

After years of resisting commercials on its streaming platform, Netflix is now introducing an ad-supported tier to its service. After years of resisting advertisements on its streaming platform, Netflix is introducing commercials to its service. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed on Thursday that the company would begin testing an ad-supported, lower-priced subscription tier. The streaming company is speaking to multiple potential partners to help ease its entrance into the ad world, Sarandos said while speaking at the international ad festival Cannes Lions. Those partners reportedly include Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Google. Sarandos’ confirmation comes in the midst of a rough year for Netflix. As competition among entertainment services grows more intense, the streaming giant lost subscribers for the first time in a decade, faced a backlash for cracking down on password sharing, and laid off over 150 employees (or about 1.5% of its global workforce). [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “We’ve left a big customer segment off the table, which is people who say, ‘Hey, Netflix is too expensive for me and I don’t mind advertising,’” Sarandos said. “We’re adding an ad-tier. We’re not adding ads to Netflix as you know it today.” Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings had telegraphed the advertising plan, suggesting on a first-quarter earnings call in April that ads could be on the way in the next year or two. “Those who have followed Netflix know that I’ve been against the complexity of advertising and a big fan of the simplicity of subscription. But as much as I’m a fan of that, I’m a bigger fan of consumer choice,” he said. “And allowing consumers who like to have a lower price, and are advertising tolerant, to get what they want makes a lot of sense.” Then, the New York Times reported in May that Netflix had told its employees an ad-based plan could launch by the end of the year, sooner than previously expected. Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of 2022 and forecasted greater losses to come in an April shareholder letter. The company’s stock price has plunged more than 70% this year (compared with the S&P 500’s 21% decline), wiping out roughly $70 billion of its market capitalization and prompting shareholders to file a lawsuit alleging that Netflix misled investors about declining subscriber growth. Now, the hope at Netflix is to generate more revenue by embracing ads. And it’s not alone. Competitors like Hulu and HBO Max already offer ad-based plans that are cheaper than their commercial-free services, while Disney+ announced in March that it would be rolling out an ad-supported subscription tier in late 2022. With Netflix’s current monthly subscription model, subscribers in the U.S. can use their account on one, two, or four screens at once and prices reflect the number of screens available—ranging between $9.99 and $19.99. The new ad-supported tier will create a lower-priced option for subscribers who are willing to watch commercials in exchange for paying a little less......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 24th, 2022Related News

Germany Warns of Lehman-Like Contagion From Russian Gas Cuts

Germany warned that Russia’s moves to slash Europe’s natural gas supplies risked sparking a collapse in energy markets Germany warned that Russia’s moves to slash Europe’s natural gas supplies risked sparking a collapse in energy markets, drawing a parallel to the role of Lehman Brothers in triggering the financial crisis. With energy suppliers piling up losses by being forced to cover volumes at high prices, there’s a danger of a spillover effect for local utilities and their customers, including consumers and businesses, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Thursday after raising the country’s gas risk level to the second-highest “alarm” phase. “If this minus gets so big that they can’t carry it anymore, the whole market is in danger of collapsing at some point,” Habeck said at a news conference in Berlin that was called at short notice. “So a Lehman effect in the energy system.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Europe’s largest economy faces the unprecedented prospect of businesses and consumers running out of power. For months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has gradually reduced supplies in apparent retaliation over sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine. The standoff escalated last week after steep cuts to the main gas link to Germany, putting reserves for the winter at risk. Read More: Germany Can’t Rely on Russian Energy. It Doesn’t Know What to Do Instead The heightened alert tightens monitoring of the market, and some coal-fired power plants will be reactivated. At the current rate of gas inflows, Germany would need 116 days to reach its target to fill 90% of storage capacity, which would mean it would take until mid-October to do so—a time of year that households would usually start consuming more gas for heating. The alert stage also gives the government an option of enacting legislation to allow energy companies to pass on cost increases to homes and businesses. Habeck said he was holding off on price adjustments for now to see how the market reacts. Chemical giant BASF AG announced later on Thursday that it may cut production as gas prices surge. “It will be a rocky road that we have to travel as a country,” he said. “Even if we don’t feel it yet, we are in a gas crisis.” Dutch front-month gas futures, the European benchmark, rose as much as 7.7% to a one-week high of 137 euros ($144) per megawatt-hour in Amsterdam. The contracts have gained more than 50% since state-run gas giant Gazprom PJSC cut flows on the key Nord Stream pipeline by about 60%. Germany, which relies on Russia for more than a third of its gas supplies, enacted the initial “early warning” phase at the end of March, when the Kremlin’s demands for payment in rubles prompted Germany to brace for a potential cutoff in supply. The third and highest “emergency” level would involve state control over distribution. The crisis has spilled far beyond Germany, with 12 European Union member states affected and 10 issuing an early warning under gas security regulation, Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s climate chief, said in a speech to the European Parliament. “The risk of a full gas disruption is now more real than ever before,” he said. “All this is part of Russia’s strategy to undermine our unity.” Read More: Europe’s Illusion of Peace Has Been Irrevocably Shattered Habeck, who is also vice chancellor, said Russia’s move to cut gas deliveries through the Nord Stream pipeline makes it all but impossible to secure sufficient gas reserves for the winter without additional measures. He indicated he’s concerned that the Nord Stream link may not return to normal capacity after a 10-day maintenance period starts on July 11. Germany has been rushing to fill up gas-storage facilities, but has made only modest headway. Reserves are currently around 58% full, and energy companies are trying to reach a government-mandated target of 90% capacity by November. The daily fill rate dropped by about half on Wednesday to the lowest level since early June, according to figures from Germany’s network regulator, known as BNetzA. At that rate, it would take more than 100 days to reach the target, which would put the country well into the traditional heating season. “Although the supply of gas is still secured in the short term, companies across all sectors are extremely concerned,” Peter Adrian, the president of the DIHK industry lobby, said in an emailed statement. “Given these dark clouds that are gathering, we must now make a joint effort to do everything to save gas for the winter,” he added. BNetzA would implement rationing if the government triggers the emergency level. The Bonn-based agency has said leisure venues would likely see supply cuts, while consumers and critical public services such as hospitals would be protected. Gas is a crucial part of Germany’s energy mix and more difficult to replace than Russian coal and oil, which are being phased out by the end of the year. The fuel is critical for heating homes and for industrial processes in the chemicals, pharmaceuticals and metals sectors. Germany has taken steps to secure supplies, including taking control of a local Gazprom subsidiary, which was renamed Securing Energy for Europe GmbH. The country is also building infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas from the US and other suppliers, but those won’t be ready until later this year. To shore up the market in the near term, the government is making available additional credit lines by state-owned lender KfW to guarantee gas injections at storage sites. An auction model will begin this summer to encourage industrial gas consumers to save fuel, which can then be put into storage. The plan envisages major gas suppliers or industrial users posting offers with Trading Hub Europe, according to a BnetzA document seen by Bloomberg. In the event of bottlenecks, Trading Hub Europe will take up the cheapest offer. “The curbing of gas supplies is an economic attack on us by Putin,” said Habeck. “It is obviously Putin’s strategy to try to fuel insecurity, drive up prices and divide us as a society. We will fight back against this.” —With assistance from Chad Thomas, Zoe Schneeweiss, Andrew Reierson, Ewa Krukowska and Angela Cullen......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 24th, 2022Related News

Asia’s Richest Person, Gautam Adani, Pledges $7.7 Billion for Social Causes

Gautam Adani and his family have pledged to donate 600 billion rupees ($7.7 billion) to a slew of social causes to mark his 60th birthday. Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest person, and his family have pledged to donate 600 billion rupees ($7.7 billion) to a slew of social causes, to mark his 60th birthday. The donation will be managed by the Adani Foundation for bolstering health care, education and skill development, Adani told Bloomberg in an interview Thursday. “This is one of the largest transfers made to a foundation in Indian corporate history,” he said, adding that this commitment also honors the birth centenary year of his father, Shantilal Adani. The Indian tycoon, a first-generation entrepreneur who turns 60 on Friday, joins the ranks of global billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett who have committed large parts of their wealth for philanthropy. Adani’s pledge is almost half of what Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates donated to their foundation in 2021. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: Gautam Adani is on the 2022 TIME 100 List Among Indian tycoons, Azim Premji, former chairman of Wipro Ltd., has a charitable trust with the largest endowment estimated at $21 billion, while Tata Trusts, overseen by Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd., made donations of over $102 billion at current value, according to a 2021 report by Hurun India and EdelGive Foundation. With a net worth of almost $92 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Adani has added a little more $15 billion to his wealth this year on the back of a runaway rally in his companies’ shares, making him the biggest wealth gainer globally. “We will invite three expert committees in coming months to formalize strategy and decide allocation of funds in these three areas,” he said. The committees will have members from the Adani family in supporting roles, the tycoon said, adding the plan was to add one or two more focus areas in the coming months. On our father’s 100thbirth anniversary & my 60thbirthday, Adani Family is gratified to commit Rs 60,000 cr in charity towards healthcare, edu & skill-dev across India. Contribution to help build an equitable, future-ready India. @AdaniFoundation pic.twitter.com/7elayv3Cvk — Gautam Adani (@gautam_adani) June 23, 2022 The Adani group, which started off with a small agri-trading firm in 1988, has now spawned into a conglomerate that spans coal trading, mining, logistics, power generation and distribution. More recently, it has forayed into green energy, airports, data centers and cement. Its billionaire-founder has also committed to invest a total of $70 billion by 2030 to make his group the world’s largest renewable-energy producer. The Adani Foundation, led by his wife Priti Adani, was established in 1996 and has worked on social programs in the rural hinterland of India. It has reached more than 3.7 million people in 2,409 villages across 16 states in India, according to its website. Adani hails from the western Indian state of Gujarat — like the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his fellow billionaire Mukesh Ambani — and has grown his businesses exponentially in the past decade by dovetailing his business strategies to the government’s nation-building priorities. A college dropout, Adani first tried his luck in Mumbai’s diamond industry in the early 1980s before returning to Gujarat to help run his brother’s plastics business. In 1988, he set up Adani Enterprises Ltd. as an agri-trading firm which has now morphed into the flagship firm for the conglomerate. Adani’s recent empire-building exercise has seen him enter new lines of businesses such as media, digital services and sports as well as bring in investors, including TotalEnergies SE and Abu Dhabi-based International Holding Company PJSC......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 24th, 2022Related News

In Some Workplaces, It’s Now OK Not to Be OK

Good mental health seemed like a given to Kamini Cormier. Then, came the pandemic. Back in 2020, when she was forced to isolate herself at home with her husband and adolescent daughters, she started feeling aches and pains all over her body. She figured she’d probably caught COVID-19 and scheduled lab tests, and an online… Good mental health seemed like a given to Kamini Cormier. Then, came the pandemic. Back in 2020, when she was forced to isolate herself at home with her husband and adolescent daughters, she started feeling aches and pains all over her body. She figured she’d probably caught COVID-19 and scheduled lab tests, and an online appointment with her doctor. But the results didn’t indicate COVID. Her doctor told her something she never expected to hear: Bottled-up stress was starting to attack her body. “I had to kick it up a notch in caring for my mental health,” says Cormier, 48, who is the Western region business operations lead for technology practice at professional services company Accenture. So, she did something that a growing number of employees have felt more comfortable with since the onset of the pandemic: Cormier looked to her employer for mental health help. She found an online therapist to meet with weekly (paid for by her employer)—and started using a special app provided by her employer that offered calming music. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “People are talking about mental health issues at work in a way they were previously talking about high cholesterol or diabetes,” says Cormier. It’s about time. Nearly 53 million Americans—roughly one in five adults in the U.S.—experienced some form of mental illness in 2020, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). And 27% of Millennials who have recently resigned say they did so because their job was not good for their mental health, according to a recent Y-Pulse study. Perhaps as a response, some 39% of employers updated their health plans since the start of the pandemic to expand access to mental health services, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey. “Ten years ago, no one was talking about mental health at work,” says Jessica Edwards, chief development officer at NAMI. But since the pandemic, more than half of Americans say it’s much easier to discuss their mental health issues. The pandemic effect Working Americans—and their employers—are finally warming up to the notion that mental health care is as critical as physical health care. The mind matters. In what might have seemed unimaginable for a major corporation to do even a few years ago, Bank of America ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post in June 2022: “We drive open and ongoing conversations to help break through the stigma around mental health.” The ad stated that whether it’s through professional counseling, education, or tips for managing stress, “Our goal is to ensure our teammates get the resources they need.” Promoting all aspects of wellness, including mental health, is not new to the company, says Bank of America’s chief human resources officer, Sheri Bronstein. “We listen, monitor and respond to changing needs,” she says. Through various programs and benefits, she says, “We support our teammates and their families through everyday issues, critical moments, and life events — including those we have all experienced and faced with the coronavirus pandemic.” One-third of working Americans say it’s more acceptable now than before the pandemic to ask their employer for mental health support, according to a LinkedIn survey of 2,000 Americans in February 2022. And while 45% of Americans say they would have taken a “mental health” day off before the pandemic, some 65% of working Americans now say they would. Finding mental health allies Cormier is one of them. She also has become an active volunteer member of Accenture’s mental wellness employee resource group. The program helps employees better understand the mental wellness resources offered by the company. Employees are encouraged to take a three-hour virtual training class that, among other things, advises how to respond when someone under stress reaches out to them. Kamini Cormier with her family at Disneyland Cormier gained the confidence to openly discuss her mental health issues in part because Accenture’s CEO made it a priority in virtual meetings. “For me, it’s a personal thing,” says Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America. “I have several family members who have struggled with mental health for a number of years. So, it’s something I’ve always had a lot of passion about. It’s okay not to feel okay.” If the pandemic has a silver lining, he says, it’s the way mental health discussions have moved out of the shadows and into the light at so many companies. He’s made certain that Accenture has taken actions both large and small to de-stigmatize those talks. The company, for instance, created a “Mental Health Ally” program composed of 9,500 employees—including Etheredge and his entire leadership team—who received special training on how to support someone who reaches out for help. Another 170,000 Accenture employees have completed the “Thriving Mind” program to learn how to handle stress and improve their well-being. Those who completed the program report an average 8 to 11% increase in their ability to handle stress and nine out of 10 participants said they felt “significantly” better able to handle workplace challenges afterward, the company reports. Etheredge says it’s also on him to consistently put into action best business practices that support better mental health. Instead of 30-minute phone meetings, he aims for 25 minutes, to allow time to get up and stretch, for those who have a second meeting scheduled during the hour. After years of habitually eating at his desk, he’s also learned to step away for lunch. “I can say that with no shame,” he says. And instead of sending out business emails late in the evening, he uses time-delay, so they’re not sent until the following morning. “I want people to feel safe, seen, and connected,” he says. “Our future growth depends upon the well-being of our talent. We have to be mindful and take care of the people we have.” Still not a prime concern for all businesses Even while most HR professionals say offering mental health care can improve workplace productivity and agree that it increases employee retention, employee mental health hasn’t been a top concern at many companies. Less than a third of the 3,400 HR professionals surveyed this spring by the Society for Human Resource Management said mental health was a prime concern at their company. “It’s becoming a priority, but not a top priority,” says Wendi Safstrom, president of the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation. But according to one survey, some companies may be pulling back on mental health care just as employees are returning to work. While 71% of workers say their company increased the focus on mental health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, just 25% say they have kept up that focus in the last year, according to a survey of 500 CEOs and 5,400 full-time employees in the U.S., Australia, Germany, and U.K., by Headspace Health, a digital mental health platform. How digital tools can help Some positive steps were also reported by the survey. The use of digital mental health tools among U.S. employees, such as remote-based therapy and meditation apps, has doubled since 2020, according to the survey conducted in February and March 2022. In 2020, The Hartford insurance company added more digital resources to its benefits plan to help employees with anxiety, including Daylight, a digital anti-anxiety app that teaches techniques to reframe negative thoughts and face difficult emotions. The company also enhanced the concierge support that helps employees find treatment for mental health issues. In April, it added a new medical provider that expanded access to therapy and counseling for employees and their family members. “At The Hartford, we have taken a whole-company approach to remove stigma and create an open, inclusive environment,” says CEO Christopher Swift. A mother’s story Caitlin Tregler with her family. That may be one reason why Caitlin Tregler felt comfortable seeking mental health assistance. Tregler, 33, is a claims team leader at The Hartford, who says she lives with a social anxiety disorder — a form of extreme shyness that can cause her to withdraw from social interactions. It was exacerbated by the pandemic after she got pregnant and gave birth to her second child in the summer of 2020. She found comfort by leaning in on co-workers and utilizing company resources to support her own mental health. She had an emergency C-section and, due to complications, had to stay in the hospital an extra week before she was allowed to return home. For a new mother, at the time there was anxiety aplenty due to COVID-19. Although she was seeing a therapist for her disorder, she quickly realized — after she started working from home — that it was critical to increase her online therapy visits from bi-weekly to weekly. She worked exclusively from home until February 2022, and now goes into the office two days a week. She has recently become involved with an employee resource group focused on removing stigmas around mental health assistance. “I don’t think I could work for a company that’s not as supportive,” she says. Through the pandemic, Tregler learned the hard way about caring for her own mental well-being — including requesting occasional “mental health” days off “to reset myself,” she says. This is precisely what positive mental wellness so often requires—an occasional reset......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 23rd, 2022Related News

Fun AI Apps Are Everywhere Right Now. But a Safety ‘Reckoning’ Is Coming

Text-to-image tools have the potential to turbocharge harassment and spread misinformation If you’ve spent any time on Twitter lately, you may have seen a viral black-and-white image depicting Jar Jar Binks at the Nuremberg Trials, or a courtroom sketch of Snoop Dogg being sued by Snoopy. These surreal creations are the products of Dall-E Mini, a popular web app that creates images on demand. Type in a prompt, and it will rapidly produce a handful of cartoon images depicting whatever you’ve asked for. More than 200,000 people are now using Dall-E Mini every day, its creator says—a number that is only growing. A Twitter account called “Weird Dall-E Generations,” created in February, has more than 890,000 followers at the time of publication. One of its most popular tweets so far is a response to the prompt “CCTV footage of Jesus Christ stealing [a] bike.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] pic.twitter.com/8OqcI5FSjW — Weird Dall-E Mini Generations (@weirddalle) June 14, 2022 If Dall-E Mini seems revolutionary, it’s only a crude imitation of what’s possible with more powerful tools. As the “Mini” in its name suggests, the tool is effectively a copycat version of Dall-E—a much more powerful text-to-image tool created by one of the most advanced artificial intelligence labs in the world. That lab, OpenAI, boasts online of (the real) Dall-E’s ability to generate photorealistic images. But OpenAI has not released Dall-E for public use, due to what it says are concerns that it “could be used to generate a wide range of deceptive and otherwise harmful content.” It’s not the only image-generation tool that’s been locked behind closed doors by its creator. Google is keeping its own similarly powerful image-generation tool, called Imagen, restricted while it studies the tool’s risks and limitations. The risks of text-to-image tools, Google and OpenAI both say, include the potential to turbocharge bullying and harassment; to generate images that reproduce racism or gender stereotypes; and to spread misinformation. They could even reduce public trust in genuine photographs that depict reality. Text could be even more challenging than images. OpenAI and Google have both also developed their own synthetic text generators that chatbots can be based on, which they have also chosen to not release widely to the public amid fears that they could be used to manufacture misinformation or facilitate bullying. Read more: How AI Will Completely Change the Way We Live in the Next 20 Years Google and OpenAI have long described themselves as committed to the safe development of AI, pointing to, among other things, their decisions to keep these potentially dangerous tools restricted to a select group of users, at least for now. But that hasn’t stopped them from publicly hyping the tools, announcing their capabilities, and describing how they made them. That has inspired a wave of copycats with fewer ethical hangups. Increasingly, tools pioneered inside Google and OpenAI have been imitated by knockoff apps that are circulating ever more widely online, and contributing to a growing sense that the public internet is on the brink of a revolution. “Platforms are making it easier for people to create and share different types of technology without needing to have any strong background in computer science,” says Margaret Mitchell, a computer scientist and a former co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team. “By the end of 2022, the general public’s understanding of this technology and everything that can be done with it will fundamentally shift.” The copycat effect The rise of Dall-E Mini is just one example of the “copycat effect”—a term used by defense analysts to understand the way adversaries take inspiration from one another in military research and development. “The copycat effect is when you see a capability demonstrated, and it lets you know, oh, that’s possible,” says Trey Herr, the director of the Atlantic Council’s cyber statecraft initiative. “What we’re seeing with Dall-E Mini right now is that it’s possible to recreate a system that can output these things based on what we know Dall-E is capable of. It significantly reduces the uncertainty. And so if I have resources and the technical chops to try and train a system in that direction, I know I could get there.” That’s exactly what happened with Boris Dayma, a machine learning researcher based in Houston, Texas. When he saw OpenAI’s descriptions online of what Dall-E could do, he was inspired to create Dall-E Mini. “I was like, oh, that’s super cool,” Dayma told TIME. “I wanted to do the same.” “The big groups like Google and OpenAI have to show that they are on the forefront of AI, so they will talk about what they can do as fast as they can,” Dayma says. “[OpenAI] published a paper that had a lot of very interesting details on how they made [Dall-E]. They didn’t give the code, but they gave a lot of critical elements. I wouldn’t have been able to develop my program without the paper they published.” In June, Dall-E Mini’s creators said the tool would be changing its name to Craiyon, in response to what they said was a request from OpenAI “to avoid confusion.” Advocates of restraint, like Mitchell, say it’s inevitable that accessible image- and text-generation tools will open up a world of creative opportunity, but also a Pandora’s box of awful applications—like depicting people in compromising situations, or creating armies of hate-speech bots to relentlessly bully vulnerable people online. Read more: An Artificial Intelligence Helped Write This Play. It May Contain Racism But Dayma says he is confident that the dangers of Dall-E Mini are negligible, since the images it generates are nowhere near photorealistic. “In a way it’s a big advantage,” he says. “I can let people discover that technology while still not posing a risk.” Some other copycat projects come with even more risks. In June, a program named GPT-4chan emerged. It was a text-generator, or chatbot, that had been trained on text from 4chan, a forum notorious for being a hotbed of racism, sexism and homophobia. Every new sentence it generated sounded similarly toxic. Just like Dall-E Mini, the tool was created by an independent programmer but was inspired by research at OpenAI. Its name, GPT-4chan, was a nod to GPT-3, OpenAI’s flagship text-generator. Unlike the copycat version, GPT-3 was trained on text scraped from large swathes of the internet, and its creator, OpenAI, has only been granting access to GPT-3 to select users. A new frontier for online safety In June, after GPT-4chan’s racist and vitriolic text outputs attracted widespread criticism online, the app was removed from Hugging Face, the website that hosted it, for violating its terms and conditions. Hugging Face makes machine learning-based apps accessible through a web browser. The platform has become the go-to location for open source AI apps, including Dall-E Mini. Clement Delangue, the CEO of Hugging Face, told TIME that his business is booming, and heralded what he said was a new era of computing with more and more tech companies realizing the possibilities that could be unlocked by pivoting to machine learning. But the controversy over GPT-4chan was also a signal of a new, emerging challenge in the world of online safety. Social media, the last online revolution, made billionaires out of platforms’ CEOs, and also put them in the position of deciding what content is (and is not) acceptable online. Questionable decisions have tarnished those CEOs’ once glossy reputations. Now, smaller machine learning platforms like Hugging Face, with far fewer resources, are becoming a new kind of gatekeeper. As open-source machine learning tools like Dall-E and GPT-4chan proliferate online, it will be up to their hosts, platforms like Hugging Face, to set the limits of what is acceptable. Delangue says this gatekeeping role is a challenge that Hugging Face is ready for. “We’re super excited because we think there is a lot of potential to have a positive impact on the world,” he says. “But that means not making the mistakes that a lot of the older players made, like the social networks – meaning thinking that technology is value neutral, and removing yourself from the ethical discussions.” Still, like the early approach of social media CEOs, Delangue hints at a preference for light-touch content moderation. He says the site’s policy is currently to politely ask creators to fix their models, and will only remove them entirely as an “extreme” last resort. But Hugging Face is also encouraging its creators to be transparent about their tools’ limitations and biases, informed by the latest research into AI harms. Mitchell, the former Google AI ethicist, now works at Hugging Face focusing on these issues. She’s helping the platform envision what a new content moderation paradigm for machine learning might look like. “There’s an art there, obviously, as you try to balance open source and all these ideas around public sharing of really powerful technology, with what malicious actors can do and what misuse looks like,” says Mitchell, speaking in her capacity as an independent machine learning researcher rather than as a Hugging Face employee. She adds that part of her role is to “shape AI in a way that the worst actors, and the easily-foreseeable terrible scenarios, don’t end up happening.” Mitchell imagines a worst-case scenario where a group of schoolchildren train a text-generator like GPT-4chan to bully a classmate via their texts, direct messages, and on Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, to the point where the victim decides to end their own life. “There’s going to be a reckoning,” Mitchell says. “We know something like this is going to happen. It’s foreseeable. But there’s such a breathless fandom around AI and modern technologies that really sidesteps the serious issues that are going to emerge and are already emerging.” The dangers of AI hype That “breathless fandom” was encapsulated in yet another AI project that caused controversy this month. In early June, Google engineer Blake Lemoine claimed that one of the company’s chatbots, called LaMDA, based on the company’s synthetic-text generation software, had become sentient. Google rejected his claims and placed him on administrative leave. Around the same time, Ilya Sutskever, a senior executive at OpenAI suggested on Twitter that computer brains were beginning to mimic human ones. “Psychology should become more and more applicable to AI as it gets smarter,” he said. In a statement, Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel said the company was “taking a restrained, careful approach with LaMDA to better consider valid concerns on fairness and factuality.” OpenAI declined to comment. For some experts, the discussion over LaMDA’s supposed sentience was a distraction—at the worst possible time. Instead of arguing over whether the chatbot had feelings, they argued, AI’s most influential players should be rushing to educate people about the potential for such technology to do harm. “This could be a moment to better educate the public as to what this technology is actually doing,” says Emily Bender, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington who studies machine learning technologies. “Or it could be a moment where more and more people get taken in, and go with the hype.” Bender adds that even the term “artificial intelligence” is a misnomer, because it is being used to describe technologies that are nowhere near “intelligent”—or indeed conscious. Still, Bender says that image-generators like Dall-E Mini may have the capacity to teach the public about the limits of AI. It’s easier to fool people with a chatbot, because humans tend to look for meaning in language, no matter where it comes from, she says. Our eyes are harder to trick. The images Dall-E Mini churns out look weird and glitchy, and are certainly nowhere near photorealistic. “I don’t think anybody who is playing with Dall-E Mini believes that these images are actually a thing in the world that exists,” Bender says. Despite the AI hype that big companies are stirring up, crude tools like Dall-E Mini show how far the technology has to go. When you type in “CEO,” Dall-E Mini spits out nine images of a white man in a suit. When you type in “woman,” the images all depict white women. The results reflect the biases in the data that both Dall-E Mini and OpenAI’s Dall-E were trained on: images scraped from the internet. That inevitably includes racist, sexist and other problematic stereotypes, as well as large quantities of porn and violence. Even when researchers painstakingly filter out the worst content, (as both Dayma and OpenAI say they have done,) more subtle biases inevitably remain. Read more: Why Timnit Gebru Isn’t Waiting for Big Tech to Fix AI’s Problems While the AI technology is impressive, these kinds of basic shortcomings still plague many areas of machine learning. And they are a central reason that Google and OpenAI are declining to release their image and text-generation tools publicly. “The big AI labs have a responsibility to cut it out with the hype and be very clear about what they’ve actually built,” Bender says. “And I’m seeing the opposite.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 23rd, 2022Related News

In Some Workplaces, It’s Now OK Not To Be OK

Good mental health seemed like a given to Kamini Cormier. Then, came the pandemic. Back in 2020, when she was forced to isolate herself at home with her husband and adolescent daughters, she started feeling aches and pains all over her body. She figured she’d probably caught COVID-19 and scheduled lab tests, and an online… Good mental health seemed like a given to Kamini Cormier. Then, came the pandemic. Back in 2020, when she was forced to isolate herself at home with her husband and adolescent daughters, she started feeling aches and pains all over her body. She figured she’d probably caught COVID-19 and scheduled lab tests, and an online appointment with her doctor. But the results didn’t indicate COVID. Her doctor told her something she never expected to hear: Bottled-up stress was starting to attack her body. “I had to kick it up a notch in caring for my mental health,” says Cormier, 48, who is the Western region business operations lead for technology practice at professional services company Accenture. So, she did something that a growing number of employees have felt more comfortable with since the onset of the pandemic: Cormier looked to her employer for mental health help. She found an online therapist to meet with weekly (paid for by her employer)—and started using a special app provided by her employer that offered calming music. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “People are talking about mental health issues at work in a way they were previously talking about high cholesterol or diabetes,” says Cormier. It’s about time. Nearly 53 million Americans—roughly one in five adults in the U.S.—experienced some form of mental illness in 2020, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). And 27% of Millennials who have recently resigned say they did so because their job was not good for their mental health, according to a recent Y-Pulse study. Perhaps as a response, some 39% of employers updated their health plans since the start of the pandemic to expand access to mental health services, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey. “Ten years ago, no one was talking about mental health at work,” says Jessica Edwards, chief development officer at NAMI. But since the pandemic, more than half of Americans say it’s much easier to discuss their mental health issues. The pandemic effect Working Americans—and their employers—are finally warming up to the notion that mental health care is as critical as physical health care. The mind matters. In what might have seemed unimaginable for a major corporation to do even a few years ago, Bank of America ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post in June 2022: “We drive open and ongoing conversations to help break through the stigma around mental health.” The ad stated that whether it’s through professional counseling, education, or tips for managing stress, “Our goal is to ensure our teammates get the resources they need.” Promoting all aspects of wellness, including mental health, is not new to the company, says Bank of America’s chief human resources officer, Sheri Bronstein. “We listen, monitor and respond to changing needs,” she says. Through various programs and benefits, she says, “We support our teammates and their families through everyday issues, critical moments, and life events — including those we have all experienced and faced with the coronavirus pandemic.” One-third of working Americans say it’s more acceptable now than before the pandemic to ask their employer for mental health support, according to a LinkedIn survey of 2,000 Americans in February 2022. And while 45% of Americans say they would have taken a “mental health” day off before the pandemic, some 65% of working Americans now say they would. Finding mental health allies Cormier is one of them. She also has become an active volunteer member of Accenture’s mental wellness employee resource group. The program helps employees better understand the mental wellness resources offered by the company. Employees are encouraged to take a three-hour virtual training class that, among other things, advises how to respond when someone under stress reaches out to them. Kamini Cormier with her family at Disneyland Cormier gained the confidence to openly discuss her mental health issues in part because Accenture’s CEO made it a priority in virtual meetings. “For me, it’s a personal thing,” says Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America. “I have several family members who have struggled with mental health for a number of years. So, it’s something I’ve always had a lot of passion about. It’s okay not to feel okay.” If the pandemic has a silver lining, he says, it’s the way mental health discussions have moved out of the shadows and into the light at so many companies. He’s made certain that Accenture has taken actions both large and small to de-stigmatize those talks. The company, for instance, created a “Mental Health Ally” program composed of 9,500 employees—including Etheredge and his entire leadership team—who received special training on how to support someone who reaches out for help. Another 170,000 Accenture employees have completed the “Thriving Mind” program to learn how to handle stress and improve their well-being. Those who completed the program report an average 8 to 11% increase in their ability to handle stress and nine out of 10 participants said they felt “significantly” better able to handle workplace challenges afterward, the company reports. Etheredge says it’s also on him to consistently put into action best business practices that support better mental health. Instead of 30-minute phone meetings, he aims for 25 minutes, to allow time to get up and stretch, for those who have a second meeting scheduled during the hour. After years of habitually eating at his desk, he’s also learned to step away for lunch. “I can say that with no shame,” he says. And instead of sending out business emails late in the evening, he uses time-delay, so they’re not sent until the following morning. “I want people to feel safe, seen, and connected,” he says. “Our future growth depends upon the well-being of our talent. We have to be mindful and take care of the people we have.” Still not a prime concern for all businesses Even while most HR professionals say offering mental health care can improve workplace productivity and agree that it increases employee retention, employee mental health hasn’t been a top concern at many companies. Less than a third of the 3,400 HR professionals surveyed this spring by the Society for Human Resource Management said mental health was a prime concern at their company. “It’s becoming a priority, but not a top priority,” says Wendi Safstrom, president of the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation. But according to one survey, some companies may be pulling back on mental health care just as employees are returning to work. While 71% of workers say their company increased the focus on mental health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, just 25% say they have kept up that focus in the last year, according to a survey of 500 CEOs and 5,400 full-time employees in the U.S., Australia, Germany, and U.K., by Headspace Health, a digital mental health platform. How digital tools can help Some positive steps were also reported by the survey. The use of digital mental health tools among U.S. employees, such as remote-based therapy and meditation apps, has doubled since 2020, according to the survey conducted in February and March 2022. In 2020, The Hartford insurance company added more digital resources to its benefits plan to help employees with anxiety, including Daylight, a digital anti-anxiety app that teaches techniques to reframe negative thoughts and face difficult emotions. The company also enhanced the concierge support that helps employees find treatment for mental health issues. In April, it added a new medical provider that expanded access to therapy and counseling for employees and their family members. “At The Hartford, we have taken a whole-company approach to remove stigma and create an open, inclusive environment,” says CEO Christopher Swift. A mother’s story Caitlin Tregler with her family. That may be one reason why Caitlin Tregler felt comfortable seeking mental health assistance. Tregler, 33, is a claims team leader at The Hartford, who says she lives with a social anxiety disorder — a form of extreme shyness that can cause her to withdraw from social interactions. It was exacerbated by the pandemic after she got pregnant and gave birth to her second child in the summer of 2020. She found comfort by leaning in on co-workers and utilizing company resources to support her own mental health. She had an emergency C-section and, due to complications, had to stay in the hospital an extra week before she was allowed to return home. For a new mother, at the time there was anxiety aplenty due to COVID-19. Although she was seeing a therapist for her disorder, she quickly realized — after she started working from home — that it was critical to increase her online therapy visits from bi-weekly to weekly. She worked exclusively from home until February 2022, and now goes into the office two days a week. She has recently become involved with an employee resource group focused on removing stigmas around mental health assistance. “I don’t think I could work for a company that’s not as supportive,” she says. Through the pandemic, Tregler learned the hard way about caring for her own mental well-being — including requesting occasional “mental health” days off “to reset myself,” she says. This is precisely what positive mental wellness so often requires—an occasional reset......»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 22nd, 2022Related News

Meta Says UK Bill Risks Messages Being Surveilled And Censored

The sweeping Online Safety Bill is winding its way through Parliament and it’s intended to come into force next year. Meta Platforms Inc. said UK online safety legislation “risks people’s private messages being constantly surveilled and censored” unless it’s changed, adding to a long list of complaints recently lodged against the proposed law. The sweeping Online Safety Bill is winding its way through Parliament and it’s intended to come into force next year. The government has estimated it will apply to more than 25,000 services. The bill still faces possible amendments, but a draft pushes the very biggest social media and search engines to help people avoid “legal but harmful content” on their so-called user-to-user services, Meta said. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: Meta Is One of The 2022 TIME100 Most Influential Companies That doesn’t distinguish between messaging and public social media, and could imply “scanning all private messaging,” WhatsApp and Facebook owner Meta argued in written evidence published Wednesday, adding to a list of concerns and proposed amendments published since the draft bill’s publication in March. “Tech firms have failed to tackle child abuse and end-to-end encryption could blind them to it on their sites while hampering efforts to catch the perpetrators,” a spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said by email. “As a last resort Ofcom has the power to make private messaging apps use technology to identify child sexual abuse material – this can only be used when proportionate and with strict legal privacy safeguards in place.” The range of submissions reflects the proposed law’s breadth and complexity. Lawmakers have received letters from Silicon Valley giants, news publishers, religious groups, broadcasters, insurers, the LEGO Group, e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs, dating app Bumble, animal rights advocates, and more. Read More: Frances Haugen Calls for ‘Solidarity’ With Facebook Content Moderators in Conversation with Whistleblower Daniel Motaung Meta has also received its own criticism around perceived censorship, misinformation, and controversies over training politicians who later used Facebook to spread propaganda. A representative for Meta declined to comment on these stories, but said they support the introduction of regulations. Within the submissions, Twitter Inc. said it’s concerned about issues in the bill around freedom of expression as well as the precedent that could be set by the bill’s threat of criminal sanctions. It added that exemptions around journalism should be removed due to the risk of exploitation by “bad faith actors”. Alphabet Inc.’s Google said the bill appears to incentivize “automated general monitoring, and over-removal, of content.” (Updates with DCMS comment).....»»

Category: topSource: TIMEJun 22nd, 2022Related News