Category : Corporations/Corporate Life

(Economist) Facebook and the conglomerate curse

In 1997, in his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wrote that it was still “Day 1” for his firm. Day 2, he later explained, would mean stasis, followed by irrelevance. His rousing call to avoid complacency seems apt today. Silicon Valley’s five big tech giants, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, have long been the bedrock of America’s stockmarket and economy, miraculously combining reliable growth and profitability. But after a torrid third quarter their market capitalisations have now collectively dropped by 37% so far this year. About $3.7trn of value has evaporated.

The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown bigger, they have become tied to the economic cycle; a fact which the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.

Meanwhile, they are threatened by “conglomeritis”. The symptoms of this disease are bloating and egomania. Consider the recent orgy of spending on hiring, experimental ventures, vanity projects and building data centres. In March the five firms’ combined annual expenses reached $1trn for the first time, and the value of the physical plant of these supposedly asset-light businesses has reached $600bn, over triple the level of five years ago. Swollen costs and balance-sheets mean returns on capital have fallen from over 60% five years ago to 26%. Three of the five do not deign to pay dividends.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(Washington Post) U.S. workers have gotten way less productive. No one is sure why.

Employers across the country are worried that workers are getting less done — and there’s evidence they’re right to be spooked.

In the first half of 2022, productivity — the measure of how much output in goods and services an employee can produce in an hour — plunged by the sharpest rate on record going back to 1947, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The productivity plunge is perplexing, because productivity took off to levels not seen in decades when the coronavirus forced an overnight switch to remote work, leading some economists to suggest that the pandemic might spark longer-term growth. It also raises new questions about the shift to hybrid schedules and remote work, as employees have made the case that flexibility helped them work more efficiently. And it comes at a time when “quiet quitting” — doing only what’s expected and no more — is resonating, especially with younger workers.

Productivity is strong in manufacturing, but it’s down elsewhere in the private sector, according to Diego Comin, professor of economics at Dartmouth College. He noted that productivity is particularly tricky to gauge for knowledge workers, whose contributions aren’t as easy to measure.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Church of England Pensions Board begins legal proceedings against German car manufacturer VW

The Church of England Pensions Board, together with Swedish public pension funds AP7, AP2, AP3, AP4 and Danish AkademikerPension, has filed a case against Volkswagen AG, after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate lobbying activities.

This is the first time investors have started European litigation on a climate-related matter. The case was filed this week.

The case will test whether VW has the right to refuse to include an item on the company AGM agenda proposed by VW’s shareholders at the 2023 AGM having previously refused investors shareholder resolutions. The group of investors are represented by German law firm Hausfeld Rechtsanwälte LLP and supported by legal charity ClientEarth.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(RNS) At new Minnesota facility, Amazon takes small steps to welcome Muslim workers

A new Amazon sorting facility in Woodbury, Minnesota, is taking its employees’ religious needs seriously, adding new “ablution stations” for ritual hand and foot washing and three rooms that people of any faith may use for prayer or meditation.

The 550,000-square-foot facility, which opened this month, employs about 300 Somalis and Somali Americans, many of them refugees from the generation-long civil war in the east African nation. Minnesota is home to as many as 80,000 Somali immigrants, more than half of those living in the United States. More than 99% of Somalians are Muslim.

A stop for packages moving between Amazon warehouses and their shipping destinations, the Woodbury center includes signs in Somali as well as translation services. Other accommodations for all employees include lactation rooms for nursing mothers and soundproof booths for phone calls.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Islam, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture

(CT) Robert Tracy McKenzie reviews Bonnie Kristian’s book ‘ Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community’

In sum, we’ve always canceled social transgressors. We’ve always been drawn to simple answers to complex questions. We’ve always been susceptible to emotional manipulation. What is new is the speed with which vast volumes of information—true and false, balanced and distorted—can be generated with such astonishing ease. This trend only magnifies tendencies to which we are already prone. Gradually remade by the devices that mesmerize us, we become less and less willing to listen, less and less tolerant of dissent, less and less able to engage constructively and charitably with others in pursuit of a common good.

In recent years, writers across the spectrum have noted the detrimental effect of social media on our politics and connected political dysfunction to a larger epistemic crisis. Christian observers like Stetzer and Daniel Darling are among those examining how social media is corrupting Christian witness. What distinguishes Kristian is the sheer comprehensiveness of her examination and, above all, her demonstration that the knowledge crisis may harm the church even more than democracy.

At the heart of Untrustworthy is a clarion call for Christians to awaken to how this crisis is wreaking havoc on our churches and tarnishing our testimony. Kristian grieves over the division of churches; the estrangement of families; and, most poignantly, her pain while watching helplessly as a Christian colleague succumbed to the power of “fearmongering falsehoods.” When we can’t agree on basic facts, conversation becomes futile, intimate connection impossible, and real Christian community unattainable. “If we can’t talk to one another,” Kristian asks plaintively, “how do we worship together?”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Unherd) How Turbo-Wokism broke America

So who does control the new American system? The answer isn’t broke woke-ists. It’s the monopolists who own the platforms where the woke-ists live. Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and Sergei Brin and Larry Page and Lorraine Jobs don’t care about mean tweets. They care about the hundreds of billions of dollars in their bank accounts, their lavish mansions and private jets, and pursuing rich person hobbies like colonising Mars. Their primary political goal, as a class, is to prevent the state from ever getting strong enough to tax their fortunes, break up their monopolies, or interfere with the supplies of cheap immigrant and offshore labour from which they profit. The more fractured, dejected, and heavily surveilled the America public is, the less likely a strong state is to emerge.

In the contest between the oligarchs and the fading Rooseveltian state, the woke is a useful tool— not an independent power. Its members are the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, whose job it is to organise the dispossessed into groups that are narrow, factional, and divided enough that they can’t come together into a force that threatens oligarchical control. Its discontent with the Turbo-Capitalist order can be usefully turned against anyone who refuses to follow the ever-changing party line — beginning with the “deplorables” who are now regularly portrayed as murderous, undemocratic racists and fascists, and extending to JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood. The result is a closed circuit in which Turbo-Capitalist oligarchs and Woke activists make common cause against formerly independent institutions like universities, professional associations, and the press. All of these institutions rely on guarantees of individual and collective rights by the state, which the Turbo-Capitalists and the Woke seek to capture and use as an instrument to enforce their own privatised social bargain: everything within the Party, nothing outside the Party, nothing against the Party.

The unprecedented reach of the technologies that the new oligarchy commands has already destroyed the press and replaced it with a government-corporate censorship regime that has no parallel in peacetime America. Combined with what appears to be a healthy appetite for humiliating others, this power does not bode well for the future of social peace in America, or for the health of the next American Republic.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Politics in General, Psychology

(Economist) Financial markets are in trouble. Where will the cracks appear?

It is hard not to feel a sense of foreboding. As the Federal Reserve has tightened policy, asset prices have plunged. Stocks, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 all-cap index, have shed $12trn of market capitalisation since January. Another $7trn has been wiped off bonds, which have lost 14% of their value. Some $2trn of crypto market-cap has vanished over the past year. House prices adjust more slowly, but are falling. Mortgage rates have hit 7%, up from 3% last year. And this is all in America—one of the world’s strongest economies.

Rising rates will slow the American economy and should break the back of inflation. But what else will they break? Since the Federal Reserve raised rates again on September 22nd, global markets have been in turmoil. When the British government announced unfunded tax cuts a day later, fire-sales by pension funds caused the yield on government bonds (or “gilts”) to spiral out of control. Contagion then spread to the American Treasury market, which is as volatile and illiquid as it was at the start of covid-19. The cost to insure against the default of Credit Suisse, a global bank, has risen sharply. These ructions indicate the world is entering a new phase, in which financial markets no longer just reflect the pain of adjusting to the new economic context—pricing in higher rates and lower growth—but now also spread pain of their own.

The most catastrophic pain is felt when financial institutions fail. There are two ways they do so: illiquidity or insolvency. Tighter monetary policy is likely to prompt or reveal both.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Stock Market

([London] Times) The Church of England threatens tech giants over child safety

The Church of England has threatened to use its influence as a multimillion-pound investor in companies such as Meta, Google and Amazon to challenge them if they fail to protect children from harmful content.

Investing in big technology firms and social media sites “may not be consistent with Christian values”, the Church said. It has issued a list of demands to the companies it invests in, including a call for “enhanced protections” for children.

It has £10.1 billion in assets and investments across a range of sectors, and already uses its clout as a big-money investor in oil firms to lobby them to step up their efforts to tackle climate change.

Among its 20 biggest equity holdings are Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba, Meta and Alphabet, parent companyt of Google. It does not disclose how much it invests in each.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Church of England, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

The Church of England calls on big tech companies to commit to verifiable transparency, industry standards and enhanced protection for children and other vulnerable groups

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (“EIAG”) today published a report advising investors with Christian values how to approach investing in big technology companies. The Church’s National Investing Bodies (NIBs), which received the advice, have published a new policy in line with this guidance.

The report recommends technology companies make public commitments including:

  • a commitment to verifiable transparency
  • a commitment to promote human-centred design
  • a commitment to enable the flourishing of children and other vulnerable groups
  • a commitment to foster a tech eco-system that serves the common good.

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Are Overzealous central banks making another horrible mistake, so (we should) batten down the hatches?

The world can kiss goodbye to an economic soft landing. Western central banks are on a misguided mission to restore their damaged credibility, tightening monetary policy violently after the post-pandemic recovery has already wilted and output is nearing contractionary levels.

Britain’s fiscal blitz has the luck of timing. It is a counter-cyclical stimulus, cushioning some of the blow, even if it risks rattling bond vigilantes, and even if it is wasteful in subsidies for the affluent.

Critics say the energy bailout will cap inflation in the short run but stoke more inflation in the long run, to which one can only reply, like Keynes, that in the long run we are all dead. World events are going to wash over such quibbling with a torrential deflationary force.

The central banks are pushing through with triple-barrelled rate rises after the inflation fever has broken; after the commodity boom has deflated; and after key monetary indicators on both sides of the Atlantic have turned negative. They are prisoners of lagging indicators.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector

(Washington Post) Nicholas Eberstadt–What’s behind the flight from work in post-pandemic America

Since the start of the 21st century, per capita growth dropped to less than half its previous 1950-2000 tempo. With the rate creaking along now at just over 1 percent per annum, incomes would take more than 60 years to double; from 1980-1999, the doubling pace was 31 years.

A significant factor in modern America’s slower growth — and the lower expectations it unforgivingly imposes — is the drop-off in work. The country is aging, of course, but population graying does not explain the collapse of employment for men of the 25-54 prime working age (women’s labor force participation rates have been declining too, but not as steeply). Nor can it account for the anomalous emergence of a peacetime labor shortage in post-pandemic America, even as workforce participation rates remain stuck well below pre-pandemic levels.

Instead, these are manifestations of a troubling, once unfamiliar but now increasingly entrenched syndrome. Call it the “flight from work.”

Although the unemployment rate for prime-age men in August was a mere 3 percent, only 86 percent reported any paid labor. The remaining 11 percent were labor-force dropouts — neither working nor looking for work. These “not in labor force” men, who now outnumber the formally unemployed by more than 4 to 1, are the main reason that the country’s prime male work rate has been driven below its 1940 level — when national unemployment rates were nearly 15 percent.

Astonishingly, yes, the United States has a Depression-scale work problem.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Wash. Post top of website this morning) Worker shortages are fueling America’s biggest labor crises

Joseph White, who lives in Nashville, lost his job at Guitar Center six months into the pandemic. But he says he’d had enough: The store was constantly short-staffed and customers were intractable. In one instance, a shopper pulled a gun on him for trying to enforce the company’s mask mandate.

“I’m tired, I’m broken down, worn out and old,” the 62-year-old said. “I was worked to death for so long that finally, I said, there’s no way I’m going back.”

He’s begun drawing on Social Security payments to make ends meet, and helps his wife run her small shop, Black Dog Beads. But White says he has no intention of joining the labor force again.

“Our quality of life is far better even though we have less income,” he said. “I got tired of being a commodity.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Economist) For business, water scarcity is where climate change hits home

The problem is not a lack of water per se. Climate change may make some places drier and others wetter. It is the uneven distribution of freshwater—of which fast-growing places like India are woefully short—that provide the conditions for a crisis. This is made worse by waste, pollution and the near-universal underpricing of water. Some governments, notably China’s, have created pharaonic projects to transport water to where it is needed. Others, such as Mr López Obrador’s, peddle the quixotic idea of moving demand to where the water is. The best outcome in the long term, on paper at least, is the simplest: that less of the stuff is used, and more of what is used is treated better. It is something the private sector is just starting to grapple with.

Industries directly affected by water shortages have got a head start. Global mining firms are using desalination plants in Chile. Beer and soft-drinks companies, existentially reliant on clean water, have targets for improving efficiency (Heineken says it uses 2.5 litres of water to make a litre of beer in Mexico, about half the global industry average). In collaboration with the wri, Cargill, an agro-industrial behemoth, recently extended the monitoring of water use from its own operations to the farmers who supply its crops. Fashion retailers, whose suppliers are often heavy users of water and dyes in dry areas, are considering similar moves, to avoid angry flare-ups by local residents who worry about being second in line to the taps.

This calls for careful stewardship.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

(NYT) After Enduring a Pandemic, Small Businesses Face New Worries

America’s small businesses can’t catch a break.

After two years of shutdowns and restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they’re straining to keep up with price increases without losing customers to larger competitors. They are struggling to keep positions filled as competition for workers remains at a fever pitch. And just at the moment that many business owners begin to recover and shore up their depleted savings, they’re worried that the Federal Reserve’s medicine for inflation will bring fresh hardship: higher borrowing costs and timid consumers.

Surveys show that small-business sentiment has taken a markedly pessimistic turn in recent months — even more so than that of professional forecasters and of corporate executives.

In June, the National Federation of Independent Business measured its lowest reading ever for economic expectations. The nonprofit Small Business Majority, in a survey in mid-July, found that nearly one in three small businesses couldn’t survive for more than three months without additional capital or a change in business conditions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Index for the second quarter showed that inflation had skyrocketed to the top of owners’ concerns. Seventy-five percent of participants in Goldman Sachs’s small-business coaching program reported that higher costs had impaired their finances.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy

(NYT front page) Congo to Allow More Oil Wells In Rainforests

The Democratic Republic of Congo, home to one of the largest old-growth rainforests on earth, is auctioning off vast amounts of land in a push to become “the new destination for oil investments,” part of a global shift as the world retreats on fighting climate change in a scramble for fossil fuels.

The oil and gas blocks, which will be auctioned in late July, extend into Virunga National Park, the world’s most important gorilla sanctuary, as well as tropical peatlands that store vast amounts of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere and from contributing to global warming.

“If oil exploitation takes place in these areas, we must expect a global climate catastrophe, and we will all just have to watch helplessly,” said Irene Wabiwa, who oversees the Congo Basin forest campaign for Greenpeace in Kinshasa.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Republic of Congo, Science & Technology

(Wired) The Unsolved Mystery Attack on Internet Cables in Paris

On April 27, an unknown individual or group deliberately cut crucial long-distance internet cables across multiple sites near Paris, plunging thousands of people into a connectivity blackout. The vandalism was one of the most significant internet infrastructure attacks in France’s history and highlights the vulnerability of key communications technologies.

Now, months after the attacks took place, French internet companies and telecom experts familiar with the incidents say the damage was more wide-ranging than initially reported and extra security measures are needed to prevent future attacks. In total, around 10 internet and infrastructure companies—from ISPs to cable owners—were impacted by the attacks, telecom insiders say.

The assault against the internet started during the early hours of April 27. “The people knew what they were doing,” says Michel Combot, the managing director of the French Telecoms Federation, which is made up of more than a dozen internet companies. In the space of around two hours, cables were surgically cut and damaged in three locations around the French capital city—to the north, south, and east—including near Disneyland Paris.

“Those were what we call backbone cables that were mostly connecting network service from Paris to other locations in France, in three directions,” Combot says. “That impacted the connectivity in several parts of France.” As a result, internet connections dropped out for some people. Others experienced slower connections, including on mobile networks, as internet traffic was rerouted around the severed cables.

All three incidents are believed to have happened at roughly the same time and were conducted in similar ways—distinguishing them from other attacks against telecom towers and internet infrastructure.

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, France, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Europeans Are Working Even Less, and Not by Choice

European workers have put in fewer hours than Americans for decades. Now, they are working even less than before the pandemic—almost one day a week less than Americans in 2021, according to data for the five biggest European Union economies.

Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have increased their working hours by about 1%, on average, while Europeans have trimmed theirs by around 2%, according to data about the five large EU economies from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That is partly because many European companies tried to avoid pandemic-related layoffs by reducing workers’ hours. Nearly two million Europeans still are in Covid-19 furlough programs, with governments, for now, covering a portion of their lost pay. The U.S. economy recovered more quickly, and many American workers who kept their jobs or found new ones have continued to work the same or longer hours.

Europe has long had a reputation in the U.S. for less demanding work hours and more generous vacation practices, which many Americans attributed to a different approach to work-life balance. The pandemic labor picture shows that the differences aren’t strictly voluntary.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Europe, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Local Paper) South Carolina automakers can’t meet demand as supply chain woes hamper production

South Carolina’s automakers are building cars as fast as possible, but computer chip shortages and other supply chain issues have limited the number of vehicles making their way to U.S. dealerships and, ultimately, buyers’ driveways.

Volvo Cars, which builds the S60 sedan at its $1.2 billion manufacturing campus in Ridgeville, said it sold 8,434 cars to U.S. customers in June — a 31.2 percent decline in sales from last year. Sales are down 20.7 percent during the first half of 2022.

“Demand for our cars remains strong but inventory challenges continue,” Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA, said in a written statement.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Corporations/Corporate Life

(Economist) Who’s afraid of TikTok? The world’s most exciting app is also its most mistrusted

With its wholesome dancing and lip-syncing videos, TikTok once billed itself as “the last sunny corner on the internet”. Since launching just five years ago the app has brought a warm glow to its 1bn-plus users, as well as an icy dash of competition to the social-media incumbents of Silicon Valley. With its rise, a part of the tech industry that had seemed closed to competition has been cracked wide open.

Yet even as TikTok delights consumers and advertisers, others believe the sunny app has a dark side. ByteDance, its owner, has its headquarters in China, whose government is addicted to surveillance and propaganda—making it a worrying place for a media app to be based. As TikTok’s clout grows and as elections loom in America, there is a brewing bipartisan storm in Congress over its supposed role as a “Trojan horse”.

The hype about TikTok is justified—and so are the concerns. The app has transformed competition in social media. Yet unchecked, it presents a security risk to the Chinese Communist Party’s enemies. Finding a way for TikTok to operate safely in the West is a test of whether global business and the global internet can remain intact as us-China relations deteriorate.

Beneath TikTok’s simple interface lies fearsomely advanced artificial intelligence (ai). Its knack for learning what people like helped TikTok sign up its first 1bn users in half the time it took Facebook. In America the average user spends 50% longer on the app each day than the typical user spends on Instagram. TikTok’s revenues are expected to reach $12bn this year and $23bn in 2024, drawing level with YouTube’s. Young creators are flocking to the app—along with some older ones. This week The Economist joined TikTok (no dancing, we promise).

The effect on competition has been dramatic. In 2020 American trustbusters sued Facebook, now known as Meta, for its alleged dominance of social media. Today such worries look eccentric; Meta has been particularly hard-hit as tech stocks have taken a beating, and the firm is re-engineering its products to mimic TikTok. America often accuses China of copycat capitalism. Now the boot is on the other foot.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Asia, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(The Verge) Amazon shows off Alexa feature that mimics the voices of your dead relatives

Amazon has revealed an experimental Alexa feature that allows the AI assistant to mimic the voices of users’ dead relatives.

The company demoed the feature at its annual MARS conference, showing a video in which a child asks Alexa to read a bedtime story in the voice of his dead grandmother.

“As you saw in this experience, instead of Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the kid’s grandma’s voice,” said Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s head scientist for Alexa AI. Prasad introduced the clip by saying that adding “human attributes” to AI systems was increasingly important “in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love.”

“While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” said Prasad.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Science & Technology

(Economist) How to fix the world’s energy emergency without wrecking the environment

Energy shocks can become political catastrophes. Perhaps a third of the rich world’s inflation of 8% is explained by soaring fuel and power costs. Households struggling to pay bills are angry, leading to policies aimed at insulating them and boosting fossil-fuel production, however dirty.

Mr Biden, who came to power promising a green revolution, plans to suspend petrol taxes and visit Saudi Arabia to ask it to pump more oil. Europe has emergency windfall levies, subsidies, price caps and more. In Germany, as air-conditioners whine, coal-fired power plants are being taken out of mothballs. Chinese and Indian state-run mining firms that the climate-conscious hoped were on a fast track to extinction are digging up record amounts of coal.

This improvised chaos is understandable but potentially disastrous, because it could stall the clean-energy transition. Public handouts and tax-breaks for fossil fuels will be hard to withdraw. Dirty new power plants and oil- and gasfields with 30- to 40-year lifespans would give their owners more reason to resist fossil-fuel phase-outs. That is why, even as they firefight, governments must focus on tackling the fundamental problems confronting the energy industry.

One priority is finding a way to ramp up fossil-fuel projects, especially relatively clean natural gas, that have an artificially truncated lifespan of 15-20 years so as to align them with the goal of dramatically cutting emissions by 2050.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT) How a Religious Sect That Dominated a Company Unit Landed Google in a Lawsuit

Founded in 1970 by Robert Earl Burton, a former San Francisco Bay Area schoolteacher, the Fellowship of Friends describes itself as an organization “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.” It claims 1,500 members across the globe, with about 500 to 600 in and around its compound in Oregon House. Members are typically required to give 10 percent of their monthly earnings to the organization.

Mr. Burton based his teachings on the Fourth Way, a philosophy developed in the early 20th century by a Greek Armenian philosopher and one of his students. They believed that while most people moved through life in a state of “waking sleep,” a higher consciousness was possible. Drawing on what he described as visits from angelic incarnations of historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Sebastian Bach and Walt Whitman, Mr. Burton taught that true consciousness could be achieved by embracing the fine arts.

Inside the organization’s Northern California compound, called Apollo, the Fellowship staged operas, plays and ballets; ran a critically acclaimed winery; and collected art from across the world, including more than $11 million in Chinese antiques.

“They believe that to achieve enlightenment you should surround yourself with so-called higher impressions — what Robert Burton believed to be the finest things in life,” said Jennings Brown, a journalist who recently produced a podcast about the Fellowship called “Revelations.” Mr. Burton described Apollo as the seed of a new civilization that would emerge after a global apocalypse.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Economist) The recipe for the outperformance of Swiss businesses

This approach makes for light regulation from the top. The Federal Council, the federal government’s executive branch, does without recognisable figureheads. The cabinet has seven members who have equal power and each of whom spends a year as president, ensuring that no one remembers their names for long. While the council has few powers the country’s 26 cantons have plenty, as do its more than 2,000 municipalities. Cantons run health care, welfare, education, law enforcement and fiscal policy. That allows them to compete to be attractive to businesses and their workers. Lucerne halved its corporate tax rate in 2012 to do just that. Zug has the lowest corporate tax rate at 11.9%. Only “offshore” financial centres such as Guernsey and Qatar have lower tax rates than those levied in the low-tax cantons, states a report by kpmg, an accounting firm. Compare that with France where the rate is 26.5%.

The competition doesn’t stop at light taxation. Cantons help to fund top-notch universities. Zurich’s Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (eth), one of the two federal institutes of technology, is regularly ranked among the best universities in continental Europe. Strong links between business and academia mean that graduates have the right skills. For instance, in January 2020 Nestlé, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (epfl), another federal institute of technology, the canton of Vaud and the Swiss Hospitality Management School in Lausanne launched the “Swiss Food Nutrition Valley”, a research programme to promote innovation in sustainable food production. Logitech, a maker of software, and Cisco, a technology firm, have research centres on the epfl campus.

Yet for all its success Switzerland has become less attractive as a hub for multinationals over the past three decades. In 1990 two-thirds of America’s top 20 companies (including General Motors, Hewlett-Packard and ibm) had their European headquarters in Switzerland. In 1992 Swiss voters decided against following the Norwegian example and joining the European Economic Area with access to the eu’s single market. As a consequence some of the world’s most successful companies, such as Amazon, Alibaba and Samsung, decamped to Amsterdam, Dublin and London. Last year Switzerland missed another chance to gain smooth access to one of the world’s largest markets when it failed to convert 120 bilateral deals into an overarching treaty with the eu.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Taxes

(CNN Business) Most CEOs are bracing for a Recession

CEO confidence has tumbled to the weakest level since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Conference Board said Wednesday.

For the first time during the economic expansion, CEO confidence is now in negative territory.

Worse, business leaders are bracing for a potential downturn caused by the Federal Reserve’s quest to tame inflation.

A staggering 68% of CEOs surveyed by The Conference Board expect the Fed’s war on inflation will eventually trigger a recession. The survey, fielded between April 25 and May 9, measured responses from 133 CEOs of mostly public companies.

The good news is that just 11% of CEOs anticipate a so-called hard landing, marked by a deep recession. The rest expect a “very short, mild” recession.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology

([London] Times) Boomers go on courses to understand young staff

Baby boomer and Generation X bosses are going on courses to help them understand younger employees and get more out of them in the workplace.

Experts say that millennials and Generation Z actually speak a different language to older colleagues, causing friction in the office.

It follows a tribunal last month in which a trainee accountant was sacked after his boss claimed he was “too demanding, like his generation of millennials”.

Dr Elizabeth Michelle, a psychologist who gives workshops on how to handle millennials — a term for people born between 1981 and 1996 — and Generation Z, born from 1997-2012, said: “As a psychologist, I work with so many different things but the main thing people have been interested in is millennials and now Gen Z.

“I think boomers are desperate to be able to work more productively with them and they are very frustrated because they are so different. Managers want to understand their employees better.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Middle Age, Psychology, Science & Technology, Young Adults

(Economist) The serious business of being a social influencer

t is a sure sign that a hot trend has reached the mainstream when the tax authorities catch up. This week China promised a tax-evasion crackdown on social-media influencers, who are paid by brands to promote products online to armies of followers. One of the big stars, Viya, a 30-something fashionista known as the live-streaming queen, has already been fined $210m for not declaring her income. The size of that levy shows the sheer scale of the industry, which accounts for 12% of online sales in China. Outside China, influencers are also likely to have an enduring role in e-commerce. For all firms with brands—and together those brands are worth over $7trn—it is time to realise that influencing is more than just a hobby.

The use of personal endorsements used to be about harnessing existing celebrity power. Elizabeth Taylor touted Colgate-Palmolive’s shampoo in the 1950s, and Michael Jordan’s deal in 1984 with Nike revolutionised both basketball and branding. Influencers turn the logic on its head: selling things helps make them more famous. Through curated feeds of clipped videos and filtered photos they offer recommendations to consumers, mingled with glimpses into their daily lives that give their artifice an aura of authenticity. Sometimes they disclose how they are paid. Often they do not.

Initially dismissed as credulous Gen-Z folk who had mistaken posting selfies for having a job, these entrepreneurs have become a big business, boosted further by the e-commerce surge from the pandemic.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology, Theology

Archbishop Welby calls for the Government to work with faith groups to achieve net zero carbon

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship

P&O: Joint statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Dover

Ill-treating workers is not just business. In God’s eyes it is sin.

P&O has sacked 800 people in Dover, a town dependent on shipping. Dover is a major part of the Diocese of Canterbury which we serve as Bishops.

The extraordinary move is at the command of DP World, the Dubai based and owned parent company, which made record profits last year. The move is cynically timed for a moment when world attention is on Ukraine. Done without warning or consultation it is inhumane, treats human beings as a commodity of no basic value or dignity and is completely unethical.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Investors Dial Up Pressure Over Companies’ Climate Lobbying

Many companies are still lobbying against the Paris Agreement, according to InfluenceMap, a nonprofit group that pushes for corporate action on climate. It says only 14% of 375 companies it tracks have aligned their detailed climate-policy engagement activities with the Paris Agreement.

“Corporate political engagement continues to represent one of the key barriers to delivering the Paris Agreement’s goals,” said Ed Collins, director of corporate lobbying at InfluenceMap.

Having a shared standard will make it easier for companies to show their public climate promises are serious, said Adam Matthews, chief responsible investment officer at the Church of England Pensions Board.

But companies that don’t sign up may face more shareholder pressure.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship, Stock Market

(FT) UK stewardship code adds 74 new signatories

In 2020, the FRC substantially reformed the code, which was launched in 2010, to impose stricter reporting requirements on investors that had signed up. Since its launch, it has been replicated in other jurisdictions and broadened to include new asset classes.

Signatories have to report on their stewardship activities and are reviewed annually by the FRC to remain on the list.

“Ultimately, what we want to see are concrete examples of stewardship activities and outcomes. Otherwise, its just a bland policy statement of intentions without application,” said Claudia Chapman at the FRC.

“We’re keen to narrow the gap between what is reported and what is done, and for the most part we are comfortable that those included on the list are doing what they say.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market