Category : Corporations/Corporate Life

(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

(Uxolo) Is faith-based finance making a dent in impact investing?

With a mandate to make a positive change, religious organisations are among the richest asset owners and investors, and are increasingly looking at impact investments to make market returns. Unique to these investments are faith values, which decide the sectors, regions, and projects that receive the funds. In many cases, those values fit comfortably within the SDG puzzle. However, overall, faith-based investors have yet to develop major impact investing portfolios.

While there are no publicly available figures for the value of the assets owned by religious organisations, they are estimated to own over 7% of the Earth’s land surface. The Islamic finance industry was estimated to be worth $2.4 trillion at the end of 2017, according to the 2018 Global Islamic Finance Report, and in 2020 was almost $3 trillion, a figure that is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5% until 2024.

“What we do see is a big trend where faith-based investors have woken up and now understand that a lot of their assets are stuck in very traditional investment vehicles, as they need those revenues and returns from those investments to maintain churches, pay pensions, etc. So it is important for them to make sufficient returns, but they are also realising that in some cases there is a complete misalignment between their values and those funds they have been investing in,” says Maarten Toussaint, COO of FIIND Impact, an investment consultant and advisor, working with faith-based investors.

Even though faith-based investors have noble intentions, their investments are not bereft of returns. “We target market rate with our returns,” says Aaron Pinnock, senior impact investment analyst at the Church Commissioners for England. The portfolio’s target is returns of CPIH +4%. “So, in the last 30 years, our returns have averaged just over 9%, and that’s the kind of target that we are looking for going forward. We are not looking at impact as taking financial returns off the table, but it has to meet the kind of return requirement that will make other investments possible.”

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

(Economist) New robots—smarter and faster—are taking over warehouses

A decade ago Amazon started to introduce robots into its “fulfilment centres”, as online retailers call their giant distribution warehouses. Instead of having people wandering up and down rows of shelves picking goods to complete orders, the machines would lift and then carry the shelves to the pickers. That saved time and money. Amazon now has more than 350,000 robots of various sorts deployed worldwide. But it is not enough to secure its future.

Advances in warehouse robotics, coupled with increasing labour costs and difficulty in finding workers, has created a watershed moment in the logistics industry. With covid-19 lockdowns causing supply-chain disruptions and a boom in home deliveries that looks likely to endure, fulfilment centres have been working at full tilt. Despite the bots, many firms have to bring in temporary workers to cope during busy periods. Competition for staff is fierce. In the run-up to the holiday shopping season in December, Amazon brought in some 150,000 extra workers in America alone, offering sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000.

The long-term implications of such a high reliance on increasingly hard-to-find labour in distribution is clear, according to a new study by McKinsey, a consultancy: “Automation in warehousing is no longer just nice to have but an imperative for sustainable growth.”

This means more robots are needed, including newer, more efficient versions to replace those already at work and advanced machines to take over most of the remaining jobs done by humans. As a result, McKinsey forecasts the warehouse-automation market will grow at a compound annual rate of 23% to be worth more than $50bn by 2030.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(Economist) Disney, Netflix, Apple: is anyone winning the streaming wars?

A teenaged girl who periodically transforms into a giant panda is the improbable star of “Turning Red”, a coming-of-age movie from Disney due out next month. The world’s biggest media company, which will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, is no adolescent. But Disney is going through some awkward changes of its own as it reorganises its business—worth $260bn—around the barely two-year-old venture of video-streaming.

So far the experiment has been a success. The company’s streaming operation, Disney+, initially aimed for at least 60m subscribers in its first five years, ending in 2024. It got there in less than 12 months, and now hopes for as many as 260m subscribers by that date. Bob Chapek, who took over as chief executive just before the pandemic, is convinced that Disney’s future lies in streaming directly to the consumer, his “north star”. Disney+ is all but guaranteed to be among the survivors of the ruthless period of competition that has become known as the streaming wars.

But doubts are surfacing across the industry about how much of a prize awaits the victors. Every year Disney and its rivals promise to spend more on content. And yet the growth in subscribers is showing signs of slowing. A realisation is setting in that old media companies are pivoting from a highly profitable cable-TV business to a distinctly less rewarding alternative. Amid a bout of market volatility which last week saw Alphabet’s and Amazon’s share prices rise by a tenth or more and Meta’s fall by a quarter, investors are awaiting Disney’s quarterly results on February 9th with some trepidation. So, too, is Mr Chapek, whose contract expires one year from now.

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

Investors hold mining companies to account following Church of England intervention

A memorial event at which families of those killed in the devastating Brumadinho disaster shared testimonies and prayers, has catalysed investors to take further steps in recognition of the profound risks caused by tailings facilities.

Following the memorial event, Responsible Investor magazine contacted unresponsive companies named, during the event, resulting in further disclosure about tailings from ArcelorMittal. The Church of England Pensions Board has called on the company to publish its support of the global industry standard, and continue to make relevant disclosures for their facilities.

The event marked the third anniversary of the Brumadinho disaster. During the event the Church of England Pensions Board together with the United Nations Environment Programme provided an update on the implementation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM).

The £3.5/$4.7 billion Church of England Pensions Board, which set up and leads the 100 strong coalition of investors representing USD $20 trillion under management that form the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, also announced that they will vote against the chairs of company boards at companies in which they invest that have not confirmed their intention to implement the Industry Standard.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pensions, Stock Market

(Church Times) Pensions Board puts pressure on mining companies to adopt global safety standards

On the third anniversary of the mining disaster that killed 270 people in Brumadinho, in Brazil, the Church of England Pensions Board has stepped up the pressure on companies to adopt new global safety standards.

The disaster happened when a mine-waste facility, a tailings dam, collapsed. The new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management was developed in response by a coalition of investors led by the Pensions Board and the Council on Ethics of the Swedish AP Funds…. Now, they have published the names of the companies that have committed themselves to the new measures.

Seventy-nine mining companies — one third of those employing tailings dams — have either made a commitment to the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management or are still assessing their compliance. The list includes several of the largest companies, including BHP, Anglo, Glencore, Rio Tinto, and Vale.

The Brumadinho disaster of 2019 is not an isolated incident. Another 12 such collapses have been reported in the past three years. In three instances — two of which took place in Myanmar and one in Peru — workers were killed. The collapses also cause significant environmental damage.

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Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Myanmar/Burma, Pensions, Stock Market

(NYT) Even Low Levels of Soot Can Be Deadly to Older People, Research Finds

Older Americans who regularly breathe even low levels of pollution from smokestacks, automobile exhaust, wildfires and other sources face a greater chance of dying early, according to a major study released Wednesday.

Researchers at the Health Effects Institute, a group that is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency as well as automakers and fossil fuel companies, examined health data from 68.5 million Medicare recipients across the United States. They found that if the federal rules for allowable levels of fine soot had been slightly lower, as many as 143,000 deaths could have been prevented over the course of a decade.

Exposure to fine particulate matter has long been linked to respiratory illness and impaired cognitive development in children. The tiny particles can enter the lungs and bloodstream to affect lung function, exacerbate asthma and trigger heart attacks and other serious illness. Earlier research has found that exposure to particulate matter contributed to about 20,000 deaths a year.

The new study is the first in the United States to document deadly effects of the particulate matter known as PM 2.5 (because its width is 2.5 microns or less) on people who live in rural areas and towns with little industry.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Health & Medicine

The Church of England restricts investment in climate laggards

The Church of England’s National Investing Bodies (NIBs) are delivering on their 2018 commitment to General Synod to engage with and disinvest from high carbon emitting companies that are not making progress to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2023.

Twenty companies have made climate-related changes to stay off the Church’s restricted list since 2020.
Following extensive engagement efforts by the NIBs, nine companies made changes to meet the 2021 hurdles. As a result they stayed off the restricted list for a further year, while 28 companies that did not meet the latest climate hurdles were restricted.

These actions are part of the NIBs’ commitment to transitioning their portfolios away from companies that are unwilling to act and align their businesses with the Goals of the Paris Agreement. The climate hurdles were set by the NIBs using Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) data. Additional exacting hurdles will come into force in 2022 and 2023.

The NIBs are founding members of TPI and are investor engagement leads in the Climate Action 100+ (CA100+) global engagement initiative. As long-term investors, the NIBs will continue to engage with companies to meet their climate objectives and build alliances with like-minded investors to engage with company boards and executives.

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

(FT) Gillian Tett om why we need to watch trucking costs fully to understand the US inflation problem

When America’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data this month showing that consumer price inflation had surged to 7 per cent, many investors were shocked. No wonder: this marks the fastest jump since 1982.

But here is another number that should spark concern: 17 per cent. That was the annual inflation rate for overall trucking costs last month, according to a (deeply buried) section of the bureau’s data. For the long-haul trucking sector, the number was even scarier: 25 per cent.

That is bad news for business — and consumers — given that almost three-quarters of freight in America is moved by trucks. Or to put it another way, if you want to understand what lies behind that scary 7 per cent inflation number, don’t just track raw material, energy or cross-border shipping costs; watch those oft-ignored truckers too.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, Travel

(Guardian) Chemical pollution has passed safe limit for humanity, say scientists

The cocktail of chemical pollution that pervades the planet now threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends, scientists have said.

Plastics are of particularly high concern, they said, along with 350,000 synthetic chemicals including pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics. Plastic pollution is now found from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, and some toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, are long-lasting and widespread.

The study concludes that chemical pollution has crossed a “planetary boundary”, the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.

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

(Local Paper front page) Staff shortages persist at South Carolina restaurants as COVID19 surges. Some owners see a path forward

Ask most local restaurateurs, and they’ll tell you that staff shortages have been hampering Charleston restaurants for the past five to 10 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the problem into a crisis, and the omicron variant reminded restaurateurs how ongoing staffing struggles, coupled with positive cases, impact daily operations.

In Charleston, King Street’s Monza Pizza Bar has been closed since Nov. 6 “due to acute staffing shortages.” Smallish places like The Pass, a 647-square-foot sandwich shop, have changed operations to limit guest interactions. In Beaufort, a sign from the city’s hospitality association cautions patrons that local small businesses are extremely short staffed.

In the first week of January in the Charleston area, Chasing Sage, Jackrabbit Filly, Berkeley’s, Wild Olive, Estadio and Home Team BBQ, among others, closed for at least one day due to COVID-19 concerns or to give overworked employees extra time to decompress.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Economist) Altos Labs–A $3bn bet on finding the fountain of youth

Startups come and startups go. But few startups start with $3bn in the bank. Yet that is the fortunate position in which Altos Labs finds itself. Though preparations for the launch of what must surely be a candidate for the title of “Best financed startup in history” have been rumoured for months, the firm formally announced itself, and its modus operandi, on January 19th. And, even at $3bn, its proposed product might be thought cheap at the price. For the alchemy its founders, Rick Klausner, Hans Bishop and Yuri Milner, hope one day to offer the world is an elixir of life.

Others have tried this in the past. In 2013 an outfit called Calico Life Sciences was set up under the aegis of Google (now Alphabet), with Larry Page, one of that firm’s founders, as an interested party. It has yet to generate a product. In the same year Craig Venter, who ran a private version of the human genome project, and Peter Diamandis, who started the X Prize Foundation, got together to launch Human Longevity, though they subsequently fell out. That company, too, has gone quiet. And there are a string of other hopefuls in the field, many with billionaires like Dr Milner and Mr Page lurking in the background. Indeed, there are rumours, which Altos will not confirm, that Jeff Bezos is one of its investors—for the prolongation of life is a field that seems particularly attractive to the man (and it usually is a man) who otherwise has everything.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

([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

(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.

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

(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

(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.”

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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

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.

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

(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