Advertisements


Bitcoin Could Be as Bad for the Planet as Beef

Bitcoin mining’s climate impact is comparable to farming cattle or burning gasoline when taken as a proportion of market value. Bitcoin mining’s climate impact is comparable to farming cattle or burning gasoline when taken as a proportion of market value, according to researchers at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Cryptocurrency mining is energy intensive because it requires highly specialized computers—and most of the electricity it consumes is generated by burning planet-warming fossil fuels. The climate-related economic damage caused by mining the popular digital token, Bitcoin, exceeded its market value on 6.4% of the days it traded between 2016 and 2021, the paper published in Scientific Reports on Thursday found. The study calculated the climate cost of mining Bitcoin against its average market price, and compared it with other commodities like crude oil, gold or beef. That means the results don’t reflect total emissions by these industries, which would be far greater, but their relative impact. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: Fact-Checking 8 Claims About Crypto’s Climate Impact The climate impact of mining gold, to which Bitcoin is often compared, is just 4% of its average market price on an average year, compared to 35% for the world’s most popular cryptocurrency between 2016 and 2021. And the environmental impact has grown as the cryptocurrency market has matured, calling into question the sector’s overall sustainability. “While proponents have offered (Bitcoin) as representing ‘digital gold,’ from a climate damages perspective it operates more like ‘digital crude,’” the researchers said, signaling the need to find more efficient ways to produce the tokens, or to increase regulation. Mining of Bitcoin, which represents roughly 41% of the global cryptocurrency market, consumed more energy than was used to power entire countries like Austria or Portugal in 2020. The mining of Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin and Monero coins generated 3 to 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from January 2016, to June 2018, according to research cited by the paper. That’s equivalent to the emissions of Afghanistan, Slovenia or Uruguay in 2018. Bitcoin’s carbon footprint also grows over time because, to mine new coins, multiple miners compete to verify transactions on the blockchain. The fact that an ever-growing number of miners compete to solve increasingly difficult operations means the overall energy use rises. That’s why a Bitcoin mined in 2021 would have emitted about 113 metric tons of CO2 equivalent—126 times more than one mined in 2016, according to the researchers. The paper estimates the economic value of that damage at $11,314 for a single Bitcoin mined last year, while the value of total climate damages generated by all Bitcoins mined between 2016 and 2021 could have been as high as $12 billion. Read More: A Crypto Game Promised to Lift Filipinos Out of Poverty. Here’s What Happened Instead In recent months, plunging profit margins from mining Bitcoin have pushed miners to operate more efficient machines—a move that’s resulted in a decline in greenhouse gas emissions from the industry, according to a different report earlier this week. Emissions this year are estimated to be 14.1% lower than in 2021, representing about 0.1% of human emissions globally, and about half of what gold miners generate in absolute terms. Cryptocurrency miners are also ramping up efforts to source a larger share of the energy they consume from renewable sources like geothermal, hydro, solar and wind. Researchers at the University of Albuquerque ran a simulation and concluded that, if renewables like wind and solar had represented 88.4% of the total amount of power used to mine Bitcoin between 2016 and 2021, climate damages would have dropped to just 4% of average market price. Another way to reduce climate impact is to shift to a different mechanism to verify transactions—and produce coins. Ether, the second largest cryptocurrency, this year moved to a mechanism called Proof of Stake, which the study said should reduce its estimated energy use by more than 99%. —With assistance from Muyao Shen......»»

Category: topSource: TIME5 hr. 43 min. ago Related News

Google Winds Down Stadia Game-Streaming Service Three Years After Launch

Google said it will terminate services for Stadia, its troubled cloud gaming service, after it failed to gain traction with players. Google said it will terminate services for Stadia, its troubled cloud gaming service, after it failed to gain traction with players almost three years after its launch. Stadia was an attempt from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to take on the video game console giants with a platform of its own. Unlike traditional consoles, Stadia allowed users to play games on devices such as Android phones and Chromecast apps for TV, by funneling data directly from Google’s server clusters. Its subscription cost $10 a month. “While Stadia’s approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected,” Phil Harrison, Stadia vice president and general manager, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “So we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: Google Is Making It Easier to Remove Personal Info From Search. Here’s How Players will be able to access their games library and play through Jan. 18. Google will refund Stadia hardware purchases, games and add-on content made through the Google Store, Harrison said. Google invested generously in Stadia in an effort to reach well beyond the audience of traditional gamers or those who couldn’t afford a pricey Xbox or PlayStation console. It shelled out tens of millions of dollars to get games like Red Dead Redemption 2 on the platform, Bloomberg has reported. Stadia debuted in November 2019 with popular third-party franchises including Destiny 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. But Google’s ultimate goal was to pack Stadia with original content and the company hired hundreds of game developers from Montreal and Los Angeles. They didn’t have long to ramp up before Google shuttered its in-house game development in early 2021. People familiar with the studio said at the time that the rule-bound tech giant struggled to foster an environment nurturing to video game development, which is interdisciplinary and can be chaotic. The impact of Covid-19 spurred a hiring freeze at Google, which presented challenges for staffing up the division. Gamers also chafed at the idea that games they purchased for $60 a piece didn’t feel like they belonged to them, since they were stored in the cloud — a concern validated by Thursday’s shutdown notice. Accustomed to owning their own hardware, some gamers felt like Stadia appeared too jarring of a shift. The service missed its sales targets on controllers and monthly active users by hundreds of thousands, Bloomberg has reported. Read More: Google’s AI Lab, DeepMind, Offers ‘Gift to Humanity’ with Protein Structure Solution With the exit of Stadia, that leaves Amazon.com Inc.’s Luna, Microsoft Corp.’s xCloud and Nvidia Corp.’s GeForce Now to chart the future of cloud gaming. (Updates with additional context from fourth paragraph.).....»»

Category: topSource: TIME5 hr. 43 min. ago Related News

Facebook Owner Meta Announces Hiring Freeze, Warns Employees of Restructuring

The move puts an end to the social media giant’s years of rapid growth and expansion Meta Platforms Inc., the owner of Facebook and Instagram, said it will freeze hiring and restructure some teams in an effort to cut costs and shift priorities, putting an end to the social media giant’s years of rapid growth and expansion. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s freeze on Thursday during a weekly Q&A session with employees, according to a person in attendance. He added that the company would reduce budgets across most teams, even those that are growing, and that individual teams will sort out how to handle headcount changes. That could mean not filling roles that employees depart, shifting people to other teams, or working to “manage out people who aren’t succeeding,” according to remarks reviewed by Bloomberg. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “I had hoped the economy would have more clearly stabilized by now, but from what we’re seeing it doesn’t yet seem like it has, so we want to plan somewhat conservatively,” Zuckerberg said. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment. Read More: ‘Only the Paranoid Survive.’ Some CEOs Are Cutting Staff Even as the Labor Market Booms Meta stock, which was already trading down to start the day, fell further on the news, down 4% from Wednesday’s close. The shares are down more than 40% so far this year. The further cost cuts and hiring freeze are Meta’s starkest admission that advertising revenue growth is slowing amid mounting competition for users’ attention. It’s not an ideal time to be cutting; besides economic pressures, the company’s advertising business is less efficient due to new privacy restrictions from Apple Inc. on tracking iPhone users. TikTok is attracting a younger demographic away from Instagram. And Zuckerberg is making an expensive bet on the metaverse, an immersive virtual reality future where he imagines people will eventually communicate, an effort he has said will lose the company money for many years. Read More: What Mark Zuckerberg Revealed About His Metaverse Plans Meta said earlier this year that it was planning to slow hiring for some management roles, and had postponed handing out full-time jobs to summer interns. The freeze was necessary because “we want to make sure we’re not adding people to teams where we don’t expect to have roles next year,” Zuckerberg explained Thursday. Zuckerberg had warned in July that that Meta would “steadily reduce headcount growth,” and that “many teams are going to shrink so we can shift energy to other areas.” Priorities internally include Reels, Meta’s TikTok competitor, and Zuckerberg’s metaverse. Meta had more than 83,500 employees as of June 30, and added 5,700 new hires in the second quarter. Zuckerberg said Thursday that the company would be “somewhat smaller” by the end of 2023. “For the first 18 years of the company, we basically grew quickly basically every year, and then more recently our revenue has been flat to slightly down for the first time,” he told staff. Read More: Why Frances Haugen Is ‘Super Scared’ About Facebook’s Metaverse During its first-quarter earnings call, Meta said annual expenses would be roughly $3 billion lower than initially projected, trimming an estimated range that had been as high as $95 billion. In prior moves to reduce spending, a dual-camera watch the company was building to compete with the Apple Watch was shuttered. Meta is not the only advertising company to be hit by broader economic challenges. Twitter Inc. enacted its own hiring freeze back in May, and has been asking employees to watch their expenses and reduce travel and marketing costs. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, too, said that it would slow hiring during the back half of the year, and Snap Inc. cut 20% of its workforce in August......»»

Category: topSource: TIME5 hr. 43 min. ago Related News

Eurozone Inflation a ‘Grave Concern,’ Jumps to Record 10%

Energy prices were the main culprit, rising 40.8% over a year ago, according to September's reading by Eurostat. FRANKFURT, Germany — Inflation in the European countries using the euro currency has broken into double digits as prices for electricity and natural gas soar, signaling a looming winter recession for one of the globe’s major economies as higher prices undermine consumers’ spending power. Consumer prices in the 19-country eurozone rose a record 10% in September from a year earlier, up from an annual 9.1% in August, EU statistics agency Eurostat reported Friday. Only a year ago, inflation was as low as 3.4%. Price increases were beyond what market analysts had expected and are at their highest level since record-keeping for the euro started in 1997. Energy prices were the main culprit, rising 40.8% over a year ago. Food, alcohol and tobacco prices jumped 11.8%. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “I’m already looking a lot more for special offers,” said Myriam Maierhofer, a 64-year-old trainer and coach for staff development, who was shopping Thursday at weekly outdoor market in Cologne, Germany. “I don’t throw away so much so quickly, so I’ve become more economical with food. And this morning, I also turned down the heating in the rooms again.” Inflation has been fueled by steady cutbacks in supplies of natural gas from Russia and bottlenecks in getting supplies of raw materials and parts as the global economy bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Russian cutbacks have sent gas prices soaring to the point where energy-intensive businesses such as fertilizer and steel say they can no longer make some products at a profit. Meanwhile, high prices for utility bills, food and fuel are leaving consumers with less money to spend on other things. That is the main reason economists are predicting a recession, or a severe and long-lasting downturn in economic activity, for the end of this year and the first months of next year. The European Central Bank is raising interest rates to combat inflation by keeping higher prices from being baked into people’s expectations for wages and prices, it but can’t by itself lower energy prices. Friday’s inflation reading was likely to be a matter of “grave concern” for the ECB, said Jessica Hinds, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics. She said the central bank’s rate-setting council was likely to raise its benchmark rates by an outsized three-quarters of a percentage point at its next meeting Oct. 27. Higher interest rates make it more expensive for people and businesses to borrow, invest and spend, dampening demand for goods and thus restraining inflation. Inflation is far above the ECB’s goal of 2% considered best for the economy. Central banks around the world are rapidly raising rates, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is aiming to bring down inflation that hit 8.3% in August. Eurozone inflation has eclipsed the United Kingdom’s 9.9% registered last month. European officials call the natural gas cutbacks from Russia energy blackmail aimed at pressuring and dividing European governments over Western sanctions and their support for Ukraine. Russia blames technical problems. The rising gas prices that have resulted mean higher heating bills and higher electricity costs because natural gas is used to generate power, heat homes and run factories. European Union energy ministers on Friday adopted a windfall levy on profits by fossil fuel companies and other measures to ease the energy crisis, while individual countries also have allocated hundreds of billions to provide relief to households and businesses. With consumer prices in Germany rising by 10.9%, hitting double digits for the first time in decades, the government announced plans to spend up to 200 billion euros ($195 billion) to help with surging gas bills in Europe’s largest single economy. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday that the government was reactivating an economic stabilizing fund previously used during the global financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Christian Schrader, 35, who was shopping at the market in Cologne, was less worried about food prices but said that “you start to think about which rooms need to be heated in the flat and try to explain to the children that we only play in one room.” A bigger worry was “the social dimension,” he said. “Inflation has often been a driver for social division, for extreme tendencies, for populism. This dimension worries me more.” ___ AP reporter Daniel Niemann contributed from Cologne, Germany......»»

Category: topSource: TIME5 hr. 43 min. ago Related News

Why Your Next Airbnb May Have a Pickleball Court

More short-term hosts are playing to renters' love of pickleball. Addison Seale manages a luxury Airbnb Inc. listing near Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, a short-term rental market that boomed during the pandemic as people fled cramped cities in search of outdoor space. The house is sleek—a single story, three-bedroom concrete home with a deck, hot tub, small above-ground pool and a striking view of the desert. But to set the home apart from the 1,200 other rentals in the area, Seale, 25, and her fiancé decided against an in-ground pool, and chose a pickleball court instead. “Compared to putting in a pool it was extremely cheap because it’s a concrete slab they had to finish and put the lines on,” she said. “We really just wanted something we could use and make us stand out.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Seale’s property is one of almost 1,300 short-term rentals across Airbnb and Expedia Group Inc.’s Vrbo that mention pickleball in their listing title or description, according to industry data provider AirDNA. The number of citations has increased 32% from 2019. Read More: Why Older People Love Pickleball So Much While the number of residences boasting pickleball courts is still small compared with the more than 8 million listings combined for Airbnb and Vrbo, having homes that will entice guests helps the companies compete with hotels. After two years of Covid lockdowns, the travel companies have been enjoying a boom in demand, with revenue in the second quarter topping analysts’ expectations. But shares of Airbnb and Expedia are down about 37% and 48%, respectively, this year as analysts expect travel to taper off toward the end of 2022 amid high inflation and an uncertain economic outlook. Property listings that mention pickleball are down about 200 this year, likely a reflection of softer demand for popular sites near mountain and lake getaways, AirDNA said. Pickleball—played with a plastic, hollow-ball and wide paddle—resembles a cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Players can compete as singles or as doubles on a court or even a driveway marked with chalk. All that’s needed is a lightweight and inexpensive net and paddles, making the game easily accessible to most people. The popularity of the sport exploded recently, growing 39% over the last two years to 4.8 million players, according to a study from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, a global trade group for sports and fitness brands. Players in the 18-34 age range make up almost 29% of total players, but among serious pickleball enthusiasts, those who play eight times or more a year, almost a third are 65 or older. Advertising pickleball perks can help short-term rental hosts get noticed amid a flood of new properties that have cropped up since the pandemic. Demand for homes has swelled as people take advantage of flexible work options. More guests are looking for stays of a month or more, and many are bringing their whole families in search of a space to combine work and leisure. The top amenities people are looking for include home offices, fast Wi-Fi, backyards and pet-friendly homes, according to Airbnb. The San Francisco-based company said it doesn’t track searches for pickleball, but does note that travelers say amenities are a top priority for a great trip, especially when guests are booking for longer stays. On a blog post for hosts, Airbnb advises: “Thoughtfully outfitting your space and adding popular amenities to your listing will help you stand out from the crowd.” One host on the site suggested that other hosts “write your listing to invite people who value and enjoy the same things you do.” That’s what Mike and Barbara Burch did. The Sedona, Arizona, residents converted a guest house on their property into an Airbnb listing and installed a pickleball court in September 2020 after playing at their church’s gym before the pandemic. It’s been a draw for reservations, and the couple, who describe themselves as “very active seniors,” finds new playing partners when their guests pick up the paddles. Read More: Airbnb Made Overtourism Worse. Now It Wants to Fix That “I have many people who will say, ‘I saw you had a pickleball court and that’s what bought me to your site,’” Barbara Burch said. “We’ve taught a lot of people that have no physical ability at all.” Pickleball players in the US are concentrated on the coasts, with more than 1 million from Florida to Washington, D.C., and more than 750,000 players on the West Coast, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association report. But tournaments happen all across the country, including one in Sacramento, California, at the end of September that offers a $40,000 prize. That means travelers could be looking for a pickleball-friendly place to stay while competing, or to stay in shape while on vacation. Saint George, Utah, has the most pickleball-related rental listings in the US, with more than 100, followed by the Florida cities of St. Petersburg, Panama City Beach and Naples, according to AirDNA. Like Lake Tahoe, and Joshua Tree, Arizona saw a boom in the popularity of short-term rentals during the pandemic, along with a hot housing market. The number of short-term listings in Phoenix increased 46% as of August compared with last year, according to AirDNA. While many people flocked to the sunny, dry destinations as an ideal place to weather the pandemic and work from home, not everyone wants to just lounge by the pool after a day of video calls or while on a family trip. “If you go to a place like Arizona you’re gonna lay at the pool,” said Sarah Bradford, a former vacation rental manager and self-described pickleball fanatic. “A family is tired of playing at the pool after an hour. You need activities; you’re on vacation.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIME5 hr. 43 min. ago Related News

The Big Takeaways From Elon Musk’s Twitter Texts

Hundreds of Elon Musk’s private text messages about Twitter were made public Hundreds of Elon Musk’s private text messages about Twitter were made public Thursday in a Delaware court filing, part of a stack of evidence in Twitter’s forthcoming legal case against the Tesla CEO. Musk’s texts offer a rare insight into the private conversations of the man at the center of a business deal that captivated the world. The messages were mostly sent in March and April this year, a period when Musk began regularly criticizing Twitter publicly, announced he had acquired a minority stake in the company, agreed to join its board, then backed out and made a $44 billion hostile takeover bid before attempting to pull out of the deal. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Twitter is now suing Musk in an attempt to force him to go through with his agreement, finalized in April, to buy Twitter. In his attempt to get out of the deal, Musk argues that Twitter misled him over the number of fake accounts on its platform. The trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17. Read More: Whether or Not He Buys Twitter, Elon Musk Has Thrown the Company Into Turmoil The texts reveal how Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder, cheered Musk’s effort to buy and reform the platform from behind the scenes, and attempted to heal Musk’s deteriorating relationship with Parag Agrawal, Dorsey’s successor as Twitter CEO. They also show how, at the same time as he was soliciting financing for his Twitter deal, Musk was contemplating a “Plan B” to turn the platform into a blockchain-based social network. The messages suggest Musk soured on that plan after concluding it would be unfeasible. The texts reveal Musk’s contact list is a who’s who of business titans and media personalities, many of whom clambered to offer him their two cents as his plans for Twitter became public knowledge. Here are the big takeaways from Elon Musk’s Twitter text messages. Jack Dorsey’s behind-the-scenes role The texts reveal how Dorsey had pushed for months at Twitter to grant Musk a seat on the company’s board. On March 26, after Musk sent a series of tweets criticizing Twitter’s approach to free speech and asking whether a new platform was needed, Dorsey sent Musk a series of messages urging Musk to “help” turn the company around. “You care so much, get its importance, and could def help in immeasurable ways,” Dorsey wrote to Musk. Dorsey told Musk that in 2021, while he was still CEO, he had tried to convince Twitter’s board to give Musk a seat, but decided to quit after the directors declined. The board considered giving Musk a seat too risky, Dorsey’s texts say. “That’s about the time I decided I needed to work to leave [Twitter], as hard as it was for me,” Dorsey told Musk in the messages. (Dorsey resigned as Twitter CEO in November 2021, and stepped down from its board in May 2022.) Meanwhile, Musk’s tweets about the future of Twitter appeared to have spurred the company’s board to reevaluate their opposition to the billionaire taking a seat. Days later, according to the texts, Musk met Agrawal and Bret Taylor, chair of the Twitter board, for dinner at a quirky AirBnB in San Jose, California, surrounded by tractors, donkeys, and abandoned trucks. “Great dinner :)” Musk texted a group chat afterward. “Really great,” Taylor replied. “The donkeys and dystopian surveillance helicopters really added to the ambiance.” “Memorable for multiple reasons. Really enjoyed it,” Agrawal said. Two days later, Dorsey texted Musk. “I heard good things are happening,” he said. Read More: Elon Musk Is Convinced He’s the Future. We Need to Look Beyond Him The next day, April 4, Musk announced publicly he had been buying Twitter stock since January and had amassed an almost 10% stake in the company. The day after that, Agrawal tweeted out a statement saying Musk had agreed to join the Twitter board. After the news was announced, Dorsey criticized the board in a message to Musk. “Thank you for joining!” he wrote. “Parag is an incredible engineer. The board is terrible. Always here to talk through anything you want.” “I couldn’t be happier you’re doing this,” Dorsey added. “I’ve wanted it for a long time. Got very emotional when I learned it was finally possible.” Musk’s relationship with Parag Agrawal sours The texts provide a behind-the-scenes look at how Musk’s conversations with the Twitter CEO quickly deteriorated. The pair had a cordial exchange where they bonded over a shared love of coding and engineering. “I have a ton of ideas, but [let me know] if I’m pushing too hard,” Musk wrote to Agrawal on April 7. “I just want Twitter to be maximum amazing.” But two days later, after more tweets from Musk criticizing Twitter publicly, Agrawal sent him a terse message. “You are free to tweet ‘is Twitter dying?’ or anything else about Twitter – but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it’s not helping me make Twitter better in the current context,” Agrawal wrote. “Next time we speak, I’d like to […] provide you perspective on the level of internal distraction right now and how it’s hurting our ability to do work.” “What did you get done this week?” Musk wrote back. “I’m not joining the board,” Musk added in a followup message. “This is a waste of time. Will make an offer to take Twitter private.” As Musk began soliciting bankers and other tech billionaires for cash to finance his takeover, the court document shows Dorsey attempting to repair the damage between Musk and Agrawal. “I just want to make this amazing and feel bound to it,” Dorsey wrote to Musk on April 26, after getting him to agree to join a group call with Agrawal. “I won’t let this fail and will do whatever it takes. It’s just too critical to humanity.” Read More: The Twitter Whistleblower Needs You to Trust Him The subsequent messages suggest that the attempt failed. “You and I are in complete agreement,” Musk wrote to Dorsey after the call. “Parag is just moving far too slowly and trying to please people who will not be happy no matter what he does.” “At least it became clear that you can’t work together,” Dorsey replied. “That was clarifying.” How Musk soured on blockchain Another big takeaway from the text messages is that Musk was weighing an ill-fated plan to turn Twitter into a blockchain-based platform, even after he had decided to mount a hostile takeover of the company. “I have an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like Twitter,” Musk texted his brother, Kimbal Musk, on April 9. “You have to pay a tiny amount to register your message on the chain, which will cut out the vast majority of spam and bots. There is no throat to choke, so free speech is guaranteed.” Musk said he had a “Plan-B” for Twitter based on the blockchain. “My Plan-B is a blockchain-based version of Twitter, where the “tweets” are embedded in the transaction as comments,” he wrote in an April 14 message to Steve Davis, the CEO of Musk’s tunnel-drilling Boring Company. “So you’d have to pay maybe 0.1 Doge per comment or repost of that comment.” Dogecoin, or Doge, is a spoof cryptocurrency, named after a meme about a dog. Musk repeatedly tweeted about investing in the digital currency in 2021, which briefly sent its value surging before it crashed. But just 11 days later, Musk appeared to have changed his mind. Musk received a text from an intermediary who said he represented the billionaire CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried. The intermediary said Bankman-Fried could offer Musk up to $5 billion in financing for his Twitter takeover if Musk agreed to let him “do the engineering for social media blockchain integration.” “Blockchain Twitter isn’t possible,” Musk shot back. “The bandwidth and latency requirements cannot be supported by a peer to peer network, unless those ‘peers’ are absolutely gigantic, thus defeating the purpose of a decentralized network.” Musk still agreed to meet with Bankman-Fried, but on one condition: “So long as I don’t have to have a laborious blockchain debate.” (Bankman-Fried did not end up contributing money to Musk’s Twitter bid.) Musk’s inbox blows up with big-name messages As Musk’s plans for Twitter began to dominate the news cycle, his inbox began to blow up with messages from public figures—including interview requests from high-profile journalists, outreach from fixers claiming to represent politicians, and informal commitments from some of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors to help fund the Twitter takeover. Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning, texted Musk on April 14. “ELON! You buying Twitter or offering to buy Twitter … Wow!” her message reads. “Now don’t you think we should sit down together face to face? This is, as the kids of today say, a ‘gangsta move’.” The message went on: “I don’t know how shareholders turn this down. Like I said, you are not like the other kids in the class.” Read More: A Complete Timeline of Elon Musk’s Business Endeavors The court filing shows Musk soliciting billions of dollars in financing directly, via informal messages with tech CEOs. On April 20, Musk texted Oracle CEO Larry Ellison to ask if he would be interested in contributing funding toward his Twitter takeover. An hour later, Ellison had offered him a billion dollars. (Ellison followed through, according to Bloomberg.) Other heavyweights from the business world whose messages appear in the filing include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, media investor James Murdoch, and Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff. (Benioff is the owner and co-chair of TIME). Musk’s inbox also filled with messages from people on the overt political right, who appeared enthused by his public statements criticizing Twitter for being too left-wing. “Are you going to liberate Twitter from the censorship happy mob?” podcast host Joe Rogan asked in a message dated April 4. “I will provide advice, which they may or may not choose to follow,” Musk replied. And Ron DeSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida tipped for a run at the presidency in 2024, appeared to reach out through an intermediary. “Governor DeSantis just called me just now with ideas how to help you,” wrote Joe Lonsdale, a venture capitalist, in a message to Musk on April 16. “Let me know if you or somebody on your side wants to chat [with] him.” “Haha cool,” Musk replied......»»

Category: topSource: TIME5 hr. 43 min. ago Related News

I Paid $3,000 Above Sticker Price For My New Car. You Probably Will Too

What I wish I knew about negotiating before overpaying for my new compact SUV I needed a car and there were no cars. Having just moved across the country, from a city to the suburbs, I started my search for a new car with the self-assurance of most U.S shoppers, who have grown to expect that they can get everything they need with two-day delivery from Amazon or a quick drive to Walmart. I figured that armed with some Internet research, I’d be able to find a compact SUV that would drive better than our small Honda Civic on the slippery roads of the East Coast, and that, unlike my sedan, would fit my toddler and his (un)necessary gear comfortably. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Yes, I knew that car prices had gone up since the beginning of the pandemic—I’d read (and written) about chip and parts shortages, and yes—I knew that because of these shortages, inventory was low and finding a car might take a little longer than usual. But it had been more than two years since the pandemic began, surely things were settling down, I thought. I have a Consumer Reports login. I once convinced Target to charge me half price for an ottoman. I could negotiate. Reader, I could not negotiate. Months after we began the hunt for a new compact SUV to combat the isolation of the suburbs, my husband and I paid $34,447 for a 2022 Subaru Forester Base model with some added features. That’s $3,002 over the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), the sticker price that for years, buyers were counseled to never exceed. We also paid $800 in fees that I later learned were up to the discretion of the dealer. It might sound like I’m a terrible negotiator, but the truth is that supply chain snafus have turned the car market on its head. Low inventory of housing and cars due to the supply squeeze has taken away much of the bargaining power that buyers might have had, even at places like dealerships where most things are negotiable. “This has been an unexpected bonanza for new car dealers,” says George Hoffer, emeritus professor of transportation economics at Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s like the real estate boom—it’s essentially a seller’s market.” Read More: The Great Tampon Shortage of 2022 Is the Supply Chain Problem No One’s Talking About When I first started looking for a compact SUV in May, dealership after dealership told me that there were simply none of the cars I wanted—a compact SUV for under $30,000— available, and that the earliest they could get me one was November. In July of 2022, there were only enough cars on lots in the U.S. to meet demand for the next 37 days, or 1.09 million new unsold cars, according to research firm Cox Automotive. That’s a dramatic drop from July 2019, when there were 3.69 million new unsold units, or 88 days worth of supply. The lower the price of the car, Cox finds, the less inventory is available. The reasons that so few cars are available may, at this point in the pandemic, sound familiar. After much of the world shut down to quarantine in early 2020, car manufacturers slashed their orders of semiconductors—or chips—and other parts, worried that there was going to be a worldwide recession. Chip makers started making semiconductors for other, more lucrative customers, so by the time consumers started trying to buy cars again in mid-2020, manufacturers couldn’t get the parts they needed. Manufacturers are still struggling with supply chain issues. Ford, for example, said on Sept. 19 that by the end of the third quarter, it will have 45,000 mostly-completed vehicles that it won’t be able to ship to dealers because of a lack of parts. Car dealerships, on the other hand, appear to be benefiting from the shortages. While dealers are selling fewer cars, they’re hiking the prices to compensate. The average gross profit for dealers for a new vehicle was $6,244 in the beginning of 2022, an 180% increase from 2019, according to the research firm Haig Partners. Many dealerships posted their highest profits ever in early 2022, Haig Partners found. How car dealers are boosting profits amid shortages Any good shopper knows that if something is sold out in stores, you might be able to find it online, which is where I started looking after dealerships told me I’d have to wait until November for a less expensive new car. I went to Subaru’s website and picked out the tier of features I wanted, which manufacturers call a car’s “trim level,” but I couldn’t actually buy a car online. Subaru’s website just kept sending my details to local dealers, who would only communicate by calling me on the phone, and even then wouldn’t answer questions like “How much does that car cost?” Instead they’d volley back a question of their own: “When can you come to test drive this vehicle?” I would have preferred to just buy the car online, directly from the manufacturer, but that’s not allowed in the U.S.—unless that car is electric. That’s because each state has franchise laws dating back to the middle of the 20th century, when small dealerships argued that “Big Three” automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—were taking advantage of them in a variety of ways, including forcing them to buy cars they couldn’t sell. The franchise laws prevented manufacturers from opening up their own showrooms and undercutting mom and pop dealers. Today, there are many more automakers than the Big Three, and dealerships have gained a lot of political power, but franchise laws still prohibit manufacturers from selling directly to consumers in most cases. Before the pandemic, there were signs that the dominance of dealers might be fading. That’s been driven by Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, which has waged legal battles across the country, winning approval in some states to sell cars directly to consumers. (In 2019, it began selling cars online only, for a non-negotiable price, but Tesla still has brick and mortar galleries where customers can go learn about Tesla’s vehicles). The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, argued that car dealerships don’t have an incentive to sell electric cars that compete with the gasoline-powered cars that make up most of their revenues, and that Tesla’s model of doing many service updates “over the air” challenges dealers’ revenues from servicing cars. Other electric car makers are following suit, meaning that as the U.S. car fleet gradually switches over to electric vehicles, dealerships may start to disappear. “This is an existential threat to dealers—they realize they’re going to be cut out,” says Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan who is also an expert in the laws that prevent manufacturers from selling directly to consumers. “Consumers want to deal with the company that made the vehicle, and they want to be able to make a decision without someone breathing down their neck.” Read More: High Gas Prices Are Pushing Electric Car Sales to a Tipping Point But if dealers felt that their sales strategy was under attack, the pandemic has given them the confidence to keep relying on it. Even if you could buy a new gasoline-powered car online today, supply chain shortages mean that it would take months to arrive. Yet dealers have a pipeline of cars arriving from the manufacturer. Every month, manufacturers notify dealerships of their “allocation”—essentially how many cars they’ll receive the next month, and the trim level and model of those cars. Dealerships use that allocation to fulfill orders that customers have placed with them; whatever is left is available for customers to reserve. It’s impossible for buyers to know which dealership is allocated which cars, so if they’re trying to get a certain car quickly, they have to resort to calling dealerships to find one that will be getting the trim level and vehicle they want. There are so few cars and so many buyers that many of the cars get reserved weeks or months before they even arrive at the dealership. Lower-priced models are especially difficult to find, because many manufacturers have focused on making higher trim level cars—which are more expensive and higher-margin for them—since the shortages began. Even if a dealership has been allocated a lower trim, more affordable model, they can add on costs and fees at their discretion, and there’s little you can do about it unless you want to walk away and wait for your desired car to arrive at another dealership. That’s partially why, according to Kelly Blue Book, the average transaction price for a new car rose to an all-time high in August of $48,301. Buyers should avoid ceding leverage, even if they think they have none I finally found my new Subaru Forester in July by calling all the dealerships I could until I found one that had an incoming “base”model (read: least expensive). Another buyer had reserved it but then purchased something else that was more expensive. I was so relieved to find a car that was arriving the next month that I didn’t initially ask the salesman, who I’ll call Jerry, why the car cost $30,169, even though the base model was listed online for $25,098. As my new car made its way from Ota Gunma Japan, where it was made, to the U.S., the details of just what I would be paying got fuzzier. I kept asking Jerry over email for detailed explanations about what the car cost, what features had been added, and how the dealership got to a price of $30,169, but he did not send me the sticker—which showed the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of our model was $28,617—until the week we were supposed to pick up the car. When he asked if I was having second thoughts about the car, I became paranoid that he was going to sell it to someone else and stopped asking questions. By the time we sat down across from the dealership’s finance manager to sign the papers for our new car, the costs had started to spiral out of control. He presented us with an invoice for $34,447 and asked us to initial it. On top of the $31,169 price the dealership was charging us—including the cost of crossbars that Jerry had added on because of a misunderstanding—we were paying $2,677 in taxes, $300 for registration, $199 for something called VIN—vehicle identification number—etching and a $599 conveyance fee. In normal times, I might have looked at the amount I was paying for a new car—about $5,000 more than we had hoped to pay, and walked away. Instead, I signed the papers, and left the dealership feeling like I had no bargaining power because I had moved to the suburbs at the same time that supply chain issues meant there were no cars. I expected at least to get some sympathy when I called professors who specialize in negotiation to see what I could have done differently. I got none. “You had power, you need to know how to use that power, and how to be a negotiator,” Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business who teaches bargaining, told me. “It doesn’t seem like that is what happened here.” One of the biggest sources of power in a negotiation comes from the ability to walk away, she says. I should have had a backup plan for what I would do if I felt that the car dealer was treating me unfairly, Shelby Rosette says, whether it be waiting a few more months or using public transit. My mistake was getting too wrapped up in the one car that was available. Once buyers become fixated on one car or one house, we lose our bargaining power. “There’s always an alternative,” she says, “you just might not like what you have to walk away to.” Learning from where I went wrong In the grand scheme of things, paying $799 in extraneous fees for a new car is not the end of the world—I could afford the additional cost. Even paying $3,000 over the sticker price was not as high as it could have been—the site Markups.org, which crowdsources consumer data, reports that dealers in places like San Diego and Florida have added as much as $16,000 onto certain Toyota models this year. But even today, those extra costs irk me, because had I known better, I could have avoided them. It turns out that some dealers don’t ever charge over MSRP, even in the midst of a global pandemic. In Philadelphia, for instance, many dealerships don’t charge above the MSRP, while in New England many do. “I am 100% against charging over MSRP,” says Jeff Glanzmann, the general manager of Glanzmann Subaru, a dealership in Hatboro, Pennsylvania. “It’s a short-term benefit to the dealer and a long-term reputation killer to your community and your customers.” The dealership I bought from declined to comment, but Jared Allen, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), argued that if customers always pay a set price, as Tesla requires, they’d also never have the opportunity to pay under the sticker price when market conditions favor buyers. Dealers like Glanzmann also think that extras like VIN etching are not a good value. VIN etching is an anti-theft tactic pioneered decades ago in which dealers carve a car’s identification number on its windows to discourage thieves from stealing the car and selling it in parts. You can now buy a VIN etching kit for $20 and do it yourself and many dealerships don’t even offer the etching service anymore, since new cars have so many better anti-theft features. “It’s a product from 20 years ago that a lot of— let’s say ‘less progressive’—dealers still use,” Glanzmann says. Our invoice had the word “optional” printed next to the etching charge. When I asked the finance manager why we were being charged for it, he implied that the etching had already been done. Dan Blinn, managing attorney of the Consumer Law Group, which brings lawsuits against car dealers, told me that he’d seen many cases where consumers are charged for VIN etching but the dealership neglects to actually do it, so I decided to check. When I started to look at my windows for signs of the etching, I couldn’t find any. Neither could my trusted local mechanic, who worked for years at a car dealership. When I raised this with the dealership, a representative told me that because of “human error,” the VIN number had not actually been etched on my car. They apologized and offered me a refund. Whether I was overcharged for the conveyance fee, which is added for processing documents, is up for debate. Blinn, the attorney, compares conveyance fees to going to a grocery store and being charged extra by the checkout clerk for the privilege of ringing up your milk and eggs. In the New England state where I bought my car, dealerships are supposed to inform customers of the amount of the conveyance fee and let them know that the fee is negotiable, Blinn says. There was a line printed on our invoice that said the dealer fee was negotiable, but we didn’t see it until after we’d signed for the car. “Now, all types of people are coming in to say they feel taken advantage of.” Every charge added to my bill was completely legal, though that doesn’t make them any less frustrating. But some dealers are ending up in court due to their practices. Blinn says this car market is creating an opening for lots of tactics that wouldn’t fly in normal years—including ones that violate consumer protection statutes. He normally files 100 lawsuits a year against auto dealers. Since the pandemic began, his case load has gone up 25%. “It used to be, dealers would sell at market price to savvy buyers and take advantage of people who were less financially sophisticated, or people who didn’t have good credit,” he says. “Now, all types of people are coming in to say they feel taken advantage of. We’re as busy as we’ve ever been.” Read More: A Beer Shortage Is Brewing. A Volcano Is Partly to Blame The unbalanced bargaining power between auto dealers and consumers during the pandemic has attracted attention from the Federal Trade Commission, which in June proposed a rule that, among other things, would require dealers to disclose the full price that a buyer would pay for a vehicle when the customer inquires, excluding only taxes and government fees. The rule is opposed by the National Automobile Dealers Association, which argues it would add extra time and complexity to the car-buying process, overburdening small businesses with more paperwork. Allen, the NADA spokesman, wrote to me in an email that the franchise system is “without question the most consumer friendly, automaker-friendly and market-friendly way to sell and service new vehicles in the U.S.” It’s too soon to tell whether the rule will pass, and whether it will change the way consumers buy cars from dealers. But it might not matter. I walked out of the dealership resolved to never set foot in one again. I’m not planning to buy another car for a long time, but the next time I do—even if it’s a flying one—I’m going to buy it online......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 29th, 2022Related News

What Meta’s Latest Takedown of Fake Foreign Accounts Could Mean for the U.S. Midterms

Facebook parent company Meta said it took down a network of fake accounts, originating in China, that was attempting to interfere in the U.S. midterms Facebook parent company Meta said it took down a network of fake accounts, originating in China, that it says was attempting to interfere in the U.S. midterms. The network’s posts were aimed at appealing to both Democrats and Republicans and posted about controversial issues like abortion and gun rights. Experts say the network’s existence speaks to larger concerns about political disinformation on social media, in the U.S. as well as worldwide. In a report published Tuesday, Meta detailed how it disrupted the network, which was the first known China-based operation targeting users in the United States with political content ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections. This operation was unique, it said in the report, because “Chinese influence operations that we’ve disrupted before typically focused on criticizing the United States to international audiences, rather than primarily targeting domestic audiences in the US.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] But, overall, countries using social media to interfere in each others’ elections is now familiar terrain, policy experts say. In the U.S. these worries were first triggered by reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. While domestically produced and disseminated political disinformation has taken center stage in the U.S. in recent years, it’s important to remember that this is an issue of international scope, says Philip Napoli, a professor in Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “It’s a strategy that nations deploy against each other, and we’re not really seeing any variation from election to election in terms of how concerned we need to be about this kind of activity,” he says. “It’s a constant.” The network targeted people in the U.S. on both sides of the political spectrum by setting up fake accounts posing as Americans and attacking politicians from both parties. The report did not say whether the network was tied to the Chinese government or was merely based in China. The disrupted influence campaign was not particularly effective, Meta’s report noted, in part because the accounts posted during working hours in China, when U.S. users are likely to be less active. Still, the network’s existence, no matter its impact, raises the alarm about social media’s readiness for policing interference. “It’s an indicator that none of the defense mechanisms these platforms have put in place seem to discourage this kind of activity,” Napoli says. Meta did not immediately respond to TIME’s requests for comment. Read More: Meta, TikTok, and Twitter Hope to Fight Election Misinformation. Experts Say Their Plans Aren’t Enough The influence of fake accounts Meta said the China-based network set up fake accounts across multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, from March to August 2022, but was small (only 81 Facebook accounts, eight Pages, one Group and two accounts on Instagram) and did not attract much of an audience. The company said its automated systems took down a number of related accounts and Facebook Pages for violating community standards during this time. Reports of this nature could heighten fears over Chinese influence operations impacting elections in the U.S., says Ho-Fung Hung, a professor of political economy in Johns Hopkins University’s department of sociology. “China is still at a fairly low level [of activity] compared to Russia in terms of interfering in discussion about U.S. issues,” he says. “At this time, I wouldn’t be too worried about direct Chinese intervention in U.S. domestic politics.” Hung also says it’s significant that Meta’s report doesn’t indicate that Chinese intelligence agencies were behind this network. “It’s not clear whether it’s related to the Chinese government or non-governmental people with their own initiative,” he says. However, the discovery of this operation does call into question whether others of its kind are out there, says Joshua Tucker, co-director of New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics. “The question we don’t know the answer to is when Meta announces that it’s taken down a network, is that because Meta is really good at this and somebody tried one thing and got caught, or is it because there are 100 of these networks and this is just the one they caught?” he says. “Absent our own access to the data, it’s hard really to infer how successful Meta is at taking down these types of attacks.” Tucker says that as long as these social platforms exist, they’re likely going to be vulnerable to these kinds of campaigns. “One of the things we know about these kinds of operations, especially these little ones, is they’re easy for people to pull off,” he says. What we know about future elections Meta said in Tuesday’s report that it also took down a much larger Russian network that primarily targeted Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The operation was centered on a network of over 60 websites impersonating legitimate news sites to push pro-Russia content and criticize Ukraine and Western sanctions. Meta said it was “the largest and most complex Russian-origin operation” that it had disrupted since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. This is not the first time social media platforms have been used by foreign powers to exploit political divisions. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political consulting firm used the data of tens of millions of Facebook users in its effort to elect Donald Trump president in 2016, became part of the larger investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Moreover, earlier this month, the New York Times reported on how organizations linked to the Russian government carried out a social media propaganda campaign aimed at inflaming tensions surrounding the 2017 Women’s March. Meta, TikTok and Twitter have all revised and updated their plans for addressing possible election misinformation, regardless of the source, ahead of the US midterms. However, many technology experts say these plans need to be updated and further strengthened. Napoli says the issue is widespread and will continue to be so. “Nations are still expanding the scope of their operations rather than scaling them back,” he says. “They seem to be continually emboldened.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 29th, 2022Related News

How a USDA Analyst Helped Stymie the Biden Administration’s Bid to Block a Sugar Merger

Admnistration officials were frustrated that a government bureaucrat testified for the merger, undermining the administration's position. A federal judge struck a blow to the Biden administration’s antitrust agenda last week, ruling against the Department of Justice’s effort to block a merger between two of the nation’s largest sugar producers. Yet for members of the administration who had spent months following the case, the outcome of the ruling wasn’t the only thing that frustrated them. It was the way it came about. Barbara Fesco, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top analyst of the sugar industry, was a key witness in the case, in which a $315 million deal hangs in the balance. The Justice Department had argued that the transaction would lead to higher prices for millions of Americans as an already concentrated market underwent further consolidation, leaving just two companies in control of roughly 75% of all sugar sales in the southeastern United States. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Fesco, however, argued the opposite. Appearing before the court as a witness for U.S. Sugar, Fesco told U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika she believed the company’s acquisition of Imperial Sugar would ultimately benefit consumers. Her assessment, she went on, was based in part on her relationships with executives at the companies involved, who had assured her they had no plans to raise prices. “Knowing these people as long as I have,” she said, according to a transcript of her testimony, “I had high faith that it was good.” When asked if she had seen any data that supported her belief that the merger wouldn’t lead to higher sugar prices, Fesco said she had not. Her testimony was enough to help convince the judge that the deal should be allowed to go through. On Sept. 23, Noreika, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled against the Biden administration, citing Fesco’s testimony prominently as evidence that the merger would not violate American antitrust law. The Justice Department quickly appealed the ruling, and the incident left officials bitter over a government bureaucrat who had worked against the interests of the administration under which she serves. “It is extremely disappointing to see a member of the administration undermine the enforcement work of another agency and the broader goals of this government,” an administration official who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter tells TIME. The case has flipped the normal positions espoused by Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the duties of regulators within the executive branch. Typically, it is Democrats who defend the independence of government bureaucrats against the agendas of political appointees. Republicans often argue that regulators should comply with political leaders under a conservative governing approach known as the “unitary executive theory.” The USDA did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Efforts to reach Fesco directly were unsuccessful. “Further consolidation in the market for this important kitchen staple will have real-word consequences for millions of Americans,” Jonathan Kanter, who leads DOJ’s Antitrust Division, said in a statement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter that the ruling was a “bizarre outcome” and called on the Justice Department to “continue taking on anticompetitive mergers that would drive up the price of food.” The episode exposes the headwinds the Biden administration faces in its effort to strengthen America’s antitrust enforcement regime. Conservatives argue that the administration is trying to undo decades of pro-business rulings with a new approach to oversight. Antitrust advocates inside and outside the administration say they are up against a hostile judiciary and a phenomenon that government scholars call “regulatory capture,” when regulators act in the interests of the entities they are supposed to be overseeing. U.S. Sugar hailed Noreika’s ruling, releasing a statement last week that said the merger would allow the company “to increase our sugar production … and benefit our employees as well as customers throughout the country.” The ruling wasn’t the only hit to the Biden administration’s antitrust agenda this month. A Washington, D.C. federal judge ruled last week that UnitedHealth could move forward with its $7.8 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare. “They’re 0-2,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, tells TIME. “There’s no evidence that people who are reviewing the cases carefully are buying this new approach.” The idea that consolidation leads to efficiencies and thereby lower prices is deeply entrenched in the minds of jurists and regulators throughout the federal government. But in recent years, the political pendulum has shifted, with more scholars and politicians arguing that decades of relaxed antitrust enforcement has, in fact, led to higher prices, growing inequality, worse labor conditions, and too much political power in the hands of a small corporate elite. Read more: Vote on Big Tech Antitrust Bill Unlikely Before Election, Key Players Say On the campaign trail and since he first took office, Biden has repeatedly highlighted the historic levels of economic concentration as troubling, and vowed to be the first president in four decades to reverse this trend. He appointed anti-monopoly researchers to lead the two antitrust enforcement agencies, with Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission and Kanter at the helm of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division. And he signed a sweeping executive order in the summer of 2021 directing the entire government to work toward cracking down on consolidated power and increasing competition. The order put a large onus on the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to rein in consolidated agribusiness, in large part by updating the rules of a 1921 law to protect farmers and consumers from anti-competitive forms of exploitation. “It is very concerning that USDA would undermine DOJ’s antitrust efforts, which clearly contradicts the ‘whole-of-government’ approach in President Biden’s executive order on competition,” a senior congressional aide for a leading member of Congress focused on antitrust issues tells TIME. “Any merger that results in two giant players dominating a market is obviously bad for competition, and consumers will likely suffer through higher prices.” The Department of Justice filed its lawsuit in November 2021 to block U.S. Sugar from acquiring one of its rivals. The merger between the corporations would “eliminate aggressive competition in the supply of refined sugar that leads to lower prices, better quality, and more reliable service,” Kanter said in a statement when the suit was filed. “This deal substantially lessens competition at a time when global supply chain challenges already threaten steady access to important commodities and goods.” While the lawsuit already faced an uphill battle in the courts, where many federal judges have a long record of allowing such mergers to go through, members of the administration were caught off guard last spring when one of their own came to the defense of the deal. Fresco, a 30-year veteran in the USDA, made a strong impression on the judge, according to the ruling, which was unsealed on Wednesday. “There is no one at USDA with a longer tenure working on the Federal Sugar Program,” Judge Noreika wrote. “Dr. Fesco testified credibly that she anticipates the Proposed Transaction is not likely to lead to higher prices but, in fact, may lower prices for U.S. purchasers and consumers of refined sugar by creating certain efficiencies and cost savings.” Critics of the deal were particularly struck by Fesco’s assertion that her analysis was based on her familiarity with the individuals at the sugar firms. “We have a problem when we have civil servants who are actively flouting the democratically elected leader of the government that they work for,” Matt Stoller, director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly think tank, tells TIME. “It’s outrageous what she did.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 29th, 2022Related News

Bank of England Steps in to Restore Stability After IMF Warning

The central bank moved to restore stability after the IMF said unfunded tax cuts in the U.K. may fuel inflation and are likely to increase economic inequality LONDON — The Bank of England said Wednesday that it will launch a temporary government bond-buying program to stave off “material risk to UK financial stability” after unfunded government tax cuts spooked markets and sent the British pound tumbling. The emergency intervention means the central bank will buy government bonds in an effort to stabilize the market and drive down yields. In a statement, the bank says it’s “monitoring developments in financial markets very closely’’ in light of the significant repricing of U.K. and global financial assets. The move came after the International Monetary Fund has urged the U.K. government to “reevaluate” unfunded tax cuts that it says may fuel inflation and are likely to increase economic inequality. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The value of the pound sagged Wednesday morning after the rare IMF warning to a Group of Seven economy, trading at under $1.07. The British government said it was underwriting the central bank’s emergency bond purchases, which are due to last for two weeks and are designed “to restore orderly market conditions.” “To enable the Bank to conduct this financial stability intervention, this operation has been fully indemnified by HM Treasury,” it said. Treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng also was meeting Wednesday with executives from investment banks as the new Conservative government seeks to soothe markets. The government of Prime Minister Liz Truss on Friday unveiled a 45 billion-pound ($48 billion) package of tax cuts in an effort to spur economic growth. But the plan wasn’t accompanied by spending cuts, or even an independent cost estimate, raising concerns that it would swell government debt and add to inflation that is already running at close to a 40-year high of 9.9%. Read More: Britain’s Economy Is at a Pivotal Moment “Given elevated inflation pressures in many countries, including the U.K., we do not recommend large and untargeted fiscal packages at this juncture, as it is important that fiscal policy does not work at cross purposes to monetary policy,” the IMF said in a statement. “Furthermore, the nature of the U.K. measures will likely increase inequality.” The British pound fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar Monday, to $1.0373, amid investor concern about the government’s policies, which also include borrowing billions to help shield homes and businesses from soaring energy prices. The Bank of England sought to stabilize markets, saying Monday that it was prepared to raise interest rates “as much as needed” to rein in inflation. But the bank’s next scheduled meeting is not until November, and the lack of immediate action did little to bolster the pound. The British currency is still down 4% since Friday, and the pound has fallen 20% against the dollar in the past year. The turmoil is already having real-world effects, with British mortgage lenders pulling hundreds of offers from the market amid expectations the Bank of England will sharply boost interest rates to offset the inflationary impact of the pound’s recent slide. The U.K. government says it will set out a more detailed fiscal plan and independent analysis from the Office for Budget Responsibility on Nov. 23. “The Nov. 23 budget will present an early opportunity for the U.K. government to consider ways to provide support that is more targeted and reevaluate the tax measures, especially those that benefit high income earners,” the IMF said. In response, the U.K. Treasury said the government was “focused on growing the economy to raise living standards for everyone.” Read More: Britain’s New Prime Minister Liz Truss Is Inheriting a Mess The November statement will set out further details of the government’s plan and ensure that debt falls as a share of gross domestic product “in the medium term,” a spokeswoman said. Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the stinging criticism by the IMF also comes at at time that UK gilt yields—the interest paid on government debt—are “sky high,” with the yield on 10-year gilts hovering around 4.4%, up by more than 340% in a year. “The IMF’s move has added to worries that the UK is fast taking on the characteristics of an emerging market economy, and risks ditching its developed country status,” Streeter wrote in an analyst note......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 28th, 2022Related News

Podcasters Are Buying Millions of Listeners, Raising Questions About Marketing Tactics

The podcast networks that are actively mining downloads in the mobile game space are doing so through an intermediary company called Jun Group. Podcasters are always hunting for new, flashy places to promote their shows, ranging from billboards to floats in parades to airplane banners. Some networks, though, have uncovered a less-glamorous, yet highly effective way to gain millions of bankable listeners: loading up mobile games with a particular kind of ad. Each time a player taps on one of these fleeting in-game ads—and wins some virtual loot for doing so—a podcast episode begins downloading on their device. The podcast company, in turn, can claim the gamer as a new listener to its program and add another coveted download to its overall tally. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The practice allows networks to amass downloads quickly by tapping into a wellspring of hyperactive video-game users. But it also calls into question who a legitimate podcast listener is and what length of time should be required to count as a download. “Not all impressions are created equal,” said Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University. “I’m not saying [this tactic is] not ethical or illegal, but it raises issues. If someone is trying to play a game and that’s the purpose of this interaction, they may just be eager to play the game and are not that interested in the information being shared.” Read More: The Promise—And Possible Perils—of Editing What We Say Online Podcasts typically rely on downloads as the primary metric for ad sales. When an individual taps on an in-app play button on their mobile device, an entire episode begins downloading so they can listen to it even in the absence of a good internet connection—say, on an airplane or in the subway. An episode’s ads are inserted at that moment of download, meaning that even if a consumer only listens to 10 minutes of a 30-minute show, the mid-roll ad at the 15-minute mark is often ready to be heard—not to mention, counted by the sales team. To date, the podcast industry has said next to nothing about its embrace of this video-game strategy. In August, DeepSee, an ad fraud detection company, published a research paper revealing how the practice harnesses gamers’ attention. “No one really asked questions about this, or what the experience is like for users,” said Rocky Moss, DeepSee’s co-founder and chief executive officer. More from TIME [video id=wgQEJ6Fh autostart="viewable"] One game referenced in DeepSee’s paper is Subway Surfers, a popular mobile app from the Danish company Sybo, which has been downloaded some 3 billion times since its debut in 2012. Over a period of two weeks in August, Bloomberg found multiple publishers using the game to rack up podcast downloads, including the New York Post, independent podcaster Scott Savlov and IHeartMedia Inc. Representatives for the Post and IHeart declined to comment. Read More: The Best Podcasts of 2022 So Far Savlov says he spends “nominal” money on in-game ads and initially used them to drum up interest in his show when it first launched. These days, he says, he looks more to social platform algorithms to promote his celebrity interviews. “Don’t rely on [in-game ads] exclusively because at some point you’re going to want as much organic and authentic growth as you can get,” he said. The podcast networks that are actively mining downloads in the mobile game space are doing so through an intermediary company, called Jun Group, which was founded in 2005 and sold to Advantage Solutions Inc., a marketing and sales company, in 2018. Corey Weiner, CEO at Jun Group, said the company specializes in making consumers aware of products, websites and podcasts by placing its ads in over 1,000 mobile apps that collectively reach 100 million unique users. “There is a very big reason why all the largest brands in the world invest so much money in brand awareness, because without it you have no chance of breaking through the clutter,” he said. “Every publisher, every content creator, has invested in marketing to promote themselves since the dawn of time, and this is just another way of doing it.” He said the company hasn’t specifically tracked how long gamers will stay on a podcast after clicking on an ad. “I think that the standards bodies, the people who are involved in deciding what a play of a podcast is, could decide to raise the bar on what constitutes as a play of a podcast,” Weiner said. “Even if you raise the bar, [the ad] is still going to exceed the bar. So, in fact, I actually suggest let’s raise the bar because we can hop right over it.” According to someone who’s spoken with Jun Group, the price the company charges podcast networks for these ads can vary depending on whether they’re targeted to particular demographics or guaranteed to attract unique listeners. The starting rate for a 20-second ad is $27 per 1,000 website page views. To monetize such downloads, podcast networks can turn around and sell the resulting audience to brand advertisers, presumably at a nice markup over what they pay to Jun Group. Jun Group’s main podcast client is IHeart, the maker of shows from Will Ferrell, Charlamagne tha God and Shonda Rhimes. According to a person familiar with the effort, the radio company, which bills itself as the top podcast publisher globally, has shelled out more than $10 million and gained approximately 6 million unique listeners per month through these ads since 2018. The company primarily runs its in-game campaigns at the beginnings and ends of months. The impact can be seen on the publicly available charts produced by Chartable, a podcast marketing company owned by Spotify Technology SA. Read More: 9 Podcasts That Were Turned Into TV Shows During the last week of August, IHeart podcasts represented more than half of the top 10 trending shows—even though one of the listed podcasts hadn’t published new episodes in months and another hadn’t published any new programming in over a year. Several of the specific shows that Bloomberg encountered in Subway Surfers appeared lower in the charts, as well, including “Life in Spanglish,” “Run That Prank” and “All the Smoke.” (Disclosure: IHeart is a partner of Bloomberg Media, and DeepSee discovered promotions for one Bloomberg podcast running in Subway Surfers). IHeart also maintains the top position on Podtrac, a monthly podcast ranker that measures networks’ unique audience and downloads. For the month of August, it reached approximately 35.5 million unique listeners, 11 million above its closest competitor, Amazon.com Inc.’s Wondery. The company first arrived at the top of that list in August 2020, with 24.6 million unique listeners compared with National Public Radio’s 24 million. The incentives to invest in marketing channels like Jun Group’s are clear. The audio industry has been marked by a frenzy of investments. To make back the money as fast as possible, companies will be relying, in part, on growing the reach of their podcasts in order to bring in more advertising revenue. The industry is expected to surpass $4 billion in revenue in 2024, up from around $700 million in 2019......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 27th, 2022Related News

Gun Violence Costs the U.S. $557 Billion a Year

Gun violence causes tens of thousands of U.S. deaths each year and it's having a significant impact on the economy. Gun violence that causes tens of thousands of U.S. deaths each year—far more than any other developed nation—is having a significant, negative impact on the country’s economy, Harvard Medical School researchers said. Harvard Medical School researchers found that gun violence costs the U.S. some $557 billion annually, or 2.6% of gross domestic product, according to the peer-reviewed study published in the journal JAMA. The majority of that cost is attributed to quality-of-life losses among those injured by firearms and their families. “Employers and their health insurers sustain a substantial financial burden from firearm injuries and have a financial incentive to prevent them,” Zirui Song, associate professor of health care policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement. “However, U.S. businesses have by and large not engaged publicly on the subject of firearms, despite spending large sums on other efforts to promote employee health.” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: California’s Answer to Gun Violence Could Be a Model for the Entire Country As the pandemic raged in 2020, the U.S. saw a record number of gun deaths and gun sales, according to a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analysis published in April. That year, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. and gunshot wounds were the leading cause of death for kids and teens under 19. However, high-profile mass shootings represent only a small fraction—1% to 2%—of shooting deaths in the U.S. Most shooting deaths go unremarked on in national discourse and continue to disproportionately impact Black communities, the report found. The new Harvard research shows that U.S. companies, employees and the economy also suffered from the rising rates of gun violence. Among companies with employer-sponsored health insurance, the rate of total firearm injuries in employees and dependents increased more than fourfold from 2007 to 2020—from 2.6 to 11.7 per 100,000 insurance enrollees. For those that survive firearm injuries, direct health-care costs are roughly $30,000 in just the first year alone, which is more than a 400% increase in spending from the pre-injury baseline compared to other workers who did not sustain firearm injuries, the study found. Read More: Inside the Multibillion-Dollar Industry That Powers America’s Love of Firearms Revenue and productivity losses resulting from gun injuries to workers cost private companies an additional $535 million a year, the research estimated. Plus, workers who survive firearm injuries experienced a 40% increase in pain disorders, a 51% increase in psychiatric disorders and an 85% increase in substance use disorders, according to the study. Although the prevalence of firearm injuries among workers is far lower than other common workplace injuries, such as musculoskeletal pain, the number of gunshot wounds among workers is increasing, and those injuries still cost employers millions of dollars, the study notes. “For businesses that encounter higher or growing rates of firearm injuries in their workforce, the economic rationale for reducing firearm injuries in their workers may be more difficult to ignore,” said Harvard’s Song......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 27th, 2022Related News

U.S. Housing Prices Fall for First Time in a Decade

The declines in home prices have been steepest in the most unaffordable locations, especially on the West Coast. Say goodbye to the housing bull run. U.S. home prices—for the first time in a decade—are falling. A national measure of prices in 20 large cities fell 0.44% in July, the first drop since March 2012, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index showed Tuesday. The last real estate crash ended in 2012, ushering in 10 years of price gains, capped off by the two-year pandemic buying frenzy. But the Federal Reserve has put a swift end to the party as it fights to curb inflation. Mortgage rates this year doubled, pricing out many buyers and causing sales to plunge. Now values are heading south. The biggest month-over-month declines in July were in San Francisco (-3.6%), Seattle (-2.5%) and San Diego (-2%). [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: Signs Are Pointing to a Slowdown in the Housing Market—At Last “The cooling has come hard and fast,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpoint, said in a note. To be sure, prices remain high. The Case-Shiller national index jumped 15.8% year-over-year in July. But that was the smallest gain since April 2021, and the slowdown from the 18.1% jump in June was the largest deceleration in the history of the index. There are also signs that there is plenty of pent-up demand for housing. U.S. sales of new homes surged unexpectedly in August, government data showed Tuesday. It was the strongest pace of new-home sales since March, perhaps reflecting a race by buyers to beat further increases in borrowing costs and take advantage of price cuts by some builders. New-home sales rose in all regions, including a 29.4% jump in the South, where the pace was the firmest this year. The declines in home prices have been steepest in the most unaffordable locations, especially on the West Coast, where buyers were already strained early this year when rates were still near historic lows. The falloff looks extreme compared with the two-year pandemic frenzy, marked by multiple offers and a shortage of listings that drove buyers to bid high. Read More: Return to the Office? Not in This Housing Market Now listings are lingering longer because demand has collapsed, adding to the active inventory. One thing may help to keep prices elevated: fewer homes are coming on the market. Homeowners who don’t have to move are staying put. Buying a house for most requires giving up a cheaper mortgage. A recent report from Zillow Group Inc. showing that new listings slid almost 23% in August from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continues to move interest rates upward, Lazzara said. “Given the prospects for a more challenging macroeconomic environment, home prices may well continue to decelerate,” he said. —With assistance from Christopher Anstey and Vince Golle......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 27th, 2022Related News

Meta Disabled a Pro-Kremlin Campaign of Fake News About Ukraine

A sprawling network originating in Russia spread Kremlin talking points using sham accounts and fake media sites A sprawling disinformation network originating in Russia sought to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of sham news websites to spread Kremlin talking points about the invasion of Ukraine, Meta revealed Tuesday. The company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it identified and disabled the operation before it was able to gain a large audience. Nonetheless, Facebook said it was the largest and most complex Russian propaganda effort that it has found since the invasion began. The operation involved more than 60 websites created to mimic legitimate news sites including The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom and Germany’s Der Spiegel. Instead of the actual news reported by those outlets, however, the fake sites contained links to Russian propaganda and disinformation about Ukraine. More than 1,600 fake Facebook accounts were used to spread the propaganda to audiences in Germany, Italy, France, the U.K. and Ukraine. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The findings highlighted both the promise of social media companies to police their sites and the peril that disinformation continues to pose. “Video: False Staging in Bucha Revealed!” claimed one of the fake news stories, which blamed Ukraine for the slaughter of hundreds of Ukrainians in a town occupied by the Russians. The fake social media accounts were then used to spread links to the fake news stories and other pro-Russian posts and videos on Facebook and Instagram, as well as platforms including Telegram and Twitter. The network was active throughout the summer. “On a few occasions, the operation’s content was amplified by the official Facebook pages of Russian embassies in Europe and Asia,” said David Agranovich, Meta’s director of threat disruption. “I think this is probably the largest and most complex Russian-origin operation that we’ve disrupted since the beginning of the war in Ukraine earlier this year.” More from TIME [video id=F3LuMknq autostart="viewable"] The network’s activities were first noticed by investigative reporters in Germany. When Meta began its investigation it found that many of the fake accounts had already been removed by Facebook’s automated systems. Thousands of people were following the network’s Facebook pages when they were deactivated earlier this year. Researchers said they couldn’t directly attribute the network to the Russian government. But Agranovich noted the role played by Russian diplomats and said the operation relied on some sophisticated tactics, including the use of multiple languages and carefully constructed imposter websites. Since the war began in February, the Kremlin has used online disinformation and conspiracy theories in an effort to weaken international support for Ukraine. Groups linked to the Russian government have accused Ukraine of staging attacks, blamed the war on baseless allegations of U.S. bioweapon development and portrayed Ukrainian refugees as criminals and rapists. Social media platforms and European governments have tried to stifle the Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation, only to see Russia shift tactics. A message sent to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., asking for a response to Meta’s recent actions was not immediately returned. Researchers at Meta Platforms Inc., which is based in Menlo Park, California, also exposed a much smaller network that originated in China and attempted to spread divisive political content in the U.S. The operation reached only a tiny U.S. audience, with some posts receiving just a single engagement. The posts also made some amateurish moves that showed they weren’t American, including some clumsy English language mistakes and a habit of posting during Chinese working hours. Despite its ineffectiveness, the network is notable because it’s the first identified by Meta that targeted Americans with political messages ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The Chinese posts didn’t support one party or the other but seemed intent on stirring up polarization. “While it failed, it’s important because it’s a new direction” for Chinese disinformation operations, said Ben Nimmo, who directs global threat intelligence for Meta......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 27th, 2022Related News

Apple Begins Making iPhone 14 in India Weeks Ahead of Schedule

Apple is seeking alternatives to China for production as Xi Jinping’s administration clashes with the U.S. government and imposes lockdowns Apple Inc. began making its new iPhone 14 in India sooner than anticipated, after a surprisingly smooth production rollout that slashed the lag between Chinese and Indian output from months to mere weeks. The U.S. tech giant made the announcement on Monday, weeks after the marquee device’s Sept. 7 unveiling. It had worked with Foxconn Technology Group, its most important production partner, with the original goal of assembling iPhones in Chennai about two months after global launch, Bloomberg News reported in August. The partners quickened the process after resolving supply chain issues, which helped production go smoother than expected, people familiar with the matter said, asking to remain anonymous discussing internal procedures. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Apple, which long made most of its iPhones in China, is seeking alternatives as Xi Jinping’s administration clashes with the U.S. government and imposes lockdowns across the country that have disrupted economic activity. At the same time, Narendra Modi’s administration is keen to make the country into a viable competitor to China in technology and production capability, especially as Western investors and corporations begin to sour on Beijing’s track record. “India is now an attractive location for manufacturing as it offers better labor cost structure while Apple is looking to reduce geopolitical risks,” said Jeff Pu, an analyst with Haitong International Securities. “To turn India into a major manufacturing site, Apple will help India accelerate its production timeline.” “We’re excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India,” Apple said in an emailed statement Monday without discussing production timelines. A Foxconn representative declined to comment. Apple-partners such as Foxconn, which makes the majority of the world’s iPhones, typically begin assembling the device in India about six to nine months after Chinese factories. That’s partly because more time is needed to secure and ship critical components to a supply chain less accustomed to the process. Assembling iPhones often entails coordination between hundreds of suppliers and meeting Apple’s infamously tight deadlines and quality controls. Still, analysts such as Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities Group have said they anticipate Apple will eventually ship new iPhones from both countries at roughly the same time, a milestone in Apple’s efforts to diversify its supply chain and build redundancy. Matching China’s pace of iPhone production would also mark a major achievement for India, which has been touting its attractiveness as an alternative at a time when rolling Covid lockdowns and US sanctions jeopardize the larger country’s position as factory to the world. Industry executives are exploring a so-called China-plus-one strategy of migrating some production to countries such as India or Vietnam. Apple’s partners began making iPhones in India in 2017, the start of a yearslong effort to build manufacturing capabilities in the country. Besides offering backup to existing operations, the country of 1.4 billion is a promising consumer market and the Modi administration has offered financial incentives under its Make in India program. “All major companies are now looking at India as part of their ‘China-plus one’ or ‘China-plus two’ strategy,” said Aruna Sundararajan, who served as a secretary to the federal government in 2017 when Apple first began assembling iPhones in India. “For the long run, we need to strengthen our logistics and infrastructure, boost the human capital and focus more on building an export hub to make India a viable alternative to China.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 26th, 2022Related News

British Pound Hits Record Low After Tax Cuts Spark Concern About Economy

The U.K. government’s new fiscal measures have sent investors into a panic The selloff in U.K. assets went into overdrive on Monday, sending the pound to an all-time low, slamming government bonds and sparking talk of emergency action by the Bank of England. The market mayhem extended the damage seen on Friday in the wake of the government’s new fiscal measures, which sent investors into a panic. The plunge in U.K. gilts sent 10-year yields above 4% for the first time since 2010. Sterling dropped to as low as $1.0350, taking it closer to parity with the dollar, though it subsequently pared its loss to $1.07. The latest tumble—fueled by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s comment on Sunday that there’s “more to come” on tax cuts—prompted calls for aggressive rate hikes from the Bank of England, with some urging emergency action as soon as this week. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Read More: Queen Elizabeth II’s Death Slowed Action on a U.K. Economy Already in Turmoil It’s also led to talk of a currency crisis and is threatening to engulf Prime Minister Liz Truss’s days-old administration in turmoil as the country grapples with a cost-of-living crisis and a recession. “The market remains very fragile and with the moves being driven by emotion it is very difficult to trade intraday,” said Antony Foster, head of G10 spot trading in EMEA at Nomura International Plc. “Parity for cable feels like a matter of time and while vols are off their highs there is no sense of relief in the price action this morning.” Traders have ramped up bets on Bank of England rate increases, briefly pricing as much as 175 basis points of tightening by the next policy meeting in November. They see the key rate peaking at 6.25% by November 2023. The swaps market is even pricing in a 25-basis point hike today, according to Alvin Tan, head of Asia currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets, citing bets implied from the FX forwards curve. At Bloomberg Economics, economist Dan Hanson said currency’s drop “will set alarm bells ringing at the central bank.” If it’s sustained, he sees the Bank of England raising its benchmark by 100 basis points. A Bank of England spokesperson declined to comment on the exchange-rate moves. Read More: Britain’s New Prime Minister Liz Truss Is Inheriting a Mess The Bank of England previously tried to prop up the pound on Black Wednesday, using rate hikes and currency purchases when sterling crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a system linking a number of European currencies. That defense, which took place 30 years ago this month, ultimately failed. “We think that the BOE is too psychologically scarred from the events of 1992 to try defensive currency-related rate hikes,” said Chris Turner at ING. “What happens if the BOE hikes 300-500 basis points and GBP/USD ends up trading lower?” Another option is direct currency intervention, but it doesn’t have enough reserves for a meaningful, sustained action. One possible response to the bond market moves is for the BOE to delay a planned sale of the gilts it bought under quantitative easing. That process is due to begin next week. On Monday, 10-year yields rose 31 basis points to 4.14%, and the 5-year jumped 45 basis points to 4.53%. Domestic-focused U.K. stocks including homebuilders, retailers and banks also slumped. The FTSE 250 index fell 1.7% as of 11:10 a.m. local time, extending a year-to-date plunge to 25%. Sterling’s early-hours slump marked its biggest intraday drop since March 2020, when the Covid-19 outbreak roiled markets worldwide. A CME Group spokesperson confirmed that the dramatic fall triggered a 2-minute pause in trading of front-month British Pound futures contracts at 2:01 a.m. U.K. time, after a circuit-breaker kicked in. “It would be foolish to rule out parity,” said Dean Turner, U.K. economist at UBS Private Banking. “If the market’s got the bit between its teeth, then fair value, or valuations or fundamentals are going to count for very little.” Gerard Lyons, an external adviser to Prime Minister Truss, acknowledged on Monday that the market had concerns about government policy. But he said that while Kwarteng should reassure investors, he shouldn’t reverse course. “He needs to reaffirm that tax cuts are only part of the story, not the full story,” Lyons said on Bloomberg Radio. “What they’re following is a supply-side agenda.” Options markets see a near-50% chance of the pound reaching dollar parity this year, up from 32% on Friday. Truss will face a rebellion from Tory backbenchers against her tax cuts if the pound hits that level, the Telegraph reported Saturday. Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party —already enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls—is seeking to capitalize on the policy gulf that’s opened up with the Tories at its annual conference, which began in Liverpool on Sunday. Leader Keir Starmer told the BBC he’d reverse Kwarteng’s most eye-catching measure—the scrapping of the top 45% rate of income tax levied on earnings over £150,000......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 26th, 2022Related News

Why Sol Trujillo’s L’Attitude Ventures Sees Latino-Owned Businesses as a Growth Market

Trujillo is working to circulate data to help convince leaders they should invest in Latino businesses and appoint more Latino execs Barack Obama and Lin-Manuel Miranda were just a few of the thousands of people who gathered in San Diego this week for the fifth annual L’Attitude conference, an event helping executives understand the potential of Latinos in the U.S. economy. L’Attitude is the brainchild of Solomon “Sol” Trujillo, who has served as CEO of international companies including US West, Orange, and Telestra, the Australian telecoms company. Trujillo has focused, since his return to the U.S. from Australia in 2009, on changing negative perceptions of Latinos in the U.S. Through the Latino Donor Collaborative, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2010, Trujillo is working to circulate data that can help convince leaders that they should invest in Latino businesses and appoint more Latino executives. The total economic output of Latinos in the U.S. was $2.8 trillion in 2020, according to a report released Sept. 22 by L’Attitude. That’s a figure that is higher than the GDP of the U.K., India, or France, and one that he hopes will turn executives’ heads. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Trujillo is also CEO of L’Attitude Ventures, a venture capital (VC) firm he founded in 2019 to invest in businesses led by Latinos. He says he’s tired of seeing Latino founders coming out of good schools that people don’t recognize and then struggling to secure the funding they need. “The punchline is, they’re hungry,” he tells TIME. “They have ideas and they’re willing to do what’s needed. They just need fuel for their business.” It’s not all that different from how he had to hustle when he graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1974, he says. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. CO2.com enables every business to maximize their impact through high-quality climate action portfolios. Created by experts, backed by science and verified by independent third parties. For more information, and to accelerate your climate journey, go to co2.com You were a longtime CEO when you decided to start a nonprofit, the Latino Donor Collaborative. Tell me what motivated that shift. I’ve operated companies all over the world, but I was born in the United States. My family’s roots go back about 500 years. I feel a lot of pride in what our country stands for. But when I was living abroad, I saw people [in the U.S.] talking about building walls, deporting people. I thought, number one, that’s not what our country is about. I was a young business person when Ronald Reagan was telling the Russian President to take down walls. We believed in opening things up. And number two, it doesn’t make sense economically. As a country, we’re aging, and we need workers. Once you start cutting off immigration, then you start running into the problems that we now have in today’s economy. The reason why we have inflation—the driving variable that nobody wants to talk about—is that we don’t have enough workers. The wage inflation drives pricing inflation, which then creates disruptions all over. So when I was coming back in 2009, I decided to start gathering data and create a nonprofit, which was called the Latino Donor Collaborative. I co-founded it with (former San Antonio mayor) Henry Cisneros—he was the Democrat, I was the Republican. We decided to start thinking about the Latino brand, and why the perception was that Latinos are all bad people. We knew the perceptions were wrong. We wanted to get the data so we can help people understand it. What were the perceptions at the time and how did that differ from the reality shown in the data you gathered? A poll we commissioned then found that two thirds of Americans believed that Latinos were here as takers, tying up schools, tying up hospitals, with everyone going on welfare. And only a third thought that they were here as productive, contributing citizens. But we found the Latino cohort is the most productive of all cohorts in the United States. Because people came here to essentially pursue the American dream. They disproportionately serve in the military, protecting our country. They’re the most entrepreneurial—the highest percentage of net new business formations were being developed by Latinos. Our recent study found that out of all net new small businesses with employees, 52% were created by Latinos. Where do those negative perceptions come from? Everywhere in the world we live with perceptions of others. If you’re the most common cohort in a country, you understand that cohort, but then when there’s other people that are different, you make assumptions about them. Part of this stems from the media. Our most recent study shows that although Latinos are 25% of all American youth, Latinos have only 3.1% of lead roles in shows, are only 1.5% of showrunners, and less than 1.3% of directors. In many of these shows, portrayals of Latinos are as gangbangers, drug dealers, criminals. The few that are positive, you have a Latino nanny or maid—or Pablo, the trusted gardener who speaks with an accent and does low paid work. So perceptions develop. Part of your work is trying to change the perceptions that Americans have of Latinos. How do you run that advertising campaign for people who are getting bombarded with the opposite images in the media? We live in a capitalist economy. And one of the common things I’ve seen around the world is those who create wealth have the most influence. And so you need to think about how you help people understand how core the Latino cohort is to the economy, and also show that they’re creating a lot of wealth. That’s why I came up with the idea of this GDP report that shows the total economic output of Latinos in the United States. Between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. Latino GDP was the third fastest growing among the 10 largest GDPs. The broader U.S. economy ranked fifth. If everybody understood that, as we did when we were looking at China 25 years ago or India 20 years ago, it would really help. There’s all this growth, you create funds, you go after it, you allocate capital to grow. So it’s always about capital flow. You make money by investing where the growth is. So it’s not only that this is an economic force that helps the economy but that you, the person reading this message, can benefit from it. Kind of the capitalist pitch almost. Well you know, I’m a believer that capitalism works 92.5% of the time. If capital is flowing properly, you can grow an economy which benefits everybody. And you can help the most productive cohorts become wealth creators. We have a youthful Latino cohort. They’re very entrepreneurial. They’re very productive. So let’s feed capital to them and that will grow the economy for the next 20 years or so. You mentioned that the U.S. economy needs Latinos for demographic reasons too. Can you elaborate on that? If you think about it, the highest periods of GDP growth in our economy in modern times were during two presidential terms—Ronald Reagan’s and Bill Clinton’s. We had 16 years, basically of 3.5% GDP growth. We found the single most explanatory variable in terms of GDP growth was not the unemployment rate or some of the things that you hear Fed chairs talk about. It is basically the labor force growth rate. If you look at it. It’s really logical. GDP is a function of outputs of goods and services that workers produce. If you’re not increasing the numbers of workers, your outputs of your goods and services are flat. Both the Baby Boomer cohort and the Gen Xers that were such a disproportionate share of our economy didn’t replace themselves with high birth rates. And they aren’t running as many businesses anymore. So now, we have a natural phenomenon that’s happening, a youthful cohort called the Latino cohort. So the future success of our economy and the success of the Latino cohort are intertwined. If this part of our economy doesn’t grow, the whole economy is not going to grow. You recently started a venture firm to feed capital to Latino entrepreneurs. What was the motivation behind targeting that demographic? Latinos are creating 50% of all employer-based companies. But I wanted to look and see how well these Latino firms were doing. They’re doing well in terms of growth—to a point. Once you get to be about $1 million in revenue, then you’re really accelerating, you need capital. And, there’s no capital availability. We had Bain & Company do a study and we found that less than 1% of all invested capital by private equity and VCs was flowing into this cohort. I decided rather than continue to try to explain to people that it’s a problem and an opportunity, we’re going to create a prototype called L’Attitude Ventures, in order to show people there’s a lot of companies out there that need capital, and that can create growth. We’ll show you how you should do it. A lot of the leadership of many companies are well intentioned, and they give a lot of good speeches about ESG and diversity and inclusion. But sometimes people don’t know quite how to do it. We are creating the prototype so that people can see and say: “oh, okay. We can start flowing capital like L’Attitude Ventures does.” Why do you think a mismatch exists if these Latino-owned firms have so much potential and there’s money out there looking for places to invest? These firms collect capital, and then put it to work, but they put it to work in the same places as they did in the ’80s and the ’90s. So the same structures have only gotten bigger, but they keep on investing in the same way. And they’re not looking in these other places to grow. A corollary would be—people talk about talent, where do I find talent? Do I keep on going to the same universities and the same places where you used to hire people? The answer is, you start looking in other places, because there’s talent almost everywhere. You really need to start thinking differently in the 21st century. I think a lot of Americans have been taught that this is a zero sum game: If this younger Latino cohort gains, then some other group is losing, and they were taught to fear this. Do you think there’s a way to reverse those perceptions? I think the more we’re educated through news media, through entertainment media, people will learn. We’ve seen a shift in perceptions. A decade ago, two thirds of Americans had negative perceptions of Latinos. Today, two thirds have positive perceptions. What we found was that if you had a neighbor, or if you work with somebody who is Latino, your perceptions were a lot different than if you never did and your perceptions came from entertainment media. So the more we provide data and information, the more people will learn. Which is why I co founded L’Attitude. We’re creating a platform where we invite in what I would call resource allocators of the country. CEOs, public leaders, venture capital funds and private equity funds. So you create that new conversation. You create that new set of data, and you share it and people talk about it and understand how they benefit from it. Now you’ll start seeing changes in boards and changes in senior leadership. For example, Target, which just appointed their third Latina to the board (PepsiCo COO Grace Puma). If you look at their growth in the company, a very high percentage of net sales growth is tied to the Latina mom. So they need people on their boards and in their senior management to help understand that cohort, just like they did the Anglo mom in the ’50s and ’60s, as this country’s demographics looked dramatically different than they do today. Speaking of boards, some states like California have mandated that companies have a certain number of women on their boards. Do you think that mandating a certain number of Latino executives on boards would be an effective policy? Well, I’m not a big believer in mandates, because I like how markets work. So one of the things that I like to do is look at structural reasons why things aren’t happening. What do I mean by that? If capital is flowing, there’s going to be a lot of growth. It will be a natural phenomenon that Latinos are going to be starting businesses more and more frequently and grow to be larger sizes. People are going to see Latinos as entrepreneurs. Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg were getting capital even pre-revenue from people that say we don’t invest in startups. Name a Latina that has been able to do that. You’ve worked abroad, in Australia and in Europe as well. Do you think the perception of immigrants is different there? Or is it difficult everywhere if you’re not the majority? Life is the same around the world. When I went to Australia, that first day, on the front page of one of the financial newspapers there was a caricature of me, the new Telstra CEO. It was a Mexican on a burro with a sombrero. That was different. They’d never had anybody like me there. Was that discouraging to you? Actually, those kinds of things charged me up. Because that said that people don’t understand who this cohort was. They found out that their perception was wrong. We were dynamic, we dramatically transformed the company. Rather than being discouraged, you become charged up because you want to help people understand. When I first started in business, I knew I wanted to be the CEO. I graduated from the University of Wyoming. Not Harvard, not Stanford, not any of the elite colleges. So I knew I had to be five times better or 10 times better than the next person to me. But I didn’t carry that as a chip on my shoulder. I carried it as a challenge that said, “Okay, those are the rules of the game.” Once you understand the rules of the game, you play by the rules. If you have to score 10 more goals to be considered a winner. I’ll do it. (For coverage of the future of work, visit TIME.com/charter and sign up for the free Charter newsletter.).....»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 25th, 2022Related News

The Promise—And Possible Perils—of Editing What We Say Online

Twitter and Apple have introduced new editing features to their services but analysts have concerns Have you ever sent a text or shared something online that you immediately regretted? Most of us have. Facing the ramifications of saying something thoughtless, reckless, or rash can be a daunting prospect for anyone who frequently communicates by typing out messages and then flinging them into the digital ether. Now, a growing number of apps and services are offering users the alluring ability to edit those messages. In the past month alone, two tech giants, Twitter and Apple, have introduced editing features. Twitter kicked off September by announcing it would begin testing an edit button, first internally and then among subscribers of its paid Twitter Blue service. Within two weeks of that move, Apple released its new iOS 16 operating system, which lets users—for the first time—edit and unsend iMessages. Amid these developments, tech analysts have continued to voice concern over how these features could be used for nefarious purposes, such as spreading disinformation. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] It’s a trend that speaks to a desire among users to speak freely online without overthinking what they’re sharing, says Mor Naaman, a professor of information science at Cornell Tech. “People want to present themselves in the best light, but also to share freely without excessive cognitive load,” he says. “The edit button, if it works well, can support both goals.” Editing tools have been a long-sought-after feature on both services. But demand for a Twitter edit button, in particular, reached new heights earlier this year after Elon Musk polled his followers as to whether they wanted one, shortly before he made an offer to buy the company. How Apple’s edit button works Given the success of edit tools on platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Slack, Christina Wodtke, a lecturer in computer science at Stanford University, says it’s somewhat surprising that Twitter and Apple didn’t get there sooner. “It’s been pretty common to be able to edit your web posts for a long time, going back to the early web forums,” she says. “Apple and Twitter have a legacy of being built on mobile, rather than on the web. And a mobile SMS doesn’t normally have edits. But now people are asking, why not?” Apple has responded by introducing an edit tool to iMessage. Users can now edit an iMessage up to five times within 15 minutes after sending it and unsend any message up to two minutes after it’s sent. To do this, users need only to tap and hold their sent message, then select “edit” or “undo send.” The message’s recipient will receive an alert that it has been edited or unsent, and can tap “Edited” to see previous versions of the message. These new capabilities have the potential to alter the way people view private messages, Naaman says. “Messages were seen like postcards. Nobody expects you to come to their home and edit the Hawaii postcard you sent them,” he says. “But we do expect to be able to edit, say, our Facebook profile, at any time. If the implementation is right, expectations will change and edits may become acceptable.” How Twitter’s edit button works On Twitter, users will be able to edit a tweet up to five times in the 30 minutes after it’s posted. Once a change is made, a tweet will be marked with an icon, a timestamp and a label that says “Last Edited,” which users can click on to see how the tweet has been edited. The button will give people a “generous” timeframe to workshop their tweets in the court of public opinion, says Wodtke. “What they’re doing is creating an edit button that allows the Twitter audience to be your personal editor,” she says. “So, if you said something that’s lame, you could quickly change it to be more clear or less open to being misinterpreted.” Twitter says the feature was intentionally designed to be transparent and protect the integrity of the conversation. “We’re purposely starting this test with a smaller group to learn and address potential issues before bringing it to more people,” a Twitter spokesperson says. Why edit buttons are controversial To ensure edit tools are used in good faith, experts say tech companies must take certain precautions. The importance of an “edit trail” that prevents the spread of mis- and disinformation can’t be overstated, says Wodtke. Especially when the information is part of the public record. “[Twitter] has a moral imperative to show the history of edits,” she says. Twitter’s implementation of an edit button indicates that it’s trying to strike a balance between allowing self-expression and preventing abuse, says Naaman. He says one of the main threats the company is likely trying to protect against is users editing a tweet after its gone viral to completely change its meaning. “Such an edit, while available via the interface, may not be immediately visible to people who are just viewing the shared tweet,” he says. Even with these safeguards, Wodtke predicts that bad actors will still find ways to take advantage of the feature. “Anytime you put something out there, no matter how well you and your team thought it through, people are gonna find new ways to use it,” she says. “This is definitely no exception. I think we’re going to see a lot of hijinks.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 23rd, 2022Related News

Queen Elizabeth II’s Death Slowed Action on a U.K. Economy Already in Turmoil

Queen Elizabeth II's death slowed action on a U.K. economy already in turmoil The death of Queen Elizabeth II and the period of national mourning that followed have been the latest blow to Britain’s already struggling economy, but economists and analysts say that there are glimmers of hope. Britain is at a watershed moment. The country has just completed a 10-day period of mourning, concluding with country-wide shutdowns during a public holiday to mark the late monarch’s funeral. Her death came just two days after a new prime minister, Liz Truss, took office, after the last leader was ousted by his own party for unbecoming behavior, while the U.K. faces a cost-of-living crisis unlike anything the nation has seen in decades. Inflation has soared to the highest levels since the 1980s, at around 10%, and the nation faces an energy crisis due to dwindling Russian energy exports to Europe. The British pound has been languishing around a nearly 37-year low against the dollar. And economic growth is another concern—the U.K. has now fallen behind India, a former British colony, becoming the world’s sixth largest economy. The U.K.’s central bank, the Bank of England, has warned that it risks falling into a recession that could last well into 2024. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The death of Queen Elizabeth II is the latest thing to touch Britain’s psyche. While the monarchy is often viewed as an anachronism, it is still an important part of U.K. life. It’s likely that will continue under the new monarch, King Charles III, who acceded when the Queen passed. “It really does feel like we’ve entered into a new era for the U.K. as a whole,” says Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst at multi-asset broker OANDA. “That makes for a very interesting time for the country and its place in the world.” In many ways, the monarch holds a symbolic role, not a political one. That means the change shouldn’t be too controversial, Erlam says. However, it’s a tough act to follow. “She was an incredibly loved figure,” he says. “I just wonder whether there is the same love and devotion for King Charles.” Britain’s mounting economic pressures When gross domestic product figures for the third quarter are released, it could show that the public holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Sept. 19 slightly depressed growth, pushing the economy into a technical recession of two back-to-back quarters of negative growth, says Steve Clayton, head of equity funds at U.K.-based Hargreaves Lansdown. That’s because of lower productivity and economic output. A similar thing happened in the second quarter, when an additional holiday was granted to celebrate the Queen’s platinum Jubilee, and the economy shrank by 0.1%, according to data provider Trading Economics. “Whatever impact there will be, it will be temporary,” he says. That’s because it won’t likely change any spending on autos, TVs, food, and other things, he says. On top of that, some food banks planned closures on the day of the funeral, meaning those in desperate need may not have been able to get basic necessities. That’s not to say spending habits haven’t changed. Clayton has noticed a retrenchment in consumer spending, likely prompted by the country’s energy crisis and recent increases in interest rates. U.K. grocery delivery retailer Ocado, which is popular with Britain’s middle class consumers, recently reported that its customers were spending less, sending the company’s shares diving. Clayton says that’s in part also the harsh reality of higher home loan costs. Many homebuyers use variable-rate mortgages to purchase properties. The Bank of England raised its benchmark lending rate to 1.5% from 0.35% last November. That’s going to have a direct impact on the many U.K. residents with adjustable mortgages. Worse still, the central bank raised the rates by 0.5% today—its seventh successive increase—cutting into many Britons’ household budgets. “That will be painful for those with large flexible-rate mortgages,” Clayton says. Then there’s the energy crisis, which threatens to plunge half of households into energy poverty. The cost of natural gas in Europe has more than tripled to €217 ($217) per Kilowatt-hour recently from around €70 a year ago, according to data from Trading Economics. The surge occurred because Russia cut its deliveries of natural gas to Europe following the invasion of Ukraine. That price jump directly feeds through to higher electricity prices and heating costs. Earlier this summer, Britons were warned that energy bills could exceed £6,000 yearly ($6,960) by April 2023, due to higher heating costs this winter. That’s close to 20% of the £31,500 average annual after-tax household income, according to government statistics. Some people will not have the money to pay their bills, experts say. Warnings have also been given that more than one-in-five U.K. companies with sales above £1 million ($1.16 million,) around 76,000, could face insolvency due to higher energy bills, according to a financial research firm Red Flag Alert. Those with high energy consumption, such as industrial companies, are more at risk. Liz Truss’s emergency economic relief plans Two days after becoming Prime Minister, Truss announced a cap on household energy bills at an annual rate of around £2,500 for the next two years, with the government paying the difference. The government has also unveiled a £40 billion ($45 billion) plan to help companies, imposing a cap on wholesale energy prices for businesses for six months. Some have criticized such measures as filling the coffers of energy companies that are expected to make bumper profits as a result of rising energy costs. The U.K.’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, will announce the government’s urgently needed plan to address the cost of living crisis on Sept. 23. The emergency fiscal event was expected sooner, but was put on hold while Parliament was suspended over the mourning period. The so-called “mini budget” is expected to include tax relief for corporations and individuals and reductions in unnecessary regulations. “One of the most compelling stories is the U.K.’s economic policy mix,” says Marc Chandler, managing director at Bannockburn Global Forex. Specifically, that means loose fiscal policy (more spending, lower taxes) and tight monetary policy, with higher interest rates. That was the U.S. policy used in the early 1980s, which led to a period of stellar growth. Chandler also thinks the policy mix will partly help with the country’s other problem: the pound’s falling value. Sterling recently reached its lowest level against the dollar since the mid-1980s. He says the drop in the pound is largely due to the outrageous strength of the dollar. Other rich-country currencies have fallen by similar amounts, notably Europe’s single currency, the euro, and the Japanese yen. Sterling has rarely been as undervalued as it is now, Chandler says, and he expects it could start to rebound once the dollar peaks, which he predicts will be in early 2023. Truss also wants to ensure a future of stable energy supplies, says Ivo Pezzuto, professor of global economics and digital transformation at the International School of Management in Paris. Higher prices lead to lower demand, but that doesn’t fix the fact that the Kremlin cutting off natural gas deliveries is a supply problem in Europe. “They need more supply,” he says. Gone are the days of building an economy around cheap Russian oil and gas. Unlike the rest of Europe, Truss’s plan doesn’t mean levying windfall profit taxes on energy companies. She wants to encourage more drilling and has lifted the ban on hydraulic fracturing oil drilling—or fracking. There are also discussions about establishing a robust energy policy that embraces new technology, including nuclear power and renewables. “Some of this will take time before the benefits arrive,” Pezzuto says. There are other signs of hope for the economy. The unemployment rate, at 3.6%, is the lowest since the 1970s. There are now 1.3 million vacancies versus 1.5 million unemployed people. Put simply, the labor market is tight, which gives employees the power to demand higher wages, which in turn will help offset the rising cost of living. “Employers will be unlikely to hold down wages for long,” says Clayton. But there’s a caveat to the rising salaries. If the wage demands inflate too much, then the Bank of England may worry about sustained inflation. The result could be aggressively higher interest rates, says Konstantinos Venetis, director of global macro at London-based financial firm TS Lombard. If that happens, the economy could take a hit......»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 22nd, 2022Related News

A Beer Shortage Is Brewing. A Volcano Is Partly to Blame

Food and beverage companies have been scrambling to find suppliers of carbon dioxide Beer and meat lovers might have a difficult time getting their favorite products this fall. That’s because there’s a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the U.S., leading to complications at a number of breweries and food suppliers across the country. Food and beverage companies, such as Tyson and Kraft Heinz, have been scrambling to find suppliers of the gas, which is used for putting fizz into drinks and freezing frozen meats and pizzas. Some local breweries have even had to suspend operations at their facilities because of the shortage—that could mean fewer jobs and higher beer prices. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] What’s causing the carbon dioxide shortage A number of factors have led to the current situation, but maintenance shutdowns of CO2 plants and general summer demand for drinks are the most likely culprit, according to the Brewers Association, a U.S. trade group. “While many of the specific issues in the market are new, CO2 has experienced various supply chain challenges since the beginning of the pandemic,” the Brewers Association said in a statement. “This is one of many areas where small brewers are facing cost increases and availability issues.” Some analysts have also attributed the current tightness in part to contamination at the Jackson Dome carbon dioxide well, an extinct volcano in Mississippi, earlier this summer. Denbury Energy, the owner of the site, attempted to drill new CO2 wells to fill its industrial contracts, but the CO2 reportedly contained contaminants, according to Gasworld. Denbury said the contamination was a “minor issue” in a statement to TIME. “The CO2 produced at Jackson Dome has been and is being produced within all regulatory requirements, and the composition of the delivered CO2 continues to meet contractual specifications,” it said. “We have been working with certain of our customers, such as food and beverage grade requirements, to address processing issues that existed in their distribution chains. Our customers are receiving all of the CO2 they are requesting.” Driver shortages are further jamming up the supply of the gas, the Brewers Association says, particularly with local delivery. Many of the sourcing challenges, it says, are worse in the southeast, but reports of CO2 shortages and quality issues have been reported all across the U.S. since the middle of the summer. The Compressed Gas Association, another industry trade group in the U.S., does not expect to see any relief until at least October, when scheduled maintenance at CO2 industrial facilities are expected to be completed. Beer producers are being squeezed The beer industry has been hit particularly hard by the shortage, forcing some smaller breweries to consider raising their prices to offset rising costs and remain in business. Some are even experimenting with CO2 alternatives, such as nitrogen. “We’re using CO2 constantly,” Bryan Van Den Oever, owner of the Red Bear Brewing Company in Washington, D.C., tells TIME. “Our supplier let us know that they weren’t taking on any new clients…but at some point they may come to us to say they can’t meet our needs, which is worrying because beer is our main product.” “There was a surcharge for all CO2 that our supplier just sent to us recently,” he added. When Night Shift Brewing in Everett, Mass. learned that its CO2 supply had been cut for the foreseeable future, twelve employees were told their jobs may be cut as the brewery moved its production to a different source. “Our plan had been to continue problem solving, but this latest CO2 issue has basically thrown a huge wrench into any of those plans—threatening even immediate production,” Night Shift Brewing wrote in a statement posted on Facebook in July. For craft breweries, extra CO2 is often added to beer during the fermentation process, in the tap room for pushing beer through the lines to glasses, and when putting beer into cans. Van Den Oever says that if the shortage worsens, his brewing company might have to use nitrogen in the fermentation tank instead of CO2, though that’s a worst-case scenario. Nitro beer often has less carbonation, giving it a more smooth and creamy texture, meaning IPAs and pilsners might have different flavors. Some larger breweries are able to capture the CO2 from their beer production and reuse it, but that’s not an option for smaller brewing companies since the equipment is expensive and can take up lots of space. Other food and beverage industries also rely on CO2 The CO2 shortage isn’t just impacting the beer industry: The gas is commonly used in almost everything we consume. Beyond creating the fizz in drinks, it helps rapidly chill food that will be frozen. Carbon dioxide is even used to make dry ice and can be used for humanely slaughtering animals. Fresh meat could also be in shorter supply at local grocery stores. The Wall Street Journal reported that Tyson and Butterball were among the companies affected by CO2 shortages. Cold cuts, which are preserved with CO2 and other gasses, could also take a hit. Modified atmospheric packaging takes out the oxygen and pumps in CO2 to give products a longer shelf life, but companies like Kraft Heinz have warned retailers of a potential shortage of turkey and bologna due to the shortage. Kraft Heinz did not respond to a request for comment. Frozen foods, such as vegetables and pizzas, also use CO2 for enhanced freezing and preservation to prevent bacteria growth. For producers unable to find alternative sources, the next few months could be difficult. “We’re hoping the shortage is going to resolve but it doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen at least through the fall,” Van Den Oever says. “So this is just an ongoing thing that we’re going to deal with.”.....»»

Category: topSource: TIMESep 22nd, 2022Related News