Category : Economy

([London] Times) Microsoft Word introduces new ‘woke’ feature to suggest PC alternatives

The line Neil Armstrong uttered when he stepped on the Moon — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — is deemed problematic by the software, which suggests changing “mankind” to “humankind” or “humanity”.

The children’s cartoon Postman Pat also fails the inclusivity test, with the software preferring “mail carrier” Pat or “postal worker” Pat.

The software also offers to tweak Billy Paul’s 1970s hit Me and Mrs Jones to a more modern Me and Ms Jones, while Barry Manilow’s infamous Lola in the song Copacabana might more appropriately be referred to as a performing artist rather than a showgirl.

Other words to change include “headmaster” (Word suggests “principal”), “master” (“expert”), “manpower” (“workforce”) and “heroine” (“hero”).

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Language, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Council on Foreign Relations) The Ten Most Significant World Events in 2021

2. COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive as the Virus Mutates. The vaccines created to address the novel coronavirus may join the smallpox, polio, and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines as major advances in saving lives and diminishing morbidity. The speed at which COVID-19 vaccines were developed was stunning. Vaccines historically took ten to fifteen years to develop. The quickest any vaccine had been developed previously was the four years it took to create the mumps vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines were created in less than a year. Just as important, the leading COVID-19 vaccines worked stunningly well; the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both more than 90 percent effective against early COVID-19 variants. More than 7.4 billion vaccine doses were administered in 184 countries in the first eleven months of 2021, with seventy countries making donations. Unfortunately, too many people who could have been vaccinated chose not to, and too many people who wanted to get vaccinated couldn’t. That was deadly because COVID-19 is incredibly adaptive. The Delta variant, first identified in December 2020 in India, was more infectious than its predecessors and soon became the dominant strain around the world. In November 2021, South African scientists identified the emergence of the Omicron variant. Within weeks it had been found around the world. As 2021 ended, it was unclear whether Omicron presented a greater health threat or would send the global economy into another tailspin. What was clear is that more than 5 million people globally and 800,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.

1. Countries Fail the Climate Change Challenge—Again. “A code red for humanity.” That’s how UN Secretary General António Guterres’ described the UN report released in August that concluded that humanity faces catastrophic climate change unless the emission of heat-trapping gases is slashed. But one didn’t need to read the 4,000-page report to know that. Extreme weather dominated the news in 2021, as it has for much of the past decade. Record drought wracked the American southwest. Record flooding devastated Belgium and western Germany. Epic wildfires tore through Greece. Late season monsoons ravaged India and Nepal. Climate optimists could find some developments to cheer in 2021. President Biden committed the United States to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. China agreed in September to discontinue financing coal-fired power plants overseas, and Iceland opened a facility to take carbon dioxide out of the air. At the COP-26 meeting in Glasgow in November countries pledged to take steps to address climate change, including by cutting methane emissions. But pledges aren’t accomplishments. Carbon emissions jumped in 2021 as the global economy roared back to life. Even as President Biden pushed Congress to address climate change in a major infrastructure bill, he asked OPEC to increase oil production in a bid to lower gasoline prices. He was hardly the only world leader hoping to have his cake and eat it too. The transition away from fossil fuels poses difficult choices. Mother Nature, however, doesn’t give credit for degree of difficulty.

Read it all and see what you make of their choices.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine, History, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Nikkei Asia) China hoards over half the world’s grain, pushing up global prices

Less than 20% of the world’s population has managed to stockpile more than half of the globe’s maize and other grains, leading to steep price increases across the planet and dropping more countries into famine.

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Posted in China, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(WSJ) American Workers Are Burned Out, and Bosses Are Struggling to Respond

In the first 10 months of this year, America’s workers handed in nearly 39 million resignations, the highest number since tracking began in 2000.

Some want better jobs. Others, a better work-life balance. Still others want a complete break from the corporate grind. Almost two years into the pandemic that left millions doing their jobs from home, many Americans are rethinking their relationship with work.

Companies are struggling to stop employees from leaving and to boost morale. Some are trying mandatory companywide vacation days and blackout hours when meetings are banned. Executives are experimenting with new ways of working, including four-day workweeks and asynchronous schedules that allow people to set their own hours.

Employers say burnout, long an issue for American workers and exacerbated by the pandemic, is a prime cause. A September survey by think tank the Conference Board found that more than three-quarters of 1,800 U.S. workers cited concerns such as stress and burnout as big challenges to well-being at work, up from 55% six months earlier. Half said workload-related pressure was harming their mental health.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Stress

(Reuters) Deepfake anyone: AI synthetic media tech enters perilous phase

“Do you want to see yourself acting in a movie or on TV?” said the description for one app on online stores, offering users the chance to create AI-generated synthetic media, also known as deepfakes.

“Do you want to see your best friend, colleague, or boss dancing?” it added. “Have you ever wondered how would you look if your face swapped with your friend’s or a celebrity’s?”

The same app was advertised differently on dozens of adult sites: “Make deepfake porn in a sec,” the ads said. “Deepfake anyone.”

How increasingly sophisticated technology is applied is one of the complexities facing synthetic media software, where machine learning is used to digitally model faces from images and then swap them into films as seamlessly as possible.

The technology, barely four years old, may be at a pivotal point, according to interviews with companies, researchers, policymakers and campaigners.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Photos/Photography, Pornography, Science & Technology

(Economist Leader) The new normal is already here. Get used to it

Big technological shifts are nothing new. But instead of taking centuries or decades to spread around the world, as did the printing press and telegraph, new technologies become routine in a matter of years. Just 15 years ago, modern smartphones did not exist. Today more than half of the people on the planet carry one. Any boss who thinks their industry is immune to such wild dynamism is unlikely to last long.

The pandemic may also have ended the era of low global inflation that began in the 1990s and was ingrained by economic weakness after the financial crisis of 2007-09. Having failed to achieve a quick recovery then, governments spent nearly $11trn trying to ensure that the harm caused by the virus was transient.

They broadly succeeded, but fiscal stimulus and bunged-up supply chains have raised global inflation above 5%. The apparent potency of deficit spending will change how recessions are fought. As they raise interest rates to deal with inflation, central banks may find themselves in conflict with indebted governments. Amid a burst of innovation around cryptocoins, central-bank digital currencies and fintech, many outcomes are possible. A return to the comfortable macroeconomic orthodoxies of the 1990s is one of the least likely.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology

(WSJ) Central Banks Worry Omicron Could Sustain Inflation

The Omicron variant is circling the globe, closing borders and sparking new restrictions on economic activity. Yet central banks, instead of loosening monetary policy to prop up their economies as they did at the start of the pandemic, are moving to unwind stimulus and raise interest rates.

The moves reflect a new thinking among policy makers about the pandemic’s economic effects: Central-bank officials worry that rather than simply threatening to curtail economic growth, a surge in Covid-19 cases could also prolong high inflation.

In the past week, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank all moved to tighten monetary policy in response to inflation concerns.

When the pandemic first became widespread, in early 2020, governments locked down their economies. Consumer spending fell sharply, employers shed workers and prices fell. Within a few months, the rise of e-commerce and remote working allowed the economy in many developed countries to recover rapidly. With mass vaccinations, that recovery has continued this year.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Health & Medicine

(NYT) Doctors and Nurses Are ‘Living in a Constant Crisis’ as Covid Fills Hospitals and Omicron Looms

On the top floor of the hospital, in the unit that houses the sickest Covid-19 patients, 13 of the 14 beds were occupied. In the one empty room, a person had just died.

Through surge after surge, caregivers in the unit at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, Mich., have helped ailing patients say goodbye to their relatives on video calls. The medical workers have cried in the dimly lit hallways. They have seen caseloads wane, only to watch beds fill up again. Mostly, they have learned to fear the worst.

“You come back to work and you ask who died,” said Bridget Klingenberg, an intensive care nurse at Covenant, where staff levels are so strained that the Defense Department recently sent reinforcements. “I don’t think people understand the toll that that takes unless you’ve actually done it.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Washington Post) ‘Last on the rung’: Africa deals with fallout from a ‘Made in the USA’ supply chain crisis

With U.S. retailers willing to pay almost any price to get their goods to American shores in time for the holidays, ocean carriers have redeployed container ships from the developing world to the more lucrative Asia-to-United States trade lanes, where rates for some shipments this fall were 15 times pre-pandemic levels, according to the Freightos index.

That’s helped fill American store shelves — and carriers’ coffers — but it has battered many African shippers, according to interviews with more than 30 maritime analysts, shippers, freight forwarders and cargo carriers in the United States, Africa and elsewhere.

Already lagging in coronavirus vaccinations, Africa risks becoming collateral damage in the supply wars. The International Monetary Fund says the 45 nations of sub-Saharan Africa are mired in the slowest economic recovery of any region, with supply chain disruptions helping fuel inflation at roughly twice its pre-pandemic level.

“Africa, sadly, I can’t think of any other continent that is last on the rung. Africa will be the last to come out of this,” [Aditya] Awtani said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Africa, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Kenya

Dorothy Sayers on her Feast Day–Why Work?

I have already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thoroughgoing revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.

It may well seem to you – as it does to some of my acquaintances – that I have a sort of obsession about this business of the right attitude to work. But I do insist upon it, because it seems to me that what becomes of civilization after this war is going to depend enormously on our being able to effect this revolution in our ideas about work. Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand….

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(FA) Sue Gordon and Eric Rosenbach–America’s Cyber-Reckoning: How to Fix a Failing Strategy

A decade ago, the conventional wisdom held that the world was on the cusp of a new era of cyberconflict in which catastrophic computer-based attacks would wreak havoc on the physical world. News media warned of doomsday scenarios; officials in Washington publicly fretted about a “cyber–Pearl Harbor” that would take lives and destroy critical infrastructure. The most dire predictions, however, did not come to pass. The United States has not been struck by devastating cyberattacks with physical effects; it seems that even if U.S. adversaries wanted to carry out such assaults, traditional forms of deterrence would prevent them from acting.

Behind those mistaken warnings lay an assumption that the only alternative to cyberpeace must be cyberwar. But in the years since, it has become clear that like all realms of conflict, the domain of cyberspace is shaped not by a binary between war and peace but by a spectrum between those two poles—and most cyberattacks fall somewhere in that murky space. The obvious upside of this outcome is that the worst fears of death and destruction have not been realized. There is a downside, however: the complex nature of cyberconflict has made it more difficult for the United States to craft an effective cyberstrategy. And even if lives have not been lost and infrastructure has mostly been spared, it is hardly the case that cyberattacks have been harmless. U.S. adversaries have honed their cyber-skills to inflict damage on U.S. national security, the American economy, and, most worrisome of all, American democracy. Meanwhile, Washington has struggled to move past its initial perception of the problem, clinging to outmoded ideas that have limited its responses. The United States has also demonstrated an unwillingness to consistently confront its adversaries in the cyber-realm and has suffered from serious self-inflicted wounds that have left it in a poor position to advance its national interests in cyberspace.

To do better, the United States must focus on the most pernicious threats of all: cyberattacks aimed at weakening societal trust, the underpinnings of democracy, and the functioning of a globalized economy. The Biden administration seems to recognize the need for a new approach. But to make significant progress, it will need to reform the country’s cyberstrategy, starting with its most fundamental aspect: the way Washington understands the problem.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(NYT) The End of a Return-to-Office Date

The executives had a good feeling about Jan. 10, 2022 — the date when DocuSign’s 7,000 employees worldwide would finally come back to work.

This deadline wouldn’t be like that earlier one in May 2020, which was always a fantasy, or August 2020, which was a bit ambitious, or October 2021, a plan derailed by the Delta variant. Fourth time’s the charm.

“Every time we delay this we’re pushing off the inevitable,” said Joan Burke, the chief people officer, in a late November interview. “At some point in time DocuSign is going to be open.”

That some point in time is no longer in January. The Omicron variant interjected. Just as companies from Ford Motor to Lyft have done in the past week, DocuSign postponed again. In place of a new date came the company’s promise to “reassess our plans as 2022 unfolds.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

Elon Musk Named Times person of the year for 2021

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, History, Science & Technology

Alan Haley Analyzes what happened in the Oral Arguments Wednesday before the South Carolina Supreme Court in the TEC in SC/Anglican Diocese of SC Case

If anything remained clear at the conclusion, it was this: the current Justices will have to do the homework of looking carefully at all the documentary evidence in the record in order to feel comfortable with any final ruling they make. There has been too much legal bias and posturing in the past — like the claim that All Saints Waccamaw was no longer the law in South Carolina, when it clearly was; or like the claim that the Court was required to “defer” to the unilateral decisions by ECUSA in matters of property law (as opposed to religious doctrine).

The reason for much of that bias and posturing, it has to be said, should be laid at the feet of the now recused, but in 2017 highly partisan, Justice Kaye Hearn — aided and abetted by retired Justice Pleicones. Together, their unified front against (former) Chief Justice Toal seems to have deprived her of the command of the law and the authority she wielded to great effect in achieving the unanimous decision eight years before, in the All Saints Waccamaw case. They appear to have determined that she not be allowed to treat ECUSA in the same fashion again, and alas, if that was their goal, they succeeded. Fortunately, that success may not be lasting, if the current justices prove up to the evidentiary task before them.

Trying to make the Court’s work less burdensome, by having the parties pare down the record, Chief Justice Beatty admitted at the end, had been a mistake. The complex cannot be made simple in that way. There will be no easy out for this Court, and I predict we will have to wait a good many months for a consensus to emerge. Given the facts as we all know them from the history of the last twenty-odd years, there is no reason, in my humble opinion, why there should not be another 5-0 decision in this case.

Read it carefully and read it all and make sure to take the time to follow the links.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Gallup Chairman’s blog–Bet on It: 37% of Desks Will Be Empty

I recently asked a team of our advanced analysts to establish an over/under for how many U.S. employees will not be returning to the office full time in the future.

Here are some key facts I learned from them. There are 125 million full-time jobs in America. Of those, right at 50% — or about 60 million — report that their current job can be done remotely working from home. We interviewed a representative sample of them.

The research design included organizations ranging from accounting firms where all employees can work from home (WFH) to construction companies where 10% of employees are in corporate backrooms and can also work remotely. The sample includes everyone from any kind of organization who believes they can do their work from home.

Of those 60 million potential WFH employees, a staggering 30% said they would prefer to “never” come into the office during the week. Ten percent (10%) said they prefer working all five days in the office. The middle 60% want a blend of one to four days per week. The most common preference was two to three days in the office per week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology, Theology

(NPR) The UAE is adopting a 4.5-day workweek and a Saturday-Sunday weekend

The United Arab Emirates just announced some big changes to its work schedule.

The Gulf nation is transitioning to a 4.5-day workweek, with weekends to consist of Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.

That’s significant for two reasons: It likely makes the UAE the first nation to formalize a workweek shorter than five days, and it also brings the country more in line with Western schedules. Up until now, the UAE has had a Friday-Saturday weekend, which is the standard in many predominantly Muslim countries.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, UAE (United Arab Emirates), Uncategorized

(NYT) On Syria’s Ruins, a Drug Empire Flourishes

Built on the ashes of 10 years of war in Syria, an illegal drug industry run by powerful associates and relatives of President Bashar al-Assad has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation, eclipsing Syria’s legal exports and turning the country into the world’s newest narcostate.

Its flagship product is captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine popular in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Its operations stretch across Syria, including workshops that manufacture the pills, packing plants where they are concealed for export and smuggling networks to spirit them to markets abroad.

An investigation by The New York Times found that much of the production and distribution is overseen by the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s younger brother and one of Syria’s most powerful men.

Major players also include businessmen with close ties to the government, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other members of the president’s extended family, whose last name ensures protection for illegal activities, according to The Times investigation, which is based on information from law enforcement officials in 10 countries and dozens of interviews with international and regional drug experts, Syrians with knowledge of the drug trade and current and former United States officials.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Syria

(Economist Leader) What the Omicron variant means for the world economy

The final danger is the least well appreciated: a slowdown in China, the world’s second-biggest economy. Not long ago it was a shining example of economic resilience against the pandemic. But today it is grappling with a debt crisis in its vast property industry, ideological campaigns against private businesses, and an unsustainable “zero-covid” policy that keeps the country isolated and submits it to draconian local lockdowns whenever cases emerge. Even as the government considers stimulating the economy, growth has dropped to about 5%. Barring the brief shock when the pandemic began, that is the lowest for about 30 years.

If Omicron turns out to be more transmissible than the earlier Delta variant, it will make China’s strategy more difficult. Since this strain travels more easily, China will have to come down even harder on each outbreak in order to eradicate it, hurting growth and disrupting supply chains. Omicron may also make China’s exit from its zero-covid policy even trickier, because the wave of infections that will inevitably result from letting the virus rip could be larger, straining the economy and the health-care system. That is especially true given China’s low levels of infection-induced immunity and questions over how well its vaccines work.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(NYT front page) A Slow-Motion Climate Disaster in Brazil: The Spread of Barren Land

CARNAÚBA DOS DANTAS, Brazil — The land has sustained the Dantas family for more than 150 years, bearing fields of cotton, beanstalks up to a grown man’s hip and, when it rained enough, a river that led to a waterfall.

But on a recent day, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees, the river had run dry, the crops would not grow and the family’s 30 remaining cattle were quickly consuming the last pool of water.

“Fifty years from now, there won’t be a soul living here,” said Inácio Batista Dantas, 80, balanced in a frayed hammock. “I tell my grandchildren that things are going to get very difficult.”

His granddaughter, Hellena, 16, listened in — and pushed back. She grew up here. “I plan to work this land,” she said.

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Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(The Economist) How to manage the Great Resignation–High staff churn is here to stay. Retention strategies require a rethink

The spike in staff departures known as the Great Resignation is centred on America: a record 3% of the workforce there quit their jobs in September. But employees in other places are also footloose. Resignations explain why job-to-job moves in Britain reached a record high in the third quarter of this year.

Some of the churn is transitory. It was hard to act on pent-up job dissatisfaction while economies were in free fall, so there is a post-pandemic backlog of job switches to clear. And more quitting now is not the same as sustained job-hopping later. As Melissa Swift of Mercer, a consultancy, notes, white-collar workers in search of higher purpose will choose a new employer carefully and stay longer.

But there is also reason to believe that higher rates of churn are here to stay. The prevalence of remote working means that more roles are plausible options for more jobseekers. And the pandemic has driven home the precariousness of life at the bottom of the income ladder. Resignation rates are highest in industries, like hospitality, that are full of low-wage workers who have lots of potentially risky face-to-face contact with colleagues and customers.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–A benign omicron may be the answer to our economic prayers

Goldman Sachs has gamed four omicron outcomes: “severe downside”, “downside”, “false alarm”, and a surprise “upside”. These scenarios have starkly different implications for asset prices and macroeconomic policy over the next year. Get it wrong at your cost.

You can already see this tension playing out in wild moves on global bourses, or in oil prices, with each snippet of fresh information.

Markets have taken a fresh beating this morning on warnings from Moderna that it is “not going to be good” for the existing vaccines. But if the disease is indeed milder, a slippage in antibody protection levels may not matter, and we still have T-cell memory as the next line of defence.

For the sake of argument – as a Gedankenexperiment – I assume that the benign picture from South Africa holds up over the winter and that we will land at the optimistic end of the Goldman spectrum.

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Posted in Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(WSJ) Workers Quit Jobs in Droves to Become Their Own Bosses

The pandemic has unleashed a historic burst in entrepreneurship and self-employment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are striking out on their own as consultants, retailers and small-business owners.

The move helps explain the ongoing shake-up in the world of work, with more people looking for flexibility, anxious about covid exposure, upset about vaccine mandates or simply disenchanted with pre-pandemic office life. It is also aggravating labor shortages in some industries and adding pressure on companies to revamp their employment policies.

The number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic, Labor Department data show, to 9.44 million. That is the highest total since the financial-crisis year 2008, except for this summer. The total amounts to an increase of 6% in the self-employed, while the overall U.S. employment total remains nearly 3% lower than before the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs applied for federal tax-identification numbers to register 4.54 million new businesses from January through October this year, up 56% from the same period of 2019, Census Bureau data show. That was the largest number on records that date back to 2004. Two-thirds were for businesses that aren’t expected to hire employees.

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Posted in Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Disney+ Omits ‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Episode in Hong Kong

On Disney+, which launched in Hong Kong on Nov. 16, episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 are viewable in the Chinese territory, but not episode 12, which first aired in 2005. That episode was available over the weekend in Singapore, where Disney+ launched earlier this year.

“This is the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong,” said Kenny Ng, an associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government,” he added. “This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”

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Posted in China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Movies & Television

(C of E) Transition Pathway Initiative energy report finds only 1 in 10 companies are ambitious enough to keep global warming to 1.5°C

The first annual analysis of major energy company transition plans to be released since COP26 has found that only 1 in 10 are ambitious enough to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

This energy sector report is the first to feature TPI’s 1.5°C benchmark which assesses corporate targets against the IEA’s pathway to keep to 1.5°C of warming.

TPI assessed 140 of the largest energy companies (76 electric utilities, 58 oil & gas, 6 diversified miners involved in coal mining) on ‘Carbon Performance’ finding that 10% were aligned with a pathway to keeping global warming to 1.5°C, and a further 24% were aligned with a ‘Below 2°C’ pathway.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(Economist) Adventure Capitalism

Vladimir Lenin believed that a tiny vanguard could, through force of will, harness historical forces to transform how global capitalism works. He was right. However, the revolutionaries have not been bearded Bolsheviks but a few thousand investors, mostly based in Silicon Valley, running less than 2% of the world’s institutional assets. In the past five decades, the venture-capital (vc) industry has funded enterprising ideas that have gone on to transform global business and the world economy. Seven of the world’s ten largest firms were vc-backed. vc money has financed the companies behind search engines, iPhones, electric cars and mrna vaccines.

Now capitalism’s dream machine is itself being scaled up and transformed, as an unprecedented $450bn of fresh cash floods into the vc scene. This turbocharging of the venture world brings significant risks, from egomaniacal founders torching cash to pension pots being squandered on overvalued startups. But in the long run it also promises to make the industry more global, to funnel risk capital into a wider range of industries, and to make vc more accessible to ordinary investors. A larger pool of capital chasing a bigger universe of ideas will boost competition, and is likely to boost innovation, leading to a more dynamic form of capitalism.

The vc scene has its roots in the 1960s and has been a misfit in the financial world. In contrast to Wall Street’s suits, sophistication and Hamptons mansions, it prefers fleeces, nerdiness and Californian villas. Its distinctiveness is also a matter of intellectual emphasis. As mainstream finance has grown bigger, more quantitative and more preoccupied with slicing and dicing the cashflows of mature firms and assets, vc has remained a cottage industry that cuts against the grain, seeking to find and finance entrepreneurs who are too callow or strange to sit in a room with staid bankers, and ideas that are too novel for mbas to capture in financial models.

The results have been striking. Despite investing relatively modest amounts over the decades, America’s vc funds have seeded firms that are today worth at least $18trn of the total public market.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(NYT) Contending With the Pandemic, Wealthy Nations Wage Global Battle for Migrants

As the global economy heats up and tries to put the pandemic aside, a battle for the young and able has begun. With fast-track visas and promises of permanent residency, many of the wealthy nations driving the recovery are sending a message to skilled immigrants all over the world: Help wanted. Now.

In Germany, where officials recently warned that the country needs 400,000 new immigrants a year to fill jobs in fields ranging from academia to air-conditioning, a new Immigration Act offers accelerated work visas and six months to visit and find a job.

Canada plans to give residency to 1.2 million new immigrants by 2023. Israel recently finalized a deal to bring health care workers from Nepal. And in Australia, where mines, hospitals and pubs are all short-handed after nearly two years with a closed border, the government intends to roughly double the number of immigrants it allows into the country over the next year.

The global drive to attract foreigners with skills, especially those that fall somewhere between physical labor and a physics Ph.D., aims to smooth out a bumpy emergence from the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General

(NYT front page) When Some Are Back in the Office, and the Rest Are Still in PJs

For months, the putt-putt course sat unused. The beanbag chairs lay empty. The kitchen whiteboard, above where the keg used to live, displayed in fading marker “Beers on Tap” from a happy hour in March 2020.

But on a recent weekday, over in the common area was a sign of life — fresh bagels.

As employees at the financial technology start-up CommonBond got Covid vaccines, and grew stir-crazy in their apartments, they started trickling back into the office.

“We call it Work From Work Wednesday,” said Keryn Koch, who runs human resources at the company, which has 15,000 square feet of sunlit SoHo real estate.

At one point, autumn had been billed across corporate America as the Great Office Reopening. The Delta variant intervened, and mandatory return-to-office plans turned optional. Still, many people chose to report back to their desks: The share of employed people who worked remotely at some point during the month because of Covid, which had peaked in May 2020 at 35 percent, dropped in October to 11 percent, the lowest point since the pandemic began, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Science & Technology

(FT) Stay or sell? The $110tn investment industry gets tougher on climate

The Church of England too is ditching stocks over climate concerns, even if Joffe says she believes that “having a seat at the table” is generally more effective. Last year, the church’s two investment bodies restricted investments in companies including Berkshire Hathaway and Korea Electric Power Corp over climate change concerns.

Joffe says a tougher approach, involving activism and divestment, “will have to become more mainstream”, especially if asset managers and asset owners are to meet their net zero commitments.

For companies, this means a tougher time from shareholders, says Tom Matthews, a partner who specialises in corporate activism at White and Case. He adds the “narrative around climate change has shifted significantly versus where it was in 2015”, when the Paris agreement was signed. “We’re seeing companies getting targeted because they haven’t woken up quickly enough.”

As for Aviva Investors, Baig says he believes the UK asset manager will end up selling out of at least some of the companies it is targeting because they are not making progress quick enough. “We have to be bold enough to walk way,” he says.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Stock Market

(Guardian) Cop26: world on track for disastrous heating of more than 2.4C, says key report

The world is on track for disastrous levels of global heating far in excess of the limits in the Paris climate agreement, despite a flurry of carbon-cutting pledges from governments at the UN Cop26 summit.

Temperature rises will top 2.4C by the end of this century, based on the short-term goals countries have set out, according to research published in Glasgow on Tuesday.

That would far exceed the 2C upper limit the Paris accord said the world needed to stay “well below”, and the much safer 1.5C limit aimed for at the Cop26 talks.

At that level, widespread extreme weather – sea-level rises, drought, floods, heatwaves and fiercer storms – would cause devastation across the globe.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) Climate Talks Bring Promises Slim on Detail

The international climate summit here has been billed by its chief organizer as the “last, best hope” to save the planet. But as the United Nations conference enters its second week and negotiators from 197 countries knuckle down to finalize a new agreement to tackle global warming, attendees were sharply divided over how much progress is being made.

There’s the optimistic view: Heads of state and titans of industry showed up in force last week with splashy new climate promises, a sign that momentum was building in the right direction.

“I believe what is happening here is far from business as usual,” said John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy on climate change, who has been attending U.N. climate summits since 1992. “I have never counted as many initiatives and as much real money — real money — being put on the table….”

Then there’s the pessimistic view: All these gauzy promises mean little without concrete plans to follow through. And that’s still lacking. Or, as the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg put it, the conference has mostly consisted of “blah, blah, blah.”

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Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Science & Technology