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Naomi Osaka continues mental health journey with new partnership: "Let’s try to remove the stigma and help"

Nearly a year after withdrawing from the French Open to prioritize her mental health, Naomi Osaka is doing her part to continue raising awareness and destigmatize mental health care......»»

Category: topSource: foxnewsMay 13th, 2022

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Dedicates the Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto in Brooklyn during a Ceremonial Ribbon-Cutting

On Thursday, April 28, 2022, The Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Brooklyn, and Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, were joined by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, NYC Health + Hospitals and community members for a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for... The post Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Dedicates the Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto in Brooklyn during a Ceremonial Ribbon-Cutting appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Pictured from left to right: Tim McManus, Senior Vice President, Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation; Leora Jonteff, Assistant Vice President for Housing and Real Estate, New York City Health + Hospitals; Robert Catell, Chairman, Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center; RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner, New York State Homes and Community Renewal; Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens; Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Ph.D., D.D., Bishop Emeritus; Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Brooklyn; Michael Freeman, Resident, Pope Francis Apartments of Loreto; Very Reverend Patrick J. Keating, Esq., Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens; Sally Hernandez-Piñero, Board Chair of MetroPlusHealth and Board Member of NYC Health + Hospitals; Diana Mallete, Resident, Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto; Jennifer Swift, Senior Project Manager, Catholic Charities Progress of PeoplesDevelopment Corporation; Emmie Glynn Ryan, Chief of Staff and General Counsel, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens; and Kenny Theam Hock Tan, Dharma Drum Mountain. On Thursday, April 28, 2022, The Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Brooklyn, and Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, were joined by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, NYC Health + Hospitals and community members for a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Catholic Charities Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto. Located in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the $48 million development provides 135 units of affordable apartments for low-income seniors with supportive services.                                                                         Developed in partnership with Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (CCPOP), the affordable housing arm of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, and New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), funding for the Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto includes $3.4 million in permanent tax-exempt bonds, federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate $19 million in equity and an additional $24.6 million subsidy from HCR. The New York State Department of Health provides $2 million annually for tenant rental assistance and supportive services through the Governor’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI). Wells Fargo National Bank is the financial partner. Located at 2377 Pacific Street, the Catholic Charities Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto feature an 8-story, 83,683 square foot building and provide 135 affordable apartments and case management for low-income and formerly homeless seniors, enabling them to live safely, comfortably, and independently for as long as possible. The new construction includes 24-hour security, lounge, tenant activity rooms, laundry facilities and rooftop solar panels to reduce the cost of electricity and reduce the building’s carbon footprint. Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services, Inc., the social services provider of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, will provide case management services within the building for the senior supportive residents.  This new facility is the second phase of redevelopment of the former Our Lady of Loreto Church and will integrate 40 percent of the units to affordable independent residences for seniors (AIRS) with 60 percent of the units designated as senior supportive housing.  The 54 AIRS units will target seniors 62 years of age and older and be affordable to individuals earning up to 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI). The remaining 81 units will be supportive housing units targeting individuals who are formerly homeless, over the age of 55, and are frail elderly. Rents for these supportive units are supported with a rental subsidy through the ESSHI program. “Housing affordability is the biggest crisis facing New York City, with the pandemic threatening to destabilize the most vulnerable populations throughout Brooklyn and Queens,” said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. “In the past two years, Catholic Charities has worked diligently to add over 450 units of affordable housing – ensuring that more seniors and formerly homeless persons not only have an affordable place to call home but access to critical resources and services provided by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.” backslash“Pope Francis urges everyone to protect and nourish the elderly, stating: ‘let us protect them so that nothing of their lives and dreams may be lost. May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us….’ That is why it is so fitting to me today to name this beautiful residence after Pope Francis. Inside these walls, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens will be able to protect older adults and alleviate their difficulties, just as Pope Francis asked us to do. We ensure that they do not feel alone by attending to their needs,” said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto. “As we move our State forward, we must ensure all New Yorkers have access to secure homes, especially seniors living on fixed-incomes or struggling with homelessness,” stated RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner and CEO, New York State Homes and Community Renewal. “The Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto joins the adjacent 64-unit Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta Apartments, adding 135 affordable homes and life-enhancing services to strengthen the Brownsville community and address inequalities across Central Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. We are grateful to Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens for their ongoing partnership in transforming church-owned properties into new housing opportunities. Under Governor Hochul’s new $25 billion, five-year Housing Plan, we will continue to partner with the faith-based community to increase the supply of quality, affordable homes to New Yorkers and create stronger, healthier neighborhoods for all.” Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is one of the largest faith-based social service agencies and providers of affordable housing in the United States and, through CCPOP, currently provides 4,465 units of affordable homes, with 105 additional units currently under construction for seniors, families, the formerly homeless and those struggling with mental illness. “Today, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are struggling to find an affordable, high quality, safe place to call home that values the dignity of its neighbors. Despite the challenges of the last two years exacerbated by the pandemic, Catholic Charities will open two new affordable residences for seniors in 2022,” said The Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Brooklyn. This celebration is a remarkable milestone, and the Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto stand as a beacon of hope for our aging sisters and brothers. Today in Brownsville, our older neighbors have a new place to call home, to build memories and to access the services they need to age in place independently. I thank Catholic Charities as it continues to build upon its mission of transforming vacant land and buildings into affordable, and now sustainable housing units and transforming the lives of individuals and families.” “Housing affordability is a real crisis in New York City and throughout the country, especially for older adults and vulnerable populations that were hit hard by the pandemic,” said Alan Wiener, group head of Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital. “Wells Fargo is proud to partner with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens to support this important project, which helps address the urgent need for affordable housing for seniors in the Brownsville community.”  “NYC Health + Hospitals is proud to partner with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens to assist our older patients secure a place they can call their own,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “The public health system takes care of all New Yorkers, many of whom are experiencing chronic homelessness. A stable home can mean fewer emergency department visits, and it can very often be the first step to better health.”   “Seeing the joy in our patient’s faces as they enter into what may be their home speaks to the work that only a public hospital system would undertake,” said Leora Jontef, Assistant Vice President for Housing and Real Estate. “Our holistic approach of engaging community health workers, social workers, housing navigators, and clinicians allows us to help our patients at every step in their journey to permanent housing. I want to thank Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and all our partners for giving over 40 of our patients a home.”  “I’m really proud of the work Catholic Charities put behind the Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto,” stated former Councilmember Rafael Espinal. “The city is in desperate need of affordable housing and this project will help alleviate that issue for Brownsville’s most vulnerable residents.”  “It is important to appreciate that health is housing, and housing is health. Having a safe place to call your own is a key component to live, heal and thrive. At MetroPlusHealth, we have invested in efforts to successfully place our members in safe, affordable, supportive housing,” said Dr. Talya Schwartz, President and Chief Executive Officer, MetroPlusHealth. “Unfortunately, the need far surpasses the available housing stock. This is why we are so pleased to partner with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens to help secure homes for more of our eligible members in Brooklyn. The Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto is a blessing to our members and to the community.”  Seven years ago, Pope Francis released the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, where he asks for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. In response, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has endeavored to build affordable housing with a greater focus on sustainability. Further, in 2018, Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Ph.D., D.D., Bishop Emeritus, led an interreligious delegation to Rome to present a collaborative sustainability initiative to Pope Francis; where during his weekly audience, Pope Francis shared words of support and encouragement for the work. In the spirit of the interreligious collaboration, CCPOP is currently exploring a partnership with the Dharma Drum Mountain community. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens hopes to work with residents to develop a program around healthy living with a focus on nutrition, exercise, meditation and a mutual respect for a more sustainable future.  In 2021, CCPOP launched the Laudato Si Corporation, a non-profit corporation that serves as a vehicle for administering sustainability strategies within Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. The corporation currently owns and operates several solar arrays across the Catholic Charities housing portfolio. The Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto is another example of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens’ commitment and dedication to including affordable housing as part of the solution to global climate change.  In 2013, on the same property, CCPOP celebrated the completion of the Catholic Charities Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta Apartments, a development featuring 64 units of low-income housing. The post Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Dedicates the Pope Francis Apartments at Loreto in Brooklyn during a Ceremonial Ribbon-Cutting appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyApr 29th, 2022

25 HR leaders building the world"s most innovative, inclusive workplaces amid upheaval in corporate America

Meet the human-resources managers helping employees learn critical job skills, develop into effective leaders, and advance quickly in their careers. Kazi Awal/InsiderInsider compiled its third annual "HR Innovators" list of 25 prominent figures. Some of this year's most innovative HR leaders (shown above, starting from the left) are Sara Cooper, Karsten Vagner, Shirley J. Knowles, and Elaine Mak.Rachel Mendelson/Insider The "Great Resignation" and the transition to hybrid work have put tremendous pressure on HR. Insider put out an open call for talent heads who are leading successfully during the pandemic. Our list spans industries and includes human-resources leaders from Cisco, Maven, and Wiley. Insider recently undertook a search for human-resources leaders executing the most creative and ambitious plans for their companies.For a third year in a row, we asked our readers to tell us about HR stars. Then, we picked 25 who really impressed us. We looked for execs who bettered their companies through new policies regarding worker safety and wellness amid the pandemic, the "Great Resignation," and louder calls for diversity and inclusion. These talent professionals work across industries and at organizations of all sizes, including Cisco, Meta, and Wiley.Women hold most HR positions, and our list reflects that, with Insider featuring only a handful of people who are men or nonbinary. This was unintentional but not surprising.With workplace dynamics in flux, these executives are shaping the future of corporate America. They're building long-term policies around flexible work, finding new ways to attract talent, and addressing inequities that leave certain demographics at a disadvantage.Their accomplishments include promoting 30% of the workforce in one year, building early-career programs for underrepresented talent, and helping employees find programs to meet their educational goals. Cassie Whitlock, BambooHR's director of HR, said, "The pandemic elevated core 'human' needs that have always existed in business but were, for some, easy to ignore."In no particular order, here are the top 25 innovators in HR and their exclusive insights on reimagining work. These responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.Shirley J. Knowles, chief inclusion and diversity officer at Progress SoftwareShirley J. Knowles.Courtesy of Shirley J KnowlesCompany: Progress is a software company that offers custom software for creating and deploying business applications.Skills they've used to be successful in HR: Authenticity is an important core value. In conversations about diversity and inclusion, I use real-world scenarios — including my own experiences — to illustrate why this work is essential. I don't use buzzwords that many people are unclear of. I talk about things in a way that anyone can understand.How they've supported employees during the coronavirus pandemic: I have taken a particular interest in the well-being of our employees, specifically their mental and emotional health. We offer fitness classes, meditation sessions, and mental-health training led by a Harvard professor who is also a licensed mental-health counselor.By offering exercises that focus on burnout, avoiding isolation, and finding meaning in work and one's personal life, I am helping employees find balance while trying to navigate through the ongoing pandemic.Francine Katsoudas, executive vice president and chief people, policy, and purpose officer at CiscoFrancine Katsoudas.Courtesy of Francine KatsoudasCompany: Cisco develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, telecom equipment, and other IT services and products.How they've been supporting their company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts during the pandemic: In early 2020, right before the pandemic, we established our Social Justice Beliefs and Actions at Cisco outlining our ambitious goals for addressing injustice and establishing a framework to hold the company accountable to its commitments.Although we didn't know it at the time, this blueprint would guide our approach to social-justice issues that arose over the course of the pandemic. While these beliefs and actions were first focused on supporting the Black community, they have become an invaluable working guide to how we as a company respond to injustice and address inequities overall.Initiatives they've taken to address the effects of the Great Resignation: Every quarter, we conduct "engagement pulses" to check in with employees about top-of-mind issues and concerns. We've found that employees who aren't invited to participate in an engagement-pulse meeting are 21 times as likely to leave Cisco than their invited counterparts.We've also done more work to understand people's career trajectories within Cisco, examining the velocity of promotions for groups and individuals. As a result, we're proud to have promoted 30% of our workforce over the past 12 months.Books, podcasts, shows, or movies that inspire them: I'm reading "Black Magic: What Black Leaders Learned from Trauma and Triumph'' by Chad Sanders, who is powerful and inspiring. It was recommended to me by a leader here at Cisco. He said that it reminded him of his experience in corporate America. So by reading it, I have gotten to feel more proximate to his experience and journey, and that has been a wonderful gift.McKensie Mack, CEO at MMGMcKensie Mack.Courtesy of McKensie MackCompany: McKensie Mack Group is a research- and change-management firm that centers on racial and social justice.What initiatives they have taken to address the Great Resignation: Last year, in collaboration with Project Include, we published research on the impact of COVID-19 on remote workers. We developed and shared resources and guiding principles for leaders looking for support and education in reframing how they think about work, benefits, and productivity. Skills they've used to be successful in HR: My training and education as a transformative justice facilitator help me bring a restorative framework to the ways I work with people, de-escalate when situations get tense or uncomfortable, and seek noncarceral and nonpunitive approaches to working with people who make mistakes or cause harm.My knowledge of power, privilege, and positionality has been valuable in HR.Cassie Whitlock, director of HR at BambooHRCassie Whitlock.Courtesy of Cassie WhitlockCompany: BambooHR provides HR software for businesses. Skills they've used to be successful in HR: Understanding data and analysis has been essential in elevating my impact across the organization. Using data has helped me identify and solve complex challenges around screening and hiring, role progression, designing department structures, employee engagement, and retention. Data is the language of business, and it's critical in HR. How they've been supporting their company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts during the pandemic: Diversity starts with hiring practices. We had already implemented essential diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring practices like gender decoding on our job ads, diversity representation in the screening process, scorecards for consistent and equitable screening criteria, and antibias training for all hiring managers and interviewers. We also looked at internal diversity to understand how to best support employees. We adapted some roles to help working parents juggle remote work and homeschooling. We offered paid time off for employees who contracted COVID-19 or had to provide care for a family member with the virus. It was also essential to create income stability for employees with personal or family health risk factors.Sara Cooper, chief people officer at JobberSara Cooper.Courtesy of Sara CooperCompany: Jobber provides job tracking and customer-management software for home-service businesses.How the events of the pandemic affected their view of HR's role: The pandemic required HR leaders to be very quick on their feet, to make fast decisions often with little information and in an environment changing by the day. There was no pandemic playbook.The most successful companies did this by creating plans that took into account the evolving information almost daily and listening to their employees and customers. How they've supported employees during the coronavirus pandemic: We realized early in the pandemic that performance during this time had to be approached in a very different way.For example, we implemented "wellness Fridays" in the summers of 2020 and 2021, which provided employees with Fridays off to focus on self-care. In addition, we offered various programs for folks who needed to reduce their hours or take job-protected leaves to focus on themselves or their families. When we eventually reopen our offices, we will be moving to a hybrid structure.I realized early on that there's no single solution for every company but that the key to creating a thriving hybrid environment requires the input of the company's most important stakeholders: its employees.Danielle McMahan, chief people and business-operations officer at WileyDanielle McMahan.WileyCompany: Wiley is a global leader in scientific research and career-connected education.Initiatives they've taken to address the effects of the Great Resignation: We offer employees over 1,000 flexible and affordable degree and nondegree programs, including bachelor's and master's programs. As a global leader in research and education, we practice what we preach to unlock potential and support lifelong learning.How the events of the pandemic affected their view of HR's role: We transformed our department to become more people-centric: focusing on people rather than processes. To formally acknowledge this shift, we said goodbye to "human resources" and renamed our department the People Organization. Our employees are at the center of all that we do.Their favorite interview question: "Tell me your story." I love to hear people's career journeys, and it allows the candidate to reflect on what roles they've held in the past and how those roles inform the type of job they're looking for today.Through these stories, I also typically get to know the candidate personally. I am able to learn what is important to them and what they value. Susan LaMonica, chief human-resources officer, head of corporate social responsibility at Citizens Financial GroupSusan LaMonica.Courtesy of Susan LaMonicaCompany: Citizens Financial Group is one of the nation's oldest and largest financial institutions offering a wide variety of retail and commercial banking products.How they've been supporting their company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts during the pandemic: I've played a role in introducing initiatives such as the TalentUp program, which aims to reshape Citizens' workforce and prepare it for continual innovation focused on talent acquisition, reskilling and upskilling, mobility, and redeployment, partnerships, and expanding the talent pipeline.As a result of the program, in 2020, there were nearly 100 new hires sourced directly from early-career programs, with a significant segment identifying as women and people of color. With my main focus being democratization, I have ensured managers have the training and resources available to create equitable and inclusive environments for all colleagues. My team also began tying accountability goals to performance reviews to ensure managers prioritize democratization within their teams while understanding and working to eliminate biases at work.Books, podcasts, shows, or movies that inspire them: "How I Built This" with Guy Raz on NPR is my favorite podcast. Each episode highlights a well-known entrepreneur and their journey. I enjoy learning about the people and the journey behind many successful companies and brands. I'm inspired by the vision and tenacity of these entrepreneurs, many of whom had repeated failures.Ashley Alexander, head of people at FrontAshley Alexander.Front via InkHouseCompany: Front is a software company that develops a shared email inbox and calendar product. How they've supported employees during the coronavirus pandemic: Once we made the decision to transition to remote work, my mission was to ensure that our employees felt supported and connected. We doubled down on activities that fostered a sense of community, like our weekly all-hands meetings on Zoom, ask-me-anything sessions with our executives, and virtual companywide off-site activities.Why they pursued a career in HR: I got into HR because I wanted to help people, but throughout the course of my career, this idea has dramatically expanded. I now view my role as an employee advocate. I strive to demystify why things happen at a company the way they happen. I've found that even if they aren't happy with everything that happens in a company, if they understand our choices, ultimately, they can respect them.Lori Goler, head of people at MetaLori Goler.Courtesy of Lori GolerWhat their company does: Meta is the parent company of Facebook.How they've supported employees during the pandemic: We were the first tech company to shut down our offices, and employees began to work from home. We established an emergency-paid-leave program designed to give people time off for "in the moment emergencies," including eldercare, childcare, and school closures. We developed and executed a global return-to-office health strategy across 60 sites to enable a safe transition for those coming back to the office and created an office-deferral program for those who were not yet ready to return.How they've supported their company's DEI efforts: Meta committed publicly to have at least 50% of our workforce composed of underrepresented groups by 2024 and to increase the number of US-based leaders who are people of color by 30%. We announced in our eighth annual diversity report that in 2021, we increased representation of women, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities and veterans to 45.6% of our workforce. This will continue to be a focus for us.How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: This year, we introduced a number of new benefits, including a wellness-reimbursement benefit of up to $3,000 annually that people can use for expenses like financial planning, tuition reimbursement, fitness equipment and services, childcare for children over the age of 5, and eldercare. We also launched "choice days," which gives people an additional two days off per year to use however they choose, and we increased our 401(k)-match program to help people save more for retirement.Kali Beyah, global chief talent officer at HugeKali Beyah.HugeWhat their company does: Huge is a digital design and marketing agency. Clients include Google, Coca-Cola, and Unilever.How they've supported employees during the pandemic: Whether giving mental-health days, reimagining our return to the office, extending summer Fridays, flexing for childcare, shifting to "no-meeting Fridays," or continuing to invest in development, transparency, wellness workshops/resources, and DEI — we've taken a holistic and evolving approach.The constant as we evolve is that we listen to our people regularly, and we are authentic in our responses.How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: We are reimagining the future of work as the world not only encounters the "Great Resignation" but also the "Great Reevaluation." Our reimagining includes things such as "Huge holidays" (closure and collective recharging three weeks a year), "Huge summer" (work from anywhere in July), "no-meeting Fridays," and summer Fridays.How the pandemic changed their view of HR's role: We have an opportunity to reimagine work and the role it plays in people's lives — and we have an exciting opportunity to debunk false binaries and prove that people and businesses can both thrive.Lauren Nuttall, vice president of people at Boulevard LabsLauren Nuttall.Courtesy of Lauren NuttallCompany: Boulevard is a client-experience platform built for appointment-based self-care businesses.How they've supported employees during the coronavirus pandemic: I opted to take Boulevard 100% remote early on in the pandemic in March 2020. However, as the pandemic persisted into 2021, I realized that with the significant paradigm shift around the viability of remote work, coupled with the growing employee (and candidate) interest in staying fully remote, we needed to deepen our commitment.That meant giving up our physical office space altogether and allowing all employees to move wherever they want in the US without it negatively impacting their existing compensation package. Additionally, the need for better virtual access to mental health and high-quality medical care prompted the decision to bring on One Medical to provide complimentary subscriptions to all employees and their dependents.How they've been supporting their company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts during the pandemic: One of the programs that I'm most proud of was a virtual-speaker series where we sought to highlight and amplify underrepresented voices within the beauty and wellness industry.We invited a massage-business owner that catered specifically to LGBTQIA+ clientele for one of the sessions. This created a dialogue around how even limited pronoun options within a booking workflow can be harmful and resulted in us making actual changes to our product to better represent our customers and their clients. Surfacing these opportunities to educate and create dialogue can have incredible ripple effects.Tanya Reu-Narvaez, executive vice president and chief people officer at RealogyTanya Reu-Narvaez.Courtesy of Tanya Reu-NarvaezWhat their company does: Realogy is a real-estate-services firm that owns brokerages including Century 21, Sotheby's International Realty, and Corcoran. How they've supported their company's DEI efforts: To help increase representation in the industry, we established a new partnership with the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America and expanded the Inclusive Ownership program, an industry-first initiative designed to attract brokerage owners from underrepresented communities to launch their own franchise businesses.How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: We have a Go Further Today program where we've made small but impactful changes that decrease meeting and email fatigue and increase efficiency by working smarter.We have no internal meetings on Fridays, encourage employees to make smart decisions about whether to accept or decline meetings, and embrace an "exhale, then email" philosophy to help mitigate the pressure of email overload we're all facing. These are small but mighty changes that make a significant difference for our teams.Noa Geller, vice president of HR at Papaya GlobalNoa Geller.Eyal TouegWhat their company does: Papaya Global is a cloud-based payroll platform. How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: We added a learning and development budget for every employee to choose the development course that is meaningful and impactful to them. Driven from our employee-engagement survey, we took initiatives to support work-life balance, such as a work-from-anywhere benefit, allowing our employees to work up to one month per year outside of their home region.Also driven from our engagement survey, we are implementing more trainings around best practices and tools to ease the burnout that is a part of a hypergrowth company during COVID times.How the pandemic changed their view of HR's role: During the pandemic, the HR role became an even more crucial role within every organization. We were proactively working to support COVID policies and work-from-home best practices, and many of these things were unprecedented.HR managers really had to be innovative and creative — and in a very short amount of time. We have supported managers in learning how to manage remotely, how to navigate illnesses and emotional distress among their employees, as well as help employees remain connected to their teams and the company, while not only fully remote but often completely isolated.Tara Ataya, chief people and diversity officer at HootsuiteTara Ataya.HootsuiteWhat their company does: Hootsuite is a social-media-management platform whose clients include Ikea and Costco.How they've supported employees during the pandemic: We restructured the global offices to be used as creative hubs, built for collaboration and social connection, with a special focus on health and mental wellness.In addition, employees were granted the autonomy and benefits they needed to reshape their work environment to choose what works best for them by restructuring our workplace policy so every employee can choose if they wish to work full time in office, remote, or take a hybrid approach.How they've supported their company's DEI efforts: During the pandemic, we built on our partnership with the Black Professionals in Tech Network in Canada to help end systemic racism in the technology sector by providing Black professionals with equal access to opportunities in tech, an expanded peer network, and support in accelerating career growth.This helped foster a stronger sense of belonging in the workplace by joining an allyship training with the Black Professionals in Tech Network, along with 125 Hootsuite employees, including all members of the executive team, about best practices for sourcing Black talent.How the pandemic changed their view of HR's role: The pandemic shifted HR teams from being the best-kept secret superpower to the front-and-center compass for navigating through the most difficult time many organizations and generations have ever faced. The role of HR is one of strategy, that is adept at navigating uncertainty with agility and enables the business to drive meaningful business results with people in mind.Félix Manuel Chinea, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging manager at DoximityFélix Manuel Chinea.Courtesy of Félix Manuel ChineaWhat their company does: Doximity is a professional medical network for physicians. The company went public in June.How they've supported employees during the pandemic: My focus during the pandemic has been to make DEI initiatives at Doximity meaningful, impactful, and tangible across the whole organization.By aligning DEI with our company mission and values, we are able to both directly support our employees and empower them to make a meaningful impact in their communities during and beyond the pandemic.How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: The Great Resignation has given us an opportunity to reflect on what makes working at our company fulfilling. Our organizational purpose at Doximity is to connect medical professionals and build clinical tools that will ultimately impact patient care. Amid a global pandemic and demand for racial justice, I believe our purpose allows us the opportunity to both attract and retain top talent and make a meaningful impact on health equity across historically marginalized communities.How the pandemic changed their view of HR's role: Both the pandemic and recent demands for racial justice have highlighted the long-standing need for all leaders to develop solutions and cultures that recognize the full humanity of employees.While every person is responsible for fostering an equitable and inclusive culture, DEI leaders must develop a strategic understanding of how to integrate these concepts into their company's organizational structure.Gloria Chen, chief people officer at AdobeGloria Chen.Courtesy of Gloria ChenWhat their company does: Adobe is a global software company. How they've supported employees during the pandemic: What I am most proud of during the pandemic is not what the company has done for our employees but what our employees have done for each other.When India was overcome by the Delta surge, and our employees and their families were ravaged by COVID, our employees created a phone tree to locate hospital beds, located oxygen to bring to hospitals, and cooked and delivered meals to families in quarantine. Our employees were truly our heroes.How they've supported their company's DEI efforts: In 2020, our diversity and inclusion team and our Black Employee Network launched the Taking Action Initiative task force to explore and drive actions we could take to make meaningful change internally and externally to the company.The effort led to strategic partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and a sponsorship program to support career advancement for underrepresented individuals.How the pandemic changed their view of HR's role: Having stepped into the role of chief people officer in February 2020, my entire HR experience has been shaped by the pandemic.I learned that the basics of human needs — physical and mental health, a sense of security, and connectedness — cannot be taken for granted in a professional setting. During the pandemic, we lost one of our beloved cofounders. That gave me a tremendous sense of responsibility as a longtime Adobe employee to carry the torch for the values that they instilled in us.Kim Seymour, chief people officer at WW InternationalKim Seymour.WWWhat their company does: WW International (formerly known as Weight Watchers) offers a program for weight loss and wellness.How they've supported their company's DEI efforts during the pandemic: WW recently released an extensive report titled "Black Women & Wellness" to shed light on the disparities and biases that Black women face within the healthcare system today.The report showcases what is being done by changemakers within their communities to create safe spaces, better access to healthcare, and underscore why Black women deserve health, wellness, and quality healthcare.How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: Some of our most recent investments to address potential employee burnout include offering Sibly for resilience, One Medical for convenient medical care, and ClassPass for fitness goals. All of our employees at WW are also members and have access to the WW program.In addition to a personal-well-being allowance of $1,000 per employee, my team also created "flex Fridays," which allows employees to start their weekend early by redistributing the hours they work the remainder of that week, whether that's a Zoom-free Friday afternoon or signing off early.Manish Mehta, global head of human resources at BlackRockManish Mehta.Courtesy of Manish MehtaWhat their company does: BlackRock is a global investment manager that employs 16,000 people and manages more than $10 trillion in assets.How they've supported their company's DEI efforts: We are fortunate to have over 80% of our employees participate in one of our 15 global employee, professional, and social impact networks.Each network is sponsored by one or more of our Global Executive Committee members who engage with them to help navigate important cultural and strategic topics. I am a sponsor of our Asian and Middle Eastern Professionals network, which was formally launched in 2021.How they've addressed the Great Resignation at their company: We supported and enabled managers through training modules on delivering feedback, effectively setting objectives and managing performance, motivating and managing teams, and having productive conversations on returning our people to the office.We sustained our focus on career development. This includes career pathing in areas like technology, development programs for our emerging vice-president leaders, and our Black and Latinx managing directors and directors, and increasing our sponsorship programs.How the pandemic changed their view of HR's role: I have seen the difference HR can make in people's lives. Helping people navigate the loss of a loved one or a colleague, supporting the family of an employee we've lost, recognizing and helping those suffering from mental-health challenges, being there to listen and act when an employee does not feel like they belong, growing our benefits to respond to what employees are dealing with in their lives — these are just some of the things that HR does that are not always seen.Karsten Vagner, senior vice president of people at Maven ClinicKarsten Vagner.Courtesy of Karsten VagnerWhat their company does: Maven Clinic is a virtual platform that provides support across fertility, pregnancy, adoption, parenting, and pediatrics.How they've supported their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: Some of the companywide initiatives and programs included Donut, a Slack-integrated app, to help employees maintain that serendipitous connection they've all come to love at the office.We also experimented with other virtual events, like weekly "coffeehouse cabaret" sessions with Broadway talent over Google Hangouts, cooking challenges, a companywide talent show, Halloween in April for employees' children, and more. How they've supported their company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts during the pandemic: Working with Maven's people team, the company created employee working groups devoted to getting feedback about various aspects of Maven's business. While it was rewarding to see employee feedback come to life, what I'm most proud of is the fact that neither I nor the executive team did this work in a silo.Our DEI program was completely ground up and centered on employee needs. And it continues to be to this day. The work our organization has done — in recruiting, partnerships, volunteering, product— it's all been led by our employees.How they've supported their employees during the Great Resignation: To combat work-related stress, Maven introduced new programs to support employees' mental health, including group sessions with Maven's mental-health providers and career coaches, mandatory mental-health days, twice-a-week no-meeting blocks, and several weeks where employees had time to recharge and unwind.Elaine Mak, chief people officer at ValimailElaine Mak.Courtesy of Elaine MakWhat their company does: Valimail is a cloud-native platform for validating and authenticating sender identity to avoid phishing, spoofing, and brand hijacking.How they've supported their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: As the pandemic unfolded, it was an opportunity to lay a strategic foundation on Valimail's organizational design to serve a dual purpose: Drive talent acquisition and retention and seat people at the table to become an integral voice in making decisions that affect them.In 18 months, my team has refreshed Valimail's company mission, values, and strategy to explicitly prioritize and resource people and DEI efforts. My team has also pivoted the leadership model to a cross-functional structure that distributes power, agency, and autonomy of decision-makers across levels.I've also led the people team to expand and diversify the leadership team at Valimail to ensure appropriate voices and perspectives have a seat at the table to inform strategic decisions. How they've supported their company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts during the pandemic: We empowered a DEI committee resourced with an executive sponsor and budget focused on wellness initially to address burnout. Along with other company efforts, we have the foundation to execute a strategic road map on DEI education and development and further cement DEI at the heart of our business and people strategy.Lastly, our efforts in people and DEI culminated in an employer-brand makeover that authentically reflects a day-to-day reality where people-first is core to our culture.Kerris Hougardy, vice president of people at AdaKerris Hougardy.AdaWhat their company does: Ada is an automation platform that powers brand interactions between companies and their customers.How they've supported their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: Ada's first priority during the pandemic was to assess the health and safety of its employees and to implement an immediate change to the work environment.The transition to a full-remote, digital-first culture required Ada to ensure its employees could work and communicate effectively.Our employee-relations team is on hand to support anyone going through work or personal issues. We have a wellness fund for each employee to get access to support — mental health and physical, access to ClassPass, and lunch and learns where they can listen to speakers around burnout and resiliency.How have the events of the pandemic affected your view of HR's role? HR is no longer only about hiring and firing employees, but about supporting and engaging with employees as whole humans.People should be able to show up authentically and do their best work, to feel acceptance and belonging, and to feel supported with life's ups and downs.Cheryl Johnson, chief human-resources officer at PaylocityCheryl Johnson.Courtesy of Cheryl JohnsonWhat their company does: Paylocity provides cloud-based payroll- and human-capital-management software.How they've supported their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: My HR leaders collaborated with Paylocity's Diversity Leadership Council to ensure that company benefits intentionally built an inclusive and equitable culture for current and future employees and their families.The group also confirmed that medical plans aligned with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People.For financial flexibility, we rolled out a loan program, offering interest-free loans to any employees in need, along with on-demand payment for early access to earned wages if needed. At the same time, we introduced voluntary furloughs for up to 90 days and implemented an international work program to allow employees to work abroad for up to 90 days.How they've supported their employees during the Great Resignation: We formed task forces to understand why people were leaving but, more importantly, why people were staying. Recently our HR team has found success socializing "stay interviews," which help managers to improve their direct-report relationships, keep at-risk talent, and provide broader insights to build culture and connection.Giving employees greater transparency helps them spot career opportunities and paths to growth. Our HR team is implementing succession planning efforts to identify and develop key talent and give employees more freedom to impact how, where, and when they work. Dave Carhart, vice president of people at LatticeDave Carhart.Courtesy of Dave CarhartWhat their company does: Lattice is a people-management platform that helps leaders build engaged, high-performing teams.How they've supported their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: Work was stressful in "normal" pre-COVID times, but the pandemic has created new levels of burnout and exhaustion.Recognizing this, in 2020, I oversaw the rollout of Lattice "recharge days," a number of designated days where the entire company is off on the same day with the explicit goal of stepping away from work mentally. The recharge days has since been made permanent, with six annual recharge days added to our annual calendar on top of national holidays and flexible PTO. How have the events of the pandemic affected your view of HR's role? It's reminded us how critical it is to lead with empathy and represent a very human voice within our workplaces. We are asking people to bring their whole selves and all of their energy and commitment.With that will also come their personal passions, their family commitments, and the individual challenges that they are facing. We need to embrace all of that and come with support for the whole person and their family, too.Marlee Raber Proukou, director of people operations at JetsonMarlee Raber Proukou.Courtesy of Marlee ProukouWhat their company does: Jetson is a personal-mobility-devices company that sells electric bikes, electric scooters, and hoverboards.How they've supported their employees during the Great Resignation: In addition to navigating a global pandemic, our employees have had to adjust to the company's rapid growth, resulting in many being spread thin and approaching burnout.We've tried to address this two ways — focusing on both recruitment and employee appreciation. We built a larger people-operations team to increase our recruitment efforts, bringing in much needed full-time and contract hires to assist with our ever-increasing workload so our employees can enjoy more of a balance.Through bigger efforts, like rewarding our employees with promotions, bonuses, and raises to smaller changes like our new "all-star award" — a peer-nominated cash award presented monthly to an employee who is impacting their teammates — we continuously try to let our employees know we are grateful for them.How have the events of the pandemic affected your view of HR's role? The role has evolved from what many people thought of as traditional HR functions, like payroll and benefits administration, to encompass more people-centric priorities like supporting employees' work-life balance, ensuring a work environment that is both productive and safe, and creating an increasingly diverse workforce.In today's world, a successful HR team is quick-thinking, strategic, and empathetic. Most importantly, we are working to understand and support our employee's personal and professional experiences in what has been an extremely turbulent two years.Karen Craggs-Milne, vice president of ESG at ThoughtExchangeKaren Craggs-Milne.Courtesy of Karen Craggs-MilneWhat their company does: ThoughtExchange is a patented antibias enterprise tool that leaders use to gain insights that inform decision-making.How they've supported their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: With the pandemic causing a global shift to remote work, and recognizing the diverse circumstances of the company's employee base, we brought an equity lens to the people team's COVID-response initiatives.By asking diverse employees what they needed most to navigate the pandemic and how to best support employee well-being across different employee populations, we helped ThoughtExchange identify tailored solutions that made a big difference to employees.Listening to its employees, we offered financial support during school closures so parents could hire tutors, purchase memberships to educational sites or resources, and continue to ensure their children's educational needs were met.What are the skills you have used to be successful in HR? Empathy and patience are arguably the two most important characteristics to grasp when being a leader in HR.Employees want to feel heard and recognized during their time at an organization, and leveraging the ability to understand where all opinions are coming from, and then negotiating the best collective outcomes, is key to maintaining top talent that feels safe and valued within their work environment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 18th, 2022

Newtopia Reports First Quarter 2022 Financial Results

Record quarterly participant engagements of 38,000, up 27% year-over-year Q1 2022 revenue of $2.9 million, up 9.5% year-over-year Outstanding 24-month outcomes of Behavioral Economic Medical Trial with Fortune 50 Financial Services Client Q1 2022 conference call scheduled for May 18, 2022 at 5 PM ET TORONTO, May 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ - Newtopia Inc. ("Newtopia" or the "Company") (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF), a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on preventing, slowing and reversing chronic disease, today announced its first quarter 2022 financial results and operational highlights. These results pertain to the three months ended March 31, 2022 and are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise noted. First Quarter 2022 Financial Highlights (vs. Q1 2021): Revenue of $2.9 million, as compared to $2.6 million. Gross profit margin1 of 47%, as compared to 50%. Decline in gross margin resulting from the increase in Welcome Kits sold during the quarter which carry a lower margin. "Newtopia had a strong start to 2022, with revenue of $2.9 million, up 9.5% from the prior-year period and up 19.3% sequentially," said Jeff Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia. "In addition, we saw strong momentum in our participant engagement, with the total number of engagements reaching an all-time high of 38,000, a new company record. Importantly, with churn rates remaining low and customer stickiness high, we are delivering some of the best engagement levels in our history." Mr. Ruby continued, "Just post the first quarter, we successfully closed on a $3.5 million private placement, strengthening our balance sheet and providing us with the working capital to continue to promote our long-term growth plan. We also recently received the green light to expand our partnership with one of our long-standing Fortune 50 financial services clients into their employee base in Florida. This expansion follows the successful delivery of outcomes from a 24-month novel behavioral economic trial, all of which remarkably took place during the pandemic. I am very proud of our team's accomplishments this past quarter and remain confident that our business is very well positioned to achieve full year revenue growth in 2022." First Quarter 2022 Financial Results Revenue for the three months ended March 31, 2022 was $2.9 million, as compared to $2.6 million in the prior-year period. This increase in revenue was largely the result of strong enrollment and engagement numbers during the quarter. Engagement fee revenue totaled $2.5 million for the first quarter, up from $2.0 million in the prior-year period. Gross profit for the first quarter 2022 totaled $1.3 million, relatively consistent with the prior-year period. Gross profit is comprised of Newtopia's revenue less direct expenses, which include the cost of Welcome Kits sold to new participants as well as labor costs associated with hiring and training of the Company's coaching team of Inspirators. As a percentage of revenue, gross profit totaled 47%, compared to 50% in the prior-year period. Please note, that Welcome Kits carry lower margins, so as participant enrollment increases, margins tend to decline. Nevertheless, as Welcome Kit sales translate into recurring engagement fee revenue, gross margins improve over time. ______________ 1 Gross profit is defined as revenue which is comprised of onboarding welcome revenue, ongoing engagement fees and success fees, less cost of sales which is comprised of Welcome Kit costs, compensation expense for Inspirators and care specialists and genetic testing costs. Gross margin percentage is calculated by dividing gross profit by total revenue for the defined period. Gross profit is considered by management to be an integral measure of financial performance and represents the amount of revenues retained by the Company after incurring direct costs. However, gross profit is not a recognized measure of profitability under IFRS. Adjusted operating expenses2 for the three months ended March 31, 2022 totaled $2.6 million, compared to $2.9 million in the prior-year period. This decline in adjusted operating expenses is the result of a reduction in headcount and compensation costs tied to an expense right-sizing effort initiated by the Company in the fourth quarter of 2021. For the quarter, the Company had an adjusted operating loss3 of $1.2 million, or a loss of $0.02 per diluted share, compared to an adjusted operating loss of $1.6 million, also a loss of $0.02 per diluted share, in the prior-year period. The Company ended the first quarter 2022 with $1.05 million in cash and an outstanding loan balance of $3.8 million against its $7.5 million credit facility. Post-quarter end, the Company successfully closed on a brokered private placement facility offering of 16,950,000 units at a price of $0.20 per Unit, for aggregate proceeds of $3,390,000. The Company also currently completed a non-brokered private placement of 550,000 units for aggregate gross proceeds of $110,000. 2022 Outlook The Company continues to anticipate achieving full year revenue growth for 2022 over 2021. Revenue growth will be more heavily weighted towards the second half of the year as Newtopia rolls out new customer phases onto its platform in the third and fourth quarters, including the recent expansion in Florida with a Fortune 50 financial services client. Newtopia continues to expect approximately $0.5 million in capex for 2022. A significant portion of this capital expenditure will be directly related to the launch of a new version of the Newtopia platform on the Company's own architecture in the second half of this year. Once the migration to this new platform is complete, an annual licensing cost associated with the existing CRM platform of approximately $450,000 per year will be eliminated. Newtopia also anticipates that the Company will see improved gross profit margins over time after the launch of its new platform. These expenditures will be capitalized and amortized over their lifetime. Newtopia takes a measured approach to adding expenses in support of growth, and, as such, with the anticipated top line growth, the Company continues to strive to be cash flow positive from operations as it exits 2022. Grants of Stock Options Newtopia further announced today that its Board of Directors has approved the grant of 1,140,000 stock options to certain tenured employees and newly hired employees. The options issued to newly hired employees will expire five years from the date such employees complete their probationary period, and the exercise price will be based on the closing price of Newtopia's common shares on the trading day prior to the day these employees complete their probationary period. The options granted to tenured employees will be at an exercise price of CAD$0.235 per common share and will expire five years from the grant date. Conference Call The Company will host a conference call today at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss the first quarter 2022 results in further detail. To access the conference call, please dial (877) 407-3982 (U.S.) or (201) 493-6780 (International) ten minutes prior to the start time and reference Conference ID number 13729573. The call will also be available via live webcast on the investor relations portion of the Company's website located at investor.newtopia.com.  A replay of the conference call will be available through Wednesday, June 1, 2022 which can be accessed by dialing (844) 512-2921 (U.S.) or (412) 317-6671 (International) and entering the passcode 13729573. The webcast will also be archived on the Company's website. ____________ 2 Adjusted operating expenses consist of all cash-based technology, sales and marketing and administrative expenses including employment expenses for these functions excluding equity-settled share-based compensation. Adjusted operating expense is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for total operating expenses, which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure. 3 Adjusted operating loss consists of gross profit less adjusted operating income. Adjusted operating loss is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for loss from operations which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure. About Newtopia Newtopia is a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on disease prevention and reducing the cost of care for health insurers. As a provider of whole person care, we prevent, reverse and slow the progression of chronic disease while enriching mental health, resilience and overall human performance. Newtopia's programs leverage genetic, social and behavioral insights to create individualized prevention programs with a focus on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and weight. With a person-centered approach that combines virtual care, digital tools, connected devices and actionable data science, Newtopia delivers sustainable clinical and financial outcomes. Newtopia serves some of the largest nationwide employers and health plans and is currently listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and quoted on the OTC Venture Market in the U.S. (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF). To learn more, visit newtopia.com, LinkedIn or Twitter.   Forward Looking Information This press release contains forward-looking information and forward-looking statements, within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation, and forward looking statements, within the meaning of applicable United States securities legislation (collectively, "forward-looking statements"), which reflects management's expectations regarding Newtopia's future growth, results from operations (including, without limitation, future production and capital expenditures), performance (both operational and financial) and business prospects and opportunities. Wherever possible, words such as "predicts", "projects", "targets", "plans", "expects", "does not expect", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "anticipate" or "does not anticipate", "believe", "intend" and similar expressions or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, or the negative or grammatical variation or other variations thereof, or comparable terminology have been used to identify forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact may be forward-looking ‎information. Such statements reflect Newtopia's current views and intentions with respect to future ‎events, based on information available to Newtopia, and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and ‎assumptions, including without limitation, the Company's successful completion of its strategic technology projects (including on budget), continued and sustained high levels of client engagement and low client churn, the expansion of client relationships, the rollout of new clients, the conversion of pilot projects into full blown rollouts, the Company's ability to continue to grow its sales pipeline, and current financial trends remaining at or above the current levels in respect of revenue, gross profit, gross margin percentage and adjusted operating expenses. Material factors or assumptions were applied in providing forward-looking information. While forward-looking statements are based on data, assumptions and analyses that Newtopia believes are reasonable under the circumstances, whether actual results, performance or developments will meet Newtopia's expectations and predictions depends on a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results, performance and financial condition of Newtopia to differ materially from its expectations.  Certain of the "risk factors" that could cause ‎actual results to differ materially from Newtopia's forward-looking statements in this press release ‎include, without limitation: the termination of contracts by clients, risks related to COVID-19 including various recommendations, orders and measures of ‎‎governmental authorities to try to limit the pandemic, including travel restrictions, border closures, ‎‎non-essential business closures, quarantines, self-isolations, shelters-in-place and social ‎distancing, ‎disruptions to markets, economic activity, financing, supply chains and sales channels, ‎and a ‎deterioration of general economic conditions including a possible national or global ‎recession; and other general economic, market and business conditions and factors, including the risk factors discussed or referred to in Newtopia's disclosure documents, filed with the securities ‎regulatory authorities in certain provinces of Canada and available at www.sedar.com. Should any factor affect Newtopia in an unexpected manner or should assumptions underlying the forward-looking information prove incorrect, the actual results or events may differ materially from the results or events predicted. Any such forward-looking information is expressly qualified in its entirety by this cautionary statement. Moreover, Newtopia does not assume responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such forward-looking information. The forward-looking information included in this press release is made as of the date of this press release, and Newtopia undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking information, other than as required by applicable law. Non-GAAP Financial Measures The Company's financial statements are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS"). Management uses certain non-GAAP measures, which are defined in the appropriate sections of this press release, to better assess the Company's underlying performance. These measures are reviewed regularly by management and the Company's Board of Directors in assessing the Company's performance and in making decisions about ongoing operations. In addition, we use certain non-GAAP measures to determine the components of management ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaMay 18th, 2022

Newtopia Reports First Quarter 2022 Financial Results

Record quarterly participant engagements of 38,000, up 27% year-over-year Q1 2022 revenue of $2.9 million, up 9.5% year-over-year Outstanding 24-month outcomes of Behavioral Economic Medical Trial with Fortune 50 Financial Services Client Q1 2022 conference call scheduled for May 18, 2022 at 5 PM ET TORONTO, May 18, 2022 /CNW/ - Newtopia Inc. ("Newtopia" or the "Company") (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF), a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on preventing, slowing and reversing chronic disease, today announced its first quarter 2022 financial results and operational highlights. These results pertain to the three months ended March 31, 2022 and are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise noted. First Quarter 2022 Financial Highlights (vs. Q1 2021): Revenue of $2.9 million, as compared to $2.6 million. Gross profit margin1 of 47%, as compared to 50%. Decline in gross margin resulting from the increase in Welcome Kits sold during the quarter which carry a lower margin. "Newtopia had a strong start to 2022, with revenue of $2.9 million, up 9.5% from the prior-year period and up 19.3% sequentially," said Jeff Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia. "In addition, we saw strong momentum in our participant engagement, with the total number of engagements reaching an all-time high of 38,000, a new company record. Importantly, with churn rates remaining low and customer stickiness high, we are delivering some of the best engagement levels in our history." Mr. Ruby continued, "Just post the first quarter, we successfully closed on a $3.5 million private placement, strengthening our balance sheet and providing us with the working capital to continue to promote our long-term growth plan. We also recently received the green light to expand our partnership with one of our long-standing Fortune 50 financial services clients into their employee base in Florida. This expansion follows the successful delivery of outcomes from a 24-month novel behavioral economic trial, all of which remarkably took place during the pandemic. I am very proud of our team's accomplishments this past quarter and remain confident that our business is very well positioned to achieve full year revenue growth in 2022." First Quarter 2022 Financial Results Revenue for the three months ended March 31, 2022 was $2.9 million, as compared to $2.6 million in the prior-year period. This increase in revenue was largely the result of strong enrollment and engagement numbers during the quarter. Engagement fee revenue totaled $2.5 million for the first quarter, up from $2.0 million in the prior-year period. Gross profit for the first quarter 2022 totaled $1.3 million, relatively consistent with the prior-year period. Gross profit is comprised of Newtopia's revenue less direct expenses, which include the cost of Welcome Kits sold to new participants as well as labor costs associated with hiring and training of the Company's coaching team of Inspirators. As a percentage of revenue, gross profit totaled 47%, compared to 50% in the prior-year period. Please note, that Welcome Kits carry lower margins, so as participant enrollment increases, margins tend to decline. Nevertheless, as Welcome Kit sales translate into recurring engagement fee revenue, gross margins improve over time. ______________ 1 Gross profit is defined as revenue which is comprised of onboarding welcome revenue, ongoing engagement fees and success fees, less cost of sales which is comprised of Welcome Kit costs, compensation expense for Inspirators and care specialists and genetic testing costs. Gross margin percentage is calculated by dividing gross profit by total revenue for the defined period. Gross profit is considered by management to be an integral measure of financial performance and represents the amount of revenues retained by the Company after incurring direct costs. However, gross profit is not a recognized measure of profitability under IFRS. Adjusted operating expenses2 for the three months ended March 31, 2022 totaled $2.6 million, compared to $2.9 million in the prior-year period. This decline in adjusted operating expenses is the result of a reduction in headcount and compensation costs tied to an expense right-sizing effort initiated by the Company in the fourth quarter of 2021. For the quarter, the Company had an adjusted operating loss3 of $1.2 million, or a loss of $0.02 per diluted share, compared to an adjusted operating loss of $1.6 million, also a loss of $0.02 per diluted share, in the prior-year period. The Company ended the first quarter 2022 with $1.05 million in cash and an outstanding loan balance of $3.8 million against its $7.5 million credit facility. Post-quarter end, the Company successfully closed on a brokered private placement facility offering of 16,950,000 units at a price of $0.20 per Unit, for aggregate proceeds of $3,390,000. The Company also currently completed a non-brokered private placement of 550,000 units for aggregate gross proceeds of $110,000. 2022 Outlook The Company continues to anticipate achieving full year revenue growth for 2022 over 2021. Revenue growth will be more heavily weighted towards the second half of the year as Newtopia rolls out new customer phases onto its platform in the third and fourth quarters, including the recent expansion in Florida with a Fortune 50 financial services client. Newtopia continues to expect approximately $0.5 million in capex for 2022. A significant portion of this capital expenditure will be directly related to the launch of a new version of the Newtopia platform on the Company's own architecture in the second half of this year. Once the migration to this new platform is complete, an annual licensing cost associated with the existing CRM platform of approximately $450,000 per year will be eliminated. Newtopia also anticipates that the Company will see improved gross profit margins over time after the launch of its new platform. These expenditures will be capitalized and amortized over their lifetime. Newtopia takes a measured approach to adding expenses in support of growth, and, as such, with the anticipated top line growth, the Company continues to strive to be cash flow positive from operations as it exits 2022. Grants of Stock Options Newtopia further announced today that its Board of Directors has approved the grant of 1,140,000 stock options to certain tenured employees and newly hired employees. The options issued to newly hired employees will expire five years from the date such employees complete their probationary period, and the exercise price will be based on the closing price of Newtopia's common shares on the trading day prior to the day these employees complete their probationary period. The options granted to tenured employees will be at an exercise price of CAD$0.235 per common share and will expire five years from the grant date. Conference Call The Company will host a conference call today at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss the first quarter 2022 results in further detail. To access the conference call, please dial (877) 407-3982 (U.S.) or (201) 493-6780 (International) ten minutes prior to the start time and reference Conference ID number 13729573. The call will also be available via live webcast on the investor relations portion of the Company's website located at investor.newtopia.com.  A replay of the conference call will be available through Wednesday, June 1, 2022 which can be accessed by dialing (844) 512-2921 (U.S.) or (412) 317-6671 (International) and entering the passcode 13729573. The webcast will also be archived on the Company's website. ____________ 2 Adjusted operating expenses consist of all cash-based technology, sales and marketing and administrative expenses including employment expenses for these functions excluding equity-settled share-based compensation. Adjusted operating expense is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for total operating expenses, which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure. 3 Adjusted operating loss consists of gross profit less adjusted operating income. Adjusted operating loss is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for loss from operations which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure. About Newtopia Newtopia is a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on disease prevention and reducing the cost of care for health insurers. As a provider of whole person care, we prevent, reverse and slow the progression of chronic disease while enriching mental health, resilience and overall human performance. Newtopia's programs leverage genetic, social and behavioral insights to create individualized prevention programs with a focus on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and weight. With a person-centered approach that combines virtual care, digital tools, connected devices and actionable data science, Newtopia delivers sustainable clinical and financial outcomes. Newtopia serves some of the largest nationwide employers and health plans and is currently listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and quoted on the OTC Venture Market in the U.S. (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF). To learn more, visit newtopia.com, LinkedIn or Twitter.   Forward Looking Information This press release contains forward-looking information and forward-looking statements, within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation, and forward looking statements, within the meaning of applicable United States securities legislation (collectively, "forward-looking statements"), which reflects management's expectations regarding Newtopia's future growth, results from operations (including, without limitation, future production and capital expenditures), performance (both operational and financial) and business prospects and opportunities. Wherever possible, words such as "predicts", "projects", "targets", "plans", "expects", "does not expect", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "anticipate" or "does not anticipate", "believe", "intend" and similar expressions or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, or the negative or grammatical variation or other variations thereof, or comparable terminology have been used to identify forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact may be forward-looking ‎information. Such statements reflect Newtopia's current views and intentions with respect to future ‎events, based on information available to Newtopia, and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and ‎assumptions, including without limitation, the Company's successful completion of its strategic technology projects (including on budget), continued and sustained high levels of client engagement and low client churn, the expansion of client relationships, the rollout of new clients, the conversion of pilot projects into full blown rollouts, the Company's ability to continue to grow its sales pipeline, and current financial trends remaining at or above the current levels in respect of revenue, gross profit, gross margin percentage and adjusted operating expenses. Material factors or assumptions were applied in providing forward-looking information. While forward-looking statements are based on data, assumptions and analyses that Newtopia believes are reasonable under the circumstances, whether actual results, performance or developments will meet Newtopia's expectations and predictions depends on a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results, performance and financial condition of Newtopia to differ materially from its expectations.  Certain of the "risk factors" that could cause ‎actual results to differ materially from Newtopia's forward-looking statements in this press release ‎include, without limitation: the termination of contracts by clients, risks related to COVID-19 including various recommendations, orders and measures of ‎‎governmental authorities to try to limit the pandemic, including travel restrictions, border closures, ‎‎non-essential business closures, quarantines, self-isolations, shelters-in-place and social ‎distancing, ‎disruptions to markets, economic activity, financing, supply chains and sales channels, ‎and a ‎deterioration of general economic conditions including a possible national or global ‎recession; and other general economic, market and business conditions and factors, including the risk factors discussed or referred to in Newtopia's disclosure documents, filed with the securities ‎regulatory authorities in certain provinces of Canada and available at www.sedar.com. Should any factor affect Newtopia in an unexpected manner or should assumptions underlying the forward-looking information prove incorrect, the actual results or events may differ materially from the results or events predicted. Any such forward-looking information is expressly qualified in its entirety by this cautionary statement. Moreover, Newtopia does not assume responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such forward-looking information. The forward-looking information included in this press release is made as of the date of this press release, and Newtopia undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking information, other than as required by applicable law. Non-GAAP Financial Measures The Company's financial statements are prepared in accordance with International ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaMay 18th, 2022

Saturday links: a dangerous message

On Saturdays we catch up with the non-finance related items that we didn’t get to earlier in the week. You can check... AutosWhat it's like to drive the new Ford ($F) F-150 Lightning pickup truck. (axios.com)GM ($GM) says it is playing the 'long game' with EVs. (nytimes.com)Americans really do love small trucks and SUVs. (calculatedriskblog.com)Is there room for all the EV startups? (axios.com)EnvironmentFor better or worse, we are already internalizing the impact of climate change. (bloomberg.com)The key to eliminating ocean plastic is preventing it from getting there in the first place. (axios.com)Can Miami survive climate change and rising sea levels? (slate.com)Just how green can steel production get? (undark.org)SpaceThe costs of space launches keep coming down. (fasterplease.substack.com)Astronomers are worried about satellites filling up near space. (adventure-journal.com)Why scientists want to send a probe to Uranus. (space.com)ArchaeologyWe've been calling Machu Picchu by the wrong name. (npr.org)Why archaeologists now focus on homes to figure out how ancient cities worked. (aeon.co)eVTOLsA looming problem for eVTOLs is a need to land somewhere. (wsj.com)eVTOLs are set to be a lot quieter than other aircraft. (newatlas.com)BehaviorPsychiatric care is demand around the country. (nytimes.com)The stigma around mental health is (very) slowly going away. (slate.com)Everyone seems to be struggling with some combination of the same four problems. (markmanson.net)Why couples counseling rarely works. (davidepstein.bulletin.com)People are dating all wrong. (wired.com)The iPodIt's easy to forget how revolutionary the iPod was. (500ish.com)The iPod sowed the seeds of its own demise. (engadget.com)HealthThe CDC estimates some 107,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2021. (statnews.com)Marijuana use is not without risk, including a higher risk of heart attack. (newatlas.com)Two common herpes viruses seem to be associated with the onset of pre-diabetes. (newatlas.com)CovidFive trends that have driven the pandemic in the U.S. over the past two years. (statnews.com)Visualizing one million Covid deaths in the U.S. (axios.com)SARS-Cov2 just keeps adapting and mutating. (statnews.com)Can Paxlovid treat long Covid? Maybe, but more data is needed. (theatlantic.com)Three ways to get a Paxlovid prescription. (npr.org)We are going to have to monitor Covid indefinitely. (wired.com)FitnessWhy you shouldn't let your fitness tracker run your life. (fivethirtyeight.com)Why the Concept 2 indoor rower never goes out of style. (whyisthisinteresting.substack.com)Peloton ($PTON) is planning to bring a rower to market. (theverge.com)AgricultureThe U.S. planting season is off to a slow start this Spring. (wsj.com)"Manure is making a much-needed comeback." (bloomberg.com)RestaurantsWhy restaurant reservations are in short supply. (wsj.com)Inflation is punishing restaurant owners. (npr.org)StreamingA password sharing crackdown won't do much to help Netflix ($NFLX). (variety.com)More Americans are watching free, ad-supported streaming. (thestreamable.com)Why 'New Girl' became a Netflix ($NFLX) fan favorite. (vanityfair.com)Why advertising won the streaming wars. (fastcompany.com)SportsSports betting revenue continues to hit new records. (frontofficesports.com)Sports cable affiliates are losing viewership. (axios.com)The NBA is increasingly a global game. (theatlantic.com)EducationWhy college still matters. (barrons.com)Why do high schools teach calculus instead of statistics? (hechingerreport.org)Earlier on Abnormal ReturnsWhat you missed in our Friday linkfest. (abnormalreturns.com)If YOU are the product, how do you ever take a break? (abnormalreturns.com)Two thoughts on nostalgia. (abnormalreturns.com)Are you a financial adviser looking for some out-of-the-box thinking? Then check out our weekly e-mail newsletter. (newsletter.abnormalreturns.com)Mixed mediaTech companies are seeing push back when it comes to the return to the office. (wsj.com)Is hybrid work really better for the environment? (protocol.com)Behavioral lessons from the demise of CNN+. (mailchi.mp).....»»

Category: blogSource: abnormalreturnsMay 14th, 2022

I tried a "Star Wars"-themed mindfulness app to help me deal with the pressures of a new job – but the voices of Chewbacca, Yoda, and droids just filled me with existential dread.

Mindfulness app Headspace launched a "Star Wars" feature with breathing exercises and location-based sleepcasts to celebrate May 4. Mindfulness app Headspace launched a "Star Wars" feature to celebrate May 4.Daniel Knighton / Contributor / Getty Mindfulness app Headspace launched a "Star Wars" feature to celebrate Star Wars Day.  These apps have exploded in recent years, but there are questions over their efficacy. Most of the features left me unsettled, anxious, and feeling like the whole thing was a gimmick. The metaphor of "The Force" in Star Wars and its applications in mindfulness, an Eastern practice that has pierced the capitalist zeitgeist, are so obvious it seems remarkable that it has taken this long to turn into a commodified feature of the Headspace app.Yet as I breathe along with Chewbacca and simulate a journey through the Tatooine night as part of the company's Star Wars Day partnership, a big part of me wishes it had gone untouched.The use of mindfulness as a way of managing stress has soared in popularity in recent years, accelerated by the pandemic and the wave of anxiety and burnout left in its wake. Early studies suggest there is some benefit to be gained from daily mindfulness meditation, even if it's used on a smartphone. Others warn that it can have a dark side as well, causing people to suppress feelings of guilt, and impact their personal relationships.Daytime meditationsI used Headspace consistently during the early days of the pandemic. It helped me focus on the present amid massive uncertainty and I think it helped ward off anxiety-driven downturns. I had been planning to revisit it as I took on a stressful new job.Nevertheless, I approached the latest Star Wars feature with a healthy amount of skepticism. Putting in my earbuds, I thought: I have a bad feeling about this. Following a day of breathing exercises that included the existential dread of listening to BB8 whirring back and forth from the microphone with an out of tempo mechanical rhythm, as well as an indiscernible Chewbacca and R2-D2, I tried to shake off the stress of deadlines with a sleepcast before bed. Nighttime sleepcastsThere are three "Star Wars"-themed sleepcasts, including an X-wing voyage and a Tatooine sunset. My Irish roots though, forced me to go with a trip round the Islands of Anch-To. These sleepcasts felt like the area in which Headspace invested the most time. "The sun has just begun to set along the rocky coast of Anch-To," a dreamy voice hums. "Home of the first Jedi temple. The gentle rain falls down through the patchy clouds, glimmering off the fields of wild grass that cover the cliff side."The voice continues: "Along the edge of the island, a collection of large boulders stand upright, seeming to defy gravity." The Porgs make an entrance soon after, as do the island's caretakers, while I receive a lesson in Star Wars history and geography which I personally found too informative to allow me to switch off. By the time Yoda made a cameo, I was lost in a sea of fan fiction from which I could not return. Inevitably, I struggled to relax through the 45 minute session – even after completing the included breathing exercise – and can't imagine Star Wars fans would break any mindfulness barrier either. Ultimately, the app didn't succeed in helping me relax, nor did it instantly improve my focus. While it may be worth a longer experiment, I can't imagine finding inner peace by having Chewbacca and Co. breathing in my ear. In fact, the experiment caused me to fall asleep later than normal, and I felt lethargic and jittery the next day as a result. It speaks to a wider issue with mindfulness apps. The real benefit of mindfulness apps like Headspace — and tools like Arianna Huffington's Thrive Reset —  is that they give us permission to slow down and remind us to take breaks, said Katie Phillips, a business consultant who specializes in burnout. However, it's often a distraction from, rather than a cure for, the external stressors that can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, she explained. From an employment perspective, this can be problematic if firms start to rely on mindfulness apps and subscriptions as sole a fix for wider cultural problems like long hours, unmanageable workloads and toxic managers, Cary Cooper, a professor of organizational psychology and health at Alliance Manchester Business School, told Insider. Personally, I always struggled with thematic mindfulness promoted by the app. More often than not it felt like a gimmick, with background noises designed to help me sleep leaving me more anxious and distracted than when I started. The "Star Wars" theme did little to quell those worries, even if I found small moments of clarity within the hours of content. But it hasn't put me off mindfulness, or Headspace, for good.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 7th, 2022

Newtopia Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2021 Financial Results

Record breaking 135,500 engagements in 2021, up 14% year-over-year Strong progress made in new health plan business development strategy Launching expanded partnership focused on employee mental health with one of the world's largest apparel brands this June Anticipates Q1 2022 and full year 2022 revenue growth year-over-year Q4 and FY 2021 conference call scheduled for April 5, 2022 at 5 PM ET TORONTO, April 5, 2022 /PRNewswire/ - Newtopia Inc. ("Newtopia" or the "Company") (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF), a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on preventing, slowing and reversing chronic disease, today announced its fourth quarter and fiscal 2021 financial results, operational highlights and filing of its annual financial statements. These results pertain to the three months and year ended December 31, 2021 and are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise noted. Fourth Quarter 2021 Financial Highlights (vs. Q4 2020): Revenue of $2.4 million, as compared to $2.5 million. Gross profit margin1 of 52%, as compared to 51%. Full Year 2021 Financial Highlights (vs. 2020): Revenue of $10.5 million, as compared to $11.4 million. Gross profit margin1 of 49%, up from the prior year of 48%. "With the holiday season and the distraction of open enrollment for new benefits in the following year taking place for U.S. employers, the fourth quarter of the year is traditionally a slower period for new enrollments and engagements for Newtopia," said Jeff Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia. "That headwind, along with the surge in the Omicron variant towards year end, impacted our fourth quarter revenue. While our 2021 results did not live up to our historical performance nor our long-term goals, we are experiencing strong momentum to date in 2022 and believe that our business has officially turned a corner. Helping to fuel this go-forward growth is our record-breaking participant engagement which reached 135,500 participants for full year 2021, up 14% over the prior year. In fact, in 2021, we delivered our best engagement and retention rates for existing participants in our Company's history driven by reductions in churn and by higher usage rates on our platform. As employers and health plans reflect on the challenge of reducing massive chronic disease risk and retaining their members, engagement and proven outcomes are key decision drivers where Newtopia shines." Mr. Ruby continued, "With a strong participant base and active pipeline of business, we are confident that Newtopia is firmly on a year-over-year revenue growth trajectory for both the first quarter as well as for the full year 2022. We are seeing increased optimism from clients earlier in the sales cycle compared to the past two years, providing us with a strong pipeline of activity with self-insured employers and health plans. The mid-2021 surge experienced with a Fortune 50 health services client, along with the anticipated launch of several proofs of concept in new customer categories in the coming weeks, will also positively impact our financials this year, setting us up for an even stronger performance in 2023."  __________________________________________ 1   Gross profit is defined as revenue which is comprised of onboarding welcome revenue, ongoing engagement fees and success fees, less cost of sales which is comprised of Welcome Kit costs, compensation expense for Inspirators and care specialists and genetic testing costs. Gross margin percentage is calculated by dividing gross profit by total revenue for the defined period. Gross profit is considered by management to be an integral measure of financial performance and represents the amount of revenues retained by the Company after incurring direct costs. However, gross profit is not a recognized measure of profitability under IFRS. Fourth Quarter 2021 Financial Results Revenue for the three months ended December 31, 2021 was $2.4 million, as compared to $2.5 million in the prior-year period. The decline in revenue was largely the result of COVID-19 headwinds along with corresponding softer participant engagement and onboarding in the fourth quarter. Enrollment fee revenue totaled $2.3 million for the fourth quarter, up from $2.2 million in the prior-year period. Gross profit for the fourth quarter 2021 totaled $1.2 million, as compared to $1.3 million in the prior-year period. Gross profit is comprised of Newtopia's revenue less direct expenses, which include the cost of Welcome Kits sold to new participants as well as labor costs associated with hiring and training of the Company's coaching team of Inspirators. As a percentage of revenue, gross profit totaled 52%, compared to 51% in the prior-year period. Adjusted operating expenses2 for the three months ended December 31, 2021 totaled $2.6 million, compared to $3.8 million in the prior-year period. Management made concerted efforts during 2021 to right-size operating expenses due to the challenging pandemic growth. The decline in adjusted operating expenses results from a decrease in headcount and compensation costs tied to this right-sizing effort. For the quarter, the Company had an adjusted operating loss3 of $1.4 million, compared to an adjusted operating loss of $2.6 million in the prior-year period. The Company ended the fourth quarter 2021 with $0.8 million in cash and an outstanding loan balance of $2.3 million against its $7.5 million credit facility. Full Year 2021 Financial Results Revenue for the full year ended December 31, 2021 was $10.5 million, as compared to $11.4 million in the prior year. Similar to the fourth quarter, full year 2021 revenue was impacted by COVID-19. In addition, 2020 revenue was bolstered by an incentivized program launched in January 2020 by one of the Company's Fortune 500 financial services clients which was not repeated in 2021. Despite the decline in revenue, participant engagements did reach a record for the full year at 135,500, an increase of 14% year-over-year. Enrollment fee revenue totaled $1.5 million for 2021, a decrease of over 12% year-over-year. Gross profit for the year totaled $5.1 million, as compared to $5.5 million in the prior year. Gross profit is comprised of Newtopia's revenue less direct expenses, which include the cost of Welcome Kits sold to new participants as well as labor costs associated with hiring and training of the Company's coaching team of Inspirators. As a percentage of revenue, gross profit totaled 49%, up from the prior year of 48%. Adjusted operating expenses2 for year totaled $11.0 million, as compared to $11.3 million in the prior year due to reductions in the Company's compensation costs. For the full year ended December 31, 2021, the Company had an adjusted operating loss3 of $5.9 million, compared to an adjusted operating loss of $5.8 million in the prior year. 2022 Outlook Following a challenging 2021, Newtopia's business is trending positively in 2022 as the Company begins to see the benefits of growth with existing employer clients as well as the prospects of the launch of proofs of concept with new health plan clients through its expanded business development strategy. As a result, the Company anticipates achieving year-over-year and sequential revenue growth in the first quarter 2022 along with full year, year-over-year revenue growth for 2022. In terms of capital expenditures, the Company expects approximately $0.5 million in capex for 2022. Of note, these expenditures will be capitalized over their lifetime. A significant portion of this capital expenditure will be directly related to the launch of a new version of the Newtopia platform on the Company's own architecture in the second half of this year. Once the migration to this new platform is complete, an annual licensing cost associated with the existing CRM platform of approximately $450,000 per year will be eliminated. Newtopia also anticipates that the Company will see improved gross profit margins over time after the launch of its new platform. Newtopia takes a measured approach to adding expenses in support of growth, and, as such, with the anticipated top line growth, the Company continues to strive to be cash flow positive from operations as it exits 2022. _______________________________ 2 Adjusted operating expenses consist of all cash-based technology, sales and marketing and administrative expenses including employment expenses for these functions excluding equity-settled share-based compensation. Adjusted operating expense is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for total operating expenses, which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure. 3 Adjusted operating loss consists of gross profit less adjusted operating income. Adjusted operating loss is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for loss from operations which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure.   Grants of Stock Options Newtopia further announced today that its Board of Directors has approved the grant of 499,985 stock options to certain tenured employees and newly hired employees. The options issued to newly hired employees will expire five years from the date such employees complete their probationary period, and the exercise price will be based on the closing price of Newtopia's common shares on the trading day prior to the day these employees complete their probationary period. The options granted to tenured employees will be at an exercise price of CAD$0.28 per common share and will expire five years from the grant date. Conference Call The Company will host a conference call today at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss the fourth quarter and full year 2021 results in further detail. To access the conference call, please dial (877) 407-3982 (U.S.) or (201) 493-6780 (International) ten minutes prior to the start time and reference Conference ID number 13726826. The call will also be available via live webcast on the investor relations portion of the Company's website located at investor.newtopia.com. A replay of the conference call will be available through Tuesday, April 19, 2022 which can be accessed by dialing (844) 512-2921 (U.S.) or (412) 317-6671 (International) and entering the passcode 13726826. The webcast will also be archived on the Company's website. About Newtopia Newtopia is a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on disease prevention and reducing the cost of care for health insurers. As a provider of whole person care, we prevent, reverse and slow the progression of chronic disease while enriching mental health, resilience and overall human performance. Newtopia's programs leverage genetic, social and behavioral insights to create individualized prevention programs with a focus on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and weight. With a person-centered approach that combines virtual care, digital tools, connected devices and actionable data science, Newtopia delivers sustainable clinical and financial outcomes. Newtopia serves some of the largest nationwide employers and health plans and is currently listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and quoted on the OTC Venture Market in the U.S. (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF). To learn more, visit newtopia.com, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Forward Looking Information This press release contains forward-looking information and forward-looking statements, within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation, and forward looking statements, within the meaning of applicable United States securities legislation (collectively, "forward-looking statements"), which reflects management's expectations regarding Newtopia's future growth, results from operations (including, without limitation, future production and capital expenditures), performance (both operational and financial) and business prospects and opportunities. Wherever possible, words such as "predicts", "projects", "targets", "plans", "expects", "does not expect", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "anticipate" or "does not anticipate", "believe", "intend" and similar expressions or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, or the negative or grammatical variation or other variations thereof, or comparable terminology have been used to identify forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact may be forward-looking ‎information. Such statements reflect Newtopia's current views and intentions with respect to future ‎events, based on information available to Newtopia, and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and ‎assumptions, including without limitation, the Company's successful completion of its strategic technology projects (including on budget), continued and sustained high levels of client engagement and low client churn, the expansion of client relationships, the rollout of new clients, the conversion of pilot projects into full blown rollouts, the Company's ability to continue to grow its sales pipeline, and current financial trends remaining at or above the current levels in respect of revenue, gross profit, gross margin percentage and adjusted operating expenses. Material factors or assumptions were applied in providing forward-looking information. While forward-looking statements are based on data, assumptions and analyses that Newtopia believes are reasonable under the circumstances, whether actual results, performance or developments will meet Newtopia's expectations and predictions depends on a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results, performance and financial condition of Newtopia to differ materially from its expectations.  Certain of the "risk factors" that could cause ‎actual results to differ materially from Newtopia's forward-looking statements in this press release ‎include, without limitation: the termination of contracts by clients, risks related to COVID-19 including various recommendations, orders and measures of ‎‎governmental authorities to try to limit the pandemic, including travel restrictions, border closures, ‎‎non-essential business closures, quarantines, self-isolations, shelters-in-place and social ‎distancing, ‎disruptions to markets, economic activity, financing, supply chains and sales channels, ‎and a ‎deterioration of general economic conditions including a possible national or global ‎recession; and other general economic, market and business conditions and factors, including the risk factors discussed or referred to in Newtopia's disclosure documents, filed with the securities ‎regulatory authorities in certain provinces of Canada and available at www.sedar.com, including Newtopia's final long form prospectus dated March 30, 2020. Should any factor affect Newtopia in an unexpected manner or should assumptions underlying the forward-looking information prove incorrect, the actual results or events may differ materially from the results or events predicted. Any such forward-looking information is expressly qualified in its entirety by this cautionary statement. Moreover, Newtopia does not assume responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such forward-looking information. The forward-looking information included in this press release is made as of the date of this press release, and Newtopia undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking information, other than as required by applicable law. Non-GAAP Financial Measures The Company's financial statements are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS"). Management uses certain non-GAAP measures, which are defined in the appropriate sections of this press release, to better assess the Company's underlying performance. These measures are reviewed regularly by management and the Company's Board of Directors in assessing the Company's performance and in making decisions about ongoing operations. In addition, we use certain non-GAAP measures to determine the components of management compensation. We believe that these measures are also used by investors as an indicator of the Company's operating performance. Readers are cautioned that these terms are not recognized GAAP measures and do not have a standardized GAAP meaning under IFRS and should not be construed as alternatives to IFRS terms, such as net income. Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaApr 5th, 2022

Newtopia Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2021 Financial Results

Record breaking 135,500 engagements in 2021, up 14% year-over-year Strong progress made in new health plan business development strategy Launching expanded partnership focused on employee mental health with one of the world's largest apparel brands this June Anticipates Q1 2022 and full year 2022 revenue growth year-over-year Q4 and FY 2021 conference call scheduled for April 5, 2022 at 5 PM ET TORONTO, April 5, 2022 /CNW/ - Newtopia Inc. ("Newtopia" or the "Company") (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF), a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on preventing, slowing and reversing chronic disease, today announced its fourth quarter and fiscal 2021 financial results, operational highlights and filing of its annual financial statements. These results pertain to the three months and year ended December 31, 2021 and are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise noted. Fourth Quarter 2021 Financial Highlights (vs. Q4 2020): Revenue of $2.4 million, as compared to $2.5 million. Gross profit margin1 of 52%, as compared to 51%. Full Year 2021 Financial Highlights (vs. 2020): Revenue of $10.5 million, as compared to $11.4 million. Gross profit margin1 of 49%, up from the prior year of 48%. "With the holiday season and the distraction of open enrollment for new benefits in the following year taking place for U.S. employers, the fourth quarter of the year is traditionally a slower period for new enrollments and engagements for Newtopia," said Jeff Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia. "That headwind, along with the surge in the Omicron variant towards year end, impacted our fourth quarter revenue. While our 2021 results did not live up to our historical performance nor our long-term goals, we are experiencing strong momentum to date in 2022 and believe that our business has officially turned a corner. Helping to fuel this go-forward growth is our record-breaking participant engagement which reached 135,500 participants for full year 2021, up 14% over the prior year. In fact, in 2021, we delivered our best engagement and retention rates for existing participants in our Company's history driven by reductions in churn and by higher usage rates on our platform. As employers and health plans reflect on the challenge of reducing massive chronic disease risk and retaining their members, engagement and proven outcomes are key decision drivers where Newtopia shines." Mr. Ruby continued, "With a strong participant base and active pipeline of business, we are confident that Newtopia is firmly on a year-over-year revenue growth trajectory for both the first quarter as well as for the full year 2022. We are seeing increased optimism from clients earlier in the sales cycle compared to the past two years, providing us with a strong pipeline of activity with self-insured employers and health plans. The mid-2021 surge experienced with a Fortune 50 health services client, along with the anticipated launch of several proofs of concept in new customer categories in the coming weeks, will also positively impact our financials this year, setting us up for an even stronger performance in 2023."  __________________________________________ 1   Gross profit is defined as revenue which is comprised of onboarding welcome revenue, ongoing engagement fees and success fees, less cost of sales which is comprised of Welcome Kit costs, compensation expense for Inspirators and care specialists and genetic testing costs. Gross margin percentage is calculated by dividing gross profit by total revenue for the defined period. Gross profit is considered by management to be an integral measure of financial performance and represents the amount of revenues retained by the Company after incurring direct costs. However, gross profit is not a recognized measure of profitability under IFRS. Fourth Quarter 2021 Financial Results Revenue for the three months ended December 31, 2021 was $2.4 million, as compared to $2.5 million in the prior-year period. The decline in revenue was largely the result of COVID-19 headwinds along with corresponding softer participant engagement and onboarding in the fourth quarter. Enrollment fee revenue totaled $2.3 million for the fourth quarter, up from $2.2 million in the prior-year period. Gross profit for the fourth quarter 2021 totaled $1.2 million, as compared to $1.3 million in the prior-year period. Gross profit is comprised of Newtopia's revenue less direct expenses, which include the cost of Welcome Kits sold to new participants as well as labor costs associated with hiring and training of the Company's coaching team of Inspirators. As a percentage of revenue, gross profit totaled 52%, compared to 51% in the prior-year period. Adjusted operating expenses2 for the three months ended December 31, 2021 totaled $2.6 million, compared to $3.8 million in the prior-year period. Management made concerted efforts during 2021 to right-size operating expenses due to the challenging pandemic growth. The decline in adjusted operating expenses results from a decrease in headcount and compensation costs tied to this right-sizing effort. For the quarter, the Company had an adjusted operating loss3 of $1.4 million, compared to an adjusted operating loss of $2.6 million in the prior-year period. The Company ended the fourth quarter 2021 with $0.8 million in cash and an outstanding loan balance of $2.3 million against its $7.5 million credit facility. Full Year 2021 Financial Results Revenue for the full year ended December 31, 2021 was $10.5 million, as compared to $11.4 million in the prior year. Similar to the fourth quarter, full year 2021 revenue was impacted by COVID-19. In addition, 2020 revenue was bolstered by an incentivized program launched in January 2020 by one of the Company's Fortune 500 financial services clients which was not repeated in 2021. Despite the decline in revenue, participant engagements did reach a record for the full year at 135,500, an increase of 14% year-over-year. Enrollment fee revenue totaled $1.5 million for 2021, a decrease of over 12% year-over-year. Gross profit for the year totaled $5.1 million, as compared to $5.5 million in the prior year. Gross profit is comprised of Newtopia's revenue less direct expenses, which include the cost of Welcome Kits sold to new participants as well as labor costs associated with hiring and training of the Company's coaching team of Inspirators. As a percentage of revenue, gross profit totaled 49%, up from the prior year of 48%. Adjusted operating expenses2 for year totaled $11.0 million, as compared to $11.3 million in the prior year due to reductions in the Company's compensation costs. For the full year ended December 31, 2021, the Company had an adjusted operating loss3 of $5.9 million, compared to an adjusted operating loss of $5.8 million in the prior year. 2022 Outlook Following a challenging 2021, Newtopia's business is trending positively in 2022 as the Company begins to see the benefits of growth with existing employer clients as well as the prospects of the launch of proofs of concept with new health plan clients through its expanded business development strategy. As a result, the Company anticipates achieving year-over-year and sequential revenue growth in the first quarter 2022 along with full year, year-over-year revenue growth for 2022. In terms of capital expenditures, the Company expects approximately $0.5 million in capex for 2022. Of note, these expenditures will be capitalized over their lifetime. A significant portion of this capital expenditure will be directly related to the launch of a new version of the Newtopia platform on the Company's own architecture in the second half of this year. Once the migration to this new platform is complete, an annual licensing cost associated with the existing CRM platform of approximately $450,000 per year will be eliminated. Newtopia also anticipates that the Company will see improved gross profit margins over time after the launch of its new platform. Newtopia takes a measured approach to adding expenses in support of growth, and, as such, with the anticipated top line growth, the Company continues to strive to be cash flow positive from operations as it exits 2022. _______________________________ 2 Adjusted operating expenses consist of all cash-based technology, sales and marketing and administrative expenses including employment expenses for these functions excluding equity-settled share-based compensation. Adjusted operating expense is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for total operating expenses, which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure. 3 Adjusted operating loss consists of gross profit less adjusted operating income. Adjusted operating loss is not a measure of financial performance under IFRS and should not be considered a substitute for loss from operations which we believe to be the most directly comparable IFRS measure.   Grants of Stock Options Newtopia further announced today that its Board of Directors has approved the grant of 499,985 stock options to certain tenured employees and newly hired employees. The options issued to newly hired employees will expire five years from the date such employees complete their probationary period, and the exercise price will be based on the closing price of Newtopia's common shares on the trading day prior to the day these employees complete their probationary period. The options granted to tenured employees will be at an exercise price of CAD$0.28 per common share and will expire five years from the grant date. Conference Call The Company will host a conference call today at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss the fourth quarter and full year 2021 results in further detail. To access the conference call, please dial (877) 407-3982 (U.S.) or (201) 493-6780 (International) ten minutes prior to the start time and reference Conference ID number 13726826. The call will also be available via live webcast on the investor relations portion of the Company's website located at investor.newtopia.com. A replay of the conference call will be available through Tuesday, April 19, 2022 which can be accessed by dialing (844) 512-2921 (U.S.) or (412) 317-6671 (International) and entering the passcode 13726826. The webcast will also be archived on the Company's website. About Newtopia Newtopia is a tech-enabled habit change provider focused on disease prevention and reducing the cost of care for health insurers. As a provider of whole person care, we prevent, reverse and slow the progression of chronic disease while enriching mental health, resilience and overall human performance. Newtopia's programs leverage genetic, social and behavioral insights to create individualized prevention programs with a focus on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and weight. With a person-centered approach that combines virtual care, digital tools, connected devices and actionable data science, Newtopia delivers sustainable clinical and financial outcomes. Newtopia serves some of the largest nationwide employers and health plans and is currently listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and quoted on the OTC Venture Market in the U.S. (TSXV:NEWU) (OTCQB:NEWUF). To learn more, visit newtopia.com, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Forward Looking Information This press release contains forward-looking information and forward-looking statements, within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation, and forward looking statements, within the meaning of applicable United States securities legislation (collectively, "forward-looking statements"), which reflects management's expectations regarding Newtopia's future growth, results from operations (including, without limitation, future production and capital expenditures), performance (both operational and financial) and business prospects and opportunities. Wherever possible, words such as "predicts", "projects", "targets", "plans", "expects", "does not expect", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "anticipate" or "does not anticipate", "believe", "intend" and similar expressions or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, or the negative or grammatical variation or other variations thereof, or comparable terminology have been used to identify forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact may be forward-looking ‎information. Such statements reflect Newtopia's current views and intentions with respect to future ‎events, based on information available to Newtopia, and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and ‎assumptions, including without limitation, the Company's successful completion of its strategic technology projects (including on budget), continued and sustained high levels of client engagement and low client churn, the expansion of client relationships, the rollout of new clients, the conversion of pilot projects into full blown rollouts, the Company's ability to continue to grow its sales pipeline, and current financial trends remaining at or above the current levels in respect of revenue, gross profit, gross margin percentage and adjusted operating expenses. Material factors or assumptions were applied in providing forward-looking information. While forward-looking statements are based on data, assumptions and analyses that Newtopia believes are reasonable under the circumstances, whether actual results, performance or developments will meet Newtopia's expectations and predictions depends on a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results, performance and financial condition of Newtopia to differ materially from its expectations.  Certain of the "risk factors" that could cause ‎actual results to differ materially from Newtopia's forward-looking statements in this press release ‎include, without limitation: the termination of contracts by clients, risks related to COVID-19 including various recommendations, orders and measures of ‎‎governmental authorities to try to limit the pandemic, including travel restrictions, border closures, ‎‎non-essential business closures, quarantines, self-isolations, shelters-in-place and social ‎distancing, ‎disruptions to markets, economic activity, financing, supply chains and sales channels, ‎and a ‎deterioration of general economic conditions including a possible national or global ‎recession; and other general economic, market and business conditions and factors, including the risk factors discussed or referred to in Newtopia's disclosure documents, filed with the securities ‎regulatory authorities in certain provinces of Canada and available at www.sedar.com, including Newtopia's final long form prospectus dated March 30, 2020. Should any factor affect Newtopia in an unexpected manner or should assumptions underlying the forward-looking information prove incorrect, the actual results or events may differ materially from the results or events predicted. Any such forward-looking information is expressly qualified in its entirety by this cautionary statement. Moreover, Newtopia does not assume responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such forward-looking information. The forward-looking information included in this press release is made as of the date of this press release, and Newtopia undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking information, other than as required by applicable law. Non-GAAP Financial Measures The Company's financial statements are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS"). Management uses certain non-GAAP measures, which are defined in the appropriate sections of this press release, to better assess the Company's underlying performance. These measures are reviewed regularly by management and the Company's Board of Directors in assessing the Company's performance and in making decisions about ongoing operations. In addition, we use certain non-GAAP measures to determine the ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaApr 5th, 2022

Illumina (ILMN) Invests in Seven Additional Genomics Startups

Illumina's (ILMN) investment in seven new genomics companies is intended to advance breakthrough therapeutics, diagnostics, DNA storage, mental wellness and sustainable foods applications. Illumina Inc. ILMN recently invested in seven new genomics companies that are advancing breakthrough therapeutics, diagnostics, DNA storage, mental wellness, and sustainable foods applications. Notably, the companies will join the fourth global funding cycle of Illumina Accelerator San Francisco Bay Area and Cambridge, U.K.With the latest collaborations, Illumina aims to strengthen its genomics business worldwide.Few Words on Illumina for StartupsIllumina for Startups focuses on creating an innovative ecosystem for the genomics industry by collaborating with venture capital investors and entrepreneurs to develop, launch, and drive genomics startups.Illumina for Startups initiatives include Illumina Accelerator, established in 2014, and Sequoia Capital China Intelligent Healthcare Genomics Incubator, Powered by Illumina, launched in 2021.More on the InvestmentIllumina Accelerator, the global company creation engine, is intended for partnering with entrepreneurs to build advanced genomics startups. Its next global funding cycle application deadline is Apr 1, 2022.Illumina Accelerator has a robust portfolio of 68 genomics startups across the globe. During two, six-month funding cycles per year, Illumina Accelerator offers the selected startups with access to seed investment, along with Illumina sequencing systems and reagents, as well as business guidance, genomics expertise, and fully operational lab space at Illumina's campuses in Cambridge, UK or the San Francisco Bay Area.Some of the newest companies to join Illumina Accelerator's global portfolio include 4SR Biosciences Inc. —  a diagnostics and therapeutics company from the University of Chicago; B4X, INC. —  a therapeutics and diagnostics company from Atlanta, GA; Cache DNA, Inc. —  a nucleic acid software and storage company from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and CRISP-HR Therapeutics, Inc. —  a therapeutics company from the San Francisco Bay Area.Significance of the InvestmentPer Illumina’s management, Illumina Accelerator's trajectory in creating breakthrough genomics startups across the globe is incomparable. The seven new investments highlight the power of genomics to accelerate breakthrough discoveries across therapeutics, diagnostics, sustainable foods and direct-to-consumer applications to transform human health.Industry ProspectsPer a report by MarketsandMarkets, the global genomics market was valued at $18.9 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $35.7 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 13.5%. Factors like growing institutional support for genomic research projects, a significant decrease in sequencing costs and increasing applications of genomics are likely to drive the market.Illumina Developments in GenomicsIn March 2022, Illumina introduced TruSight Oncology Comprehensive —  a single test that assesses multiple tumor genes and biomarkers to reveal the specific molecular profile of a patient's cancer.   In January 2022, Illumina entered into a multi-year partnership with Agendia to expand genomic testing in breast cancer care. This partnership represents a major step in Agendia's integration in NGS technologies and helps Illumina in providing crucial genomic information to physicians and their patients to guide care at every single step in a patient's treatment journey.Developments by Other CompaniesHowever, Illumina is facing tough competition in the field of genomics market from companies like QIAGEN N.V. QGEN, Pacific Biosciences of California PACB and 10x Genomics TXG.In February 2022, QIAGEN partnered with Singular Genomics Systems to validate its QIAseq kits, a product line for both DNA and RNA sample preparation with the G4 sequencing platform. This collaboration supports QGEN’s efforts to enable genomics applications on multiple genomics platforms in order to further expand the breadth of options for researchers and commercial testing.For 2023, QGEN has an expected earnings growth rate of 9.8%.In January 2022, Pacific Biosciences announced a collaboration with Genomics England to study PACB’s technology for identifying genetic variants in unexplained rare disease cases using HiFi Sequencing Technology.For 2023, PACB has an expected earnings growth rate of 14.7%.In January 2022, 10x Genomics announced the expansion of its 10x Certified Service Provider Network to include three leading clinical research organizations. The organization will collaborate with TXG to aid global biopharmaceutical companies seeking to leverage 10x Genomics' robust single-cell and spatial technologies to power new therapeutic discoveries and accelerate drug development.For 2023, TXG has an expected earnings growth rate of 53.7%. Just Released: Zacks Top 10 Stocks for 2022 In addition to the investment ideas discussed above, would you like to know about our 10 top picks for the entirety of 2022? From inception in 2012 through 2021, the Zacks Top 10 Stocks portfolios gained an impressive +1,001.2% versus the S&P 500’s +348.7%. Now our Director of Research has combed through 4,000 companies covered by the Zacks Rank and has handpicked the best 10 tickers to buy and hold. Don’t miss your chance to get in…because the sooner you do, the more upside you stand to grab.See Stocks Now >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Illumina, Inc. (ILMN): Free Stock Analysis Report QIAGEN N.V. (QGEN): Free Stock Analysis Report Pacific Biosciences of California, Inc. (PACB): Free Stock Analysis Report 10x Genomics (TXG): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksMar 18th, 2022

Insiders say RAINN, the nation"s foremost organization for victims of sexual assault, is in crisis over allegations of racism and sexism

22 current and former staffers said that RAINN, which has deep ties to Hollywood and corporate America, is facing an internal reckoning. Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's co-founder and CEO, began his career in politics, advising former Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old.RAINN; Kris Connor/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider22 current and former staffers say the organization favored by Hollywood and corporate America is in crisis. 'How can RAINN be helping survivors externally, when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?'April Cisneros says the first time she was sexually assaulted at her private Christian college was in 2015, while she was playing piano in the school's conservatory. A music tutor came into the small practice room and began to touch her. The second time, one year later, she remembers waking up in a hotel room near campus after drinks with classmates. One man was forcing his hand into her pants while another ejaculated on top of her. The incidents were devastating, and further compounded by a conservative religious community that lacked empathy for her pain or a framework to understand it. "Maybe it's demons attached to you that attracted this fate," she recalls one pastor telling her. Others placed the blame on her, wondering if she set the right boundaries with men. While studying abroad at Oxford University in 2016, in an effort to get far away from what she suffered back home, Cisneros attempted to take her own life.Soon after, she Googled for help, and the website for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, flashed across her computer screen. RAINN, which was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit, bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence organization, operating a 24-hour hotline for victims and pushing for state and federal policies to punish sex offenders and support survivors. It has deep ties to corporate America and Hollywood, partnering with Google and TikTok and media like "I May Destroy You" and "Promising Young Woman," both of which center on sexual assault. (Insider itself utilizes RAINN's hotline; our publishing system automatically appends a referral link to RAINN at the bottom of every story about sexual assault.) In 2019, it reported nearly $16 million in revenue. It says its programs have helped 3.8 million people, and 301,455 people called its hotlines last year.The organization was a beacon in a difficult time, and Cisneros soon threw herself into supporting it. She cycled 1,500 miles across the country for a fundraising drive; later, after the Trump administration rolled back Title IX protections for campus-sexual-assault victims, she decided to get involved more directly. April Cisneros biked across the US to raise money for RAINN.April Cisneros"I was so angry," Cisneros told Insider. "I just remember thinking, 'Well, why don't I just, like, go try to be a part of the solution?'" She began working for RAINN in 2018 as a communications associate.But she soon discovered that it looked very different from the inside. Instead of the supportive, inclusive victims' advocacy organization that offered her hope in the depths of her depression, Cisneros found herself in a demoralizing workplace overrun by what she described as racism and sexism. She recalled that during the filming of a video about survivors' stories, her boss asked a participant to smile while recounting a sexual assault. "If you don't," Cisneros remembered her boss saying, "it'll look like you have a bitch face."Cisneros is among 22 current and former RAINN staffers who spoke to Insider and described a roiling crisis over race and gender in the over-200-person-strong nonprofit. These people described a culture in which a routine training was beset by racist caricaturing, executives ignored employees' requests for change, and people who were deemed political risks — including sexual-assault survivors — were silenced. According to these accounts, in one instance, a supervisor badgered an employee during the time she took off to recover from an abortion. In another, an Asian staffer was replaced on a project with a white man after their boss deemed him a better fit because of his race and gender. One staffer sent a resignation letter, obtained by Insider, in which she bemoaned "toxic managerial behavioral patterns" and worried that "young employees like myself, many of them survivors themselves, are currently being treated like their rights at work do not matter, like their comfort and security and health at work doesn't matter, like the skills they bring to work are worthless."RAINN declined to make its founder and president, Scott Berkowitz, available for an interview. In a statement, the group said it had made great strides in diversifying its workplace and addressing the concerns of its employees of color. It accused the current and former staffers who came forward to Insider of providing "incomplete, misleading, and defamatory" information about "a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.""RAINN is proud of the work our committed staff do, day in and day out, to support survivors of sexual violence," the statement read. "As an organization, we owe it to our committed staff to provide a work environment where they feel safe, appreciated, and heard … Over the last several years, like most organizations, RAINN has worked to expand and implement comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals. We regularly update staff on our progress toward achieving those goals, and solicit feedback on potential areas of improvement. While there is always room to build on our efforts, we are continually working to foster an open dialogue between employees and leadership to ensure ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed."RAINN hired Clare Locke LLP, a boutique libel law firm that has gained a reputation for representing clients facing #MeToo allegations, including Matt Lauer and the former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to Insider's inquiries. During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the firm's cofounder Libby Locke came to his defense, writing: "No wonder Judge Kavanaugh is angry. Any man falsely accused of sexual assault would be."When Insider asked RAINN whether Clare Locke's work was consistent with the organization's mission and values, the firm's partner Thomas Clare emailed a statement attributed to RAINN: "Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel. We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations."Some RAINN employees fear that the corporate dysfunction has poisoned the work of the largest sexual-violence organization in the country, which they continue to view as crucial, despite their own experiences. "How can RAINN be helping survivors externally when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?" Cisneros said.How RAINN became Hollywood and corporate America's go-to partner Through savvy marketing and hard work, RAINN has become to sexual assault what Planned Parenthood is to reproductive health: the premier, full-service resource for people struggling with a crisis and the ultimate destination for donations to help people who have been victimized.The global embrace of the #MeToo movement, and the contemporary focus on the depth and pervasiveness of sexual assault, has further aided RAINN's ascension. Companies in crisis often turn to the organization to telegraph their commitment to social responsibility. After dozens of women sued Lyft, claiming they were assaulted by its drivers, the company worked with RAINN to roll out extensive safety initiatives and contributed $1.5 million to its coffers.Hollywood has also embraced the organization. RAINN was cofounded by the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who promoted the organization's hotline at her concerts and sat on its advisory board. In 2018, Timotheé Chalamet pledged his earnings from Woody Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York" to groups including RAINN, as did Ben Affleck from productions affiliated with Harvey Weinstein. Christina Ricci, a star of Showtime's breakout hit "Yellowjackets," has served as an official spokesperson since 2007, and the platinum-selling pop artist Taylor Swift has donated to the organization, something it publicized from its social-media accounts.—RAINN (@RAINN) April 8, 2021 But Berkowitz has largely stayed out of the public eye. He began his career as a political wunderkind, advising Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old. A profile in his grandparents' hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania said he was personally responsible for collecting $100,000 in donations for Hart — a feat achieved in between classes at American University, where he was already a sophomore. After graduation, Berkowitz continued to work in and around politics. His experience in the field, he said in a 2019 interview with RAINN, taught him about the "extent of the problem" of sexual violence in the United States and the opportunity to fill this "service gap.""I knew next to nothing about the issue," Berkowitz said. "It just seemed like a good idea." Christina Ricci has been a RAINN spokeswoman since 2007.Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty ImagesEarly on, Berkowitz ran the day-to-day operations, and his early fundraising prowess served him well. After a series of sexual assaults at the infamous Woodstock '99 festival, promoters and record labels did damage control by giving RAINN 1% of the proceeds from the festival's CD and video releases. "In raw self-interest, the money and attention that would come from it would allow RAINN to promote the hotline better, provide more counseling, print more brochures," Berkowitz told the Village Voice. RAINN's budget swelled in tandem with its brand. Total revenue rocketed from more than $1.2 million in 2009 to nearly $16 million in 2019. Berkowitz's compensation grew from $168,000 to over $481,000 over the same period. Even though RAINN's tax returns list Berkowitz as its president and indicate that he was paid nearly a half a million dollars in the year ending in May 2020, RAINN says that he is not in fact an employee and does not receive a salary. Instead, for reasons that RAINN did not explain, he is paid through A&I Publishing, a company solely owned by Berkowitz that contracts with RAINN. "Scott Berkowitz is paid solely as an independent contractor through A&I Publishing and does not receive any salary or benefits," it said. "He has never received any employee compensation from RAINN."RAINN's tax records tell a slightly different story. The group has reported paying a total of $561,500 in consulting fees for "strategic and financial oversight" to A&I Publishing from 2001 to 2006, during which time Berkowitz drew no salary from RAINN. Since 2007, though, RAINN has reported directly paying Berkowitz a total of $3,529,000. (RAINN says he "is recused from all board consideration of his compensation.")Over the same period, RAINN also began reporting payments to A&I to service $288,000 in debt that it owed the consultancy at 5% interest. RAINN's tax records don't reflect that the organization ever received any cash from A&I; instead, the loan is described in its 2006 tax return as "issuance of debt for prior year services." RAINN says the loan, which has been repaid, stems from "deferred payment for fees" that RAINN owed A&I "for a number of years."'How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake?'With the Woodstock '99 deal, Berkowitz struck on a highly successful strategy — corporate penance — and he would often return to it. But he also looked to the public sector for funding opportunities.One of RAINN's largest sources of revenue — $2 million a year — is its contract to run the Department of Defense's Safe Helpline, which offers confidential, anonymous counseling to members of the military who have been affected by sexual violence. Multiple staffers who spoke with Insider said Berkowitz was exceedingly sensitive about maintaining the contract. They said that he had gone to great lengths to stay in the Department of Defense's good graces and that they believe RAINN has at times been overly deferential to its interests. Michael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder in February 2022.Evan Jenkins for InsiderMichael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, a former flight attendant and roller-rink operator who previously served in the Navy as a medic, said that in 1982, just months after he enlisted, a Navy physician raped him. The doctor, who outranked Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, threatened him with prison time if he came forward. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder said it was the first of multiple sexual assaults he suffered, all of which resulted in a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder stayed silent about the assault for nearly 30 years. He became depressed and experienced paranoid suspicions that the government was spying on him, ready to silence him if he ever told the truth about his assault.But decades of therapy empowered Wiedenhoeft-Wilder to eventually come forward. He discovered the Safe Helpline, which then led him to RAINN's Speakers Bureau, a roster of more than 4,000 volunteer survivors who share their stories with the media, student groups, and other organizations. When Wiedenhoeft-Wilder signed up with the bureau, his story was selected for publication on RAINN's website. In October 2019, he worked with April Cisneros, who helped manage the Speakers Bureau, to prepare the story.But the story was abruptly killed. Cisneros said Berkowitz decided to pull Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's account once he realized that it involved an officer assaulting an enlisted man."Once we actually wrote up his story, Scott was like, 'No, we're not even getting into this,'" Cisneros told Insider, adding that Berkowitz refused to send the story to the Department of Defense for review, as it routinely did with accounts of military sexual assault. Cisneros said Berkowitz told members of the communications team that promoting the testimony of a man who had been assaulted by one of his superiors could harm the military's reputation and upset the Department of Defense. Cisneros told Insider she believed that Berkowitz did not want to risk losing the government's funding.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder was shocked. He had spent time with Cisneros revisiting the details of an assault that haunted him for 30 years, all for nothing."I've spent the last several days trying to deal with the devastating news that the article about my military sexual trauma being canceled for someone else," he told Cisneros in an email on October 31 that Insider reviewed. "How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake? Do you have any idea how this mistake has affected me? It's absolutely devastating. Just one more failure for me.""I feel victimized all over again," he wrote. "What did I ever do to you people to deserve this!"Cisneros, worried about Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's mental health, forwarded the exchange to Berkowitz and Keeli Sorensen, then the vice president of victim services, she said. "Maybe you just tell him you made a mistake," Cisneros recalled Sorensen telling her. She felt Sorensen's suggestion was, in effect, to "[fall] on my sword for RAINN."Cisneros told Insider that she told Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a lie about a scheduling conflict and blamed the mix-up entirely on herself. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder didn't believe her. "I know she wasn't telling me the truth," he told Insider. "I knew it wasn't her fault. It was a really weird, very strange thing to do to someone."Cisneros was heartbroken. She felt that she'd betrayed Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's trust and was distressed because she felt an anti-sexual-violence organization had asked her to deceive a rape victim. "What's so sad is people treat him like he's so paranoid about being silenced by the military, but that paranoia is at least … legitimate," Cisneros said. "And it happened again at RAINN."Sorensen denied having any involvement in the incident and said she was "not authorized in any way to instruct Ms. Cisneros in this matter," adding that Berkowitz had "total authority" with respect to the publication of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story. She said she did not know why Berkowitz pulled the testimony."I had no part in the matter," Sorensen said, "but it's my recollection, based on my conversation with Ms. Cisneros, that she had promised Mr. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder that she would publish their story before having secured final approval from Mr. Berkowitz."RAINN also said that if Cisneros had promised Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a spot on its website, it had "no knowledge of that and she was not authorized to make that commitment."Cisneros disputed that. She said that she provided Berkowitz with details of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story before reaching out and that he approved. "Scott gave me the greenlight to move ahead with the process if [Wiedenhoeft-Wilder] expressed interest," Cisneros said."We have no recollection as to why this survivor's story did not run in the fall of 2019," RAINN said, adding that some isolated quotes from Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's interview — stripped of their military context — were shared on RAINN's social-media accounts. The statement pointed to other stories from survivors of sexual assault in the military that RAINN had published; none of those featured scenarios in which an attacker outranked their victim.Evan Jenkins for Insider"We are not aware of the Department of Defense expressing concern over RAINN's coverage of military survivors," RAINN said, "nor is it standard practice for RAINN to consult with [the department] regarding the material and resources it publishes unless they directly mention Safe Helpline. RAINN frequently publishes the stories of military survivors and will continue to do so as it works to carry out the organization's mission to eradicate sexual violence from every corner of society."Anxiety around RAINN's relationship with the Department of Defense came up again in 2019. Six former staffers said one RAINN employee felt compelled to frantically retract public comments she had made in support of Black trans victims of violence amid the Trump administration's efforts to expel trans people from the military. The woman suddenly and mysteriously departed the organization on the day her remarks were published.(The woman's identity is known to Insider, which is not naming her because doing so may expose her to professional harm. The woman declined to comment for the record.) On March 7, 2019, to mark International Women's Day, the employee was one of "8 everyday women" featured by The Lily, a women-focused website published by The Washington Post. The Lily post listed the woman's age, background, position at RAINN, and responses to a questionnaire about her favorite fast-food chains and movies. But she came to fear that her seemingly uncontroversial answer to one question could become a professional liability.InsiderThe answer came a few months after the Trump-era transgender military ban went into effect, reanimating debates over trans rights. Two sources told Insider that the woman told them that RAINN's leadership expressed alarm over her contribution to the article and was frustrated that the woman had spoken to the media without getting consent from leadership.One source told Insider that Jodi Omear, then RAINN's vice president of communications, said minutes after reading the article that it was "too controversial" and that she worried it "could jeopardize our contract with the Department of Defense." The source said Omear escalated the article to Berkowitz and the human-resources director, Claudia Kolmer, because she was confident they would feel the same.Omear told Insider that because the former staffer had been under her supervision, it would be "inappropriate" to comment on her exit from the organization.On the day the questionnaire was published, the woman called the reporter at The Lily who'd conducted the interview and asked her to remove the reference to RAINN, as well as her comments about trans people, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The writer agreed. Insider viewed an original version of the interview that contained the employee's affiliation and comments about trans rights; the version currently published online does not.Two former employees said the woman was escorted out of the office by human resources the day the story was published. RAINN said that "it is standard practice that an employee separating from the organization is accompanied by a RAINN human resources representative when leaving the premises in order to collect their office keys, security fob and other credentials," adding that it "reached a separation agreement" with the woman a week after the story was published.One staffer who sat near her described the woman as a "fabulous" employee who was heavily invested in the projects they were set to work on together."It was one of the reasons why it was so shocking," the staffer said. "Like, where'd she go?"In its statement, RAINN claimed that the woman's remarks were an unauthorized attempt to speak on behalf of the Pentagon. "[The RAINN staffer] spoke with a Washington Post reporter on-the-record, on behalf of RAINN and the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, which she was not authorized to do," the statement said. "Contractually RAINN is barred from speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense or Safe Helpline." The Lily billed the interview as an opportunity to "step inside the lives of 8 everyday women." Aside from identifying her employer and job description — a format applied to other women featured in the post — the woman's interview did not touch on RAINN or the Department of Defense. Instead, she answered questions about her favorite body part and what she would change about her upbringing if she could.Still, RAINN said, the woman broke the rules: "The issue at hand centered around a clear violation of RAINN policy. RAINN supports all transgender survivors and has worked to remove the barriers to reporting sexual violence in LGBTQ communities, and to elevate the stories of transgender survivors, particularly for transgender persons of color for whom sexual violence is all too prevalent."Asked why, if that were the case, the woman would ask The Lily specifically to remove her comments about trans victims, RAINN said it was "unaware of any evidence indicating [the woman] was pressured to retract or remove" the comments. "RAINN is always mindful of honoring its contractual obligations not to speak on behalf of the DoD and the Safe Helpline," it said. "The fact someone commented on other subject matter or issues was irrelevant."A white male staffer was deemed a better fitJackii Wang joined RAINN's public-policy team in 2019, hopeful that she could use her experience working in national congressional offices to advance legislation that would help sexual-assault survivors. But she said her boss, RAINN's vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper, instead saddled her with administrative responsibilities like writing greeting cards. Wang said Cooper regularly discounted her ideas and "berated" her when they disagreed on issues the younger staffer considered minor. It became "psychologically terrifying," Wang said. Wang didn't immediately view that as discriminatory — multiple staffers said many of Cooper's employees complained of similar treatment. But during a performance review in December 2019, Wang said, Cooper attempted to explain her perception of Wang as defiant by rattling off stereotypes that Wang felt were "very targeted towards my Asian identity.""Camille asked me questions like, you know, 'Is your family very strict?' 'Do they expect perfectionism from you?' ... 'What was your childhood like?' Do I have problems with authority because of my family background?" Wang told Insider. What started as an implication became explicit, Wang said, when Cooper announced she would pull Wang off a lobbying assignment.Jackii WangDaniel Diasgranados for InsiderAt the time, RAINN was working on a Florida bill that would close a loophole in the state's statute of limitations for teen survivors. Cooper called Wang and another staffer into her office and told the two women she had decided to send a white male colleague in Wang's place, Wang said. Wang asked why."And she was like, 'Well, you know, because he's a white male,'" Wang recalled.Wang was mortified. While she had experience working with Florida legislators, her male colleague wasn't even registered to lobby in the state. Wang and the other staffer said Cooper argued that he would connect better with white conservatives in the state."He can talk about baseball. He can really, like, connect with these men," Cooper said, according to Wang and the other staffer present. "And these men really hate women.""Her reasoning for picking a white man over me for the project is that he'll be received better," Wang said. "But if that's the logic that she's following, then, like, I guess I shouldn't work anywhere because white men are received better everywhere."Neither Cooper nor the man responded to requests for comment.Wang said she reported the incident to Kolmer, the human-resources director, and Berkowitz in March 2020, along with a detailed recounting of other complaints about Cooper's leadership. But Wang said Kolmer never took serious action. When Wang quit that June, she sent Berkowitz a blistering resignation letter. "As you know, she has harassed and bullied every single person on our team, including an intern, and has blatantly discriminated against me," Wang wrote.Berkowitz thanked Wang for her time and for informing him, and asked Kolmer to discuss the issues Wang raised. Cooper continues to serve as a vice president, the face of RAINN's policy arm.RAINN said that Wang was too junior a staffer to lead a statewide lobbying effort and called her claims of discrimination "false and defamatory.""RAINN took Wang's allegations seriously and investigated the matter thoroughly," the statement said. "Ultimately it was determined that the basis of Wang's claims of discrimination were unfounded."RAINN did not deny Wang's claim that Cooper told her a white man would connect better with conservative legislators.Cooper wasn't the only executive to receive complaints. One current staffer and one former staffer described a meeting in which Jessica Leslie, the vice president of victim services, defended Berkowitz's unwillingness to address the concerns of staffers of color."You have to understand where he's coming from," they remember Leslie saying. "I mean, he's a white man, and you're all people of color — like, he's really nervous around you."One of the staffers was furious. "We just wanted to have a conversation. We're not about to berate the man," she told Insider. "This is not true," RAINN said. Its statement said that at a Safe Helpline shift managers meeting, a group of managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz would meet with them. When Leslie asked them to craft an agenda first, RAINN said, the shift managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz wanted an agenda because he was "uncomfortable talking to women of color." "The shift managers created this narrative," RAINN said, "not Leslie."Through an attorney, Leslie said she agreed with RAINN's responses and called the allegations against her "demonstrably baseless."A racist training, a pay disparity, and an email uprisingStaffers of color told Insider that they were often underpaid compared with their white counterparts; one, a nonwhite Latina woman who asked to remain anonymous, said she made $35,000 a year and lived in public housing to keep her head above water. After she quit for a higher-paying opportunity, RAINN filled her job with a white staffer who earned roughly $20,000 more, Cisneros said, adding that the white staffer disclosed her salary. (Three additional sources with knowledge of her salary corroborated Cisneros' account.) RAINN said the salary discrepancy was a result of both the role being "restructured" to include "significantly more responsibility" and the fact that the white staffer had an advanced degree.Four current and former RAINN staffers recalled that after RAINN's white office manager left for a new job, her replacement, a Black woman named Valinshia Walker, was asked to perform janitorial tasks that were not in her predecessor's job description — including scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, washing dishes, and disinfecting conference rooms. "Let me be very clear: [Walker's predecessor] never washed dishes from the sink. Ever," one former staffer said. "Val? You would come in, and Ms. Walker was cleaning the conference room. Like, wiping down all the tables. Spraying down the chairs. Doing the kitchen, she's washing dishes from the sink … You would see her walking around with the mask on and gloves because she literally cleaned. Like a cleaning lady."Walker declined to comment for the record. "The beliefs of your sources are simply not true," RAINN said, adding that Walker was hired as the "office coordinator," which had a different set of responsibilities than the "office manager" she replaced. "Maintaining a clean office has always fallen under the responsibilities of the HR and admin staff as a whole, this includes the office manager and office coordinator," the statement said. "We are not aware of any instances where Walker was asked to handle cleaning responsibilities beyond those that were part of the office coordinator's regular duties."Staffers also recalled what became a notorious and hamfisted mandatory sexual-harassment training in early 2020 led by an outside employment attorney hired by RAINN. According to more than a dozen employees, the attorney used a series of racist stereotypes to illustrate examples during the training."So let's just say, you know, there's Nicki [Minaj] and Cardi B are employees, and they're at their desks, and they start twerking," Cisneros recalled the lawyer saying. "Is that inappropriate workplace behavior?"At one point, Cisneros said, the lawyer proposed a hypothetical scenario in which a Latino-coded man — participants recalled his name was "Jorgé" or "José"—  kissed a coworker. The lawyer asked if the behavior could be appropriate "because this is Latino culture." "Your information regarding this training is inaccurate," RAINN said. "The examples in this legal training were all past legal cases using fictitious names." It added that staff concerns "were immediately addressed and the training was subsequently modified based on their feedback."Sarcia Adkins, a shift manager for the Department of Defense Safe Helpline who attended the training, was furious. She wrote an email to multiple executives, including Sorensen, Kolmer, and Berkowitz, on March 5 demanding action from the organization. "I wanted to get up and walk out at various points and it was one of the more traumatic experiences I've had at RAINN as a woman of color," she wrote. Kolmer acknowledged her complaints and promised to meet with Adkins alongside Berkowitz and Sorensen to discuss changes to the training and her issues with the nonprofit's culture.Adkins said that Kolmer didn't follow up that March but that Sorensen did reach out to schedule a one-on-one meeting. RAINN said Adkins agreed to meet Sorensen but "did not show up, without notification or explanation," and "did not follow up after she skipped the meeting." Several months later, after a former colleague intervened, Adkins did meet with Berkowitz and Sorensen. Adkins told Insider she was underwhelmed. "They pick what they want you to talk about," she said.The dysfunction came to a head during the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd sparked a series of bitter internal conversations about RAINN's track record on race. In June 2020, Berkowitz sent an email with the subject line "A Note to the RAINN Family" to the entire staff. In it, he acknowledged the unrest and pledged to support the company's Black staffers.Sarcia Adkins replied to the email with a list of demands and copied the entire organization. She asked for mandatory cultural-competency training and a commitment to hiring Black employees for leadership positions. (RAINN says that 43% of its top seven staffers are people of color.) Adkins — who has been with RAINN since 2014 — asked Berkowitz why he hadn't reached out following the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and dozens of other victims of police violence."RAINN has never been a place [that] acknowledges or uplifts their black staff, not just people of color, and the injustices we face in the world and within the structure of RAINN," Adkins wrote.Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Scott Berkowitz sent an email to staffers acknowledging the resulting unrest and pledging to support the company's Black staffers. But employees at RAINN began responding en masse, including one person who asked why a similar message was not sent after other police killings of Black people.Provided to InsiderIn 2021, in response to the outrage over the George Floyd email, the organization began internally releasing draft proposals on diversity, equity, and inclusion with goals the organization planned to achieve or had already accomplished. The laundry list of objectives, which Insider reviewed, included a plan to "develop new relationships to ensure a diverse pool of internal and external candidates for all open positions" and "collect more data to identify the causes of turnover."But people working in the organization say little has been achieved, or even attempted."Hiring practices are not getting better," said a current RAINN staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. "There's been no management training. Turnover is horrendous." In its statement, RAINN recounted the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts it began implementing in 2021, including "expanded recruiting," "revised exit interviews," and "researched training on DEI-related issues.""The summer of 2020 sparked important cultural conversations in companies and organizations across the United States, RAINN among them," the statement said. "As we've seen nationwide, there is more work to be done. Over the past two years, RAINN worked with experts and garnered input from staff to develop and implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals … Changes implemented to date include increasing diversity within senior management to better reflect our staff diversity and the people we serve, implementing an anonymous third-party ethics hotline where employees can voice concerns without fear of reprisal, offering expanded professional development and internal promotion opportunities, and increasing health and mental health benefits for employees, the four top priorities identified by staff."As evidence of its success in addressing the concerns of its employees of color, RAINN provided Insider an email that Aniyah Carter, a staffer on the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, wrote to the vice president of communications, Heather Drevna, in June 2020. Carter, who is Black, had been one of the most outspoken staffers demanding change at RAINN after Berkowitz's George Floyd email fiasco. When Drevna sent a follow-up email to staff announcing an employee survey and more personal and sick days, Carter replied with a note of thanks."I just want to personally thank you and the senior team for this," she wrote. "It's one thing to listen to and hear us. It's another thing to take action. I am proud of the responses of my colleagues and I am grateful for the swift action from leadership. It is my sincere hope that we continue to make a necessary shift in the right direction. Please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance."Scott Berkowitz at the "Tina The Tina Turner Musical" Cocktail Reception, co-hosted by Anna Wintour in support of RAINN, on January 31, 2020.Tiffany Sage/BFA/ReutersWhen Insider asked Carter about the email, she said any movement in the right direction quickly stalled."They sent an email and that was it," Carter told Insider. "So my 'sincere hope' was crushed. It's so insulting for me. When this first happened and you were optimistic and gave us the benefit of the doubt, you say it here," she said, mocking RAINN's use of her email. "And it's like, OK, but two years later here we still are. And I've mentioned how I'm frustrated, but you're going to take words from two years ago feeling optimistic about the future and spin it as if that applies to today? Seriously? That was very upsetting because it makes me feel like this is more about optics than, like, how your staff really feels."'OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?'When April Cisneros arrived at RAINN, she began working for Jodi Omear. Cisneros said she quickly ran up against Omear's domineering management style, which often seemed dismissive of and belittling to other women. Besides the "bitch face" comment, Cisneros said, Omear joked about how office dress codes could reduce the risk of sexual assault by preventing people from wearing provacative outfits. "I understand we're not supposed to blame the victim," Cisneros recalled Omear saying, "but, like, what do you expect to happen if you're in a dimly lit room and people of the opposite sex [are] wearing pants with holes in them?" Omear did not deny making either comment but told Insider that when training people who lacked experience with on-camera work, she directed them to "over-exaggerate facial expressions." She also said she "advocated for casual professional attire across the organization."Cisneros' low point at RAINN occurred in January 2019, when she unexpectedly became pregnant. She decided to take a sick day to visit a doctor. She told Insider she informed Omear the day before and outlined when her unfinished work would be completed.Omear became angry, Cisneros said, demanding to know why she didn't give more notice and insisting on further details. Omear called Cisneros at 9 p.m. demanding answers. Cisneros broke down and told her boss about the surprise pregnancy. According to Cisneros, Omear replied, "OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?"The next day, as Cisneros met with her doctor, her phone buzzed with calls and texts from Omear. Between the stress of an unplanned pregnancy and Omear's incessant check-ins, Cisneros said, she "started bawling" under the stress.  A day later, Cisneros received a prescription for a two-day medical abortion. She requested an extra day off to recover, but Omear continued to pester her, texting and calling Cisneros for updates on RAINN's monthly marketing report. Cisneros said she finished the report from home while waiting for the bleeding to die down. (A RAINN staffer who was familiar with the incident corroborated Cisneros' version of events.)Omear told Insider that it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Cisneros specifically and did not directly answer a series of questions about Cisneros' allegations. "In general, when working with communications staff, especially in a fast-paced environment on such an important issue, it is/was important to ensure that other team members were able to cover assignments to meet any potential deadlines and organizational needs," she said in an emailed statement.RAINN said that it "was not aware of this incident happening in real time" and that it "supports employees taking time off and does not support managers encroaching on sick time."Omear's conduct was the final straw for Cisneros, and she wrote to human resources to complain. Cisneros said Claudia Kolmer told her in a meeting that the conflict "was a big misunderstanding" and that she should have come clean about her pregnancy sooner. (RAINN said that Kolmer told Cisneros that different managers have different preferences about how they should be notified of sick time and that "Cisneros was never asked to share sensitive personal or medical information.")Dissatisfied, Cisneros unloaded on Omear to Kolmer, accusing her boss of making inappropriate complaints about the loud breathing of a colleague who used a wheelchair and the habit of another colleague, who was blind, of walking into Omear's office by mistake, Cisneros said. (Another former RAINN employee corroborated the complaints to Insider.) Cisneros also said she told Kolmer that Omear made lewd remarks about the attractiveness of a sexual-assault victim set to make a public-service announcement. Omear denied making the lewd comments. She also denied complaining about disabled colleagues but said that she did recall "thanking one of my staff for helping" a blind colleague "when she couldn't find her way around the office."Cisneros rallied the entire RAINN communications department to put together a detailed list of other allegations of inappropriate behavior by Omear, which she collected in a memo for Kolmer and Berkowitz.Omear left RAINN that July, ostensibly to launch her own communications consulting firm. But Cisneros said Berkowitz told her that he had pushed Omear out in response to Cisneros' efforts. "We want you to know we're letting her spin her own story," Cisneros said Berkowitz told her. "But this is a direct result of the conversation you all have with us."The experience nonetheless angered staffers. Cisneros left RAINN the next year.Another colleague, Martha Durkee-Neuman, wrote a scathing resignation letter shortly after Omear announced her exit, addressing it to Omear, Berkowitz, and Kolmer."Jodi leaving of her own accord with no accountability is not justice," Durkee-Neuman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider. "It is not justice for the countless people that she has fired or driven from RAINN. It is not justice to pretend that nothing has happened, that staff were not forced to go to HR over and over and over until something was finally done." "I do not believe any of this work of justice or restoration will happen at RAINN, so unfortunately, this is no longer the right organization for me," she added."After the communications team raised concerns [about Omear] with Claudia Kolmer," RAINN said, "RAINN worked swiftly and diligently to investigate the staff's complaints. RAINN took appropriate action to address the findings of that investigation and Omear separated with RAINN shortly thereafter."Martha Durkee-Neuman's resignation letter.Martha Durkee-Neuman'What is left?' On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of charges related to the shooting deaths of two people at a civil-rights rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Some time later, Leslie, then the interim vice president of RAINN's victim-services department, addressed the organization's Black staffers. "I am deeply saddened by the pain and violence that has continued to plague our Black neighbors and communities," she wrote. "I want to recognize how this may be affecting you, as you navigate your day and the work you do at RAINN." She then touted the racial diversity of the victim-services department.Nearly 18 months had passed since the organization sent around its email about the death of George Floyd. Despite various promises and initiatives, in the eyes of many staffers, little had changed. But here it was again, another email promising to listen to staffers of color. Employees were enraged.Aniyah Carter, the Safe Helpline worker whose email RAINN provided to Insider, reminded her boss that nearly two weeks had passed since the verdict. "By now, we have already had to check in with ourselves so that we can continue our day-to-day lives," she wrote. "And while the opportunity to check in with managers is still absolutely available (and encouraged), the reminder to do so would have been more beneficial if it occurred when this took place." Carter also highlighted the gap she saw between leadership's stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its on-the-ground support of its employees of color, a sentiment echoed by other staffers who spoke to Insider.Daniel Diasgranados for InsiderFor Cisneros, the repeated failure of the organization to address the concerns of its staff speaks to something darker, and she is worried about how the culture at RAINN is affecting its ability to help abuse survivors."If church can't help, if school can't help, if the police can't help, if the hospital can't help, if my family can't help, my friends can't help — and now this nonprofit that is specifically saying that it's here to help people like me can't help?" she said."Like, what is left?"Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2022

How Ukraine Fits Into The Global Jigsaw

How Ukraine Fits Into The Global Jigsaw Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, Ukraine is part of a far bigger geopolitical picture. Russia and China want US hegemonic influence in the Eurasian continent marginalised. Following defeats for US foreign policy in Syria and Afghanistan and following Brexit, Putin is driving a wedge between America and the non-Anglo-Saxon EU. Due to global monetary expansion, rising energy prices are benefiting Russia, which can afford to squeeze Germany and other EU states dependent on Russian natural gas. The squeeze will only stop when America backs off. Being keenly aware that its dominant role in NATO is under threat, America has been trying to escalate the Ukraine crisis to suck Russia into an untenable occupation. Putin won’t fall for it. The danger for us all is not a boots-on-the-ground war — that’s likely to only involve the pre-emptive attacks on military installations Putin initiated last night — but a financial war for which Russia is fully prepared. Both sides probably do not know how fragile the Eurozone banking system is, with both the ECB and its national central bank shareholders already having liabilities greater than their assets. In other words, rising interest rates have broken the euro system and an economic and financial catastrophe on its eastern flank will probably trigger its collapse. The bigger picture is Mackinder’s World Island The developing tension over Ukraine is part of a bigger picture — a struggle between America and the two Eurasian hegemons, Russia and China. The prize is ultimate control over Mackinder’s World Island. Halford Mackinder is acknowledged as the founder of geopolitics: the study of factors such as geography, geology, economics, demography, politics, and foreign policy and their interaction. His original paper was entitled “The Geographical Pivot of History”, presented at the Royal Geographical Society in 1905 in which he first formulated his Heartland Theory, which extended geopolitical analysis to encompass the entire globe. In this and a subsequent paper (Democratic Ideals and Reality: A study in the Politics of Reconstruction, 1919) he built on his Heartland Theory, and from which his famous quote has been passed down to us: “Who rules East Europe commands the World Island [Eurasia]; Who rules the World Island rules the World”. Stalin was said to have been interested in this theory, and while it is not generally admitted, the leaders and administrations of Russia, China and America are almost certainly aware of Mackinder’s theory and its implications. We cannot know if the Russian and Chinese leaders and administrations are avid Mackinder fans, but their partnership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is consistent with his World Island Theory. Since commencing as a post-Soviet, post-Mao security agreement between Russia and China founded in 2001 to suppress Islamic fundamentalism, the SCO has evolved into a political and economic intergovernmental organisation, which with its members, observer states, and dialog partners accounts for over 3.5 billion people, half the world’s population. The symbiotic relationship between resource rich Russia and the industrial Chinese ties the whole SCO together. China’s development of the Asian land mass holds the promise of dramatic improvements in everyone’s living conditions. And consistent with the World Island Theory, Chinese money now dominates the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asian nations, particularly those controlled and influenced by the Chinese diaspora. China’s influence also spreads to South America through organisations such as BRICS (B is for Brazil) and Chile for copper and other metals. While the Sino-Russian partnership dominates the World Island economically, America has only gradually been expelled from Asian affairs. Its post 9/11 campaigns in the Middle East destabilised that region, creating fuel for America’s enemies and appalling refugee calamities for her European allies to this day. Her withdrawal from resource-rich Afghanistan was merely the last domino to fall. She retains political influence in Western Europe and South-East Asia only, though her military and intelligence presence is still widespread. Today, America’s actions are those of a hegemon whose time is passing. By the UK opting for Brexit, American influence over the European Union through its security and political partnership with the UK has been diminished. Its grip on European affairs through NATO is being undermined by both Turkey’s determination to shift its interests into the Turkic regions of Central Asia, and the EU’s determination to establish its own defence arrangements. The irrelevance of NATO for the future defence of Western Europe is now becoming apparent to the Russians, and it must be hard for them to resist speeding its decline. The cold war in the Pacific is all about containing China. While Taiwan’s future and China’s attempts to establish naval bases in the South China Seas hog the headlines, China’s trade influence in the region continues to increase. After President Trump withdrew America from the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TTP was replaced by the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership which came into force in December 2018, whose eleven signatories have combined economies representing 13.4% of world GDP. This makes it one of the largest free trade areas by GDP and includes Australia and New Zealand. Even the UK has formally applied to join (it qualifies as a Pacific nation through its dependencies in the region), so that three of the US security “five eyes” members will be part of the CPTPP. China also applied to join the CPTPP last September. For now, China’s membership of the CPTPP is in doubt. US allies in the partnership, including Japan, are insisting on various obstructive provisions. But in that well-worn hackneyed metaphor, China is the elephant in the room, and it is hard to see the CPTPP holding out against her membership for ever. For now, China can chip away at it by separate free trade agreements with selected CPTPP members, with whom it is already in bilateral trade. Whatever America’s desire to retain political and military control over the Pacific may be, the economics of trade will eventually diminish that influence. And while sabres are being rattled over Taiwan and Pacific atolls, Russia is putting pressure on Europe to put an end to American dominated defence arrangements at the other end of the World Island. Observers of the greatest of the great games would be right to look at current developments over Ukraine in the context of Mackinder’s heartland theory. Understand that, and you have a grasp of Putin’s reasoning. Driving American influence out of the Eurasian continent has been his objective ever since America reneged on her agreement not to advance NATO any closer to Russia following the ending of the old USSR. Ukraine is caught in the middle Both Russia and the Anglo-Saxons are ramping up the rhetoric over Ukraine. Until recently, Ukraine itself had seen little evidence of any truth in Western propaganda, asking for it to be toned down because all this war talk is increasing its likelihood and ruining the economy. Meanwhile the EU mainstream just wants peace and natural gas. Concern is being expressed in some quarters that all this talk of war might become self-fulfilling — like the first World War. In this case, it is generally agreed by military strategists that Putin would be mad to take over Ukraine. He certainly has the fire power, and Ukraine is cast like a Belgium on the Steppes, with two ethnic groups and whose main purpose seems to be to allow foreign occupation and passage for foreign troops. But holding on to Ukraine against the peoples’ will, when there is an immensely long border over which dissidents can be provided with arms and anti-Russian propaganda is another matter. Russian occupation is likely to be limited to defending Donbas and Luhansk now that Russia has formally recognised their right to self-determination. Without firing a shot, the Russian military has moved the border a hundred miles into formally Ukrainian territory. But that is where an occupying invasion is likely to stop and is not to be confused with the pre-emptive strikes against military bases and airfields today. These moves are there to apply increasing pressure for a diplomatic settlement. So, what is it that Putin wants? Basically, he wants America to get out of Eastern Europe. And following Brexit, as America’s poodle he sees no reason why Britain should be there either. And having his thumb over various gas pipes into Europe, he is squeezing Germany and the other EU NATO members into his way of thinking. Ukraine comes in the wake of America’s disastrous evacuation of Afghanistan, which followed the failure of her attempt to remove Syria’s Assad. It is rumoured that US intelligence services organised the failed coup in Kazakhstan, which was quickly subdued by Russian troops. So, from Putin’s point of view, American policy with respect to the Eurasian land mass has failed, he has America on the run, and he will want to capitalise on its retreat. Meanwhile America, which has ruled western Europe through NATO following WW2, finds it hard to come to terms with its setbacks and needs to get back on the front foot. Presumably, by ramping up fears of a Russian invasion, the Biden administration hoped that either Putin would back down or be tricked into attacking Ukraine. If he had backed down, that would be a diplomatic victory and allow America to rebuild its presence in Kiev. If Putin invades and occupies Ukraine, America can help make life extremely difficult for an occupying force. Either way, it would mark the end of American policy failures on the Eurasian continent. Britain, as always, merely toes the American line. But Putin is no fool. He is destroying Ukraine’s economy. He has his thumb on Nord Stream 1 and 2. And Germany has too many commercial and financial interests in both Russia and Eastern Europe for this not to hurt. Germany also hosts the main railhead for China’s silk road. If Germany kowtows to America, will America then put pressure on her to cut ties with China? This is the geopolitical reality Germany and all mainland Europeans must now face. The new German Chancellor must decide: does he back America, sacrifice Germany’s economic potential and see energy costs soar, or does he recognise the economic realities of the Russia—China partnership and the enormous opportunities it provides for the long run? Russia, America, and Germany are the principal actors whose decisions will decide the outcome of the Ukrainian situation. An escalation into a non-nuclear conflict and Russian occupation of Ukraine will only suit the Americans, confirming that their presence is the guarantee of national security. Ukraine has become a virtual battleground. Ukraine’s geographical position, between the liberated central European states and Russia ensured that it would become central to the continuing rivalry between Russia and America. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been determined to forge its path independent of Russia as a sovereign nation. But its starting point was difficult, with its eastern provinces predominantly Russian, while the western regions were more central European. The Orange and Maidan Revolutions in 2004 and 2014 respectively were proxy struggles between America and Russia. While America allegedly chucked billions into its Ukrainian interests, in 2014 Russia responded by taking over Crimea and fomented rebellions in Luhansk and Donetsk. By capturing Crimea and fostering two breakaway provinces, Putin had won this territorial battle in an ongoing war. Other than these eastern provinces, most Ukrainians have desperately tried to avoid their country becoming a Russian colony. They wanted to apply for EU membership, which was rejected by Russian-backed President Yanukovych in 2013, leading to the Maidan Revolution and Yanukovych fleeing the country to Russia. Ukraine has also sought the protection of NATO, which has provoked Putin to put a stop to American influences marching eastwards. While Ukraine never left the headlines, the US moved its focus to Syria later in 2014.The eventual failure to oust Assad, who drew on Russian help, was followed by Afghanistan. Ukraine is now back in the headlines, this time at the behest of Russia. Putin is now proactively leading this conflict instead of quietly letting America make all the mistakes and rolling with the punches, representing a major change in Russian strategy. It implies that Putin perceives America to be off balance, and he sees it as the time for a winning move. Putin has prepared his defences carefully. US politicians called for Russia to be cut out of SWIFT after the Crimean invasion. Since then, Russia has developed Mir, a payment system for electronic fund transfers, and a SWIFT equivalent known as SPFS — System for transfer of Financial Messages, with agreements linking SPFS to other payment systems in China, India, Iran, and member nations of the Eurasian Economic Union. The Central Bank of Russia has strengthened the commercial banking network. And it has also reduced its dollar exposure as much as possible by investing in gold and euros instead, which means less reserves are held as deposits in the US banking system and invested in US bonds. From these actions, Putin has signalled that he is aware that the danger to Russia is more likely to be a financial war, rather than a physical one. As President Biden said, to have American troops on the ground fighting the Russians is a world war and will not happen. In that sense the Ukraine, over which Russia retains an energy stranglehold, is a virtual battleground for a proxy war. Financial considerations In examining the strengths and weakness of the principal parties, we must first confirm who they are: Russia, America, and the EU. And in the EU, principally it is Germany, but all member states will be affected. As argued above, Russia’s real objective is to get America out of Europe, and Putin’s strategy is to drive a wedge between America and the EU, and in particular its industrial powerhouse, Germany. Plans to split America from Europe go back to Putin’s earlier days, with the construction of Nord Stream to bypass Ukraine with which Russia’s Gazprom was in dispute. Delivering 55bn billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, the first Nord Stream was completed in 2012. A second pipeline. Nord Stream 2, which is ready to go online, doubles this capacity. American pressure on Germany to delay the operation of Nord Stream 2 follows the dollar’s debasement from March 2020 in particular, when the Fed reduced interest rates to zero and instituted QE of $120bn every month. The effect has been to undermine the dollar’s purchasing power for nearly all commodities, including energy. Consequently, a combination of dollar debasement, winter demand and the absence of extra supply from Russia has created an energy crisis not just for Germany, but all EU members. Germany is particularly hard hit, with its producer prices index up 25% year-on-year at the end of January. Germany cannot go along with an escalation of financial sanctions against Russia at a time when its industry is struggling with other rising production costs. Not only is her trade with Russia substantial, but she has banking and financial interests in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Russia, which could be destabilised by American-led attempts to restrict payments. Despite Chancellor Scholz’s initial support for EU sanctions Germany is likely to be indecisive, torn between competing demands from a collapsing economy and pressure from NATO. By withholding regulatory permission for Nord Stream 2 he has demonstrated that instead of regarding his electors’ interests as paramount, he has given in to NATO pressure. This weakness on Olaf Scholz’s part is consistent with the indecisive socialism of his Social Democratic Party and Germany’s continuing guilt trip following two world wars. Recognising the importance of Germany and its likely indecision, President Macron of France seized the political opportunity to mediate between Russia and the EU, which suits the Russian cause. Macron simply provided another channel for Putin’s message about NATO: get the US out of Europe and the EU should be responsible for its own defence. And given Macron’s ambitions for France in Europe he is likely to see it as an opportunity to enable France to take the lead in the EU’s future defence arrangements after the Ukraine situation has blown over. That will be down the road, but for now the EU is standing firm behind US and UK sanction proposals. Sanctions rarely work. They merely encourage the sanctioned to dig deeper into their own intellectual and entrepreneurial resources and work hard to find ways round them. Russia will merely sell its gas elsewhere: at these high prices harm is minimal, and they can afford to restrict supplies through Ukraine, the Yamal-Europe and Turk-stream pipeline supplies. It might be sensible for Russia to allow flows through Nord Stream 1 to continue for now, holding its restriction as a backup threat. European gas prices will likely rise even further, providing a price windfall for Russia. The tweet below, from Russian President Medvedev implies European gas prices will double from here. The apparent lack of understanding of economic and financial consequences for the EU by the EU leadership is a wild card danger. The economic and financial exposure of Germany to its eastern neighbours has already been mentioned, but other EU members are similarly exposed. Furthermore, the reckless inflationary policies of the ECB have undermined the financial health of the entire euro system to the point where even on the current rise in bond yields, the ECB and all the national central banks (with only three minor exceptions) have liabilities greater than their assets. The whole eurozone is a mountain of financial disasters balanced on an apex over which it is set to topple. We cannot say for sure that Ukraine will be the last straw for the euro system, but we can point to political ignorance of this instability. Any dissenting central banker (and there could be some, particularly at the Bundesbank) has no influence at the political level. We must assume that none of the major political players in this tragedy are aware of the financial and economic crisis in Europe waiting to be triggered. And if the Russians have made a mistake, it will be in their accumulation of euro reserves, which will turn out to be worthless when the euro system collapses. Financial sanctions against individual oligarchs have probably already been anticipated and avoiding action been taken by them: oligarchs are not dumb. Sanctions against Russian banks will have also been anticipated and will probably inflict less damage on them than on their counterparties in the EU banking system, particularly if SWIFT comes under pressure to suspend Russian banking access. Not only Ukraine, but the whole of the EU, for which Russia supplies over 40% of its natural gas, is being squeezed. We can be reasonably sure that the Russian government has war-gamed this situation in advance. Inflation, gold, and unintended consequences The situation today is very different from that of 2014 at the time of the Maidan revolution, with the world massively increasing government debt and currency in circulation since then. At the time of the Crimean take-over, commodity prices were declining from their peak in 2011, and following Crimea, they fell sharply with negative consequences for the Russian economy. The expansion of world currencies is now driving commodity and energy prices higher due to their purchasing power is declining. Figure 2 shows how a basket of commodities has increased in price since the Fed reduced its funds rate to the zero bound and instituted QE at $120bn per month. In those 22 months commodity prices have risen by 127% by this measure. When all commodity prices rise at the same time it is due to currency debasement, which is what has happened here. Within the broader commodity context, energy price increases have been particularly acute, with Russia being a major beneficiary, leading to a substantial surplus on its balance of trade. It has been a long-term ambition of the Sino-Russian partnership not just to expel America from the World Island but to reduce dependency on dollars as well. While trade between Russia and China is increasingly settled in their own currencies, so long as the dollar has credibility for settling international transactions it will still dominate trade for the other nations in the Eurasian landmass. The fiat alternative for Russia has been the euro, which partly explains why Russia has accumulated them in her foreign currency reserves. But since 2014, the stability of the euro system has deteriorated to the point where the currency is no longer a credible alternative to the US dollar. We cannot be sure if this is understood in the Kremlin. But there has always been a Plan B, which is the accumulation of physical gold. There is evidence that official reserves in China and Russia understate the true position. Following the enactment of regulations in 1983 whereby the Peoples Bank was appointed sole responsibility for the acquisition of China’s gold and silver reserves, I have estimated that the State accumulated as much as 20,000 tonnes of gold before permitting the public to own gold, for which purpose the Shanghai Gold Exchange was established in 2002. Since then, the SGE has delivered a further 20,000 tonnes from its vaults into public hands, though some of this will have been returned as scrap. The Chinese state has retained the exclusive right to mine and refine gold, even importing doré from abroad. China is now the largest gold mine producer in the world by far, continuing to add over tonnes annually to total above ground stocks (last year’s dip to 350 tonnes was due to covid), which are all ringfenced in China. These policies, as well as anecdotal evidence suggests that my earlier estimate of state-owned gold of 20,000 tonnes was realistic. Russia has been relatively late in adding to her gold reserves, having officially accumulated 2,298 tonnes. But being only second to China as a gold mine producer at 330 tonnes, it is likely that following earlier financial sanctions that Russia has accumulated undeclared gold reserves as well. Additionally, we can see that all the SCO members and their associates have increased their declared gold reserves by 75% since 2014. Plan B therefore appears to be to back fiat roubles and renminbi with gold in the event of a Western fiat currency meltdown. The West has no such plan. America’s fifty-one-year denial of and attempted demotion of gold as the ultimate money appears to have left it short: otherwise it could have returned Germany’s gold on demand instead of trying to spin it out over a number of years. Furthermore, Western central banks routinely lease and swap their gold, leading to double counting of reserves and lack of clarity over ownership. We can be sure that neither Russia nor China indulge in these practices. The consequence of these disparities is to weaponize gold’s monetary status, turning it into a nuclear weapon in a financial war. If, say, during NATO-led attempts to destabilise the rouble Russia was to declare another 6,000 tonnes to match America’s unaudited figure and for China to revise its reserves to stabilise the renminbi, it would probably result in a run against the dollar. It would be a sure-fire way for the Asian hegemons to destroy US economic and military power. Therefore, ultimately, the US and its five-eyes allies cannot win a financial war. When China and Russia planned their financial defences, this golden umbrella made sense, and the security services in America would have been aware of it, if not the full implications. But things have changed, particularly the debasement of all major currencies, including the renminbi. China has an old-fashioned cyclical property crisis on her hands and can only think to print her way out of trouble. Together with the Fed, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan, the Peoples Bank has expanded its balance sheet recklessly, and all together they have increased from $5 trillion equivalent in 2007 to over $31 trillion today, with their rate of expansion being particularly high from March 2020. The consequences for their currencies’ purchasing power are becoming obvious now, turbocharging Russia’s strategy with respect to European energy supply. What few politicians appear to be aware of, and we should include Putin in this, is the fragile state of the major central banks. Having loaded their balance sheets up with fixed-interest government debt, falling market values for these bonds are eliminating central banks’ margin of assets over liabilities. While the Fed, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England can turn to their governments for recapitalisation, embarrassing though that may be, the ECB has no such recourse. The ECB’s shareholders are the national central banks in the euro system. And they in turn, except for Ireland’s, Malta’s, and Slovenia’s central banks, all have liabilities easily exceeding their assets. The euro system is already insolvent, and Russian action on energy supplies could tip the whole currency system over the edge. Given the Russian Central Bank’s reserve holding of euros, we can call that an unintended consequence. Tyler Durden Fri, 02/25/2022 - 02:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytFeb 25th, 2022

The 22 best memoirs of 2021 include books penned by celebrities Cicely Tyson and Stanley Tucci

Here are the best memoirs published in 2021, from the bestseller "Crying in H Mart" to books from Cicely Tyson, Dave Grohl, and Stanley Tucci. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Here are the best memoirs published in 2021, from the bestseller "Crying in H Mart" to books from Cicely Tyson, Dave Grohl, and Stanley Tucci.Amazon; Rachel Mendelson/Insider Memoirs offer personal advice and anecdotes from the author's life. Here are 22 of the best memoirs published in 2021, based on Goodreads reviews and Amazon rankings. Memoir authors include Cicely Tyson, Stanley Tucci, Katie Couric, Dave Grohl, and Danny Trejo. I've always shied away from non-fiction, as historical or biographical pieces — while vitally important — aren't always exciting reads to me. However, I've found my nonfiction stride with memoirs, where I could view personal or historical events through the lens of great writers, activists, or simply ordinary people with extraordinary experiences. The memoirs on this list came from a variety of sources such as the Amazon Top 100 list, the Audible Bestsellers list, and the nominees for Best Memoir from the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards. With memoirs from powerful immigration stories to coming-of-age anecdotes from our favorite singers and movie stars, these were the best and most popular memoirs from 2021. The 22 best memoirs from 2021:"Crying in H Mart" by Michelle ZaunerAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.95When Michelle Zauner's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it spurred her reckoning with her identity and relationships through food. A powerful story about grief, family history, and her Korean American identity, this intimate and moving memoir captures Michelle's wide range of emotion, wisdom, and the pain of grieving someone before they've even passed away."Somebody's Daughter" by Ashley C. FordAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.89Ashley C. Ford continued to pine for her father throughout childhood, despite his being absent and incarcerated and her not knowing why. Through turbulent relationships with her mother, boyfriend, and the world, she continues to search for unconditional love in the idea of her father, until she learns why he was imprisoned, making her already complex familial love and understanding of herself even more complicated."The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music" by Dave GrohlBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.99Dave Grohl has always been known as a phenomenal storyteller, with anecdotes from his dreams of playing music as a child to headlining world tours in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. Full of wisdom, the richly remembered tales in this memoir will undoubtedly thrill music lovers but also offer something special to any reader. "Beautiful Country" by Qian Julie WangBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.33"Beautiful Country" is the stunning story of Qian, who arrived in America at seven years old with her hopeful and hard-working parents, willing to do anything to survive poverty in the richest country in the world. Able to vividly reimagine and retell her childhood memories, this memoir traverses Qian's most memorable and devastating childhood experiences with clarity and moving prose."Just as I Am" by Cicely TysonBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.32Published only two days before her passing in 2021, "Just as I Am" is a timely and timeless memoir about Cicely Tyson's incredible career and her perspectives about the resiliency and joy of Black women. The story of a life well-lived, this book stands as a memorial to her legacy and a window to the wisdom she accumulated over 96 years of life."Notes on Grief" by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.88Though the pandemic kept Chimamanda's family apart for health and safety concerns, her father unexpectedly faced complications from kidney failure and passed away. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's memoir initially began as a New Yorker piece about the grief of losing her father but was expanded to become a timeless memoir about the human experiences of survival and grief, shared by many in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic."Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood" by Danny TrejoAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.20While Danny Trejo is now known as a Hollywood badass, playing bad guys we love to hate, he has struggled with addiction and incarceration in his past and is now an inspiration to recovery communities off-screen. Speaking about the most painful periods of his life, Danny Trejo creates a portrait of his success that grew from pain and tragedy."Broken Horses" by Brandi CarlileAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.36In "Broken Horses," six-time Grammy winner Brandi Carlile takes readers on a journey through the most formative experiences of her life and the ways in which music saved her. From an infection that nearly killed her at five years old to a rejection that spurred an outpouring of love from her community as a teenager, this memoir is about Brandi's journey to success and every moment that made her the artist and person she is today."¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons" by John Paul BrammerBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $21.99This collection of autobiographical essays creates an encompassing and delightful image of John Paul Beamer, from his coming-of-age as a Queer, mixed-race child to his life and career as the writer of the LGBTQ+ advice column "¡Hola Papi!" Hoping to offer advice and laughter to readers of both his column and his memoir, John Paul seeks to answer some of life's most challenging questions about our place in the world."Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted" by Suleika JaouadAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $22.49In "Between Two Kingdoms" Suleika Jaouad tells the story of her leukemia diagnosis weeks before her 23rd birthday, just as she was finding her place and pursuing her dreams in the summer after graduating from college. After nearly four years of treatment, Suleika was cured but faced a new challenge of once again finding herself in the world and set off on a 100-day road trip to do just that."Seeing Ghosts" by Kat ChowAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $20.54"Seeing Ghosts" is a memoir about Kat Chow's relationship with grief and death, exploring perspectives and experiences from three generations of her Chinese American family and her own coming-of-age story. After her mother unexpectedly died from cancer, Kat, her sisters, and her father all faced a nearly debilitating grief in a way they never had before."Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement" by Tarana BurkeAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $20.69Tarana Burke is the activist behind the Me Too movement and her harrowing but important memoir is the story of how she first came to say "me too." After a terrible sexual assault that changed the course of her life, Tarana found the strength to heal, empathize with herself, and empower so many others who have had similar experiences."Taste: My Life Through Food" by Stanley TucciBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.14Stanley Tucci may be most well-known for his roles in "The Devil Wears Prada" and "The Hunger Games," but what many don't know is the importance of food in his Italian American upbringing and its centricity in his life. Full of reflection and mouth-watering anecdotes, this memoir is a story of culinary nostalgia and self-expression through food."Going There" by Katie CouricAmazonAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $18.99Katie Couric has been a household name for more than 40 years but in this memoir, she finally tells the stories of what happened both personally and professionally behind the scenes. From the experiences that inspired her to pursue journalism to the challenges brought about from co-anchoring the "TODAY Show," this riveting memoir follows much of Katie Couric's history and perspectives that most have never seen."Broken" by Jenny LawsonBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.66Jenny Lawson is a journalist and blogger who is known for her sardonic wit yet has never hidden the fact that she struggles with anxiety and depression. "Broken" is a memoir about her journey to physical and emotional healing that has both heartbreaking and hilarious anecdotes."My Body" by Emily RatajkowskiBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $16.90Globally known as a "perfect-looking person," Emily Ratajkowski is far more than the model and actress much of the world chooses to see. She is also an activist and an entrepreneur whose memoir details her experiences with being sexualized, mistreated, and witnessing the abusive and dysfunctional dynamics of power and sexuality in the fashion and film industries."I Had a Miscarriage: A Memoir, a Movement" by Jessica ZuckerBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.30#IHadAMiscarriage is a campaign created by psychologist Jessica Zucker to help women navigate the grief and complexities of experiencing pregnancy loss in a world where reproductive and maternal mental health is not a widely discussed topic. After suffering her own miscarriage at 16 weeks, Jessica saw a need for this space and outlines her journey of personal recovery and creating this much-needed movement."Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir" by Akwaeke EmeziBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $19.59Akwaeke Emezi has written three absolutely incredible novels, including my personal favorite, "The Death of Vivek Oji." In this memoir, they use their powerful voice to tell their own story of survival, transformation, and being a creative spirit in a deeply human world."The Puma Years: A Memoir of Love and Transformation in the Bolivian Jungle" by Laura ColemanBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.99This memoir is partly a story about Laura Coleman's transformative experience living at a wildlife sanctuary in the Amazon and part-love letter to life, animals, and the Earth. Assigned to care for a puma named Wayra, the two formed a unique bond and showed how two creatures, even if they're entirely different species, can save each other."Beautiful Things" by Hunter BidenBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $15Hunter Biden's life has been tumultuous, from losing his mother and sister in a car accident to losing his brother to brain cancer. A raw and honest look at his life, this memoir is also a celebration of Hunter Biden's path to getting sober and his newfound appreciation of the beautiful things in life."Will" by Will Smith and Mark MansonBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $19.03"Will" is Will Smith's highly anticipated memoir about his astonishing and ground-breaking career and the imperfect path that led him to where he is now. Written with bestselling author Mark Manson, this memoir is a binge-able must-read about Will Smith's life lessons learned with all the gripping, performative elements of any of his music or movies."Unfinished" by Priyanka Chopra JonasBookshopAvailable at Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.31Priyanka Chopra Jonas is one of the world's most recognized women, from her 20-year-long career as an actor and producer to her commendable volunteer work to her marriage to Nick Jonas. In this remarkable story of her life, Priyanka takes readers across the globe as her childhood and young adulthood was spent between the United States and India before her global acting career took off and she became the bold, inspiring, and ambitious woman we see today.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 17th, 2021

Teladoc (TDOC) Ties Up to Offer Virtual Care for NLA Members

Teladoc Health (TDOC) teams up with NLA in a bid to offer its comprehensive suite of virtual care services to benefit the latter's members. Teladoc Health, Inc. TDOC recently expanded ties with the largest alliance of labor unions and labor management coalitions — the National Labor Alliance of Health Care Coalitions (“NLA”). As a result of the move, TDOC’s virtual care products and services portfolio will be extended to NLA this time. The alliance is likely to strengthen the position of Teladoc Health as a leading comprehensive virtual healthcare services provider.It is worth mentioning that Teladoc Health has been aiding the member organization since 2016, back when TDOC commenced delivering Expert Medical Services to NLA. In due course of time, TDOC’s offering continued to fetch effective results for NLA’s members, which persuaded it to expand ties with Teladoc Health in 2020. Last year, general medical, dermatology and mental health services from TDOC’s diversified healthcare suite were offered to NLA.Following the recent partnership, an extensive portfolio comprising general medical, specialty care, mental health, expert medical services, chronic condition management and virtual primary care programs can be availed by NLA’s Coalitions and subsequently their member Funds. As a result of the latest initiative, more than six million covered lives across the United States and Canada, which are served by NLA’s members, will benefit.Consequently, members availing the abovementioned products and services of Teladoc Health will be provided with whole-person virtual care following an in-depth understanding of each person’s unique needs. The approach strives to upgrade care quality, provide better health outcomes and reduce healthcare expenses. As most employers now prefer to offer whole-person remote care to their employees, TDOC seems well-poised to capitalize on the prevailing scenario, courtesy of the digital healthcare solutions suite.The recent tie-up reinforces Teladoc Health’s continuous efforts to integrate digital care within a nation’s healthcare system, which often leads to seamless access to healthcare services. The development is also likely to bolster TDOC’s footprint across the United States and Canada as NLA’s members are stretched throughout these two countries.Initiatives similar to the latest one seem to be time opportune as well. Following access to Teladoc Health’s virtual care services, Labor members can avail medical care for which they don’t have to sacrifice their working hours that otherwise could have resulted in substantial wage losses.Virtual care has been in huge demand since 2020 and the demand has shown no signs of slowing down. With rise of new COVID-19 variants, people continue to prefer receiving the much-needed healthcare services within the comfort of one’s home. Per Fortune Business Insights, the global telehealth market is projected to witness a CAGR of 32.1% over the 2021-2028 period.The robust telehealth platform of Teladoc Health requires a special mention, which played a crucial role in addressing the health needs of people amid the pandemic. TDOC has devised this platform through advanced technologies, partnering with well-established healthcare providers and substantial investments. In July 2021, the virtual care provider collaborated with Microsoft to ease administrative workflows for clinicians and offer enhanced virtual care to patients.Similar to Teladoc Health, other players in the medical space namely UnitedHealth Group Incorporated UNH, Centene Corporation CNC and Cigna Corporation CI, have been offering telehealth services and remain well-poised to gain amid the growing popularity of remote services.UnitedHealth Group has been making concerted efforts to bolster its telehealth services suite. The initiatives of UNH range from collaborating with well-known companies, launching teledentistry services to inaugurating a digital health therapy with an aim to bring about improved health outcomes for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. The launch of the new virtual care model Right2You by UnitedHealth Group’s business UnitedHealthcare aims to provide its members with an online service for custom-programmed hearing aids.Centene has been making every effort to offer telehealth offerings across every corner of the United States including the underserved ones. For this purpose, CNC collaborated with Samsung Electronics America last year. With digitization an integral part of daily lives, Centene has acquired Apixio for availing enhanced AI technology solutions and digitizing its administrative activities.Cigna is well-poised to tap the growing telehealth market on its buyout of MDLIVE, a privately-held leading 24/7 virtual care delivery platform. In the beginning of 2021, CI welcomed Iora Health to bolster its Medicare Advantage network. It also counted on the fact that Iora has a proven track record of offering primary care in the form of clinic or telehealth visits for seniors enrolled in Medicare plans through health specialists. Cigna continues to make substantial investments in boosting its telehealth services suite.Price PerformancesShares of Teladoc Health have lost 44% in the past six months compared with the industry’s decline of 50.1%. TDOC currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).  You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchWhile shares of UnitedHealth Group and Centene have gained 26.6% and 15.8%, respectively, in the past six months, Cigna stock has lost 5.8% in the same time frame. Bitcoin, Like the Internet Itself, Could Change Everything Blockchain and cryptocurrency has sparked one of the most exciting discussion topics of a generation. Some call it the “Internet of Money” and predict it could change the way money works forever. If true, it could do to banks what Netflix did to Blockbuster and Amazon did to Sears. Experts agree we’re still in the early stages of this technology, and as it grows, it will create several investing opportunities. Zacks’ has just revealed 3 companies that can help investors capitalize on the explosive profit potential of Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies with significantly less volatility than buying them directly. See 3 crypto-related stocks now >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (UNH): Free Stock Analysis Report Cigna Corporation (CI): Free Stock Analysis Report Centene Corporation (CNC): Free Stock Analysis Report Teladoc Health, Inc. (TDOC): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksDec 17th, 2021

CloudMD Reports Solid Performance with Third Quarter 2021 Financial Results; Record Revenue of $39.2M and First Quarter with Positive Adjusted EBITDA

Q3 2021 is the first quarter that fully recognizes the financial results from all previously announced and closed acquisitions Record Q3 2021 revenue of $39.2 million; an increase of 150% compared to Q2 2021 and an increase of 1066% compared to Q3 2020 First quarter with positive Adjusted EBITDA of $0.8 million compared to a loss of $0.7 million in Q2 2021 and a loss of $1.3 million in Q3 2020 Increased annualized revenue run rate to over $185 million demonstrating strategic capital allocation and strong organic growth Increased engagement on the Comprehensive Integrated Health Platform; added an additional 300,000 employees and family members, resulting in a total of 560,000 individuals Positive client outcomes with Net Promoter Score of 80, 98% satisfaction rate and 164 new clients added in the quarter Program with Sun Life delivered proven data-driven individual health outcomes including: 89% of those experiencing depression and 91% of those experiencing anxiety noticed ‘major improvements' 82% said they would recommend the service based on their own experience 46% increase in plan members utilizing their mental health benefits for the first time VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Nov. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- CloudMD Software & Services Inc. (TSXV:DOC, OTCQB:DOCRF, Frankfurt: 6PH)) (the "Company" or "CloudMD"), a healthcare technology company revolutionizing the delivery of care, announced its financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2021. All financial information is presented in Canadian dollars unless otherwise indicated. "This was a milestone quarter for CloudMD as it's the first quarter we recognized full revenue contributions from all the recently closed acquisitions and clearly demonstrated that our whole-person, patient-centric approach to healthcare is working. We've onboarded 560,000 individuals onto our Comprehensive Integrated Health Platform and are providing valuable data-driven outcomes, which is proven by our successful program with Sun Life where 89% of those experiencing depression and 91% of those experiencing anxiety noticed major improvements. We've also achieved positive client outcomes across engagement, attachment rate, and net promoter scores," said Dr. Essam Hamza, CEO of CloudMD. "I am extremely proud of the Company's progress and the team's ability to execute on our growth strategy across all divisions, which is evident by new clients wins, rapid growth and improved profitability. Our unique, proprietary healthcare offering is an industry first, and I'm confident that we will be able to continue our North American and global expansion." Third Quarter 2021 Financial Highlights Q3 2021 revenue was $39.2 million, compared to $15.7 million in Q2 2021 and $3.4 million in Q3 2020. The increase is primarily attributable to acquisition growth with 4 acquisitions completed in the preceding quarter, and 14 acquisitions completed in the last 12 months. Q3 2021 gross margin1 was 34.0%, compared to 35.5% in Q2 2021 and 37.5% in Q3 2020. The decrease is due to revenue mix where the Company's patient support programs and online eyewear platform, currently lower-margin businesses, represented 32% of revenues for the current quarter. The Company expects its gross margin to increase due to ongoing efforts to integrate its acquisitions and increase its operational efficiency. Net comprehensive loss attributable to equity holders of the Company in Q3 2021 was $4.2 million or $0.02 per share, compared to $6.2 million or $0.03 per share in Q2 2021 and $2.7 million or $0.02 per share in Q3 2020. Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization ("Adjusted EBITDA1") was $0.8 million in Q3 2021, compared to a loss of $0.7 million in Q2 2021 and a loss of $1.3 million in Q3 2020. Cash and cash equivalents were $53.7 million as at September 30, 2021, compared to $60.9 million at June 30, 2021 and $59.7 million at December 31, 2020. The decrease for the period was primarily attributable to payments related to the acquisitions completed near the end of June 2021, which will not reoccur in the future. Third Quarter & Subsequent Corporate Highlights On September 14, 2021, the Company announced a partnership with 19 new post-secondary institutions across Canada to provide its Aspiria Student Assistance Program and multi-layered mental health resources to over 167,000 additional students. On September 28, 2021, the Company announced the appointment of KPMG LLP as the Company's independent auditors to hold office until the end of the next annual general meeting of shareholders. On October 5, 2021, the Company announced the appointment of Angel Paravicini as Senior Vice President of Business Development and Customer Success to drive expansion in the United States and globally. On October 27, 2021, the Company announced that through one of its subsidiaries, it has received U.S. Patent Approval for its Real Time Intervention Platform ("RTIP") which is the technology backbone for CloudMD's comprehensive healthcare platform that addresses all points of a patients care from one, connected platform. On November 9, 2021, the Company announced the appointment of Duncan Hannay and Karen Adams to the Board of Directors of CloudMD. On November 15, 2021, the Company announced it had entered into a definitive agreement (the "Arrangement Agreement") with MindBeacon Holdings Inc. ("MindBeacon") pursuant to which CloudMD agreed to acquire all of MindBeacon's issued and outstanding common shares for cash and shares of the Company. Under the terms of the Arrangement Agreement, each common share of MindBeacon will be exchanged for $1.22 cash and 2.285 common shares of CloudMD. Closing of the transaction is subject to a number of customary closing conditions, including approval by at least two-thirds of the votes cast at a special meeting of MindBeacon's shareholders, as well as court and regulatory approval. The MindBeacon shareholder meeting is expected to be held on or about January 10, 2022 and, subject to the satisfaction or waiver of the other closing conditions, closing is expected to occur shortly thereafter, on or about January 14, 2022. On November 29, 2021, the Company announced it has partnered with Sun Life to expand the seven month pilot program and start rolling out its Mental Health Coach as part of Sun Life's Group Benefits offering. Findings from the pilot include (1) 89% of those experiencing depression and 91% of those experiencing anxiety noticed ‘major improvements'; (2) 82% said they would recommend the service based on their own experience; and, (3) 46% increase in plan members utilizing their mental health benefits for the first time. Outlook CloudMD is creating innovation in the delivery of healthcare services, by leveraging technology to improve access to care leading to better health outcomes. Through its team-based, patient-centric approach, CloudMD provides one, connected platform for patients, healthcare practitioners, and enterprise clients to address whole-person, coordinated care. The Company has a multi-pronged growth strategy which focuses on organic growth, accretive mergers and acquisitions and leveraging assets across all divisions. The Company's long term growth will be largely driven by: (1) continuing to integrate all its proprietary health technology solutions into its ecosystem, including the recently announced proposed acquisition of MindBeacon; (2) realizing cost savings and cross-selling opportunities to new and existing customers across CloudMD; (3) winning new customers with its unique healthcare offering and providing meaningful data driven outcomes; and (4) continuing to execute on its defined expansion strategy across North America and Globally. CloudMD has proven out its integration strategy and by leveraging its proprietary technology, has successfully integrated all its recent acquisitions into one connected platform. In respect of the recently announced proposed acquisition of MindBeacon, CloudMD has already identified cost savings of approximately $2 million and cross-sell synergies and has started to plan the integration of MindBeacon's synergistic healthcare solutions into its mental health services offerings. In addition, the Company believes there are an additional $2 million in potential synergies available over time through the integration of MindBeacon and its other acquisitions. CloudMD's proprietary Comprehensive Integrated Health Platform continues to see impressive adoption rates within the Enterprise Health Solutions division, and the Company has onboarded 560,000 employees and family members on the platform who are receiving individualized care. CloudMD has achieved positive client outcomes including a Net Promoter Score of 80, 98% satisfaction rate and 164 new clients added in the third quarter. CloudMD continues to win new clients and customers including Sun Life and other large organizations in retail, transportation, and financial sectors with its industry-leading approach that delivers important outcomes that measure the patient success and engagement of its connected platform. The technology that underpins the platform is scalable and the Company will continue looking at opportunities to expand its unique offering to clients across North America and globally. CloudMD has built an experienced sales team, and with the recent addition of Angel Paravicini, expects to drive sales and business development to open new distribution channels and attract new clients in the United States. Upon close of the proposed acquisition of MindBeacon, CloudMD will have a strong balance sheet with over $60 million in cash and cash equivalents. The Company will continue to deploy capital towards a robust pipeline of accretive, synergistic acquisitions, focused on products, capabilities, clinical specialties, and technologies that are highly scalable and rapidly growing. CloudMD will continue to focus on delivering meaningful shareholder value by executing on its growth strategy through the continued integration of its comprehensive healthcare offering, winning new business and clients with its unique, Comprehensive Integrated Health Platform, expansion of its scalable product across new geographies including the United States, and strategic capital allocation to drive its rapid growth. Selected Financial Information All results were prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS") as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board. (In thousands of Canadian dollars, except per share amounts)   Three months ended     Nine months ended     September 30,     September 30,     2021     2020   (%)   2021     2020   (%) Revenue $ 39,162   $ 3,359   1066%   $ 63,596   $ 9,205   591%   Cost of sales   (25,866)     (2,100)   1132%     (41,152)     (5,792)   610%   Gross profit (1)   13,296     1,259   956%     22,444     3,413   558%   Gross margin   34.0%     37.5%       35.3%  .....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaNov 29th, 2021

Inside Frances Haugen’s Decision to Take on Facebook

Blowing the whistle against a multibillion-dollar tech company is no small feat Frances Haugen is in the back of a Paris taxi, waving a piece of sushi in the air. The cab is on the way to a Hilton hotel, where this November afternoon she is due to meet with the French digital economy minister. The Eiffel Tower appears briefly through the window, piercing a late-fall haze. Haugen is wolfing down lunch on the go, while recalling an episode from her childhood. The teacher of her gifted and talented class used to play a game where she would read to the other children the first letter of a word from the dictionary and its definition. Haugen and her classmates would compete, in teams, to guess the word. “At some point, my classmates convinced the teacher that it was unfair to put me on either team, because whichever team had me was going to win and so I should have to compete against the whole class,” she says. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Did she win? “I did win,” she says with a level of satisfaction that quickly fades to indignation. “And so imagine! That makes kids hate you!” She pops an edamame into her mouth with a flourish. “I look back and I’m like, That was a bad idea.” She tells the story not to draw attention to her precociousness—although it does do that—but to share the lesson it taught her. “This shows you how badly some educators understand psychology,” she says. While some have described the Facebook whistle-blower as an activist, Haugen says she sees herself as an educator. To her mind, an important part of her mission is driving home a message in a way that resonates with people, a skill she has spent years honing. Photograph by Christopher Anderson—Magnum Photos for TIME It is the penultimate day of a grueling three-week tour of Europe, during which Haugen has cast herself in the role of educator in front of the U.K. and E.U. Parliaments, regulators and one tech conference crowd. Haugen says she wanted to cross the Atlantic to offer her advice to lawmakers putting the final touches on new regulations that take aim at the outsize influence of large social media companies. The new U.K. and E.U. laws have the potential to force Facebook and its competitors to open up their algorithms to public scrutiny, and face large fines if they fail to address problematic impacts of their platforms. European lawmakers and regulators “have been on this journey a little longer” than their U.S. counterparts, Haugen says diplomatically. “My goal was to support lawmakers as they think through these issues.” Beginning in late summer, Haugen, 37, disclosed tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The documents were the basis of a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal that sparked a reckoning in September over what the company knew about how it contributed to harms ranging from its impact on teens’ mental health and the extent of misinformation on its platforms, to human traffickers’ open use of its services. The documents paint a picture of a company that is often aware of the harms to which it contributes—but is either unwilling or unable to act against them. Haugen’s disclosures set Facebook stock on a downward trajectory, formed the basis for eight new whistle-blower complaints to the SEC and have prompted lawmakers around the world to intensify their calls for regulation of the company. Facundo Arrizabalaga—EPA/EFE/ShutterstockHaugen leaves the Houses of Parliament in London on Oct. 25 after giving evidence to U.K. lawmakers. Facebook has rejected Haugen’s claims that it puts profits before safety, and says it spends $5 billion per year on keeping its platforms safe. “As a company, we have every commercial and moral incentive to give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible on our apps,” a spokesperson said in a statement. Although many insiders have blown the whistle on Facebook before, nobody has left the company with the breadth of material that Haugen shared. And among legions of critics in politics, academia and media, no single person has been as effective as Haugen in bringing public attention to Facebook’s negative impacts. When Haugen decided to blow the whistle against Facebook late last year, the company employed more than 58,000 people. Many had access to the documents that she would eventually pass to authorities. Why did it take so long for somebody to do what she did? Read More: How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits One answer is that blowing the whistle against a multibillion-dollar tech company requires a particular combination of skills, personality traits and circumstances. In Haugen’s case, it took one near-death experience, a lost friend, several crushed hopes, a cryptocurrency bet that came good and months in counsel with a priest who also happens to be her mother. Haugen’s atypical personality, glittering academic background, strong moral convictions, robust support networks and self-confidence also helped. Hers is the story of how all these factors came together—some by chance, some by design—to create a watershed moment in corporate responsibility, human communication and democracy. When debate coach Scott Wunn first met a 16-year-old Haugen at Iowa City West High School, she had already been on the team for two years, after finishing junior high a year early. He was an English teacher who had been headhunted to be the debate team’s new coach. The school took this kind of extracurricular activity seriously, and so did the young girl with the blond hair. In their first exchange, Wunn remembers Haugen grilling him about whether he would take coaching as seriously as his other duties. “I could tell from that moment she was very serious about debate,” says Wunn, who is now the executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association. “When we ran tournaments, she was the student who stayed the latest, who made sure that all of the students on the team were organized. Everything that you can imagine, Frances would do.” Haugen specialized in a form of debate that specifically asked students to weigh the morality of every issue, and by her senior year, she had become one of the top 25 debaters in the country in her field. “Frances was a math whiz, and she loved political science,” Wunn says. In competitive debate, you don’t get to decide which side of the issue you argue for. But Haugen had a strong moral compass, and when she was put in a position where she had to argue for something she disagreed with, she didn’t lean back on “flash in the pan” theatrics, her former coach remembers. Instead, she would dig deeper to find evidence for an argument she could make that wouldn’t compromise her values. “Her moral convictions were strong enough, even at that age, that she wouldn’t try to manipulate the evidence such that it would go against her morality,” Wunn says. When Haugen got to college, she realized she needed to master another form of communication. “Because my parents were both professors, I was used to having dinner-table conversations where, like, someone would have read an interesting article that day, and would basically do a five-minute presentation,” she says. “And so I got to college, and I had no idea how to make small talk.” Today, Haugen is talkative and relaxed. She’s in a good mood because she got to “sleep in” until 8:30 a.m.—later than most other days on her European tour, she says. At one point, she asks if I’ve seen the TV series Archer and momentarily breaks into a song from the animated sitcom. After graduating from Olin College of Engineering—where, beyond the art of conversation, she studied the science of computer engineering—Haugen moved to Silicon Valley. During a stint at Google, she helped write the code for Secret Agent Cupid, the precursor to popular dating app Hinge. She took time off to undertake an M.B.A. at Harvard, a rarity for software engineers in Silicon Valley and something she would later credit with helping her diagnose some of the organizational flaws within Facebook. But in 2014, while back at Google, Haugen’s trajectory was knocked off course. Haugen has celiac disease, a condition that means her immune system attacks her own tissues if she eats gluten. (Hence the sushi.) She “did not take it seriously enough” in her 20s, she says. After repeated trips to the hospital, doctors eventually realized she had a blood clot in her leg that had been there for anywhere between 18 months and two years. Her leg turned purple, and she ended up in the hospital for over a month. There she had an allergic reaction to a drug and nearly bled to death. She suffered nerve damage in her hands and feet, a condition known as neuropathy, from which she still suffers today. “I think it really changes your priorities when you’ve almost died,” Haugen says. “Everything that I had defined myself [by] before, I basically lost.” She was used to being the wunderkind who could achieve anything. Now, she needed help cooking her meals. “My recovery made me feel much more powerful, because I rebuilt my body,” she says. “I think the part that informed my journey was: You have to accept when you whistle-blow like this that you could lose everything. You could lose your money, you could lose your freedom, you could alienate everyone who cares about you. There’s all these things that could happen to you. Once you overcome your fear of death, anything is possible. I think it gave me the freedom to say: Do I want to follow my conscience?” Once Haugen was out of the hospital, she moved back into her apartment but struggled with daily tasks. She hired a friend to assist her part time. “I became really close friends with him because he was so committed to my getting better,” she says. But over the course of six months, in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, she says, “I just lost him” to online misinformation. He seemed to believe conspiracy theories, like the idea that George Soros runs the world economy. “At some point, I realized I couldn’t reach him,” she says. Soon Haugen was physically recovering, and she began to consider re-entering the workforce. She spent stints at Yelp and Pinterest as a successful product manager working on algorithms. Then, in 2018, a Facebook recruiter contacted her. She told him that she would take the job only if she could work on tackling misinformation in Facebook’s “integrity” operation, the arm of the company focused on keeping the platform and its users safe. “I took that job because losing my friend was just incredibly painful, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel that pain,” she says. Her optimism that she could make a change from inside lasted about two months. Haugen’s first assignment involved helping manage a project to tackle misinformation in places where the company didn’t have any third-party fact-checkers. Everybody on her team was a new hire, and she didn’t have the data scientists she needed. “I went to the engineering manager, and I said, ‘This is the inappropriate team to work on this,’” she recalls. “He said, ‘You shouldn’t be so negative.’” The pattern repeated itself, she says. “I raised a lot of concerns in the first three months, and my concerns were always discounted by my manager and other people who had been at the company for longer.” Before long, her entire team was shifted away from working on international misinformation in some of Facebook’s most vulnerable markets to working on the 2020 U.S. election, she says. The documents Haugen would later disclose to authorities showed that in 2020, Facebook spent 3.2 million hours tackling misinformation, although just 13% of that time was spent on content from outside the U.S., the Journal reported. Facebook’s spokesperson said in a statement that the company has “dedicated teams with expertise in human rights, hate speech and misinformation” working in at-risk countries. “We dedicate resources to these countries, including those without fact-checking programs, and have been since before, during and after the 2020 U.S. elections, and this work continues today.” Read More: Why Some People See More Disturbing Content on Facebook Than Others, According to Leaked Documents Haugen said that her time working on misinformation in foreign countries made her deeply concerned about the impact of Facebook abroad. “I became concerned with India even in the first two weeks I was in the company,” she says. Many people who were accessing the Internet for the first time in places like India, Haugen realized after reading research on the topic, did not even consider the possibility that something they had read online might be false or misleading. “From that moment on, I was like, Oh, there is a huge sleeping dragon at Facebook,” she says. “We are advancing the Internet to other countries far faster than it happened in, say, the U.S.,” she says, noting that people in the U.S. have had time to build up a “cultural muscle” of skepticism toward online content. “And I worry about the gap [until] that information immune system forms.” In February 2020, Haugen sent a text message to her parents asking if she could come and live with them in Iowa when the pandemic hit. Her mother Alice Haugen recalls wondering what pandemic she was talking about, but agreed. “She had made a spreadsheet with a simple exponential growth model that tried to guess when San Francisco would be shut down,” Alice says. A little later, Frances asked if she could send some food ahead of her. Soon, large Costco boxes started arriving at the house. “She was trying to bring in six months of food for five people, because she was afraid that the supply lines might break down,” Alice says. “Our living room became a small grocery store.” After quarantining for 10 days upon arrival, the younger Haugen settled into lockdown life with her parents, continuing her work for Facebook remotely. “We shared meals, and every day we would have conversations,” Alice says. She recalled her daughter voicing specific concerns about Facebook’s impact in Ethiopia, where ethnic violence was playing out on—and in some cases being amplified by—Facebook’s platforms. On Nov. 9, Facebook said it had been investing in safety measures in Ethiopia for more than two years, including activating algorithms to down-rank potentially inflammatory content in several languages in response to escalating violence there. Haugen acknowledges the work, saying she wants to give “credit where credit is due,” but claims the social network was too late to intervene with safety measures in Ethiopia and other parts of the world. “The idea that they don’t even turn those knobs on until people are getting shot is completely unacceptable,” she says. “The reality right now is that Facebook is not willing to invest the level of resources that would allow it to intervene sooner.” A Facebook spokesperson defended the prioritization system in its statement, saying that the company has long-term strategies to “mitigate the impacts of harmful offline events in the countries we deem most at risk … while still protecting freedom of expression and other human rights principles.” What Haugen saw was happening in nations like Ethiopia and India would clarify her opinions about “engagement-based ranking”—the system within Facebook more commonly known as “the algorithm”—that chooses which posts, out of thousands of options, to rank at the top of users’ feeds. Haugen’s central argument is that human nature means this system is doomed to amplify the worst in us. “One of the things that has been well documented in psychology research is that the more times a human is exposed to something, the more they like it, and the more they believe it’s true,” she says. “One of the most dangerous things about engagement-based ranking is that it is much easier to inspire someone to hate than it is to compassion or empathy. Given that you have a system that hyperamplifies the most extreme content, you’re going to see people who get exposed over and over again to the idea that [for example] it’s O.K. to be violent to Muslims. And that destabilizes societies.” In the run-up to the 2020 U.S. election, according to media reports, some initiatives proposed by Facebook’s integrity teams to tackle misinformation and other problems were killed or watered down by executives on the policy side of the company, who are responsible both for setting the platform’s rules and lobbying governments on Facebook’s behalf. Facebook spokespeople have said in response that the interventions were part of the company’s commitment to nuanced policymaking that balanced freedom of speech with safety. Haugen’s time at business school taught her to view the problem differently: Facebook was a company that prioritized growth over the safety of its users. “Organizational structure is a wonky topic, but it matters,” Haugen says. Inside the company, she says, she observed the effect of these repeated interventions on the integrity team. “People make decisions on what projects to work on, or advance, or give more resources to, based on what they believe is the chance for success,” she says. “I think there were many projects that could be content-neutral—that didn’t involve us choosing what are good or bad ideas, but instead are about making the platform safe—that never got greenlit, because if you’ve seen other things like that fail, you don’t even try them.” Being with her parents, particularly her mother, who left a career as a professor to become an Episcopal priest, helped Haugen become comfortable with the idea she might one day have to go public. “I was learning all these horrific things about Facebook, and it was really tearing me up inside,” she says. “The thing that really hurts most whistle-blowers is: whistle-blowers live with secrets that impact the lives of other people. And they feel like they have no way of resolving them. And so instead of being destroyed by learning these things, I got to talk to my mother … If you’re having a crisis of conscience, where you’re trying to figure out a path that you can live with, having someone you can agonize to, over and over again, is the ultimate amenity.” Haugen didn’t decide to blow the whistle until December 2020, by which point she was back in San Francisco. The final straw came when Facebook dissolved Haugen’s former team, civic integrity, whose leader had asked employees to take an oath to put the public good before Facebook’s private interest. (Facebook denies that it dissolved the team, saying instead that members were spread out across the company to amplify its influence.) Haugen and many of her former colleagues felt betrayed. But her mother’s counsel had mentally prepared her. “It meant that when that moment happened, I was actually in a pretty good place,” Haugen says. “I wasn’t in a place of crisis like many whistle-blowers are.” Read More: Why Facebook Employees ‘Deprioritized’ a Misinformation Fix In March, Haugen moved to Puerto Rico, in part for the warm weather, which she says helps with her neuropathy pain. Another factor was the island’s cryptocurrency community, which has burgeoned because of the U.S. territory’s lack of capital gains taxes. In October, she told the New York Times that she had bought into crypto “at the right time,” implying that she had a financial buffer that allowed her to whistle-blow comfortably. Haugen’s detractors have pointed to the irony of her calling for tech companies to do their social duty, while living in a U.S. territory with a high rate of poverty that is increasingly being used as a tax haven. Some have also pointed out that Haugen is not entirely independent: she has received support from Luminate, a philanthropic organization pushing for progressive Big Tech reform in Europe and the U.S., and which is backed by the billionaire founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar. Luminate paid Haugen’s expenses on her trip to Europe and helped organize meetings with senior officials. Omidyar has also donated to Whistleblower Aid, the nonprofit legal organization that is now representing Haugen pro bono. Luminate says it entered into a relationship with Haugen only after she went public with her disclosures. Haugen resigned from Facebook in May this year, after being told by the human-resources team that she could not work remotely from a U.S. territory. The news accelerated the secret project that she had decided to begin after seeing her old team disbanded. To collect the documents she would later disclose, Haugen trawled Facebook’s internal employee forum, Workplace. She traced the careers of integrity colleagues she admired—many of whom had left the company in frustration—gathering slide decks, research briefs and policy proposals they had worked on, as well as other documents she came across. Read more: Facebook Will Not Fix Itself While collecting the documents, she had flashbacks to her teenage years preparing folders of evidence for debates. “I was like, Wow, this is just like debate camp!” she recalls. “When I was 16 and doing that, I had no idea that it would be useful in this way in the future.” Jabin Botsford—Getty ImagesHaugen testifies on Oct. 5 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In her Senate testimony in early October, Haugen suggested a federal agency should be set up to oversee social media algorithms so that “someone like me could do a tour of duty” after working at a company like Facebook. But moving to Washington, D.C., to serve at such an agency has no appeal, she says. “I am happy to be one of the people consulted by that agency,” she says. “But I have a life I really like in Puerto Rico.” Now that her tour of Europe is over, Haugen has had a chance to think about what comes next. Over an encrypted phone call from Puerto Rico a few days after we met in Paris, she says she would like to help build a grassroots movement to help young people push back against the harms caused by social media companies. In this new task, as seems to be the case with everything in Haugen’s life, she wants to try to leverage the power of education. “I am fully aware that a 19-year-old talking to a 16-year-old will be more effective than me talking to that 16-year-old,” she tells me. “There is a real opportunity for young people to flex their political muscles and demand accountability.” I ask if she has a message to send to young people reading this. “Hmm,” she says, followed by a long pause. “In every era, humans invent technologies that run away from themselves,” she says. “It’s very easy to look at some of these tech platforms and feel like they are too big, too abstract and too amorphous to influence in any way. But the reality is there are lots of things we can do. And the reason they haven’t done them is because it makes the companies less profitable. Not unprofitable, just less profitable. And no company has the right to subsidize their profits with your health. Ironically, Haugen gives partial credit to one of her managers at Facebook for inspiring her thought process around blowing the whistle. After struggling with a problem for a week without asking for help, she missed a deadline. When she explained why, the manager told her he was disappointed that she had hidden that she was having difficulty, she says. “He said, ‘We solve problems together; we don’t solve them alone,’” she says. Never one to miss a teaching opportunity, she continues, “Part of why I came forward is I believe Facebook has been struggling alone. They’ve been hiding how much they’re struggling. And the reality is, we solve problems together, we don’t solve them alone.” ShutterstockFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the company was rebranding as Meta. It’s a philosophy that Haugen sees as the basis for how social media platforms should deal with societal issues going forward. In late October, Facebook Inc. (which owns Facebook, Whats App and Instagram) changed its name to Meta, a nod to its ambition to build the next generation of online experiences. In a late-October speech, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he believed the “Metaverse”—its new proposal to build a virtual universe—would fundamentally reshape how humans interact with technology. Haugen says she is concerned the Metaverse will isolate people rather than bring them together: “I believe any tech with that much influence deserves public oversight.” But hers is also a belief system that allows for a path toward redemption. That friend she lost to misinformation? His story has a happy ending. “I learned later that he met a nice girl and he had gone back to church,” Haugen says, adding that he no longer believes in conspiracy theories. “It gives me a lot of hope that we can recover as individuals and as a society. But it involves us connecting with people.” —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Nik Popli.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 22nd, 2021

American Defense Policy After Twenty Years Of War

American Defense Policy After Twenty Years Of War Authored by Jim Webb via NationalInterest.org, America has always been a place where the abrasion of continuous debate eventually produces creative solutions. Let’s agree on those solutions, and make the next twenty years a time of clear purpose and affirmative global leadership. The American scorecard for foreign policy achievements over the past twenty years is, frankly, pretty dismal. And without talking our way all around the globe, it’s clear that the most dismal score goes to the stupidest mistakes. We fought one war that we never should have fought and another war whose objectives grew so out of control that no amount of battlefield proficiency could overcome the naïve mission creep of the political and military leadership at the top that was defining what our troops were supposed to do. So, let me start with a couple of quotes from two pieces I wrote, one at the beginning of this twenty-year period and the other at the end.   On September 4, 2002, five months before the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq, I wrote the following as part of a larger editorial for the Washington Post, warning that an invasion would be a strategic blunder: Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall. Indeed, if one gives the Chinese credit for having a long-term strategy — and those who love to quote Sun Tzu might consider his nationality — it lends credence to their insistent cultivation of the Muslim world. An “American war” with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia. Almost exactly nineteen years later as the military planners serving the Biden Administration executed a shamefully incompetent final withdrawal from Afghanistan, I wrote the following for The National Interest, excerpted in the Wall Street Journal, in a piece entitled “Requiem for an Avoidable Disaster:”  …the war that we began was not the same war that we are finally bringing to an end. When we went into Afghanistan in 2001 our national concern was to eliminate terrorist entities who desired to attack us. The common understanding at the time was that we would operate with maneuver elements capable of attacking and neutralizing terrorist entities. It was never to occupy territory with permanent bases or to attempt to change the societal and governmental structure of the Afghan people. This “mission creep” began after a few years of successful operations and was obvious in 2004 when I was in the country as an embed journalist. The change in mission eventually increased our troop presence tenfold and sent our forces on an impossible political journey that no amount of military success could overcome. Why did all this happen? And how can we rectify the damage that has been done to the institutions that were involved, and to our international credibility? There’s an old saying that “success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan.” In this case, there were two entirely different categories of orphans, some of whom were not touched personally or even professionally, and some who gave up lives, limbs, and emotional health. For the policymakers in Washington, these were wars to be remotely managed inside the guide rails of theoretical national strategy and uncontrolled financial planning. As with so many other drawn-out military commitments with vaguely defined and often changing objectives, America’s diplomatic credibility steadily decreased while the price tag rose through the roof, into trillions of dollars and thousands of combat deaths. There is no way around the reality that these hand-selected policymakers, military and civilian alike, failed the country, even as many of them were being lionized in the media and offered lucrative post-retirement positions in the private sector. Their immediate strategic goals, vague as they were from the outset, were not accomplished. The larger necessity of meeting global challenges, and particularly China’s determined expansion, was put on the back burner as our operational and diplomatic capabilities were diverted into a constantly quarreling region with the deserved reputation of being the “Graveyard of Empires.” In the context of history, the human cost on the battlefield as viewed by those at the top was manageably small, and carried out by an all-volunteer military. Indeed, despite the length of twenty years of war and many ferocious engagements, the overall casualty numbers were historically low. DOD reports the total number of American military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over twenty years as 7,074, of which 5,474 were killed in action. This twenty-year number was about the same as six months of American casualties during any one of the peak years of fighting in Vietnam. Emotionally, although there was much sympathy and respect for our soldiers we were not really a nation in a fully engaged war. As the wars continued, life in America went on without disruption. A very small percentage of the country was at human or even family risk. The wars did not interfere on a national scale with the lives of those who chose not to serve. The economy was largely good. In places like my home state of Virginia it absolutely boomed with tens of billions of dollars going to Virginia-based programs in the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. This societal disconnect gave the policymakers great latitude in the manner in which they ran the wars. It also resulted in very little congressional oversight, either in operational concepts or in much-need scrutiny of DOD and State Department management and budgets. Powerpoint presentations replaced vigorous discussion. Serious introspection by Pentagon staff members gave way to bland reports from Beltway Bandit consultants hired to provide answers to questions asked during committee hearings. An “Overseas Contingency Fund” with billions of unlabeled dollars allowed military leaders to fund programs that were never directly authorized or specifically appropriated by Congress. To be blunt, the Pentagon and the Joint commands were basically making their own rules, and to hell with everybody else. This was not the Congress in which I had worked as a full committee counsel during the Carter Administration. Nor was it the Pentagon in which I had served as an assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. At the other end of the pipeline, it was different. For those who did serve, and especially for those who served in ground combat units and in special operations, being thrown into the middle of a region where violence and bitter retribution is the norm was often a life-altering experience. Repetitive combat tours pulled them away from home, from family, and from the normal routines of their peers again and again, creating burnout from unresolved personal issues of stress and readjustment to civilian life. So-called “stop loss” programs kept many soldiers on active duty after their initial terms of service were supposed to end, a policy that brought the not-unreal slogan that stop-loss was, in reality, nothing more than a back-door version of the draft: We have you. And we are going to keep you until we no longer need you. The traditional policy of allowing troops a two-to-one ratio of “dwell time” at home between deployments was repeatedly shortened until, for the Army, the ratio was less than one-to-one, requiring soldiers to return to combat for fifteen months with only twelve months at home to recuperate, refurbish, and retrain. Those who left the military after one enlistment rather than choosing a career were largely ignored by commands that provided little post-military guidance and sent battle-weary young soldiers home without much more than a goodbye. But along the way, as with those who have served our country in uniform in every other war, our young military did the job that they were sent to do, no matter the overall wisdom of the mission itself. With respect to these capable and dedicated young Americans who stepped forward to serve, I feel fortunate to have been able to play a part in making sure that the public was aware of the contributions they made, and to put into place policies that recognized and properly rewarded their service. And as a writer, journalist and later a Senator I was able to use whatever pulpit was available in order to emphasize that our greatest strategic challenges were not in the places where our elites had decided to invest our people and our national treasure, and to call for the country’s leadership to cease its unfortunate obsession with a region that has never needed a permanent American ground presence as a means of mediating, much less resolving, its centuries-old conflicts. You don’t take out a hornet’s nest by sitting on top of it. We’re smarter than that, and also more capable.   In addition to working on strongly felt issues such as economic fairness and criminal justice reform, once I was elected to the Senate I took a two-pronged approach to resolving the mess that had been made in our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first involved our larger strategic interests. I immediately gained a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and two years later was named Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. From our immediate office, I designed a staff—and a legislative approach—that would energetically re-emphasize our commitment to relations in East Asia, and recruited good people to carry out that approach. My mission to my staff was that we were going to work to invigorate American relations in East Asia, particularly in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines, and we were going to open up Burma to the outside world. We did more than talk about this, averaging three intense trips every year where I was able to meet with top leaders in those countries as well as almost every other country in ASEAN. Barack Obama later announced a similar policy after he was elected two years later, calling it the “Pivot to Asia.” Unfortunately, his administration’s approach skirted the largest issue in the region by avoiding any major confrontations with China. The pivot was largely abandoned at a crucial period in 2012 after China claimed sovereignty over a two million square kilometer area of the South China Sea, and began militarizing numerous contested islands claimed by several other countries. The Obama administration declined to criticize China’s actions, saying that the United States would not take a position on sovereignty issues. Quite obviously, not taking a position in this matter was defaulting to China’s aggressive acts. I responded by introducing a Senate resolution condemning any use of military force in the resolution of sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, which passed with a unanimous vote. The second involved the day-to-day manner in which our wars were being fought, and the way that our younger military people were being treated by those at the top. I participated in numerous hearings on all aspects from my seats on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, becoming even more concerned about the lack of serious congressional oversight. During one Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-invasion reconstruction efforts, an assistant secretary of state testified that the United States had spent 32 billion dollars on different smaller-scale projects.  I asked him to provide me and the committee a complete list of every project, as well as the cost. That was in 2007. I’m still waiting for his answer. This was clearly not the way things worked when I was a counsel in the House, where such requests were often answered within a day or two, from information that had already been compiled. In fact, the lack of an answer, despite follow-up calls from my staff, followed a broader pattern that had evolved after 9/11 when vague answers and delayed responses had become the norm, a deliberate and increasingly routine snub of the Congress by higher-level members of the executive branch. Take your choice. This was either incompetent leadership or deliberate obstruction. If the congressional liaisons from DOD were able to provide specific, complicated data within a day or two in 1977, certainly the computers of 2007 were capable of doing so after thirty years of technological progress. I responded by co-authoring legislation along with Senator Claire McCaskill that created the Wartime Contracts Commission, modeled after the Truman Commission of World War Two. After three years of investigations, the commission’s final report estimated that due to major failures in our contracting system the United States had squandered up to 60 billion dollars through contract waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the commission lacked subpoena power or criminal jurisdiction over actions taken in the past, but it certainly got the attention of would-be fraudsters, led to better record-keeping, improved the oversight process, and put a marker down for contracts from that point forward.   Having grown up in the military, and serving as an infantry Marine in Vietnam, and with a son who had left college to enlist in the Marine Corps infantry and fought in Ramadi, Iraq during one of the worst periods in that war, I seized the opportunity – and undertook the obligation – to properly reward the contributions of those who had stepped forward to serve. Immediately after I won the election to the Senate, and two months before actually being sworn in, I sat down with the Senate legislative counsel and drafted the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Having spent four years as a full committee counsel on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, my legislative model was the GI Bill that had been given to our World War Two veterans, the most generous GI Bill in history up to that time: pay for the veteran’s tuition and fees, buy the books, and provide a monthly living stipend. For every tax dollar that was spent on the World War Two GI bill, our treasury received eight dollars in tax remunerations from veterans who had gone on to successful lives. By contrast, the Vietnam Era GI Bill had provided only a monthly payment that in almost every case was far less than the costs of higher education, beginning in 1966 at a paltry rate of 50 dollars a month and ending in the early 1970s at $340 a month. I introduced the Post-9/11 GI Bill on my first day as a Senator. I put together a bipartisan leadership team—two Republicans, John Warner and Chuck Hagel; two Democrats, Frank Lautenberg and myself; two of them World War Two veterans, and two of them Vietnam veterans. Sixteen months later in a modern-day Congressional miracle, the bill became law, ironically over the strong opposition of the Bush Administration to the very end. The White House and the Pentagon claimed that such a generous bill would affect retention, causing too many people to leave the military. The obvious but implicit message was, Don’t treat them too good; they’ll leave. This position was taken by general officers who were going to receive a couple of hundred thousand dollars every year in military retirement when they themselves decided to leave. Having spent five years in the Pentagon and being intimately familiar with manpower issues, I held a completely different belief, that the generosity of the new GI Bill would enhance enlistments and help broaden the base of our overall military. In a back-handed compliment, at least in my view, I was not invited to the White House for the ceremony when the President signed the bill. But to date, millions of post-9/11 veterans have used this Bill, which is beyond cavil the most generous GI Bill in history. It has created opportunities and empowered the careers of people who are now making their way into positions of leadership and influence throughout the country. Shortly after I introduced the GI Bill, I introduced legislation to mandate a proper ratio for dwell time between overseas deployments. The legislation would have required that military members not be returned to combat unless they had been home for at least the amount of time that they had previously been gone. This was not unreasonable. A two-to-one ratio was a simple formula that reflected traditional rotation cycles. With the continuous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan it had fallen to less than one-to-one, which meant that for years our soldiers would be gone longer than they were at home, and when they were at home they would be spending much of their time getting ready to go back. This reality was clearly affecting not only morale but also the potential for long-term emotional difficulties such as post-traumatic stress. Predictably, the White House and the Pentagon opposed the legislation. Some claimed that I had designed it with a hidden agenda to slow down the war in Iraq. Others, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, claimed that the legislation was unconstitutional, that Congress could not intervene in the operational tempo of the military since the President was the Commander in Chief. But a precedent was already set. During the Korean War, Congress had ceased the deployment of soldiers who were being sent to the war zone without proper training by mandating that no military members could be deployed overseas unless they had spent 120 days on active duty. If the military leaders weren’t going to take care of their people, it was only right that Congress should set proper boundaries. The Republicans filibustered the legislation, which then required sixty votes for passage. Although the bill twice received a fifty-six vote majority, with several Republican votes for passage, we did not break the filibuster.  But we did put the issue of dwell time firmly before Congress and the public, and the two-to-one deployment cycle eventually became the express goal inside the Department of Defense. All of that is history. I put it before you as something of a template to show the patterns that evolved and have continued over the past twenty years, as well as evidence that strong and informed leadership in Congress can turn things around. In many ways, this dislocation is between those who make policy—including military leaders—and those who carry it out. It continues due to the group mentality of a foreign policy aristocracy seeking common agreement rather than original thought. And it has exacerbated this ever-growing dislocation by freezing out those who are not, basically, in the club because their thinking does not fit the usual mantra and their ideas threaten the prevailing orthodoxy. We need these other voices. There are lessons to be learned and unavoidable questions that need to be answered at every level. Some involve the articulation of our national security objectives and how we define national strategy. Some involve when and how we should use the military for operational missions in harm’s way. And some involve the actual makeup of these military missions, from their remote or covert or overt nature, and if deployed in large numbers how large that footprint should be, and what portion should consist of military contractors along the lines of the past twenty years. And for those who want to repair the damage, it challenges us to find clear ways where we can move forward. Who do we hold accountable for the random and often changing strategic mistakes that have damaged our strength and our reputation? How do we move forward in the way we articulate and implement our national strategy here at home? How do we regain our respect in the international community, both among our friends who need us, and from potential adversaries who pray every day that America will lose its willpower, that we would be so overcome by military failures abroad and turbulence at home that the nation itself will atrophy and descend into the ranks of an also-ran, second-rate power?   We should begin with a vigorous and open discussion about the makeup, power, and influence of America’s massive defense establishment. And here I’m talking about the highest levels of our uniformed military, the civilian government officials, the powerful defense corporations, the numerous think tanks funded heavily by the defense industry, the hugely influential lobbying organizations, and—if not at the bottom, certainly in the bullseye of the efforts of all of these entities—the authorizing and appropriating committees in the Senate and House of Representatives. Couple that with the media of all sorts, particularly the huge growth of the internet and social media, and one can see how complicated the debate over any controversial issue can become. We were warned about this, sixty years ago, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his well-remembered speech about the “military / industrial complex.” The speech was the president’s carefully placed farewell message to the American people, made just three days before he left office. His words resonate, symbolic in their timing as his final shot across the bow, and coming as they did from this former five-star general who knew the military with a completeness that no other American president could ever match. After commenting that in the aftermath of World War Two the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” Eisenhower expressed his concern about the “total influence – economic, political, even spiritual” of this new reality “in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.”   The outgoing, immensely popular President then bluntly called out the members of his own professional culture—the military itself—and the bond its top leaders were increasingly forming with America’s defense corporations. “In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military / industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Looking at the decades following his speech and particularly the past twenty years, I believe President Eisenhower would be amazed at how massively this military-industrial complex has grown, how entangled the relationships between the military and the industrial complex have become, and how much it has affected the career paths of civilian “experts,” as well as the positions taken by many senior flag officers facing retirement. Lucrative civilian careers have been made through the “revolving doors” of serving for a few years in appointed posts in the Departments of Defense and State, or by working on committee staffs in the Congress, then rotating over the space of many years in and out of government into the defense-oriented industry and in the ever more influential think tanks, some of them heavily funded by corporations with major financial interests in defense contracts. The number of people involved in such revolving doors and the amount of money flowing back and forth would have stunned the understanding of people in Eisenhower’s era. Likewise, many military officers have made similar career moves, taking advantage of skills and relationships that were developed while on active duty. Those in uniform and others who work in the area of national defense regularly comment about the potential for conflicts of interest among the most senior flag officers as they carry out their final active duty positions before retiring and prepare for their next career in the civilian world. Critical issues ranging from the procurement of weapons systems to carrying out politically sensitive military operations often comprise the way in which potential civilian employers decide on the next chapter in their lives. A hand played well can bring large financial benefits. A hand played poorly can result in media stigma or even being relieved of their duties, and a beach house in Tarpon Springs. As with other areas of public service, it would be useful for Congress to examine the firewalls in place in order to maintain the vitally important separation of the military, on the one side, and the industrial complex on the other, just as President Dwight Eisenhower so prophetically pointed out sixty years ago. Dwight Eisenhower would have liked General Robert Barrow, the twenty-seventh commandant of the Marine Corps. His leadership example personally inspired me, both during and after my service in the Corps. We had many personal discussions over the years, until he passed away in 2008. He was a great combat leader. He mastered guerrilla warfare while fighting Japanese units alongside Chinese soldiers in World War Two. In the Korean War, he received the Navy Cross, our country’s second-highest award, for extraordinary heroism as a company commander during the historic breakout from the Chosin Reservoir. And in Vietnam, he was known as one of the war’s finest regimental commanders. He knew war, he knew loyalty, and he knew his Marines. General Barrow was fond of emphasizing that moral courage was often harder, and more exemplary, than physical courage. On matters of principle, he would not bend. During one difficult period when he was dealing with serious issues in the political process, the four-star Commandant calmly pointed out to me that his obligation was to run the Marine Corps “the same way a good company commander runs his rifle company: I’ll do the best job I know how to do, and if you don’t like what I’m doing, then fire me.” It is rare these days to see such leaders wearing the stars of a general or an admiral. And thinking of President Eisenhower’s prescient warnings about what he termed the “the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals,” I have no doubt that he and General Barrow shared the same concerns. General Barrow held another firm belief. Having served as Commandant of the Marine Corps, he believed it would soil the dignity of that office by trading on its credibility for financial gain through banging on doors in Washington as a lobbyist or serving as a board member giving a defense-related corporation his prized insider’s advice on how to sell their product. The Japanese have a saying that “life is a generation, but reputation is forever.” And General Barrow’s pristine motivation will forever preserve his honor. I grew up in the military. I know the price that families must pay when their fathers or now even their mothers are continuously deployed, because I lived it as a very young boy. My father, a pilot who flew B-17s and B-29s in World War Two and cargo planes in the Berlin Airlift, was continually deployed either overseas or on bases with no family housing, at one point for more than three years. I know the demands and yet the honor of leading infantry Marines in combat and then spending years in and out of the hospital after being wounded. I know what it is like to be a father with a son deployed in a very bad place as an enlisted infantry Marine. And most of all I know the pride that comes from being able to say for the rest of my life that when my country called, I was there, and I took care of my people. My other major point today is that our top leaders in all sectors of national defense need to get going and develop a clearly articulated foreign policy. We have lost twenty years, unfortunately fulfilling the prediction that I made in the Washington Post five months before the invasion of Iraq that “Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall.” And for China, indeed it was. It’s ironic that we are now hearing frantic warnings from our uniformed leaders about China’s determined expansionism, both military and economic, and particularly about how recent reports of Chinese technological leaps might be something of a new “Sputnik” moment where America has been caught off-guard and now must rush to catch up. Too bad they weren’t following this as these policies and technological improvements were developed by the Chinese over at least the past two decades, while our focus remained intently on the never-ending and never-resolved brawls in the Middle East. The very people who now are wringing their hands and calling for a full-fledged effort to counter such threats are the same people who should have been warning the nation of their possibility ten or even twenty years ago. So, ask yourself: If things go wrong, who then shall we blame? Much of the world is now uneasy with China’s unremitting aggression on its home turf in Asia. Over the past decade, China has been calling its own shots, rejecting international law and public opinion while flexing its muscle to signal its view that it will soon replace the United States as the region’s dominant military, diplomatic and economic power. Beijing has taken down Hong Kong’s democracy movement; started military spats with India; disrupted life for tens of millions by damming the headwaters of the Mekong River; conducted what our government now deems a campaign of genocide against Muslim Uighurs; escalated tensions with Japan over the Senkaku Islands; consolidated its illegal occupation and militarization of islands in the South China Sea; and made repeated bellicose gestures designed to test the international community’s resistance to “unifying” the “renegade province” of Taiwan. China’s military is expanding and modernizing and its Navy is becoming not only technological but global. While we expended a huge portion of our human capital, emotional energy, and national treasure on two wars, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has had a major economic impact in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and with individual governments on other continents. In Africa, whose population has quadrupled since 1970 and which counts only one of the world’s top thirty countries in Gross National Product, more than forty countries have signed on to China’s BRI. Let’s get going. We have alliances to enhance, and extensive national security interests to protect. We need to address these issues immediately and with clarity. America has always been a place where the abrasion of continuous debate eventually produces creative solutions. Eventually is now. Let’s agree on those solutions, and make the next twenty years a time of clear purpose and affirmative global leadership. Tyler Durden Tue, 11/09/2021 - 00:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 9th, 2021

35 places to shop for gifts that give back

Shopping at these stores also means you're contributing to initiatives like planting trees, improving livelihoods in underserved areas, and more. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Cotopaxi is a B Corp that puts 1% of its yearly revenue toward grants to nonprofits making sustainable changes in poverty alleviation. Cotopaxi/Instagram These 35 companies make gifts that give back via charitable initiatives or profit sharing. If you shop from the following brands, you're also supporting several worthy causes. Need more gift ideas? Check out our ultimate gift guide. Aside from volunteering with or sending direct donations to nonprofits that make our world a better place, one way you can do your part throughout the year is to support businesses that give back. During these tumultuous times, giving back to those in need has never felt more urgent and necessary.If you're gifting your loved ones, you can make your gift go a little further by buying from companies with a social and environmental conscience that return a percentage of their profits to their communities or charitable causes. When you buy a gift from these 35 companies, you're also helping to plant a tree, improve livelihoods in underserved areas, save an animal, and more.Shop at these 35 brands that give back all year long: Thinx Thinx Shop gifts from ThinxThinx offers a wide collection of absorbent underwear and apparel and donates a portion of its profits to support puberty and reproduction education and grassroots activism.Learn more about the initiative here. STATE Bags STATE Bags/Instagram Shop gifts from STATE BagsWhen you buy a STATE bag, the company fills another with school supplies and gives it to a local student in need at a "Bag Drop" rally. It also shines a light on issues like mass incarceration, the Flint water crisis, and Black Lives Matter through its #WhatDoWeTellTheKids initiatives. Learn more about the initiative here. Leesa Leesa Shop gifts from LeesaLeesa donates one mattress to a nonprofit for every 10 sold and has donated more than 37,000 mattresses so far. The gift of a better night's sleep for your recipient (plus someone in need) comes in the form of four different mattresses. Learn more about the initiative here. Barefoot Dreams Barefoot Dreams Shop gifts from Barefoot DreamsKnown for its ultra-soft loungewear and blankets, this company donates a portion of the Covered in Prayer Collection's purchases to The WunderGlo Foundation. This charity aids doctors and researchers in their search for developing a cure for colon cancer in honor of the brand's late founder who died of cancer. Learn more about the initiative here. TOMS TOMS Shop gifts from TOMSPopular shoe brand TOMS has expanded from its original shoe design and is now offering sneakers, sandals, heels, and even slippers. Philanthropy remains important to the brand, which continues to commit 1/3 of its profits to supporting various grassroots efforts.Learn more about the initiative here. Blk & Bold Amazon Shop gifts from Blk & BoldBlk & Bold, a newly certified B-corporation, prides itself on prioritizing giving back as much as making a profit. The company donates 5% of its profits to supporting at-risk youth and works with over ten organizations with various missions to improve the lives of kids across the country.Learn more about the initiative here. Uncommon Goods Uncommon Goods Shop gifts from Uncommon GoodsCombine unique and fun finds with giving back through Uncommon Goods' Better to Give program. Not only are you supporting small businesses by shopping with Uncommon Goods, but once you select a Better to Give partner, you'll also be supporting the causes most important to you. Uncommon Goods currently works with organizations that focus on issues including forest conservation, supporting those whose lives have been impacted by conflict and natural disasters, and more. Learn more about the initiative here. Bookshop Bookshop Shop gifts from BookshopBookshop allows customers to support local bookstores from afar by allowing readers to purchase books directly from their favorite bookstores. If you would like to support a specific bookstore, use Bookshop's store locator and your pick will receive 100% of the profit from the sale. Bookshop's mission is to support independent bookstores by connecting them with potential customers. Learn more about the initiative here. Everlane Everlane/Instagram Shop gifts from The 100% Human Collection at EverlaneEverlane donates 10% from every purchase in this collection of tees, sweatshirts, face masks, and tote bags to the ACLU and has raised over $1 million to date. Learn more about the initiative on each individual product page in the collection.  Bombas Bombas/Instagram Shop gifts from BombasWhether you'd like to gift athletic socks, hiking socks, or dress socks, Bombas has you — and the feet of someone in need — covered. For every pair purchased, it donates a specially-designed pair to a homeless shelter. It has donated more than 43 million pairs to more than 3,000 giving partners in the US. Learn more about the initiative here. Amour Vert Amour Vert Shop gifts from Amour VertThis sustainable fashion brand joins hands with the nonprofit organization American Forests to plant a tree for every tee purchase. Since its inception, Amour Vert has planted 351,466 trees in North America.Learn more about the initiative here. AUrate AUrate/Instagram Shop gifts from AUrateFine jewelry startup AUrate finds beauty in honestly priced, ethically sourced gold jewelry — as well as the power of reading. Every year, it donates thousands of books to students in need in the US. Learn more about the initiative here. Cotopaxi Cotopaxi is a B Corp that puts 1% of its yearly revenue toward grants to nonprofits making sustainable changes in poverty alleviation. Cotopaxi/Instagram Shop gifts from CotopaxiFor colorful outdoor and travel gear they'll be proud to carry, shop at Cotopaxi, the B Corp that puts 1% of its yearly revenue toward grants to nonprofits making sustainable changes in poverty alleviation. So far, it has awarded 42 grants in six countries. Learn more about the initiative here. Cuyana Cuyana/Instagram Shop gifts from CuyanaIn line with its "Fewer, Better" philosophy, Cuyana encourages shoppers to clean out their closets by providing shipping labels to thredUP. Send in a box of high-quality apparel they no longer need, and they'll receive a credit to shop at Cuyana. When that credit is spent, Cuyana donates 5% of the profit to H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma). Learn more about the initiative here. ThirdLove ThirdLove/Instagram Shop gifts from ThirdLoveThirdLove partners with Good360, I Support the Girls, and more organizations to donate its comfortable bras to women in need. It has donated more than $40 million of bras to date, and in the past, it has also donated a bra to a California wildfire victim for every bra purchased. Learn more about the initiative here. Conscious Step Conscious Step Shop gifts from Conscious StepEvery Conscious Step purchase makes a large impact on the world and the environment. With a cause of your choice, each sustainably sourced pair of socks supports 17 different organizations or communities that the comapny serves. Whether its the fight for equality or protection for dogs, these soft and comfy socks help to create a better world.Learn more about the initiative here. Skylar Skylar/Instagram Shop gifts from SkylarSkylar is a natural, eco-friendly fragrance company that makes candles and perfume perfect for gifting. It donates a portion of proceeds and time to Step Up, a nonprofit dedicated to mentorship for girls. Learn more about the initiative here. Thrive Market Thrive Market/Facebook Shop gift memberships from Thrive MarketThrive Market, a place to shop natural and organic products for less, offers a one-for-one membership program. That means that every paid membership gives a free one to someone in need, like a low-income family, student, teacher, veteran, or first responder. Learn more about the initiative here. Parachute Parachute Shop gifts from ParachuteFor every Venice percale bedding set sold at Parachute, it donates one malaria-prevention bed net in partnership with the UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign. Learn more about the initiative here. Allbirds Allbirds/Instagram Shop gifts from AllbirdsLightly used shoes from this popular startup known for its use of unique materials are sent to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that donates shoes to people who have been affected by disasters. Learn more about the initiative here. Alltrue Alltrue/Instagram Gift a subscription from AlltrueAlltrue (formerly Causebox) stands out among the bevy of beauty and accessories subscription boxes by only featuring socially conscious products and companies that give back. Its main areas of impact are women's empowerment, supporting disadvantaged producers, education and skill development, and poverty alleviation. The company itself also helps various charity partners raise funds and awareness. Learn more about the initiative here. Wildfang Wildfang Shop gifts from WildfangWildfang, a female-founded and women-run clothing and accessories brand, donates a percentage of profits from full-price goods to a rotating monthly charity. Charities have included Planned Parenthood, Black Girls Code, and Girls Inc.Learn more about the initiative here. JUDY Connie Chen/Business Insider Shop gifts from JUDYJudy's bright and expert-informed emergency preparedness kits empower you to get your safety plan in place. It just launched earlier in 2020 but plans on donating 1% of sales annually to the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, which provides essential equipment and training to supplement city resources. Learn more about the initiative here. Love With Food by SnackNation Love With Food/Instagram Gift a subscription from Love With Food by SnackNationBetter-for-you snack subscription service Love With Food by SnackNation nourishes both stomach and soul by donating at least one meal to a family in need — through Feeding America — for every snack box purchased. Thanks to its subscribers' healthy appetites for organic and all-natural snacks, it has donated over 1 million meals. Learn more about the initiative here. Warby Parker Warby Parker/Instagram Shop gifts from Warby ParkerIf this were like any other year, Warby Parker would distribute a pair of glasses for every pair sold in two different ways. The first helps train adults to administer basic eye exams and sell glasses for affordable prices, while the second gives vision care and glasses to students in need. Its partners include VisionSpring, the Department of Education in New York, and the Department of Health in Baltimore. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Warby Parker is only distributing glasses where where it can safely. In the meantime, it's providing PPE and preventative health supplies to healthcare workers and communities in need for a portion of glasses purchased.Learn more about the initiative here. KitNipBox KitNipBox Gift a subscription from KitNipBoxEach month, this cat toy and treat subscription service donates a portion of proceeds and products to shelters, rescues, and other feline welfare causes. It supports more than 100 animal welfare organizations. Learn more about the initiative here. BarkBox Barkbox/Instagram Gift a subscription from BarkBoxBarkBox has thousands of rescue and shelter partners that benefit from each subscription purchased. Be on the lookout for custom codes from your favorite organization. When you use the code, BarkBox donates $25 to that rescue or shelter. Learn more about the initiative here. Natori Natori/Instagram Shop gifts from NatoriNatori's giving program is unique in that it's customizable and gives you the power to support a cause you care about. When you add one of its bras or lounge products to your cart, you can choose the nonprofit org that will receive 1% of your purchase. There's a whole directory of organizations but some featured ones include The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Equal Justice Initiative. Learn more about the initiative here. United by Blue United by Blue/Instagram Shop gifts from United By BlueThe conservation-minded outdoor brand pledges to remove one pound of trash from the planet's oceans and waterways for every product sold. It has removed more than 3.5 million pounds of trash through organized cleanups, while also using more responsible materials like recycled polyester in its products. Learn more about the initiative here. Ethique Ethique/Instagram Shop gifts from EthiqueGone are the days of wasteful plastic haircare and skincare bottles. Ethique packs the essential ingredients into a concentrated bar that's equivalent to three bottles of liquid shampoo, then donates 20% of profits to conservation, animal welfare, and environmental groups and "adopts" animals to pay for their care. It has worked with over 170 organizations worldwide and has ongoing partnerships with Rainforest Trust and HUHA, among others. Learn more about the initiative here. Avocado Mattress Avocado Mattress/Instagram Shop gifts from Avocado MattressThese eco-friendly mattresses are made from materials like natural latex harvested from sustainable tree-tapped sources and organic cotton. The company donates 1% of revenue to environmental nonprofits like Plastic Oceans International and Big Green. Learn more about the initiative here. Tatcha Tatcha/Instagram Shop gifts from TatchaEvery purchase from this Japanese beauty-inspired brand helps fund girls' education. Tatcha's Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Future program with nonprofit Room to Read has funded more than 4.6 million days of school for girls in Asia and Africa.Learn more about the initiative here. Patagonia Patagonia/Instagram Shop gifts from PatagoniaSince 1985, Patagonia has donated $89 million to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups. It also donates to nonprofits through its Employee Charity Match program, invests in socially and environmentally minded companies through its own venture capital fund, and donates new and used clothing. Learn more about the initiative here. Yoobi Yoobi/Instagram Shop gifts from YoobiYoobi partners with the Kids In Need Foundation to donate a school supply to a classroom every time you buy one of its products. We're fans of its sturdy notebooks and weekly calendar planner pads. So far, it's donated supplies to more than 4 million students.  Learn more about the initiative here. Sand Cloud Sand Cloud/Instagram Shop gifts from Sand CloudAnyone who loves spending time at the beach should be more invested in protecting marine life. Sand Cloud, which makes Turkish cotton beach towels, donates 10% of profits to organizations that protect and preserve beaches and oceans. Learn more about the initiative here. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 5th, 2021

Minneapolis Voters Reject Democrat Proposal To Replace Police Department

Minneapolis Voters Reject Democrat Proposal To Replace Police Department Minneapolis progressives were handed a defeat Tuesday night after voters rejected a proposal to replace the city's police department with a Department of Public Safety, according NBC News, citing an election night call by the Associated Press. The proposed change would have fought crime with "a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety," the specifics of which would have been in the hands of the mayor and City Council. According to supporters, the plan would have amended the city's charter to remove a requirement that the Minneapolis PD maintain a minimum number of officers, whose role would be reduced in matters of the homeless, mental health issues, and substance abuse - however they would have still been the first line of defense when it comes to violent crime. Or they would have all been fired - since the proposal was fatally vague. Supporters of the measure, including the 'Yes 4 Minneapolis' coalition which petitioned to put the item on the ballot, blame 'misinformation' for its defeat. "If the people of Minneapolis vote no, that does mean that the disinformation campaign has won out for this battle. And it means that this fight continues," said JaNaé Bates, a minister and spokesperson for the group. "We will most certainly continue moving forward." Minneapolis is among a number of municipalities considering or trying to overhaul its police department, after a police officer murdered Floyd last year. A day after the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder in Floyd's death, the Justice Department announced it was opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis. Before Floyd's death, the Minneapolis Police Department made national headlines for the killing of Jamar Clark in November 2015 and the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July 2017. In recent weeks, videos were released that showed Minneapolis officers discussing "hunting" people who were out past curfew during protests last year, and beating a man who had surrendered. -NBC News Other supporters included Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) and Attorney General Keith Ellison. Last week, Minneapolis Police Chief Mediara Arradondo, who has been with the department for more than 30 years, voiced his opposition to the ballot amendment, saying that the election could arguably have the most significant impact on the future of public safety in the city. "To vote on a measure reimagining public safety without a solid plan, and an implementation or direction of work, this is too critical of a time to wish and hope for that help that we need so desperately right now," Arrandondo said, adding that he "was not expecting some sort of robust detailed word-for-word plan." "But at this point, quite frankly, I would take a drawing on a napkin," he continued. "And I have not seen either." Tyler Durden Wed, 11/03/2021 - 05:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 3rd, 2021

Babies are increasingly dying of syphilis in the US - but it"s 100% preventable

Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. A newborn baby rests at the Ana Betancourt de Mora Hospital in Camaguey, Cuba, on June 19, 2015. Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters The number of US babies born with syphilis quadrupled from 2015 to 2019. Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. Routine testing and penicillin shots for pregnant women could prevent these cases. This story was originally published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, in collaboration with NPR News. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.When Mai Yang is looking for a patient, she travels light. She dresses deliberately - not too formal, so she won't be mistaken for a police officer; not too casual, so people will look past her tiny 4-foot-10 stature and youthful face and trust her with sensitive health information. Always, she wears closed-toed shoes, "just in case I need to run."Yang carries a stack of cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show what happens when the Treponema pallidum bacteria invades a patient's body. There's a photo of an angry red sore on a penis. There's one of a tongue, marred by mucus-lined lesions. And there's one of a newborn baby, its belly, torso and thighs dotted in a rash, its mouth open, as if caught midcry.It was because of the prospect of one such baby that Yang found herself walking through a homeless encampment on a blazing July day in Huron, California, an hour's drive southwest of her office at the Fresno County Department of Public Health. She was looking for a pregnant woman named Angelica, whose visit to a community clinic had triggered a report to the health department's sexually transmitted disease program. Angelica had tested positive for syphilis. If she was not treated, her baby could end up like the one in the picture or worse - there was a 40% chance the baby would die.Yang knew, though, that if she helped Angelica get treated with three weekly shots of penicillin at least 30 days before she gave birth, it was likely that the infection would be wiped out and her baby would be born without any symptoms at all. Every case of congenital syphilis, when a baby is born with the disease, is avoidable. Each is considered a "sentinel event," a warning that the public health system is failing.The alarms are now clamoring. In the United States, more than 129,800 syphilis cases were recorded in 2019, double the case count of five years prior. In the same time period, cases of congenital syphilis quadrupled: 1,870 babies were born with the disease; 128 died. Case counts from 2020 are still being finalized, but the CDC has said that reported cases of congenital syphilis have already exceeded the prior year. Black, Hispanic, and Native American babies are disproportionately at risk.There was a time, not too long ago, when CDC officials thought they could eliminate the centuries-old scourge from the United States, for adults and babies. But the effort lost steam and cases soon crept up again. Syphilis is not an outlier. The United States goes through what former CDC director Tom Frieden calls "a deadly cycle of panic and neglect" in which emergencies propel officials to scramble and throw money at a problem - whether that's Ebola, Zika, or COVID-19. Then, as fear ebbs, so does the attention and motivation to finish the task.The last fraction of cases can be the hardest to solve, whether that's eradicating a bug or getting vaccines into arms, yet too often, that's exactly when political attention gets diverted to the next alarm. The result: The hardest to reach and most vulnerable populations are the ones left suffering, after everyone else looks away.Yang first received Angelica's lab report on June 17. The address listed was a P.O. box, and the phone number belonged to her sister, who said Angelica was living in Huron. That was a piece of luck: Huron is tiny; the city spans just 1.6 square miles. On her first visit, a worker at the Alamo Motel said she knew Angelica and directed Yang to a nearby homeless encampment. Angelica wasn't there, so Yang returned a second time, bringing one of the health department nurses who could serve as an interpreter.They made their way to the barren patch of land behind Huron Valley Foods, the local grocery store, where people took shelter in makeshift lean-tos composed of cardboard boxes, scrap wood, and scavenged furniture, draped with sheets that served as ceilings and curtains. Yang stopped outside one of the structures, calling a greeting."Hi, I'm from the health department, I'm looking for Angelica."The nurse echoed her in Spanish.Angelica emerged, squinting in the sunlight. Yang couldn't tell if she was visibly pregnant yet, as her body was obscured by an oversized shirt. The two women were about the same age: Yang 26 and Angelica 27. Yang led her away from the tent, so they could speak privately. Angelica seemed reticent, surprised by the sudden appearance of the two health officers. "You're not in trouble," Yang said, before revealing the results of her blood test.Angelica had never heard of syphilis."Have you been to prenatal care?"Angelica shook her head. The local clinic had referred her to an obstetrician in Hanford, a 30-minute drive away. She had no car. She also mentioned that she didn't intend to raise her baby; her two oldest children lived with her mother, and this one likely would, too.Yang pulled out the CDC cards, showing them to Angelica and asking if she had experienced any of the symptoms illustrated. No, Angelica said, her lips pursed with disgust."Right now you still feel healthy, but this bacteria is still in your body," Yang pressed. "You need to get the infection treated to prevent further health complications to yourself and your baby."The community clinic was just across the street. "Can we walk you over to the clinic and make sure you get seen so we can get this taken care of?"Angelica demurred. She said she hadn't showered for a week and wanted to wash up first. She said she'd go later.Yang tried once more to extract a promise: "What time do you think you'll go?""Today, for sure."The CDC tried and failed to eradicate syphilis - twiceSyphilis is called The Great Imitator: It can look like any number of diseases. In its first stage, the only evidence of infection is a painless sore at the bacteria's point of entry. Weeks later, as the bacteria multiplies, skin rashes bloom on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Other traits of this stage include fever, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and fatigue. These symptoms eventually disappear and the patient progresses into the latent phase, which betrays no external signs. But if left untreated, after a decade or more, syphilis will reemerge in up to 30% of patients, capable of wreaking horror on a wide range of organ systems. Marion Sims, president of the American Medical Association in 1876, called it a "terrible scourge, which begins with lamb-like mildness and ends with lion-like rage that ruthlessly destroys everything in its way."The corkscrew-shaped bacteria can infiltrate the nervous system at any stage of the infection. Yang is haunted by her memory of interviewing a young man whose dementia was so severe that he didn't know why he was in the hospital or how old he was. And regardless of symptoms or stage, the bacteria can penetrate the placenta to infect a fetus. Even in these cases the infection is unpredictable: Many babies are born with normal physical features, but others can have deformed bones or damaged brains, and they can struggle to hear, see, or breathe.From its earliest days, syphilis has been shrouded in stigma. The first recorded outbreak was in the late 15th century, when Charles VIII led the French army to invade Naples. Italian physicians described French soldiers covered with pustules, dying from a sexually transmitted disease. As the affliction spread, Italians called it the French Disease. The French blamed the Neopolitans. It was also called the German, Polish, or Spanish disease, depending on which neighbor one wanted to blame. Even its name bears the taint of divine judgement: It comes from a 16th-century poem that tells of a shepherd, Syphilus, who offended the god Apollo and was punished with a hideous disease.By 1937 in America, when former Surgeon General Thomas Parran wrote the book "Shadow on the Land," he estimated some 680,000 people were under treatment for syphilis; about 60,000 babies were being born annually with congenital syphilis. There was no cure, and the stigma was so strong that public-health officials feared even properly documenting cases.Thanks to Parran's ardent advocacy, Congress in 1938 passed the National Venereal Disease Control Act, which created grants for states to set up clinics and support testing and treatment. Other than a short-lived funding effort during World War I, this was the first coordinated federal push to respond to the disease.Around the same time, the Public Health Service launched an effort to record the natural history of syphilis. Situated in Tuskegee, Alabama, the infamous study recruited 600 black men. By the early 1940s, penicillin became widely available and was found to be a reliable cure, but the treatment was withheld from the study participants. Outrage over the ethical violations would cast a stain across syphilis research for decades to come and fuel generations of mistrust in the medical system among Black Americans that continues to this day. People attend a ceremony near Tuskegee, Alabama, on April 3, 2017, to commemorate the roughly 600 men who were subjects in the Tuskegee syphilis study. Jay Reeves/AP Photo With the introduction of penicillin, cases began to plummet. Twice, the CDC has announced efforts to wipe out the disease - once in the 1960s and again in 1999.In the latest effort, the CDC announced that the United States had "a unique opportunity to eliminate syphilis within its borders," thanks to historically low rates, with 80% of counties reporting zero cases. The concentration of cases in the South "identifies communities in which there is a fundamental failure of public health capacity," the agency noted, adding that elimination - which it defined as fewer than 1,000 cases a year - would "decrease one of our most glaring racial disparities in health."Two years after the campaign began, cases started climbing, first among gay men and, later, heterosexuals. Cases in women started accelerating in 2013, followed shortly by increasing numbers of babies born with syphilis. The reasons for failure are complex: People relaxed safer sex practices after the advent of potent HIV combination therapies, increased methamphetamine use drove riskier behavior, and an explosion of online dating made it hard to track and test sexual partners, according to Ina Park, medical director of the California Prevention Training Center at the University of California San Francisco.But federal and state public-health efforts were hamstrung from the get-go. In 1999, the CDC said it would need about $35 million to $39 million in new federal funds annually for at least five years to eliminate syphilis. The agency got less than half of what it asked for, according to Jo Valentine, former program coordinator of the CDC's Syphilis Elimination Effort. As cases rose, the CDC modified its goals in 2006 from 0.4 primary and secondary syphilis cases per 100,000 in population to 2.2 cases per 100,000. By 2013, as elimination seemed less and less viable, the CDC changed its focus to ending congenital syphilis only.Since then, funding has remained anemic. From 2015 to 2020, the CDC's budget for preventing sexually transmitted infections grew by 2.2%. Taking inflation into account, that's a 7.4% reduction in purchasing power. In the same period, cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia - the three STDs that have federally funded control programs - increased by nearly 30%."We have a long history of nearly eradicating something, then changing our attention, and seeing a resurgence in numbers," David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said. "We have more congenital syphilis cases today in America than we ever had pediatric AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It's heartbreaking."Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, warns that the US should not be surprised to see case counts continue to climb."The bugs don't go away," she said. "They're just waiting for the next opportunity, when you're not paying attention."Syphilis has fewer poster children than HIV or cancerYang waited until the end of the day, then called the clinic to see if Angelica had gone for her shot. She had not. Yang would have to block off another half day to visit Huron again, but she had three dozen other cases to deal with.States in the South and West have seen the highest syphilis rates in recent years. In 2017, 64 babies in Fresno County were born with syphilis at a rate of 440 babies per 100,000 live births - about 19 times the national rate. While the county had managed to lower case counts in the two years that followed, the pandemic threatened to unravel that progress, forcing STD staffers to do COVID-19 contact tracing, pausing field visits to find infected people, and scaring patients from seeking care. Yang's colleague handled three cases of stillbirth in 2020; in each, the woman was never diagnosed with syphilis because she feared catching the coronavirus and skipped prenatal care.Yang, whose caseload peaked at 70 during a COVID-19 surge, knew she would not be able handle them all as thoroughly as she'd like to."When I was being mentored by another investigator, he said: 'You're not a superhero. You can't save everybody,'" she said.She prioritizes men who have sex with men, because there's a higher prevalence of syphilis in that population, and pregnant people, because of the horrific consequences for babies.The job of a disease intervention specialist isn't for everyone: It means meeting patients whenever and wherever they are available - in the mop closet of a bus station, in a quiet parking lot - to inform them about the disease, to extract names of sex partners, and to encourage treatment. Patients are often reluctant to talk. They can get belligerent, upset that "the government" has their personal information, or shattered at the thought that a partner is likely cheating on them. Salaries typically start in the low $40,000s.Jena Adams, Yang's supervisor, has eight investigators working on HIV and syphilis. In the middle of 2020, she lost two and replaced them only recently."It's been exhausting," Adams said.She has only one specialist who is trained to take blood samples in the field, crucial for guaranteeing that the partners of those who test positive for syphilis also get tested. Adams wants to get phlebotomy training for the rest of her staff, but it's $2,000 per person. The department also doesn't have anyone who can administer penicillin injections in the field; that would have been key when Yang met Angelica. For a while, a nurse who worked in the tuberculosis program would ride along to give penicillin shots on a volunteer basis. Then he, too, left the health department.Much of the resources in public health trickle down from the CDC, which distributes money to states, which then parcel it out to counties. The CDC gets its budget from Congress, which tells the agency, by line item, exactly how much money it can spend to fight a disease or virus, in an uncommonly specific manner not seen in many other agencies. The decisions are often politically driven and can be detached from actual health needs.When the House and Senate appropriations committees meet to decide how much the CDC will get for each line item, they are barraged by lobbyists for individual disease interests. Stephanie Arnold Pang, senior director of policy and government relations at the National Coalition of STD Directors, can pick out the groups by sight: breast cancer wears pink, Alzheimer's goes in purple, multiple sclerosis comes in orange, HIV in red. STD prevention advocates, like herself, don a green ribbon, but they're far outnumbered.And unlike diseases that might already be familiar to lawmakers, or have patient and family spokespeople who can tell their own powerful stories, syphilis doesn't have many willing poster children. Breast Cancer survivors hold up a check for the amount raised at The Congressional Womens Softball Game at Watkins Recreation Center in Capitol Hill on June 20, 2018. Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call "Congressmen don't wake up one day and say, 'Oh hey, there's congenital syphilis in my jurisdiction.' You have to raise awareness," Arnold Pang said. It can be hard jockeying for a meeting. "Some offices might say, 'I don't have time for you because we've just seen HIV.' ... Sometimes, it feels like you're talking into a void."The consequences of the political nature of public-health funding have become more obvious during the coronavirus pandemic. The 2014 Ebola epidemic was seen as a "global wakeup call" that the world wasn't prepared for a major pandemic, yet in 2018, the CDC scaled back its epidemic prevention work as money ran out."If you've got to choose between Alzheimer's research and stopping an outbreak that may not happen? Stopping an outbreak that might not happen doesn't do well," Frieden, the former CDC director, said. "The CDC needs to have more money and more flexible money. Otherwise, we're going to be in this situation long term."In May 2021, President Joe Biden's administration announced it would set aside $7.4 billion over the next five years to hire and train public health workers, including $1.1 billion for more disease intervention specialists like Yang. Public health officials are thrilled to have the chance to expand their workforce, but some worry the time horizon may be too short."We've seen this movie before, right?" Frieden said. "Everyone gets concerned when there's an outbreak, and when that outbreak stops, the headlines stop, and an economic downturn happens, the budget gets cut."Fresno's STD clinic was shuttered in 2010 amid the Great Recession. Many others have vanished since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.Health leaders thought "by magically beefing up the primary care system, that we would do a better job of catching STIs and treating them," Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said.That hasn't worked out; people want access to anonymous services, and primary care doctors often don't have STDs top of mind. The coalition is lobbying Congress for funding to support STD clinical services, proposing a three-year demonstration project funded at $600 million.It's one of Adams' dreams to see Fresno's STD clinic restored as it was."You could come in for an HIV test and get other STDs checked," she said. "And if a patient is positive, you can give a first injection on the spot."'I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die'On August 12, Yang set out for Huron again, speeding past groves of almond trees and fields of grapes in the department's white Chevy Cruze. She brought along a colleague, Jorge Sevilla, who had recently transferred to the STD program from COVID-19 contact tracing. Yang was anxious to find Angelica again."She's probably in her second trimester now," she said.They found her outside of a pale yellow house a few blocks from the homeless encampment; the owner was letting her stay in a shed tucked in the corner of the dirt yard. This time, it was evident that she was pregnant. Yang noted that Angelica was wearing a wig; hair loss is a symptom of syphilis."Do you remember me?" Yang asked.Angelica nodded. She didn't seem surprised to see Yang again. (I came along, and Sevilla explained who I was and that I was writing about syphilis and the people affected by it. Angelica signed a release for me to report about her case, and she said she had no problem with me writing about her or even using her full name. ProPublica chose to only print her first name.)"How are you doing? How's the baby?""Bien.""So the last time we talked, we were going to have you go to United Healthcare Center to get treatment. Have you gone since?"Angelica shook her head."We brought some gift cards..." Sevilla started in Spanish. The department uses them as incentives for completing injections. But Angelica was already shaking her head. The nearest Walmart was the next town over.Yang turned to her partner. "Tell her: So the reason why we're coming out here again is because we really need her to go in for treatment. [...] We really are concerned for the baby's health especially since she's had the infection for quite a while."Angelica listened while Sevilla interpreted, her eyes on the ground. Then she looked up. "Orita?" she asked. Right now?"I'll walk with you," Yang offered. Angelica shook her head."She said she wants to shower first before she goes over there," Sevilla said.Yang made a face. "She said that to me last time." Yang offered to wait, but Angelica didn't want the health officers to linger by the house. She said she would meet them by the clinic in 15 minutes.Yang was reluctant to let her go but again had no other option. She and Sevilla drove to the clinic, then stood on the corner of the parking lot, staring down the road.Talk to the pediatricians, obstetricians, and families on the front lines of the congenital syphilis surge and it becomes clear why Yang and others are trying so desperately to prevent cases. J.B. Cantey, associate professor in pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, remembers a baby girl born at 25 weeks gestation who weighed a pound and a half. Syphilis had spread through her bones and lungs. She spent five months in the neonatal intensive care unit, breathing through a ventilator, and was still eating through a tube when she was discharged.Then, there are the miscarriages, the stillbirths, and the inconsolable parents. Irene Stafford, an associate professor and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UT Health in Houston, cannot forget a patient who came in at 36 weeks for a routine checkup, pregnant with her first child. Stafford realized that there was no heartbeat."She could see on my face that something was really wrong," Stafford recalled. She had to let the patient know that syphilis had killed her baby."She was hysterical, just bawling," Stafford said. "I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die." Fewer than 10% of patients who experience a stillbirth are tested for syphilis, suggesting that cases are underdiagnosed.A Texas grandmother named Solidad Odunuga offers a glimpse into what the future could hold for Angelica's mother, who may wind up raising her baby.In February of last year, Odunuga got a call from the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston. A nurse told her that her daughter was about to give birth and that child protective services had been called. Odunuga had lost contact with her daughter, who struggled with homelessness and substance abuse. She arrived in time to see her grandson delivered, premature at 30 weeks old, weighing 2.7 pounds. He tested positive for syphilis.When a child protective worker asked Odunuga to take custody of the infant, she felt a wave of dread."I was in denial," she recalled. "I did not plan to be a mom again." The baby's medical problems were daunting: "Global developmental delays [...] concerns for visual impairments [...] high risk of cerebral palsy," read a note from the doctor at the time.Still, Odunuga visited her grandson every day for three months, driving to the NICU from her job at the University of Houston. "I'd put him in my shirt to keep him warm and hold him there." She fell in love. She named him Emmanuel.Once Emmanuel was discharged, Odunuga realized she had no choice but to quit her job. While Medicaid covered the costs of Emmanuel's treatment, it was on her to care for him. From infancy, Emmanuel's life has been a whirlwind of constant therapy. Today, at 20 months old, Odunuga brings him to physical, occupational, speech, and developmental therapy, each a different appointment on a different day of the week.Emmanuel has thrived beyond what his doctors predicted, toddling so fast that Odunuga can't look away for a minute and beaming as he waves his favorite toy phone. Yet he still suffers from gagging issues, which means Odunuga can't feed him any solid foods. Liquid gets into his lungs when he aspirates; it has led to pneumonia three times. Emmanuel has a special stroller that helps keep his head in a position that won't aggravate his persistent reflux, but Odunuga said she still has to pull over on the side of the road sometimes when she hears him projectile vomiting from the backseat.The days are endless. Once she puts Emmanuel to bed, Odunuga starts planning the next day's appointments."I've had to cry alone, scream out alone," she said. "Sometimes I wake up and think, 'Is this real?' And then I hear him in the next room."There's no vaccine for syphilis A health worker tests a migrant from Haiti for HIV and syphilis to in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, on September 25, 2021. Daniel Becerril/Reuters Putting aside the challenge of eliminating syphilis entirely, everyone agrees it's both doable and necessary to prevent newborn cases."There was a crisis in perinatal HIV almost 30 years ago and people stood up and said this is not OK - it's not acceptable for babies to be born in that condition. [...We] brought it down from 1,700 babies born each year with perinatal HIV to less than 40 per year today," Virginia Bowen, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said. "Now here we are with a slightly different condition. We can also stand up and say, 'This is not acceptable.'" Belarus, Bermuda, Cuba, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are among countries recognized by the World Health Organization for eliminating congenital syphilis.Success starts with filling gaps across the health care system.For almost a century, public health experts have advocated for testing pregnant patients more than once for syphilis in order to catch the infection. But policies nationwide still don't reflect this best practice. Six states have no prenatal screening requirement at all. Even in states that require three tests, public-health officials say that many physicians aren't aware of the requirements. Stafford, the maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Houston, says she's tired of hearing her own peers in medicine tell her, "Oh, syphilis is a problem?"It costs public health departments less than 25 cents a dose to buy penicillin, but for a private practice, it's more than $1,000, according to Park of the University of California San Francisco."There's no incentive for a private physician to stock a dose that could expire before it's used, so they often don't have it," she said. "So a woman comes in, they say, 'We'll send you to the emergency department or health department to get it,' then [the patients] don't show up."A vaccine would be invaluable for preventing spread among people at high risk for reinfection. But there is none. Scientists only recently figured out how to grow the bacteria in the lab, prompting grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund research into a vaccine. Justin Radolf, a researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said he hopes his team will have a vaccine candidate by the end of its five-year grant. But it'll likely take years more to find a manufacturer and run human trials.Public-health agencies also need to recognize that many of the hurdles to getting pregnant people treated involve access to care, economic stability, safe housing, and transportation. In Fresno, Adams has been working on ways her department can collaborate with mental health services. Recently, one of her disease intervention specialists managed to get a pregnant woman treated with penicillin shots and, at the patient's request, connected her with an addiction treatment center.Gaining a patient's cooperation means seeing them as complex humans instead of just a case to solve."There may be past traumas with the healthcare system," Cynthia Deverson, project manager of the Houston Fetal Infant Morbidity Review, said. "There's the fear of being discovered if she's doing something illegal to survive. [...] She may need to be in a certain place at a certain time so she can get something to eat, or maybe it's the only time of the day that's safe for her to sleep. They're not going to tell you that. Yes, they understand there's a problem, but it's not an immediate threat, maybe they don't feel bad yet, so obviously this is not urgent.""What helps to gain trust is consistency," she added. "Literally, it's seeing that [disease specialist] constantly, daily. [...] The woman can see that you're not going to harm her, you're saying, 'I'm here at this time if you need me.'"Yang stood outside the clinic, waiting for Angelica to show up, baking in the 90-degree heat. Her feelings ranged from irritation - Why didn't she just go? I'd have more energy for other cases - to an appreciation for the parts of Angelica's story that she didn't know - She's in survival mode. I need to be more patient.Fifteen minutes ticked by, then 20."OK," Yang announced. "We're going back."She asked Sevilla if he would be OK if they drove Angelica to the clinic; they technically weren't supposed to because of coronavirus precautions, but Yang wasn't sure she could convince Angelica to walk. Sevilla gave her the thumbs up.When they pulled up, they saw Angelica sitting in the backyard, chatting with a friend. She now wore a fresh T-shirt and had shoes on her feet. Angelica sat silently in the back seat as Yang drove to the clinic. A few minutes later, they pulled up to the parking lot.Finally, Yang thought. We got her here.The clinic was packed with people waiting for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. A worker there had previously told Yang that a walk-in would be fine, but a receptionist now said they were too busy to treat Angelica. She would have to return.Yang felt a surge of frustration, sensing that her hard-fought opportunity was slipping away. She tried to talk to the nurse supervisor, but he wasn't available. She tried to leave the gift cards at the office to reward Angelica if she came, but the receptionist said she couldn't hold them. While Yang negotiated, Sevilla sat with Angelica in the car, waiting.Finally, Yang accepted this was yet another thing she couldn't control.She drove Angelica back to the yellow house. As they arrived, she tried once more to impress on her just how important it was to get treated, asking Sevilla to interpret. "We don't want it to get any more serious, because she can go blind, she could go deaf, she could lose her baby."Angelica already had the door halfway open."So on a scale from one to 10, how important is this to get treated?" Yang asked."Ten," Angelica said. Yang reminded her of the appointment that afternoon. Then Angelica stepped out and returned to the dusty yard.Yang lingered for a moment, watching Angelica go. Then she turned the car back onto the highway and set off toward Fresno, knowing, already, that she'd be back.Postscript: A reporter visited Huron twice more in the months that followed, including once independently to try to interview Angelica, but she wasn't in town. Yang has visited Huron twice more as well - six times in total thus far. In October, a couple of men at the yellow house said Angelica was still in town, still pregnant. Yang and Sevilla spent an hour driving around, talking to residents, hoping to catch Angelica. But she was nowhere to be found.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 2nd, 2021

COVID-19: Moderna Gets Its Miracle

COVID-19: Moderna Gets Its Miracle Authored by Whitney Webb via Unlimited Hangout, COVID-19 erased the regulatory and trial-related hurdles that Moderna could never surmount before. Yet, how did Moderna know that COVID-19 would create those conditions months before anyone else, and why did they later claim that their vaccine being tested in NIH trials was different than their commercial candidate? In late 2019, the biopharmaceutical company Moderna was facing a series of challenges that not only threatened its ability to ever take a product to market, and thus turn a profit, but its very existence as a company. There were multiple warning signs that Moderna was essentially another Theranos-style fraud, with many of these signs growing in frequency and severity as the decade drew to a close. Part I of this three-part series explored the disastrous circumstances in which Moderna found itself at that time, with the company’s salvation hinging on the hope of a divine miracle, a “Hail Mary” save of sorts, as stated by one former Moderna employee.  While the COVID-19 crisis that emerged in the first part of 2020 can hardly be described as an act of benevolent divine intervention for most, it certainly can be seen that way from Moderna’s perspective. Key issues for the company, including seemingly insurmountable regulatory hurdles and its inability to advance beyond animal trials with its most promising—and profitable—products, were conveniently wiped away, and not a moment too soon. Since January 2020, the value of Moderna’s stock—which had embarked on a steady decline since its IPO—grew from $18.89 per share to its current value of $339.57 per share, thanks to the success of its COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, how exactly was Moderna’s “Hail Mary” moment realized, and what were the forces and events that ensured it would make it through the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) process? In examining that question, it becomes quickly apparent that Moderna’s journey of saving grace involved much more than just cutting corners in animal and human trials and federal regulations. Indeed, if we are to believe Moderna executives, it involved supplying formulations for some trial studies that were not the same as their COVID-19 vaccine commercial candidate, despite the data resulting from the former being used to sell Moderna’s vaccine to the public and federal health authorities. Such data was also selectively released at times to align with preplanned stock trades by Moderna executives, turning many of Moderna’s highest-ranking employees into millionaires, and even billionaires, while the COVID-19 crisis meant economic calamity for most Americans.  Not only that, but—as Part II of this three-part series will show, Moderna and a handful of its collaborators at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) seemed to know that Moderna’s miracle had arrived—well before anyone else knew or could have known. Was it really a coincidental mix of “foresight” and “serendipity” that led Moderna and the NIH to plan to develop a COVID-19 vaccine days before the viral sequence was even published and months before a vaccine was even considered necessary for a still unknown disease? If so, why would Moderna—a company clearly on the brink—throw everything into and gamble the entire company on a vaccine project that had no demonstrated need at the time? The Serendipitous Origins of Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine When early January 2020 brought news of a novel coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan, China, Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel immediately emailed Barney Graham, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health, and asked to be sent the genetic sequence for what would become known as SAR-CoV-2, allegedly because media reports on the outbreak “troubled” him. The date of that email varies according to different media reports, though most place it as having been sent on either January 6th or 7th. A few weeks before Bancel’s email to Graham, Moderna was quickly approaching the end of the line, their desperately needed “Hail Mary” still not having materialized. “We were freaked out about money,” Stephen Hoge would later remember of Moderna’s late 2019 circumstances. Not only were executives “cutting back on research and other expenditures” like never before, but – as STAT News would later report – “cash from investors had stopped pouring in and partnerships with some drug makers had been discontinued. In meetings at Moderna, Bancel emphasized the need to stretch every dollar and employees were told to reduce travel and other expenses, a frugality there were advised would last several years.” At the tail end of 2019, Graham was in a very different mood than Bancel, having emailed the leader of the coronavirus team at his NIH lab saying, “Get ready for 2020,” apparently viewing the news out of Wuhan in late 2019 as a harbinger of something significant. He went on, in the days before he was contacted by Bancel, to “run a drill he had been turning over in his mind for years” and called his long-time colleague Jason McLellan “to talk about the game plan” for getting a head start on producing a vaccine the world did not yet know it needed. When Bancel called Graham soon afterward and asked about this new virus, Graham responded that he didn’t know yet but that “they were ready if it turned out to be a coronavirus.” The Washington Post claimed that Graham’s apparent foreknowledge that a coronavirus vaccine would be needed before anyone officially knew what type of disease was circulating in Wuhan was a fortunate mix of “serendipity and foresight.”  Dr. Barney Graham and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, VRC coronavirus vaccine lead, discuss COVID-19 research with U.S. legislators Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Rep. Jamie Raskin, March 6, 2020; Source: NIH A report in Boston magazine offers a slightly different account than that reported by the Washington Post. Per that article, Graham had told Bancel, “If [the virus] is a coronavirus, we know what to do and have proven mRNA is effective.” Per that report, this assertion of efficacy from Graham referred to Moderna’s early stage human-trial data published in September 2019 regarding its chikungunya vaccine candidate, which was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as its cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine candidate.  As mentioned in Part I of this series, the chikungunya vaccine study data released at that time included the participation of just four subjects, three of whom developed significant side effects that led Moderna to state that they would reformulate the vaccine in question and would pause trials on that vaccine candidate. In the case of the CMV vaccine candidate, the data was largely positive, but it was widely noted that the vaccine still needed to pass through larger and longer clinical trials before its efficacy was in fact “proven,” as Graham later claimed. In addition, Graham implied that this early stage trial of Moderna’s CMV vaccine candidate was somehow proof that an mRNA vaccine would be effective against coronaviruses, which makes little sense since CMV is not a coronavirus but instead hails from the family of viruses that includes chickenpox, herpes, and shingles.  Bancel apparently had reached out to Graham because Graham and his team at the NIH had been working in direct partnership with Moderna on vaccines since 2017, soon after Moderna had delayed its Crigler-Najjar and related therapies in favor of vaccines. According to Boston magazine, Moderna had been working closely with Graham specifically “on [Moderna’s] quest to bring a whole new class of vaccines to market” and Graham had personally visited Moderna’s facilities in November 2019. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH’s infectious-disease division NIAID, has called his unit’s collaboration with Moderna, in the years prior to and also during the COVID-19 crisis, “most extraordinary.” The year 2017, besides being the year when Moderna made its pivot to vaccines (due to its inability to produce safe multidose therapies, see Part I), was also a big year for Graham. That year he and his lab filed a patent for the “2P mutation” technique whereby recombinant coronavirus spike proteins can be stabilized in a prefusion state and used as more effective immunogens. If a coronavirus vaccine were to be produced using this patent, Graham’s team would financially benefit, though federal law caps their annual royalties. Nonetheless, it would still yield a considerable sum for the named researchers, including Graham. However, due to the well-known difficulties with coronavirus vaccine development, including antibody dependent enhancement risk, it seemed that commercial use of Graham’s patent was a pipe dream. Yet, today, the 2P mutation patent, also known as the ’070 patent, is not just in use in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, but also in the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer/BioNTech, and CureVac. Experts at New York University School of Law have noted that the 2P mutation patent first filed in 2016 “sounds remarkably prescient” in light of the COVID crisis that emerged a few years later while later publications from the NIH (still pre-COVID) revealed that the NIH’s view on “the breadth and importance of the ’070 patent” as well as its potential commercial applications was also quite prescient, given that there was little justification at the time to hold such a view.  On January 10, three days after the reported initial conversation between Bancel and Graham on the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, Graham met with Hamilton Bennett, the program leader for Moderna’s vaccine portfolio. Graham asked Bennett “if Moderna would be interested in using the new [novel coronavirus] to test the company’s accelerated vaccine-making capabilities.” According to Boston, Graham then mused, “That way . . . if ever there came a day when a new virus emerged that threatened global public health, Moderna and the NIH could know how long it would take them to respond.”  Graham’s “musings” to Bennett are interesting considering his earlier statements made to others, such as “Get ready for 2020” and his team, in collaboration with Moderna, would be “ready if [the virus then circulating in Wuhan, China] turned out to be a coronavirus.” Is this merely “serendipity” and “foresight”, as the Washington Post suggested, or was it something else? It is worth noting that the above accounts are those that have been given by Bancel and Graham themselves, as the actual contents of these critical January 2020 emails have not been publicly released.  When the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was published on January 11, NIH scientists and Moderna researchers got to work determining which targeted genetic sequence would be used in their vaccine candidate. Later reports, however, claimed that this initial work toward a COVID-19 vaccine was merely intended to be a “demonstration project.”  Other odd features of the Moderna-NIH COVID-19 vaccine-development story emerged with Bancel’s account of the role the World Economic Forum played in shaping his “foresight” when it came to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine back in January 2020. On January 21, 2020, Bancel reportedly began to hear about “a far darker version of the future” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he spent time with “two [anonymous] prominent infectious-disease experts from Europe” who shared with him data from “their contacts on the ground in China, including Wuhan.” That data, per Bancel, showed a dire situation that left his mind “reeling” and led him to conclude, that very day, that “this isn’t going to be SARS. It’s going to be the 1918 flu pandemic.”  Stéphane Bancel speaks at the Breakthroughs in Cancer Care session at WEF annual meeting, January 24, 2020; Source: WEF This realization is allegedly what led Bancel to contact Moderna cofounder and chairman, as well as a WEF technology pioneer, Noubar Afeyan. Bancel reportedly interrupted Afeyan’s celebration of his daughter’s birthday to tell him “what he’d learned about the virus” and to suggest that “Moderna begin to build the vaccine—for real.” The next day, Moderna held an executive meeting, which Bancel attended remotely, and there was considerable internal debate about whether a vaccine for the novel coronavirus would be needed. To Bancel, the “sheer act of debating” pursuing a vaccine for the virus was “absurd” given that he was now convinced, after a single day at Davos, that “a global pandemic was about to descend like a biblical plague, and whatever distractions the vaccine caused internally at Moderna were irrelevant.” Bancel spent the rest of his time at the Davos annual meeting “building partnerships, generating excitement, and securing funding,” which led to the Moderna collaboration agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations—a project largely funded by Bill Gates. (Bancel and Moderna’s cozy relationship with the WEF, dating back to 2013, was discussed in Part I as were the Forum’s efforts, beginning well before COVID-19, to promote mRNA-based therapies as essential to the remaking of the health-care sector in the age of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution). At the 2020 annual meeting attended by Bancel and others it was noted that a major barrier to the widespread adoption of these and other related “health-care” technologies was “public distrust.” The panel where that issue was specifically discussed was entitled “When Humankind Overrides Evolution.”  As also noted in Part I of this series, a few months earlier, in October 2019, major players in what would become the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, particularly Rick Bright and Anthony Fauci, had discussed during a Milken Institute panel on vaccines how a “disruptive” event would be needed to push the public to accept “nontraditional” vaccines such as mRNA vaccines; to convince the public that flu-like illnesses are scarier than traditionally believed; and to remove existing bureaucratic safeguards in the vaccine development-and-approval processes.  That panel took place less than two weeks after the Event 201 simulation, jointly hosted by the World Economic Forum, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Event 201 simulated “an outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus” that was “modeled largely on SARS but . . . more transmissible in the community setting by people with mild symptoms.” The recommendations of the simulation panel were to considerably increase investment in new vaccine technologies and industrial approaches, favoring rapid vaccine development and manufacturing. As mentioned in Part I, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security had also conducted the June 2001 Dark Winter simulation that briefly preceded and predicted major aspects of the 2001 anthrax attacks, and some of its participants had apparent foreknowledge of those attacks. Other Dark Winter participants later worked to sabotage the FBI investigation into those attacks after their origin was traced back to a US military source.  It is hard to imagine that Bancel, whose company had long been closely partnered with the World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation, was unaware of the exercise and surprised by the closely analogous event that transpired within three months. Given the accounts given by Bancel, Graham, and others, it seems likely there is more to the story regarding the origins of Moderna’s early and “serendipitous” push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, given that Moderna was in dire financial circumstances at the time, it seems odd that the company would gamble everything on a vaccine project that was opposed by the few investors that were still willing to fund Moderna in January/February 2020. Why would they divert their scant resources towards a project born only out of Barney Graham’s “musings” that Moderna could try to test the speed of its vaccine development capabilities and Bancel’s doomsday view that a “biblical plague” was imminent, especially when their investors opposed the idea? Moderna Gets to Bypass Its Long-Standing Issues with R & D Moderna produced the first batch of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate on February 7, one month after Bancel and Graham’s initial conversation. After a sterility test and other mandatory tests, the first batch of its vaccine candidate, called mRNA-1273, shipped to the NIH on February 24. For the first time in a long time, Moderna’s stock price surged. NIH researchers administered the first dose of the candidate into a human volunteer less than a month later, on March 16.  Controversially, in order to begin its human trial on March 16, regulatory agencies had to allow Moderna to bypass major aspects of traditional animal trials, which many experts and commentators noted was highly unusual but was now deemed necessary due to the urgency of the crisis. Instead of developing the vaccine in distinct sequential stages, as is the custom, Moderna “decided to do all of the steps [relating to animal trials] simultaneously.” In other words, confirming that the candidate is working before manufacturing an animal-grade vaccine, conducting animal trials, analyzing the animal-trial data, manufacturing a vaccine for use in human trials, and beginning human trials were all conducted simultaneously by Moderna. Thus, the design of human trials for the Moderna vaccine candidate was not informed by animal-trial data.  Lt. Javier Lopez Coronado and Hospitalman Francisco Velasco inspect a box of COVID-19 vaccine vials at the Naval Health Clinic in Corpus Christi, TX, December 2020; Source: Wikimedia This should have been a major red flag, given Moderna’s persistent difficulties in getting its products past animal trials. As noted in Part I, up until the COVID-19 crisis, most of Moderna’s experiments and products had only been tested in animals, with only a handful able to make it to human trials. In the case of the Crigler-Najjar therapy that it was forced to indefinitely delay, toxicity concerns related to the mRNA delivery system being used had emerged in the animal trials, which Moderna was now greenlighted to largely skip. Given that Moderna had subsequently been forced to abandon all multidose products because of poor results in animal trials, being allowed to skip this formerly insurmountable obstacle was likely seen as a boon to some at the company. It is also astounding that, given Moderna’s history with problematic animal trials, more scrutiny was not devoted to the regulatory decision to allow Moderna to essentially skip such trials.  Animal studies conducted on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine did identify problems that should have informed human trials, but this did not happen because of the regulatory decision. For example, animal reproductive toxicity studies on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that are cited by the European Medicines Agency found that there was reduced fertility in rats that received the vaccine (e. g., overall pregnancy index of 84.1% in vaccinated rats versus 93.2% in the unvaccinated) as well as an increased proportion of aberrant bone development in their fetuses. That study has been criticized for failing to report on the accumulation of vaccine in the placenta as well as failing to investigate the effect of vaccine doses administered during key pregnancy milestones, such as embryonic organogenesis. In addition, the number of animals tested is unstated, making the statistical power of the study unknown. At the very least, the 9 percent drop in the fertility index among vaccinated rats should have prompted expanded animal trials to investigate concerns of reproductive toxicity before testing in humans.  Yet, Moderna declined to further investigate reproductive toxicity in animal trials and entirely excluded reproductive toxicity studies from its simultaneous human trials, as pregnant women were excluded from participation in the clinical trials of its vaccine. Despite this, pregnant women were labeled a priority group for receiving the vaccine after Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was granted for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Per the New England Journal of Medicine, this meant that “pregnant women and their clinicians were left to weigh the documented risks of Covid-19 infection against the unknown safety risks of vaccination in deciding whether to receive the vaccine.”  Moderna only began recruiting for an “observational pregnancy outcome study” of its COVID-19 vaccine in humans in mid-July 2021, and that study is projected to conclude in early 2024. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in “people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.” This recommendation is largely based on the CDC’s publication of preliminary data on mRNA COVID-19 vaccine safety in pregnant women in June 2021, which is based on passive reporting systems in use within the United States (i. e., VAERS and v-safe). Even in the limited scope of this study, 115 of the 827 women who had a completed pregnancy during the study lost the baby, 104 of which were spontaneous abortions before 20 weeks of gestation. Of these 827 pregnant women, only 127 had received a mRNA vaccine before the 3rd trimester. This appears to suggest an increased risk among those women who took the vaccine before the 3rd trimester, but the selective nature of the data makes it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions. Despite claims from the New England Journal of Medicine that the study’s data was “reassuring”, the study’s authors ultimately stated that their study, which mainly looked at women who began vaccination in the third trimester, was unable to draw “conclusions about spontaneous abortions, congenital anomalies, and other potential rare neonatal outcomes.” This is just one example of the problems caused by “cutting corners” with respect to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trials in humans and animals, including those conducted by the NIH. Meanwhile, throughout February, March and April, Bancel was “begging for money” as Moderna reportedly lacked “enough money to buy essential ingredients for the shots” and “needed hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps even more than a billion dollars” to manufacture its vaccine, which had only recently begun trials. Bancel, whose tenure at Moderna had long been marked by his ability to charm investors, kept coming up empty-handed. Then, in mid-April 2020, Moderna’s long-time cooperation with the US government again paid off when Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded the company $483 million to “accelerate the development of its vaccine candidate for the novel coronavirus.” A year later, the amount invested in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine by the US government had grown to about $6 billion dollars, just $1.5 billion short of the company’s entire value at the time of its pre-COVID IPO. BARDA, throughout 2020, was directly overseen by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), led by the extremely corrupt Robert Kadlec, who had spent roughly the last two decades designing BARDA and helping shape legislation that concentrated many of the emergency powers of HHS under the Office of the ASPR. Conveniently, Kadlec occupied the powerful role of ASPR that he had spent years sculpting at the exact moment when the pandemic, which he had simulated the previous year via Crimson Contagion, took place. As mentioned in Part I, he was also a key participant in the June 2001 Dark Winter exercise. In his capacity as ASPR during 2020, Kadlec oversaw nearly all major aspects of the HHS COVID-19 response and had a key role in BARDA’s funding decisions during that period, as well as in the affairs of the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration as they related to COVID-19 medical countermeasures, including vaccines.  On May 1, 2020, Moderna announced a ten-year manufacturing agreement with the Lonza Group, a multinational chemical and biotech company based in Switzerland. Per the agreement, Lonza would build out vaccine production sites for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, first in the US and Switzerland, before expanding to Lonza’s facilities in other countries. The scale of production discussed in the agreement was to produce 1 billion doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine annually. It was claimed that the ten-year agreement would also focus on other products, even though it was well known at the time that other Moderna products were “nowhere close to being ready for the market.” Moderna executives would later state that they were still scrambling for the cash to manufacture doses at the time the agreement with Lonza was made. The decision to forge a partnership to produce that quantity of doses annually suggests marvelous foresight on the part of Moderna and Lonza that the COVID-19 vaccine would become an annual or semiannual affair, given that current claims of waning immunity could not have been known back then because initial trials of the Moderna vaccine had begun less than two months earlier and there was still no published data on its efficacy or safety. However, as will be discussed Part III of this series, Moderna needs to sell “pandemic level” quantities of its COVID-19 vaccine every year in order to avoid a return of the existential crises it faced before COVID-19 (for more on those crises, see Part I). The implications of this, given Moderna’s previous inability to produce a safe product for multidosing and lack of evidence that past issues were addressed in the development of its COVID-19 vaccine, will also be discussed in Part III of this series.  It is also noteworthy that, like Moderna, Lonza as a company and its leaders are closely affiliated with the World Economic Forum. In addition, at the time the agreement was reached in May 2020, Moncef Slaoui, the former GlaxoSmithKline executive, served on the boards of both Moderna and Lonza. Slaoui withdrew from the boards of both companies two weeks after the agreement was reached to become the head of the US-led vaccination-development drive Operation Warp Speed. Moderna praised Slaoui’s appointment to head the vaccination project.  By mid-May, Moderna’s stock price—whose steady decline before COVID-19 was detailed in Part I —had tripled since late February 2020, all on high hopes for its COVID-19 vaccine. Since Moderna’s stock had begun to surge in February, media reports noted that “nearly every progress update—or media appearance by Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel—has been gobbled up by investors, who seem to have an insatiable appetite for the stock.” Bancel’s tried-and-tested method of keeping Moderna afloat on pure hype, though it was faltering before COVID-19, was again paying off for the company thanks to the global crisis and related panic.  Some critics did emerge, however, calling Moderna’s now $23 billion valuation “insane,” especially considering that the company had posted a net loss of $514 million the previous year and had yet to produce a safe or effective medicine since its founding a decade earlier. In January 2020, Moderna had been worth a mere $5 billion, $2 billion less than its valuation at its December 2018 IPO. If it hadn’t been for the onset of the COVID crisis and a fresh injection of hype, it seems that Moderna’s valuation would have continued to shrink. Yet, thankfully for Moderna, investors were valuing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine even before the release of any clinical data. Market analysts at the time were forecasting Moderna’s 2022 revenue at about $1 billion, a figure based almost entirely on coronavirus vaccine sales, since all other Moderna products were years away from a market debut. Yet, even with this forecasted revenue, Moderna’s stock value in mid-May 2020 was trading at twenty-three times its projected sales, a phenomenon unique to Moderna among biotech stocks at the time. For comparison, the other highest multiples in biotech at the time were Vertex Pharmaceutical and Seattle Genetics, which were then trading at nine and twelve times their projected revenue, respectively. Now, with the implementation of booster shot policies around the world, revenue forecasts for Moderna now predict the company will make a staggering $35 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales through next year. To read the rest of the report, click here. Tyler Durden Fri, 10/29/2021 - 12:15.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 29th, 2021