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Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 14:15
March 24, 2020
“Sick… guess we didn’t move quick enough after all…” — Stephen King, The Stand.
The Covid-19 Shock Meets an Impending Economic Recession
As of March 2020, the world is back to the future. The global financial crisis of 2007-08, which escalated into a global financial meltdown in September 2008, was supposed to be the big bang crisis, a once in a lifetime event. And yet, here we are again.
The Russia-Saudi Arabia oil dispute of early March 2020, which has led to a freefall in the price of crude oil and was directed at the US fracking industry, as well as the economic shocks resulting from the globalization of the Coronavirus seem to have caused a new global recession. This has been declared by numerous mainstream economists like Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff and Pankaj Mishra who are convinced that the world has already entered a new global economic crisis. A few days later central bankers like Germany’s Bundesbank chairman Jens Weidmann announced his expectation that a recession was “probably inevitable by now.”
Most people’s thinking is determined by the development of the Covid-19 crisis, the return of “the hour of executive power” (Gerhard A. Ritter), i.e. state of exception legislation, and the fears which it evokes as well as the economic measures which appear to be in response to the health crisis. By disrupting international supply chains and severely harming a highly vulnerable just-in-time production global economy, Covid-19 clearly accelerated the transition into recession; and yet, this recession was already upon us by the end of last year.
Origins of the Current Financial Crisis
GDP growth, capital profitability, capacity utilization, volume of working hours, etc. were already indicating the onset of a recession. In 2019, countries like Germany, for instance, already saw the lowest growth rates since 2009, the peak of the global financial crisis. In addition, mass layoffs in the global automobile industry were no longer mere results of computerization or the transition to e-mobility but connected to a slump in economic activity. Eric Toussaint is correct when he notes that “the poor health of the … economy dates back well before the first cases of coronavirus in China and its effects on the world economy…. [T]he Fed and the mainstream press are not telling the truth when they state that [measures taken are] designed to deal with the coronavirus.”
Still, the shutdown due to Corona has finally made the general public realize that the world is back to the kind of situation it faced in 2008. In the second week of March, stock markets plummeted and trading was even temporarily halted. From 4 March to 18 March, the Dow Jones Index dropped from 27,091 to 19,899 points; the German DAX dropped from 12,128 to 8,442 points in the same period. Monday, 9 March 2020 was the worst day on Wall Street since 2008 when the Dow Jones dropped by 2,000 points alone. And while pro-labour economists like the German Stephan Kaufmann demanded a shutdown of stock exchanges in order to halt the volatility and panic-induced downward spiral (similarly to the 1997 Asian crisis or the 9/11 crash of 2001), in the US Wall Street quickly demanded “shock and awe stimulus” to halt the economic fallout.
In a botched attempt to protect both ‘investor confidence’ and re-electability, the right-wing Trump administration in the US initially tried to downplay the depth of the health crisis. It was soon joined by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom which tried the same. According to Trump, addressing the US public in a live broadcast from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, the Corona virus was little more than the regular flu, which also caused a limited number of people to die every year with a lethality rate of 0.1 per cent. Precious time had been lost, given that US intelligence agencies had sent classified warnings to President Trump that a pandemic was coming. Similarly, in Germany domestic producers of vital medical protection-wear clothing had warned the German Ministry of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) of an impending pandemic and shortages in supply as early as 5 February, without receiving a reply.
While the exponential curve of infections began to rise steadily, President Trump was addressing the public with statements like: “We’re going substantially down, not up”; “And this is their new hoax!”; “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”; “It will go away. Just stay calm, it will go away.” Until in mid-March he switched to “I’ve always known this is a, this is a real, this is a pandemic.” Then it became obvious how serious the health crisis is, Trump resorted to racism and called the virus the “Chinese virus” or the “foreign virus,” inciting racist attacks on Asian-Americans and echoing the deadly racism which blamed the medieval Black Death on Jews, the 1832 cholera on Irish Catholic immigrants, and the 1876 smallpox outbreak on Chinese. Meanwhile right-wing pundits began blaming Democrats and their attempt at impeachment for having slowed down Trump’s otherwise quick response to the emergency.
Racism also played a role in Europe, when the skiing industry in Austria ignored the fact that the resort in Ischgl was the secret origin of the Coronavirus in Europe and kept it operating for an extra eight days blaming the virus on “an Italian” visitor even though other countries like Iceland had already quarantined tourists returning from the Austrian Alps.
Similary, Brazil’s far-Right president Jair Bolsonaro, having just met with Donald Trump, had to be tested for the Coronavirus after he had also called the crisis a “fantasy,” and would later plead with socialist Cuba to send doctors whereas the conservative British prime minister Boris Johnson for a short while even entertained the crazy libertarian idea of herd immunity on national television according to which the British population should be exposed and infected with the Coronavirus all at once in order to “get it over with.”
Given the Coronavirus’ lethality rate, which is estimated between 1 and 5 per cent, and given that even German Chancellor Angela Merkel estimates that up to 60 to 70 per cent of the population will eventually have been infected, Johnson’s suggestion essentially amounted to tolerating, in a social-Darwinist human experiment, the potential death of hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of old people and people with pre-existing conditions in the UK, a veritable geronticide.
In Germany, the same kind of “epidemiological neoliberalism” was suggested by the right-wing libertarian columnist and big business lobbyist Thomas Straubhaar, while in the Netherlands the government now appears to be pursuing this approach, based on the disturbingly misanthropic, utilitarian calculation that it will be (macro-)economically more efficient to let 40,000 to 80,000 people die rather than to disrupt the economy through massive state measures such as lockdowns. Interestingly enough, in this case it was not the far-right suggesting this policy, yet strong opposition came from that quarter in the form of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom.
The Coronavirus Meets Neoliberal Healthcare Systems
By now, with curves of infections skyrocketing exponentially – especially in the UK, the US, and Turkey – and impending healthcare crises upon us, voices in the West, which see a gargantuan policy and planning failure with regards to the Coronavirus when compared to the efforts of China where the virus first occurred on 1 December 2019 or Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam, have gained traction.
“China Bought the West Time [and] The West Squandered It” opined the New York Times on 13 March and concluded: “China’s leaders did fumble at the very start, yet in short order they acted far more decisively than many democratically elected leaders have to date.” In fact, World Health Organization experts have been praising the swift efforts by the Chinese government, authoritarian as it may be, which led even the leading German conservative newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), to conclude that “the temptation to half-hearted measures is big, because the necessary restrictions to mobility come at a high economic price. This price will however be topped by the price of insufficient measures. o dust off an old motto: ‘Learning from a big brother means learning how to win.’ With her painfully draconian measures, China has succeeded in stopping the spreading of the virus. It does not take much to predict that the country will soon be more secure than the rest of the world.”
Indeed, by 19 March 2020, China reported not a single new infection at the same time that the number of casualties in Italy surpassed that of the “Middle Kingdom” – and at the same time that China’s economy was restarting with workers returning to their workplaces.
It is however not just a question of half-hearted measures of whether or not the West will be able to weather the storm of Covid-19. The virus hits Western capitalist countries under adverse conditions. This can be seen already in Italy and Spain, which in mid-March were said to be a couple of days to two weeks ahead of the rest of the West, and it will very soon be seen in the rest whether the curve of infections rises as steep or even steeper than in the two Southern European countries.
In Italy and Spain, Covid-19 wreaked havoc because, during the “Eurozone crisis” commencing in 2010, the EU’s “Fiscal Compact” forced these peripheral EU countries into adopting severe austerity measures and massive budget cuts in healthcare. For instance, according to the most recent Eurostat data, the various Memorandums of Understanding which the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF) forced Greece to sign entailed not only drastic cuts in pensions and minimum wages levels but also caused healthcare expenditures to drop by 22.4 per cent between 2011 and 2016. According to Eurostat, In Italy healthcare expenditures relative to GDP dropped from 9.0 to 8.8 per cent despite a growth in population from 59.2 million to 60.7 million people over the same period. These short-term budget cuts due to austerity measures were reinforced by the long-term restructuring of healthcare provisioning under neoliberalism, which transformed a system oriented toward public goods provisioning into a cost-cutting operation trimming public health systems into underfunded competitive quasi market institutions.
In total, around €37-billion were taken from Italy’s public health system, the number of hospitals cut by 15 per cent, the numbers of staff – doctors, nurses and social workers – heavily reduced and a total number of 70,000 hospital beds cut, i.e. 17 per cent of the total number of hospital beds. Elio Rosa writes: “This situation has meant that, compared to the European Union average of five beds per thousand inhabitants, Italy now has just over three.” And the reduction of hospital beds also included intensive-care beds. In a country of more than 60 million inhabitants and a generally aging population, their number was reduced to 5,200. Even prior to Corona these beds were largely occupied.
Similar things could be said about a Eurozone core-country like Germany, where – despite generally higher per capita spending on healthcare – hundreds of public hospitals have been privatized and public hospitals closed, where the number of hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants dropped from 832 in 1991 to 602 in 2017. Nonetheless, in 2019 the influential Bertelsmann Stiftung suggested closing 50 per cent of German hospitals.
In the US more than half of counties have no intensive-care beds at their disposal, putting more than 7 million people who are 60 or older at risk. Budget cuts led to the closing of 20,000 hospital beds in the city of New York alone, where 29 million people have no health insurance and where losing your job usually also means losing your healthcare coverage (if you had any)
The deadly disease is already providing the private, for profit healthcare industry with windfall profits. US pharmaceutical companies used the crisis to double the price on potential coronavirus treatments. Some individuals are facing US$35,000 in medical bills for a few days of COVID-19 outpatient treatment.
In Britain, doctors have been warning about the severe consequences of National Health System funding cuts facing the UK during the Coronavirus crisis. As a doctor warned in an article published in the New York Times: “Britain has fewer intensive-care beds than most other European countries. Occupancy rates are high, and there’s a daily struggle to discharge enough people to make space for new patients. Even when a bed is available, we do not have the nurses to staff it. A decade of cuts and underfunding has left us dangerously exposed.” As Sam Gindin has pointed out;
“The pressures that come with globalization have made a virtue out of restraining, if not reducing, health budgets …. At the same time, the profitability advantages of economies of scale and specialization … have led to extended value chains – production structures, including that of medicine, that involve multiple inputs from multiple plants in multiple countries. Add the near-universal business identification of any excess capacity with unnecessary waste (‘lean production’) thereby underplaying the significance of a degree of flexibility, and you have local medical systems left vulnerable to even minor interruptions and lacking the capacity to confront unexpected emergencies. To globalization as an economic curse is added the medical curse of undermining the domestic ability to prepare for, and respond to, potential pandemics.”
Furthermore, the private and for-profit organization of healthcare ensured that Covid-19 would emerge as it did in the first place. David Harvey observed that:
“Corporatist Big Pharma has little or no interest in non-remunerative research on infectious diseases (such as the whole class of corona viruses that have been well-known since the 1960s). Big Pharma rarely invests in prevention. It has little interest in investing in preparedness for a public health crisis. It loves to design cures. The sicker we are the more they earn. Prevention does not contribute to share-holder value. The business model applied to public health provision eliminated the surplus coping capacities that would be required in an emergency. Prevention was not even an enticing enough field of work to warrant public private partnerships…”
Today, we are harvesting the outcomes of these economic measures. In Italy, where the Corona outbreak started earlier than elsewhere in Europe, doctors have described the Coronavirus as a “war” and “a Tsunami which has overwhelmed us.” The Italian healthcare system was simply not prepared for the Coronavirus crisis. As a result, doctors soon found themselves in a situation where they had to select those who must die – the very old and those with several pre-existing conditions – and those who shall receive respirators and will therefore have a chance to live. Other patients are directly referred to the station for palliative medicine, i.e. where patients are sent to die.
All the while, nurses and doctors, who are exposing themselves and their relatives to the highly infectious Coronavirus, are working 18-hour shifts without days off and are finding themselves on the verge of physical and mental collapse. Crematoriums are in operation around the clock and the coffins are lining up. In Spain Defense Minister Margarita Robles reported how emergency units of the military are finding old people “totally abandoned and dead” in their homes. In mid-March, pictures of Italian military convoys leaving the city of Bergamo and transporting ‘excess corpses’ out of the city shocked the international public.
As a result, waiting lists have developed for funerals, while regular funerals are impossible due to the quarantine. In the region of Lombardy, the local newspaper, L’Eco di Bergamo, extended the obituary pages from the usual 2-3 to 10, because of the excess deaths, listing 150 obituaries per page, with 90 per cent of these deaths linked to the virus. Because people who could theoretically be healed with infusions of extra oxygen and other treatments do not receive this care, the lethality rate of Covid-19 has shot up to 10 per cent.
It is clear that people in Italy are dying not because Covid-19 is so lethal, but because the neoliberalization of healthcare and the EU’s austerity measures are literally killing them. From a medicinal standpoint, the overwhelming majority of deaths are preventable deaths. The selection mechanisms are breaking the hearts of care workers whose task it is to save lives. Doctors report “nurses with tears in their eyes because they cannot save everybody.” As events unfold and the situation deteriorates, people experience it like the nightmares of Stephen King’s The Stand or Steven Soederbergh’s “Contagion.”
“Epidemics,” writes Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic with regards to the special vulnerability of the US’s dysfunctional healthcare system that leaves 29 million people uninsured, “have a way of revealing underlying truths about the societies they impact. This one has already done so, and with terrifying speed … American dysfunction is … the result of our bifurcated health-care system, which is both the best in the world and the worst in the world, and is simply not geared up for any kind of collective national response. The present crisis is the result of decades of underinvestment in civil service, of undervaluing bureaucracy in public health and other areas, and, above all, of underrating the value of long-term planning.”
The Coronavirus Crisis Meets the Working Class
In her first-ever emergency national television proclamation of 18 March 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “a pandemic shows how vulnerable we all are and how much we depend on the considerate behavior of other people and thus also on how we protect ourselves through common action and common strengthening.” Even leftists praised Merkel for her calm, liberal and science-oriented approach to the crisis which seems so far apart from the Trumps, Bolsonaros and Johnsons of the world.
Many people have also accepted the lure of Merkel’s message of cross-class sacrifices. After all, is the crisis not affecting everyone regardless of status and wealth? And is the crisis not bringing people together, while national leaders speak the language of solidarity? Has the crisis not led to a situation where suddenly parties and ideologies seem to have become irrelevant?
Well, as most things in life and just like the deadly 1918-1919 Spanish Flu, vulnerabilities during a crisis have a strong and distinct class bias. The most obvious and direct way in which social inequalities impact the capitalist and the working classes differently in a health crisis is displayed by the new phenomenon of concierge doctors. These are doctors which only provide healthcare services to wealthy private customers who are paying for around the clock care. During the coronavirus crisis, the rich are getting tested for the virus, even if they do not show any symptoms, they receive oxygen concentrators, respiratory masks, etc., while workers who are showing signs of COVID-19 are struggling to get tested and pay the bills. Testing has been identified as (one of) the key reason(s) why East Asian countries have been able to flatten the curve.
When everybody must opt for flight instead of fight,the wealthiest capitalists simply have the resources others do not. They flee in their own ways. Private jet travel has experienced a tenfold increase. Billionaires like Silicon Valley giant Peter Thiel, who owns a 477 acre estate in New Zealand, are escaping to their safe domestic country home or offshore hideouts, where the same lockout will feel distinctly different compared to how it feels for the working class.
The indirect ways of how class and social inequality determine the impact of the health crisis are even more severe. In order to contain the spread of the COVID-19, Western governments have shut down public life – sport events, concerts, theaters and later also universities, schools and daycare facilities, etc. – in order to limit social interactions, which would spread the Coronavirus. The universal goal has been to ‘flatten the curve’ of infections.
However, Western governments have largely failed to provide the means of doing so. In many Western countries, with the exception of states like Denmark and Sweden, “social distancing” was to a large extent individualized, at least initially. And even in Denmark and Sweden, the way in which states ensured that workers could stay at home heavily favored capitalist interests. In Denmark, the state asks companies to pay only 25 per cent of sick pay in exchange for a waiver of five full vacation days by workers, which means that the crisis comes at zero cost for the employers if the lockdown does not exceed 20 working days while the workers essentially pay for their sick pay through their taxes. In Sweden, the central government legislated a 300 billion kroner support package (amounting to 6 per cent of GDP) which included the state now covering the full costs of all sick leave which is normally paid for by capital.
In Germany, due to fears of a new great recession, the shutdown of public activities did not include a lockdown of economic activities in manufacturing and other sectors of the economy not directly connected to preserving food sovereignty. For instance, the German health minister, Jens Spahn (Christian Democratic Party), proclaimed that it was easier to give up public sport events and theater plays than on everyday work. Initially, his government simply advised workers to shift to home-office work (“everyone can and should help slow down the Coronavirus”), even though for the vast majority of the working class this is not an option and even though in the big cities work still necessitates many workers relying on public transit where the proximity of commuters all but ensures a spread of infections.
Even after the German government legislated, on 22 March, highly intrusive measures that would prosecute and heavily fine any public gathering of more than two people, giving a new meaning to the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd,” no lockdown was put in place and non-essential businesses continued operations.
However, faced with the fallout of interrupted international supply chains, the new recession and a full work stoppage in the German automobile industry, the German grand-coalition government of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats initiated involuntary short-term labour transfer payments (“Kurzarbeitergeld”) of 60 per cent of previous income – 67 per cent for parents with children – as a means to supplementing reduced work-hours, protecting jobs and preventing mass layoffs. These measures reintroduced policies already and successfully tried during the global financial crisis of 2007 onwards. They were echoed by similar programs in Denmark and in Sweden.
Back in 2009-10, the success of these programs was reflected in the ways in which German manufacturers did not have to shed their workforce and could simply reignite production and again seize market shares when the economic recovery began. Yet, the German Trade Union Confederacy (DGB) correctly criticized that this was not enough for workers in the low-wage sectors, the most hard-hit by the fallout of the Coronavirus crisis.
Still, in the vast low-wage sector of Germany’s economy, which employs 1 of every 4 workers, 60 per cent is not enough to put food on the table and pay the bills. The DGB and the service sector union Ver.di therefore pushed for an expansion of “Kurzarbeitergeld” to 90 per cent of previous incomes.
Precarious workers such as the self-employed, freelancers as well as shop-owners are not protected by these measures because they do not fall under any kind of collective bargaining agreement. The Coronavirus crisis and the resulting shutdown hit them directly. Only some countries like Sweden cover the self-employed in providing 14 days of sick pay. In Norway, Spain and Italy there now exists a €600 payment for all self-employed people and freelancers, who fall under a so-called “Partita IVA” tax codes.
The worse off are people in the gig economy. In Italy, workers in the informal economy are left with nothing, including the 2 million workers who used to be employed as maids, elderly caregivers and childcare providers (of which nine out of ten are women and around 7 out of 10 are immigrants), who are now made redundant by the return of their employers into their private households. Generally speaking, the poor were hit the worst by the situation as minimal savings dried up and charity soup kitchens like Germany’s Tafel closed, quickly creating a situation of general food insecurity. In response to this the World War Two members of the Left Party (Die Linke) started to create soup kitchens, an effort resembling the pre-World War Two self-help initiatives of the working class. Might we even see the return of workers’ councils organizing social infrastructure where the state is failing to provide it?
In other Western states the situation is even worse than in central Europe. In the United States, the biggest employers refused to lock down their businesses and provide their workers sick-pay. Here, capitalism’s structural constraint of uninterrupted capital accumulation confronts workers with the terrible choice between evictions and possible starvation. As Mark Bergfeld correctly stated, “The problem is, the culture of ‘presenteeism’ places the burden of the decision on workers – often meaning they’ll turn up to work when they should be staying home.”
The largest “companies putting profits ahead of public health” include McDonald’s with 517,000 workers, Walmart with 347,000 workers, Kroger with 189,000 workers, Subway with 180,000 workers, Burger King with 165,000 workers, Pizza Hut with 156,000 workers, Target with 151,000 workers, Marriott with 139,000 workers, Wendy’s with 133,000 workers, Taco Bell with 124,000 workers, Dollar General with 109,000 workers, Applebee’s with 99,000 workers and Dunkin’ Donuts with 97,000. All of this is happening in a situation where, according to the May 2019 Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of US Households in 2018, 40 per cent of Americans could not meet an emergency expense of US$400 without borrowing money; where, in other words, close to half the population is one paycheck away from homelessness.
While Starbucks workers reportedly begged their corporate overlords to shut down stores, the Trump administration initially announced only one program aimed at providing assistance to the working class. This included sending government cheques which are supposed to amount to a maximum of US$2,000. Of course, this is also connected to Trump’s desire to be re-elected. For obvious reasons, direct cash payments from the government are a popular way of ensuring this (George W. Bush pursued the same strategy).
On 17 March 2020, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the first cheques “of at least $1,000” were to be sent out by the end of April, a second cheque would follow in May. Needless to say, this sum will not enable workers to stay home from work and pay their bills. Nothing short of sick-pay for all workers and a moratorium on rents, utility payments, mortgages, student debt and credit card debt repayment (which so far only France has legislated) can ensure that the working-class manages to get out of this crisis. It is in light of this context that the defeated US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has therefore called for a monthly payment of US$2,000 to every US household in order to enable workers to stay home and prevent millions of excess pandemic deaths in the United States.
All the while, US billionaires went so far as to call for an end to even the limited healthcare provisions by the Trump administration to compel workers to return to work despite the dangers this would entail. The multi-billionaire and defeated Democratic primaries candidate Michael Bloomberg made news for firing his former staff members after having informed them that they were exposed to the coronavirus, leaving them without healthcare coverage by month’s end.
Incidentally, the hypocrisy of US politics and its two-party system was on full display throughout this. The idea of sending checks to all US workers was also circulated among the Democratic party leadership, yet Nancy Pelosi orchestrated its rejection in favor of means-testing. This reservation was later seconded by senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Now, because the suggestion originates from President Trump, when election day comes in November, he will be able to say he stood up for workers while the Democrats wouldn’t, even though he conducted the worst attacks on the working class by cutting social programs and by tearing a gigantic whole into the state budget with his slashing of corporate and marginal tax rates for capital and the super-rich.
In Canada, the right-wing provincial government of Ontario has not done any better. Instead of paying sick-leave for all workers, its response to the crisis entailed “allowing” workers to waive the requirement of attaining a doctor’s notes to take unpaid leave. In the UK, it took the Tory government a long time to extend sick pay to all workers in self-isolation, even if they were not infected with the coronavirus. Given that the amount paid by the government was only £94 per week, this essentially meant that people would have to continue working as long as there was not a moratorium on the costs mentioned above. It was only when it became clear how serious the health crisis was that the government changed course. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the far-reaching measure that all workers unable to work during the coronavirus crisis would receive up to £2,500 per month.
Generally speaking, these measures, or rather, this relative governmental inaction at a time of crisis left the global working classes tremendously vulnerable. In the current crisis, it is clear that it is not bankers, hedge fund managers or lawyers who are “too big to fail.” Rather it is the farm workers, supermarket cashiers, garbage collectors, doctors, nurses, personal care aides, and couriers who are attempting to ensure food sovereignty and healthcare provisioning. If ruling elites now point rhetorically to the ‘systemic relevance’ of the working class, it is not clear that such ‘recognition’ will turn into material remuneration.
It is especially supermarket cashiers, who are bearing the brunt of the collective mental stress the Coronavirus crisis has caused, when customers fight over noodles, rice and toilet paper and do not accept that they must not clear entire shelves etc. And next to paramedics, flight attendants, policemen and women, barbers, childcare workers, maids, janitors and many manufacturing workers, these segments of the working class and their elderly and sick family members are most vulnerable to the Coronavirus given either their exposure to diseases and/or their proximity to others while working.
Moreover, the lack of sick-pay and moratoriums on regular bills simply forced large swaths of workers, who cannot work from home, to go into work every day in order to stay afloat. This, of course, means that ‘flattening the curve’ becomes an illusion. It threatens the working class with death, because it is the workers who are at the frontline of the Coronavirus. In his famous essay on The Housing Question, Friedrich Engels once noted on epidemics: “Capitalist rule cannot allow itself the pleasure of creating epidemic diseases among the working class with impunity; the consequences fall back on it and the angel of death rages in its ranks as ruthlessly as in the ranks of the workers.”
In the current conjuncture, this is theoretically true but not in practice. It is the workers who are risking infections by going to work, who are risking infecting their elder and sick relatives. It is they who usually lack both larger homes with gardens as well as the funds to leave in order to wait it all out at largely unaffected tourist resorts. It is therefore workers who are running a much higher risk of stress, marital strife and domestic violence (reported as a horrific side-effect of the Italian setting). It is also those who are forced to go into work while their children are out of daycare and out of school and who therefore often cannot refrain from exposing their elder and retired relatives to their children. It is thus they who are forced to choose whether to not work and become evicted or go to work and risk killing their elder relatives either through infections they bring home or through having their own children infect them.
The Response of Working Classes So Far
The working classes of the West have not simply accepted this intolerable situation. In Germany, labour unions were successful in expanding the government’s involuntary short-term labour payments from 75 to 97 per cent of previous net-income. In the German food industry, one of the key low-wage industries hit the hardest by the crisis, the trade union NGG and the employers arranged a 90 per cent payment of short-term labour pay, retroactive to 1 March 2020. Given that only 47 per cent of German workers benefit from collective bargaining coverage, the most challenging class struggle is the fight to force the Merkel government to increase guaranteed incomes to 90 per cent for all workers in order to protect the weakest and poorest segments of the German working class. In Norway workers already won similar gains.
In other countries, workers have resorted to wildcat strikes. In Italy, such strikes have occurred at Fiat via the shipbuilding industry in Liguria in northern Italy to the steelworkers in the South and also in the aerospace and arms industry, seeking to force governments into negotiations with the labour unions. In Spain, wildcat strikes occurred at Mercedes and Iveco, while at Volkswagen the labour unions refused to continue production.
In the US, auto workers at Fiat-Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan went on strike after they learned that some of their co-workers had been quarantined because of the coronavirus. In Detroit a strike by bus drivers ensured that fares would “not be collected for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.” And in New York workers at a cafe started to organize when faced with the impossible choice of either continuing to work and infecting themselves or calling in sick, losing essential income and risking homelessness. At Amazon’s DCH1 Chicago warehouse, angry and determined workers organized and won a fight for a shutdown with full pay, showing other Amazon workers how Paid Time Off (PTO) can be won.
The size and dynamism of such workers’ struggles is likely to increase with the intensification of the coronavirus and economic crises. At the same time, the fact that they need to occur out of a situation of desperation shows how unlikely ‘flattening the curve’ is going to be and how likely working-class families are going to suffer from the coronavirus crisis and are going to carry most of the burden.
In a commentary in Jacobin on Italy’s decision to finally move ahead with a lockdown of the economy, David Broder points out that “The crisis has strikingly illustrated that public health concerns us all – faced with the spread of COVID-19 no one is really safe unless everyone is. But that doesn’t mean we all face this crisis as equals. Employers will still try and profit, and workers depending on the next paycheck will still have to work unless the state intervenes to ensure they don’t.” This will depend on the organizational capacities and creative political strategies of the working classes to enforce the workplace protections and public health provisioning for their own – and society’s – healthcare needs. •
Ingar Solty is Senior Research Fellow in Foreign, Peace and Security Policy at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung’s Institute for Critical Social Analysis in Berlin. He is author of several books including The USA under Obama (Die USA unter Obama) and the forthcoming edited volumes Literature and Class Society (Literatur in der neuen Klassengesellschaft) and On the Shoulders of Karl Marx (Auf den Schultern von Karl Marx). His writings can be downloaded for free at rosalux.academia.edu/IngarSolty.
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As the U.S. shuts down, StockX’s business is booming, says its CEO
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 06:07 PM PDT
StockX, the high-flying resale marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of sneakers, streetwear, handbags and other collectible items who agree on pricing, has seen its fortune rise along with the $6 billion global sneaker resale market, which is part of the broader $100 billion sneaker category. In fact, the company, which was assigned a billion-dollar-plus valuation last year, says $1 billion worth of merchandise was sold through its platform last year.
The big question is whether StockX can maintain its momentum. Not only are other rivals biting at the heels of the five-year-old, Detroit-based outfit, which has raised roughly $160 million from investors, but some believe the streetwear "bubble" is on the verge of bursting. Add to the mix a pandemic that’s putting millions of people out of work (and in some cases jeopardizing the health of those still showing up), and you might assume that answer is no.
Yet in an online event earlier this week hosted by this editor and conducted by Erin Griffith of the New York Times, StockX CEO Scott Cutler insisted that the exact opposite is true. By his telling, business is booming. In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly, he argued that StockX looks more durable than the traditional public market right now, and he’s well-acquainted with the latter, having earlier spent nine years as an executive with the New York Stock Exchange. (Cutler was also formerly an executive at eBay and StubHub.)
Below is part of their talk, edited lightly for length.
Griffith kicked off the interview by giving Cutler a chance to describe in his own words how StockX works.
“So if you’re a buyer of sneakers, you’ve got choices as to where you want to do that you could go to Nike or Adidas, you could go to a retailer . . . There are other marketplaces like eBay, as an example, where one person has an item to sell, and you would match and try and find that one person [who will buy it at their price] and that would be a unique peer-to-peer-based experience.”
“The difference for Stock x is that typically those items that are the most sought-after things from a retailer or brand and are never available at that retailer or brand. They’re released online, or they’re released in a store, and they and they vanish immediately. . . So as a buyer, you come into the experience knowing largely that you want a particular product. And we give you the opportunity to either buy that at the lowest price somebody is willing to sell that for, or put a bid out and say, ‘This is what I’m interested in paying for this product.’
“If you’re a seller, you don’t have to create a seller rating. You don’t have to create a profile. You don’t have to create a listing. You simply have something to sell, it’s in our catalog. And you either sell it at the highest price that somebody is willing to bid . . . or you ask and say, ‘This is what I’m willing to sell this item for.’ So it’s a very much a trading market much like oil and commodities and equities, but in sneakers and collectible items.”
She asked who is driving the marketplace and whether that might be a small number of power users.
“Seventy-five percent of our customers are under the age of 35. And that customer is a now a wide demographic, I would say two years ago, it was defined in sneakers as a “sneakerhead,” meaning somebody that collected sneakers and bought and sell sneakers specifically. But today, that demographic, if you looked at millennials and Gen Z, as an example, 40% of them would define themselves as sneakerheads, and so that’s male and female, and this demographic is around the world. We have customers in over 170 countries and territories.”
Cutler went on to say that StockX is very well-positioned because, unlike with a lot of goods that people might find through Amazon or a Google search and thus compete on some level with them, StockX is itself the “first” shopping destination for most of its customers.
“Even the brands can’t provide access to [what’s for sale at StockX]. So that consumer comes to us as a first destination; they don’t go to those brands to shop to shop . . . That means that we have an incredible opportunity then to deliver exactly what that customer wants at the beginning of the journey, which is very rare in e-commerce, to be that first point of destination.”
Naturally, Griffith asked how the virus has impacted StockX’s bottom line. Cutler said it’s been “great for our business and growth.”
“The recent events over the last couple of months has been a benefit to our business. We’ve had more and more traffic and buyers coming to our site because in some respects, traditional retail in some geographies is not available. We thought we’ve always been a marketplace of scarcity, but now you can’t actually go into a real retail location, so you’re coming to StockX. So on the one hand, it’s been great for our for our business and for our growth.”
Cutler also acknowledged that to accommodate that growth, StockX needs people in the warehouses where sellers send goods so that StockX can authenticate them before shipping out to buyers. He said that StockX has “people in those centers that are coming to work right now, even in places like New Jersey that are certainly impacted.” He called it a “balancing” act of trying to ensure its team members feel “safe” while continuing to operate its business at scale around the world.
As for how, exactly, StockX is ensuring these employees are safe, he said that StockX is “operating under all of the local rules and regulations that we have in all the different places where we operate.” As an added sweetener, he said the company recently gave a “spot bonus” and increased the salaries of employees at its authentication centers by 25%.
And what happens if the warehouses are ordered to shut down or employees begin showing up with the virus? Griffith asked what StockX’s backup plan entailed.
Here, Cutler noted the company’s multiple authentication centers, saying that “in the event that we have to reroute traffic from one authentication center to the other, we will do that. We’ve been operating that way.” (He also said that business continuity planning is currently a “stand-up every single day [wherein] we go through site safety and security and any incidents that come up and we’re making decisions as a team every day on some of that routing logic.”)
Not last, Griffith wondered what kinds of conversations StockX’s venture investors are having with the company given everyone’s focus right now on belt-tightening. ((StockX is backed by DST Global, General Atlantic, GGV Capital Battery Ventures, and GV, among others.)
Cutler acknowledged that the “future, in some respects, is uncertain for many of us, in that you don’t know how long this is going to last.” He said that as the company looks to the future, it’s trying to factor in “different scenarios of macro shifts in demand, macro shifts in the supply chains that we think are going to be actually quite short-lived.” He said that in China, for example, where many supply chain factories went down this winter, many are back up to 80% or 90% of their previous capacity, adding that “depedinng on how this plays out here in the U.S. and in Europe, it could either be a very quick recovery — or we have to be prepared for scenario where this could be extended for some time.”
Asked if StockX is recession-proof should the downturn last (Griffith noted that some of the pricier sneakers on the platform are “selling for thousands of dollars”), Cutler suggested that he hopes so for the sake of the businesses run off its platform.
Said Cutler, “For a lot of our sellers, you have to appreciate that our they depend on StockX for their livelihood. They actually may be running a very sophisticated business that is selling sometimes thousands of pairs of sneakers every single day to [maybe] a student who’s using StockX to fund their education. So it’s it is really important that we remain up and operational because we’re providing a livelihood for those for those individuals.”
Cutler then compared StockX to the public equities markets, insisting that they aren’t so different and that, to his mind, StockX might even be the safer bet right now.
“We actually have buyers who see this time as a market opportunity and see the price of a rare Jordan 1 [shoe] that’s maybe coming down, and they say, ‘Hey, this is short lived,’ much like somebody may say, ‘Hey, the market is off a little.’
“They’re putting their money in sneakers,” Cutler continued, adding: “My portfolio right now in sneakers is still up on the year. That’s more than I can say about the S&P.”
John Borthwick & Matt Hartman of betaworks discuss coronavirus adaptation strategies
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 03:17 PM PDT
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hopping on Zoom with betaworks’ John Borthwick and Matt Hartman to discuss the tech world’s adaptation to this new locked-down world, the future of new media and answer questions from the audience.
We discussed whether new media companies can raise capital right now, and touched on emerging trends around audio, voice, AR, live events, travel-related companies and many other topics.
It was a delight, and I’m excited to do more of these in the future.
For those of you who missed the Zoom, here’s a rundown of what we discussed (audio embed below).
Rocket startup Skyrora shifts production to hand sanitizer and face masks for coronavirus response
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 02:49 PM PDT
One of the newer companies attempting to join the rarified group of private space launch startups actually flying payloads to orbit has redirected its entire UK-based manufacturing capacity towards COVID-19 response. Skyrora, which is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is answering the call of the UK government and the NHS to manufacturers to do what they can to provide much-needed healthcare equipment for frontline responders amid the coronavirus crisis.
Skyrorary says that the entirety of its UK operations, including all human resources and its working capital are now dedicated to COVID-19 response. The startup, which was founded in 2017, had been working towards test flights of its first spacecraft, making progress including an early successful engine test using its experimental, more eco-friendly rocket fuel that was completed in February.
For now, though, Skyrora will be focusing full on building hand sanitizer, its first effort to support the COVID-19 response. The company has already produce their initial batch using WHO guidelines and requirements, and now aims to scale up its production efforts to the point where it can manufacture the sanitizer at a rate of over 10,000 250 ml bottles per week.
There’s actually a pretty close link between rocketry and hand sanitizer: Ethanol, the form of alcohol that provides the fundamental disinfecting ingredient for hand sanitizer, has been used in early rocket fuel. Skyrora’s ‘Ecosene’ fuel is a type of kerosene, however, which is a much more common modern aviation and rocket fuel.
In addition to sanitizer, Skyrora is now in talks with the Scottish Government to see where 3D-printed protective face masks might have a beneficial impact on ensuring health worker safety. It’s testing initial prototypes now, and will look to mass produce the protective equipment after those tests verify its output.
Plenty of companies are pitching in where they can, including by shifting their production lines and manufacturing capacity towards areas of greatest need. It’s definitely an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ moment, but there’s definitely a question of what happens to businesses that shift their focus this dramatically once the emergency passes, especially for young startups in emerging industries.
Duke University uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide to clean N95 face masks for reuse
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 02:31 PM PDT
With shortages of N95 face masks persisting nationwide, healthcare facilities are scrambling to find ways to clean and treat the masks for reuse to protect doctors and nurses most at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Duke University thinks it has found a solution using vaporized hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate the masks.
The process uses specialized equipment to vaporize hydrogen peroxide, which can then infuse all the layers of the mask to kill germs (including viruses) without degrading mask material.
"This is a decontamination technology and method we've used for years in our biocontainment laboratory," said Scott Alderman, associate director of the Duke Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, in a statement.
The university said it has proven effective and will begin using the technology at all three of its hospitals, according to Matthew Stiegel, the director of the Occupational and Environmental Safety Office at Duke.
Ideally, the hospitals would be able to use fresh masks and not need to try to decontaminate their masks, but these are not ideal times.
Duke’s decision to use hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 masks is based on published studies conducted in 2016, but the practice wasn’t widespread, because the industry wasn’t facing shortages. Those earlier studies also didn’t include fit-testing — or the resizing of masks for individual wearers — after cleaning. Duke has now done that efficacy testing in the real world, the university said.
"The ability to reuse the crucial N95 masks will boost the hospitals' ability to protect front-line healthcare workers during this time of critical shortages of N95 masks," said Cameron Wolfe, MD, associate professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist.
Monte Brown, MD, vice president at Duke University Health System, said the Duke team is working to spread the word about the technique, making the protocols widely available. He said several health systems and many pharmaceutical companies already have the needed equipment, which is currently used in different ways, and could ramp up operations to come to the aid of their local hospitals.
"We could stand up in front of our staff and state with confidence that we are using a proven decontamination method," Brown said. "It has been a proven method for years. While this alone will not solve the problem, if we and others can reuse masks even once or twice, that would be a huge benefit given the current shortages."
Attract, engage and retain employees in the new remote-work era
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 02:25 PM PDT
When looking for answers, where do people first turn? For many, it's Google.
During the first half of March, we saw Google searches for "work from home" reach a 12-month high, garnering at least 50% more search interest than the anticipated peak, which usually occurs within the first week of January. This number will continue to grow as outside circumstances evolve.
This search behavior reflects the world around us. Today, employees and employers alike are grappling with the new norm — at least for the short-term — which is working remotely. While having a remote-ready model in place was once viewed as a competitive advantage to attract talent, it's now a must-have to keep organizations afloat.
With vacant positions costing organizations around $680 daily, the impact that interrupted recruiting efforts can have on a business' bottom line is jarring. As such, HR professionals were early adopters of successful remote communication practices, learning lessons that can be applied across the business to successfully make personal connections without being in-person. Employers are doing all they can to address their existing employee base at this critical time, while also working hard to maintain their hiring efforts.
Having the right technology in place to sustain work-from-home practices is more important now than ever before. There are four steps that employers can take to successfully integrate and adapt successful virtual hiring technologies into their business continuity plans, considering all outside circumstances, and without sacrificing their productivity and unique company culture.
Prepare and plan. Employers have an obligation to provide their people with clear direction in times of disruption.
Trump orders GM to start ventilator production for COVID-19 amid contract dispute
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 01:57 PM PDT
President Donald Trump signed Friday a presidential directive ordering GM to produce ventilators and to prioritize federal contracts, just hours after the automaker announced plans to manufacture the critical medical equipment needed for patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The order, made under the Defense Production Act, marks a sudden reversal by Trump, who has touted the efforts by GM and other manufacturers to try to ramp up production of ventilators and personal protective gear that is in short supply as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The order came amid a dispute with GM over a contract to produce the ventilators.
GM and its partner Ventec Life Systems had already announced plans to start producing the ventilators “at cost,” despite the lack of a federal contract. The order would force GM to prioritize federal contracts, which would prevent the automaker from selling to states, or at least make it more difficult.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives,” Trump said in a statement.
GM responded Friday afternoon to Trump’s order noting that it has been “working around the clock” with Ventec and its supply base “to meet this urgent need.”
“Our commitment to build Ventec's high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered,” the GM statement continues. “The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative.”
Earlier Friday, GM said it would start producing Ventec Life Systems ventilators even as a purchase order with the federal government remained in limbo. The companies said Friday that the ventilators will be produced at GM’s engine plant in Kokomo, Ind., using about 1,000 workers.
The GM and Ventec announcement followed sharp criticism by Trump via several tweets that blasted GM and its CEO and chairman Mary Barra via Twitter, accusing the company of falling short of its promised capacity and asking for “top dollar,” a term that seems to imply the automaker was trying to profit off of the contract.
GM, which is a contract supplier for Ventec, has said it is “donating its resources at cost,” a term that means it will not profit off of any sales of the masks and ventilators it produces. Whether the federal government would sign a purchase order with the companies has been a lingering question that looked less certain as talks unfolded, according to sources.
Efforts to set up tooling and manufacturing capacity at the factory are already underway to produce Ventec’s critical care ventilator, VOCSN, according to GM. The automaker said production will begin in the next seven to 14 days with the first shipments of the FDA-cleared ventilators scheduled to begin in April. Ventec is also trying to ramp up production at its manufacturing facility in Bothell, Wash.
Separately, GM also said it will start next week producing Level 1 surgical masks at its Warren, Mich. manufacturing facility. The automaker expect to ramp up mask production capacity to 50,000 masks per day within the next two weeks with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day.
Trump’s tweets came after The New York Times reported that U.S. government officials canceled a planned announcement outlining the GM and Ventec deal to produce as many as 80,000 ventilators for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The announcement, which was supposed to happen Wednesday, was canceled after FEMA balked at the more than $1 billion price tag.
TechCrunch has independently confirmed that the federal government canceled the announcement because of reservations over the cost. FEMA and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro had balked at the cost, according to a source at GM.
Trump’s tweets attacking Barra and GM — as well as calling for the automaker to start production at an Ohio factory that the automaker no longer owns — lies in stark contrast from public comments the president made earlier in the week when he touted efforts by companies to mobilize their resources to help alleviate a shortage of medical supplies such as face masks and ventilators.
Trump has repeatedly said he does not need to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to help in the effort to manufacture needed supplies. But that changed Friday when he said he would use it because of the GM ventilator purchase order.
The cost of ventilators
As COVID-19 spread and health and government officials grew increasingly concerned about a shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment, a number of manufacturers announced plans to ramp up production capacity or donate any existing supplies. GM was among that group.
On March 20, GM and Ventec announced plans to work to increase production of respiratory care products, a partnership that grew out of StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated effort of private companies to respond to COVID-19.
Before that announcement was made, GM investigated the feasibility of sourcing the more than 700 components needed to build up to 200,000 of Ventec’s critical care ventilators called VOCSN. Ventec describes these VOCSN devices as multi-function ventilators that were cleared in 2017 by the FDA.
GM identified the Indiana plant as the likely location and determined it would need to build a new clean room within the factory that was large enough to produce the ventilators, according to the source. GM estimated it would cost about $750 million, a price that included retrofitting a portion of the engine plant, purchasing materials to make the ventilators and paying the 1,000 workers needed to scale up production, the source said. The remaining $250,000 of estimated costs came from Ventec.
GM estimated that it could ramp up production in time to deliver ventilators by mid-April, a time when states are expected to be dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases. The companies said they are poised to deliver the first ventilators next month and ramp up to a capacity of more than 10,000 critical care ventilators per month with the infrastructure and capability to scale further.
We’ve come full rectangle: Polaroid is reborn out of The Impossible Project
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 01:22 PM PDT
More than a decade after announcing that it would keep Polaroid’s abandoned instant film alive, The Impossible Project has done the… improbable: It has officially become the brand it set out to save. And to commemorate the occasion, there’s a new camera, the Polaroid Now.
The convergence of the two brands has been in the works for years, and in fact Impossible Project products were already Polaroid-branded. But this marks a final and satisfying shift in one of the stranger relationships in startups or photography.
I first wrote about The Impossible Project in early 2009 (and apparently thought it was a good idea to Photoshop a Bionic Commando screenshot as the lead image), when the company announced its acquisition of some Polaroid instant film manufacturing assets.
Polaroid at the time was little more than a shell. Having declined since the ’80s and more or less shuttered in 2001, the company was relaunched as a digital brand and film sales were phased out. This was unsuccessful, and in 2008 Polaroid was filing for bankruptcy again.
This time, however, it was getting rid of its film production factories, and a handful of Dutch entrepreneurs and Polaroid experts took over the lease as The Impossible Project. But although the machinery was there, the patents and other IP for the famed Polaroid instant film were not. So they basically had to reinvent the process from scratch — and the early results were pretty rough.
But they persevered, aided by a passionate community of Polaroid owners, continuously augmented by the film-curious who want something more than a Fujifilm Instax but less than a 35mm SLR. In time the process matured and Impossible developed new films and distribution partners, growing more successful even as Polaroid continued applying its brand to random, never particularly good photography-adjacent products. They even hired Lady Gaga as “Creative Director,” but the devices she hyped at CES never really materialized.
Gaga was extremely late to the announcement, but seeing the GL30 prototype was worth it
In 2017, the student became the master as Impossible’s CEO purchased the Polaroid brand name and IP. They relaunched Impossible as “Polaroid Originals” and released the OneStep 2 camera using a new “i-Type” film process that more closely resembled old Polaroids (while avoiding the expensive cartridge battery).
Polaroid continued releasing new products in the meantime — presumably projects that were under contract or in development under the brand before its acquisition. While the quality has increased from the early days of rebranded point-and-shoots, none of the products has ever really caught on, and digital instant printing (Polaroid’s last redoubt) has been eclipsed by a wave of nostalgia for real film, Instax Mini in particular.
But at last the merger dance is complete and Polaroid, Polaroid Originals and The Impossible Project are finally one and the same. All devices and film will be released under the Polaroid name, though there may be new sub-brands like i-Type and the new Polaroid Now camera.
Speaking of which, the Now is not a complete reinvention of the camera by far — it’s a “friendlier” redesign that takes after the popular OneStep but adds improved autofocus, a flash-adjusting light sensor, better battery and a few other nips and tucks. At $100 it’s not too hard on the wallet, but remember that film is going to run you about $2 per shot. That’s how they get you.
It’s been a long, strange trip to watch, but ultimately a satisfying one: Impossible made a bet on the fundamental value of instant film photography, while a series of owners bet on the Polaroid brand name to sell anything they put it on. The riskier long-term play won out in the end (though many got rich running Polaroid into the ground over and over), and now with a little luck the brand that started it all will continue its success.
Attorney Sophie Alcorn answers readers’ immigration questions
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 01:09 PM PDT
We had a great time hosting noted immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn on a live conference call with Extra Crunch members earlier this week.
Sophie writes our "Dear Sophie" column, where she answers questions about immigration status, particularly for founders and others in the tech ecosystem who want to work in the United States.
In our conference call, we talked about the changes happening to H-1B visas, what COVID-19 is doing to the immigration system and some of the top concerns of founders in these perilous times. Below the jump, you’ll find an edited transcript, or you can listen to the call in its entirety.
As with all legal advice, always speak with your own retained attorney about specific details regarding your own cases as illustrative examples may or may not apply to your own unique situation.
The FDA just okayed multiple 15-minute blood tests to screen for coronavirus, but there are caveats
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 01:08 PM PDT
On Thursday, the FDA amended their emergency policy around diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Following on a change made March 16, the agency opened the door for a number of specific private entities and labs to develop and distribute tests that can provide results on the spot in as little as 15 minutes — but there are some pretty big caveats to keep in mind as you hear about more of these coming to market.
The tests, which are “serological,” meaning they identify the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood, differ considerably from the molecular testing that is currently in use under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by FDA-approved labs and drive-through testing sites. The serological tests show that a person has developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which means they very likely came into contact with it (and either have it, or have already recovered from having it). The molecular tests actually detect the presence of viral DNA in the blood stream, which is a much more definitive indicator that they currently have an active infection (at least at the time the swab was taken).
Serological tests have still been used widely in countries where the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to be effective, including in China, Taiwan and Singapore. They’ve also been used in different communities in the U.S., based on earlier guidelines around private lab diagnostics. But on March 26, the FDA named 29 entities that provided notification to the agency as required and are now therefore able to distribute their tests.
It’s important to note that these tests have not been reviewed or validated by the FDA, unlike those molecular tests that are included in the organization’s emergency use category. Instead, the FDA “does not intend to object to the development and distribution by commercial manufacturers” of these tests, provided they meet a number of criteria, including qualifying the results of their reported test results with the following information:
- This test has not been reviewed by the FDA.
- Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who have been in contact with the virus. Follow-up testing with a molecular diagnostic should be considered to rule out infection in these individuals.
- Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection or to inform infection status.
- Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains, such as coronavirus HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E.
The FDA specifically notes in its emergency use FAQ that these entities have reported their own validation of these tests, and that they won’t be pursuing Emergency Use Authorization. That said, there’s now nothing stopping the entities on this list from distributing their tests, which means they will be able to be put to use in testing Americans and painting a larger picture of the potential spread of the novel coronavirus — with the caveat noted above that the FDA doesn’t consider these tests used alone to be positive confirmation of a definite SARS-CoV-2 case, or conversely, a sure indicator that someone doesn’t have the virus.
Still, in the absence of better options like expanded availability of the tests that are approved under the EUA, these serological tests (many of which can provide on-site results with just a pinprick of blood) will be useful in painting a more accurate picture of the overall spread and reach of the coronavirus, especially for smaller clinics, GP clinics and local labs that don’t have priority access to the equipment and supplies needed for the molecular testing efforts.
For instance, one test on this list, the Healgen Scientific COVID-19 IgG/IgM (Whole Blood/Serum/Plasma) Rapid Test Device, requires no instrumentation and can provide results in just 15 minutes. Distributor Ideal Rehab Care is working with its legal representation Fox Rothschild to begin importing the tests from Singapore for use “as soon as possible.”
The FDA updating its website with Healgen as one of the entities that have notified it of intent to use its serological test is what unlocked the ability for the company to begin distribution: It’s still illegal for anyone not on this list to do so, and the FDA still also specifically prohibits the use of at-home serological tests on its official guidelines.
It looks like Brandon Middaugh is heading up the $1B Microsoft climate fund
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 12:14 PM PDT
Earlier this year, Microsoft made waves in the corporate community by coming out with one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging strategies to reduce carbon emissions from the company’s operations.
Part of that plan was a $1 billion fund that would invest in climate change mitigation technologies — specifically focused on decarbonization. At the time, details were scarce, but it looks like the strategy is becoming a little more clear, with details beginning to emerge about who will be running the show.
According to sources — and a LinkedIn profile search — it appears that Brandon Middaugh is taking point on the investment fund.
Middaugh has been at Microsoft for more than four years and worked as one of the architects of the company’s climate strategy during her tenure at the company. In her previous role as part of the company’s Cloud Energy and Sustainability team, Middaugh led the distributed energy strategy and was a part of the partnership Microsoft initiated with the East Coast regional transmission organization, the PJM — which manages the power grid for a large swath of the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.
It appears that Middaugh is going to be taking point on the deployment of that $1 billion fund Microsoft announced in January, according to people who have discussed the company’s investments.
At the January event, Microsoft committed to going “carbon negative” by 2030 and said that it would remove by 2050 the equivalent of all the carbon it had emitted into the atmosphere since its founding in 1975. Those commitments are far more aggressive than any made by any other corporation in any industry.
Part of the plan involves expanding the carbon fee the company has imposed internally on its direct emission across its supply and value chains. The $1 billion fund is part of that effort to reduce emissions from suppliers and customers by financing projects and technologies that can reduce emissions with new generation or efficiency technologies, or capture and remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Equity and debt investments have to meet four criteria, including: the ability to drive meaningful decarbonization, climate resilience or other sustainability-related goals; have additional market impacts for future climate solutions; can address Microsoft’s own climate debt; and have implications for the unequal distribution of climate impacts.
Late last year, Amazon committed that it would move to 100% renewable energy powering its operations by 2030 and that it would achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Meanwhile, Alphabet has been developing renewable energy projects under its moonshot division and has long been an investor in climate mitigation technologies, including the use of renewables to power its operations.
All of these efforts will need to be met by additional work from corporations and financial institutions across every industry if the world is to reduce the most dire effects of dramatic climate change. Already forest fires, flooding and other climate-related catastrophes have led financial investors and insurers to push for better mitigation strategies and to bring climate impacts front and center within corporate strategies.
Microsoft had not replied to a request for comment by the time of publication.
When is it time to stop fundraising?
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 12:04 PM PDT
No one wants to prepare for their fundraising round to fail. Many founders spend months (or even years) getting their businesses to a point where they're ready to pitch investors. But there are times when, no matter how hard you try, you're just not going to be able to close a deal.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the entire VC community is in a state of uncertainty, and there is no clear answer when it comes to the question, "can I still raise funds for my company?" However, there's hope for early-stage startups. We used the 2020 DocSend Startup Index to track Pitch Deck Interest among investors and found that last week, despite seismic changes across the country, pitch deck interest has only been 11.6% lower than the same week in 2019 so far.
We will be monitoring the Pitch Deck Interest Metric in the coming weeks, but if you're an early-stage startup and you were planning to raise, there is still opportunity to come away with a term sheet. But if things don't go as planned, how do you know if it's time to give up or if you just need to push through?
According to recent DocSend data, you'll know pretty quickly if it's time to call it quits. While the average founder who was successful in fundraising contacted 63 investors during their process, startups that weren't able to raise funds stopped at 27. Why stop? Because the founder listened to the feedback they were getting. If you hear the same concern or piece of feedback twice you should take it to heart, but if you hear it three times you probably need to stop and rethink things.
The Pitch Deck Interest Metric declined 11.6% compared to the same week in 2019
According to our study on the fundraising process of pre-seed startups, founders who were unsuccessful in raising had just nine meetings. That should give you enough feedback to know if you have a deal breaker in your deck.
But negative feedback doesn't mean all is lost. In fact, of startups studied in the 2020 DocSend Startup Index, 86% reported that they were going to try to fundraise again after addressing the feedback they'd received.
Now might be the perfect time to rethink your fundraising approach
Posted: 27 Mar 2020 12:04 PM PDT
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NEW YORK (AP) — In New York City, they've started dismantling basketball hoops to prevent people from gathering in parks and playing. In Lakewood, New Jersey, police broke up a wedding being held in violation of a ban on large gatherings. And in Austin, Texas, officers are encouraging people to call a hotline to snitch on violators of the city's orders for people to stay home.
Police departments are taking a lead role in enforcing social distancing guidelines that health officials say are critical to containing COVID-19. Along with park rangers, fire inspectors and other public servants, officers more accustomed to chasing suspects and solving crimes are spending these troubled days cajoling people to stay at least 6 feet apart.
“We’re used to crowds, we’re used to lines, we’re used to being close together,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a briefing this week. “No more.”
The no-more mandate has forced the New York Police Department — a squad that normally prides itself on protecting packed crowds like the ones at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration — into service dispersing small groups of people on city streets and public spaces.
Instead of the threat of terrorism, they're trying to stop the spread of a silent killer that as of Thursday had left more than 1,000 people dead in the U.S., at least 280 of them in New York City — all while trying to avoid using a heavy hand.
For starters, the nation's largest police department made thousands of visits to bars and restaurants to make sure they were observing a shutdown of dine-in services imposed this month, resulting in warnings but only a handful of citations.
Now comes an effort to impose restrictions in parks, playgrounds, housing project courtyards and sidewalks, where some people to congregate out of habit or indifference as temperatures rise. On Wednesday, de Blasio said the city was removing basketball hoops at 80 of its 1,700 public courts — places where he said people were ignoring instructions not to shoot around with anyone outside their household.
Enforcement also will include marked patrol cars driving through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and other popular outdoor escapes around the city, broadcasting recorded reminders about the importance of social distancing.
NYPD video shot in Manhattan's Lower East Side and posted on Twitter showed a squad car slowly rolling down a nearly empty street — occupied by just two people running on opposite sides of the street — and playing a message that implores, “Please help us keep you safe.”
In addition, the city is mobilizing departments to form roving enforcement teams for the effort, including members of the fire and parks departments and the mayor’s community affairs unit.
People are not being discouraged from getting out for a breath of fresh air solo, as couples or as families. But other activities like team sports or gatherings like outdoor family barbecues are going to be shut down, de Blasio said.
“If we see people in groups, we’re going to break them up,” he said. “If we see a place that’s too crowded, we are going to get people to disperse.”
De Blasio said he would even consider closing playgrounds as soon as Saturday if families don’t follow new rules to “not overcrowd them” or allowing “kids playing with kids outside their own family.”
In New Jersey, police charged three people in recent days for holding large gatherings in defiance of a state ban. In San Jose, Calif., officers have checked 369 businesses for compliance and issued their first citation on Wednesday. If the city’s parks and trails continue to be crowded with residents, authorities could be forced to step up their enforcement — which Chief Eddie Garcia said could be difficult to determine.
“They can’t play ‘red light, green light’ and say ‘everybody, freeze! Let’s get a tape measure out!’ ” he said.
In New York City, officers patrolling recreation areas and enforcing social distancing this week were seeing “a lot of empty soccer fields and a lot of empty basketball courts, which is good,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.
For now, the department is trying to avoid a more lax approach used in Italy that is believed to have only fueled infection rates, while avoiding any semblance of the Big Brother-type crackdown in China.
As the crisis worsened, Italy ordered police to patrol cafes to make sure that people kept their distance and that shops shut at 6 p.m. each day, only to see the death count continue to rise. It has since shut down bars and cafes altogether.
In China, officials took more extreme measures, including locking people inside their apartment complexes. The country's official media showed video from a drone sent out to chase down and shame people not wearing masks.
Social media photos and videos from India showed police officers in surgical masks using batons to keep violators in line.
Singaporean authorities criminally charged a couple who lied about their travel history and revoked the residency of a man who broke his medical quarantine.
At this point, New York police say, the effort is "more about education and getting compliance,” Monahan said. “It’s about explaining to people the dangers involved and that this is a different world.”
Associated Press reporters Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles and Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this report. The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://God.blue/forward.php?url=https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://God.blue/forward.php?url=https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
| Cache ||Singapore announces a free hand sanitizer to every home after the outbreak of Coronavirus. A Singaporean charity has announced that its firm will provide 500ml hand sanitizers free of charge to every household. The company says that their provided sanitizer will be alcohol-free, safe for children to use while working in the kitchen will not […]|
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- HSBC has put $10 billion of paper-based private placement records on R3’s Corda blockchain and plans to ramp up the project through this year and next.
- Crypto taxation tool CoinTracker has released a report comparing the prevalence of cryptocurrency ownership across major cities in the United States. The report is based on user data that CoinTracker has been collecting since 2013.
CoinTracker found that the top four ranked cities by average crypto portfolio size are all in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, with San Francisco proper at approximately $55,000 followed by Palo Alto with $39,000, Oakland with $35,000 and San Mateo with $30,600.
- Singapore Temporarily Exempts Crypto Firms, Including Coinbase, From New Licensing Regime
Disclaimer - Thinking Crypto and Tony are not financial or investment experts. You should do your own research on each cryptocurrency and make your own conclusions and decisions for investment. Invest at your own risk, only invest what you are willing to lose. This channel and its videos are just for educational purposes and NOT investment or financial advice.
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| Cache ||TAIWAN: Taiwan høster internasjonal oppmerksomhet og ros for sin effektive
håndtering av koronakrisen. Milo Hsieh hadde tilbrakt sin første uke i
hjemmekarantene i familiens leilighet i Taiwan, da telefonen søndag morgen
klokken 07:30 gikk tom for strøm. Da den 50 minutter senere var ladet opp og
påslått igjen lå det igjen tapte anrop fra fire forskjellige myndigheter, og
en sms som advarte om store bøter for å forlate hjemmet. Klokken 08:15 banket
politiet på døren for å sikre at han fremdeles var hjemme.
\- Jeg kom nylig tilbake fra Belgia hvor folk forholdt seg helt avslappet til
hele koronakrisen. De fortsatte livene sine som vanlig og spøkte over risikoen
for å bli smittet. Her tar man det langt mer alvorlig, sier Milo Hsieh.
Teledata, som kan lokalisere hver eneste innbyggers telefon, spiller en
sentral rolle i Taiwans kamp mot koronaviruset. I Danmark har Statens Serum
Institutt bedt teleselskapene om å få adgang til danskenes lokasjonsdata, men
vil ikke svare på hva opplysningene i så fall skal brukes til.
Taiwans politikk har fått mye internasjonal oppmerksomhet og ros for sin
effektivitet. Koronaen rammet Italia og Taiwan med kort tids mellomrom. I
Taiwan rapporterte myndighetene torsdag om 19 nye tilfeller, så det samlede
antallet nå er oppe i 235. To personer har dødd, kommer det frem på
I Italia har dødstallet kommet opp på 6 820 med 743 døde det siste døgnet,
viser siste opptelling.
Forskjellen skyldes ikke at Taiwan tester færre folk og overser
smittetilfeller. Tvert imot. Forskjellen er ifølge magasinet Wired en
kombinasjon av tidlig inngripen, omfattende screening og testing, oppsporing
av smittede og deres kontaktnett og - ikke minst - en svært avansert og
kløktig bruk av moderne teknologi.
For eksempel samkjører den offentlige helseberedskapens databaser med
grensekontrollens og tollmyndighetens. Slik kunne man samle data om hver
eneste innbyggers reisemønster de siste 14 dagene.
Reisende som ikke utgjør noen smitterisiko mottar en sms som får dem raskere
gjennom grensekontrollen. Omvendt får alle som har vært i høyrisikoområder
beskjed om å bli hjemme, skriver Time Magazine.
Det fikk Milo Hsieh oppleve da kurset hans i internasjonal politikk i Brussel
ble avlyst og han derfor måtte vende hjem for snart to uker siden. På
flyplassen måtte han fylle ut et skjema med sine kontakter, som deretter ble
ført inn i en database, og å oppgi adressen hvor han ville være i
\- Jeg kunne ikke ta offentlig transport, og måtte i stedet ta en spesielt
innrettet drosje, forteller han.
Også teknologien bidrar til å sikre at hjemmekarantenen respekteres.
\- Det er overvåkingskameraer i oppgangene og i heisene, så det er i praksis
umulig å slippe ut ubemerket, dersom det er det man ønsker, forteller Milo
Som en ekstra forsikring ringer myndighetene et par ganger om dagen for å
sikre seg at han har det bra - og at han ikke har dratt ut og etterlatt
Noen av metodene kan kanskje virke noe inngripende. En mann som brøt
karantenen og gikk på nattklubb i hovedstaden Taipei ble nylig idømt en bot på
475 000 kroner, skriver Hongkong Free Press.
På den andre siden har også Europa og USA blitt tvunget til å ta i bruk
strenge metoder som bare for et par uker siden ville fremstått som utenkelige,
med nedstengning av både byer, stater og land.
«Dersom Europa og USA hadde grepet inn bare et par uker tidligere, kunne de
kanskje ha unngått mye av den menneskelige tragedien og økonomiske katastrofen
de nå står overfor», skriver The Guardian.
«Taiwan, Hongkong og Singapore, som fikk de første bekreftede tilfellene før
Europa, men handlet raskt og besluttsomt, har fremdeles ensifrede dødstall»,
Taiwans teknologiske løsninger skiller seg radikalt fra den kinesiske, skriver
Jaron Lanier og E. Glen Weyl, begge høytstående sjefer i Microsoft, i
tidsskriftet Foreign Affairs.
Den bygger på kunnskapsdeling nedenfra og opp, offentlig-privat samarbeid,
aktivister som hjelper til å utvikle digitale verktøy for det offentlige, og
deltakerdrevne kollektive handlinger. «Dette har vært avgjørende for landets
suksess med å koordinere en konsensusdrevet og gjennomsiktig reaksjon på
koronakrisen», skriver de.
«Historien om Taiwans foreløpige suksess er verdt å dele. Ikke bare fordi den
viser hvordan man kan håndtere pandemien, men også fordi den viser hvordan man
kan håndterende de presserende utfordringene vi står overfor med tanke på
teknologi og demokrati.»
Men Kina blokkerer for at Taiwan kan dele av sine erfaringer gjennom Verdens
helseorganisasjon, WHO, skriver Time.
«Det globale helsemiljøet kunne ha lært av Taiwans erfaringer. Men
spesialistene deres, selv om de er i verdensklasse, har de siste årene blitt
holdt ute i kulden av Kinas geopolitiske besettelse», skriver magasinet.
«Frem til i 2016 kunne Taiwan delta i de årlige forsamlingene som en ikke-
statlig aktør. Slik er det ikke lenger. De siste tre årene har Taiwans
anmodning om en invitasjon blitt avvist».
Det er likevel en pris for Taiwans politikk, og den må Milo Hsieh betale. Han
kjeder seg veldig og har stort sett ingen menneskelig kontakt utenom med
foreldrene, broren og kjæresten, som har flyttet inn. Innkjøp av dagligvarer
bestilles over nett og leveres på døren.
\- Går jeg ut for å ta en røyk, kan det koste meg over 30.000 kroner i bøter,
Snart er han ferdig med de 14 dagene i karantene. Selv om han ikke har hatt
noen symptomer, både forstår og støtter han regjeringens strategi.
\- I Europa handlet man alt for langsomt. I begynnelsen tok man det slett ikke
nok på alvor. Her hadde vi sars-epidemien. Selv om det er over 15 år siden,
ble det likevel et nasjonalt traume. Derfor er vi godt forberedt.
Noen tekniske korona-løsninger
Over hele verden prøver teknologiselskaper og myndigheter å finne teknologiske
løsninger på koronakrisen. Her er fem av dem.
Den israelske etterretningstjenesten Shin Bet har utviklet et system som
sporer potensielle smittebærere og sender dem i karantene via sms. Ifølge
avisen Haaretz er det imidlertid så overfølsomt at naboer og andre som holder
god avstand blir sendt i 14 dagers isolasjon uten noen forklaring. Teknologien
var opprinnelig utviklet for å holde øye med terrorister.
Kuang-Chi har utviklet en smart hjelm som kan identifisere folk med feber på
fem meters avstand, som utløser en alarm når de nærmer seg. Hjelmen bruker et
infrarødt termometer, en skjerm i visiret, og en QR-skanner. Den kommuniserer
gjennom trådløst internett, bluetooth og 5G, med kunstig intelligens som kan
vise navn og pasientjournal på personen politimannen ser på.
Ifølge produsenten tar det knapt to minutter for en politimann å skanne 100
mennesker i en kø ved hjelp av hjelmen.
I Sør-Korea kan man installere appen «Corona 100m», som bygger på enorme
datamengder som samlet inn gjennom myndighetenes omfattende testprogram.
Brukeren får en advarsel når de kommer innenfor 100 meters avstand til et sted
hvor en smittet person har befunnet seg. Appen finner raskt ut av pasientens
kjønn, alder, datoen pasienten ble bekreftet positiv, og hvor vedkommende
ellers har oppholdt seg.
Appen ble lastet ned en million ganger i løpet av de første 17 dagene på
I Frankrike har politiet begynt å bruke droner til å håndheve portforbudet.
Dronene overvåker parker og offentlige steder for å holde øyen med at folk
ikke forlater hjemmene deres utenom i godkjente ærend. Også i Storbritannia
bruker politiet droner som utstyres med høyttalere som ber folk holde seg
Italia, Tyskland, Østerrike, Nederland og Norge bruker mobiltelefonenes
lokasjonsdata til å analysere utviklingen i befolkningens bevegelsesmønstre
Myndighetene i Taiwan bruker teknologi aktivt for å motvirke koronaspredning.
Her er en kvinne ute og går i Taipei.
ANN WANG, Reuters/Scanpix
| Cache ||En praksisperiode i New Zealand har blitt til et logistikkmareritt for Markus
Antonsen (21) fra Sandnes. \- Jeg har ingen plan, og jeg ser ingen vei ut,
forteller Markus Antonsen til Aftenbladet.
Antonsen er eneste norske student i en liten fjellandsby i New Zealand. Nå er
han strandet og opplever situasjonen som håpløs.
Får lite hjelp
Antonsen er født og oppvokst i Sandnes, men studerer for tiden havbruksdrift-
og ledelse på Nord Universitetet i Bodø. I januar dro han til fjellandsbyen
Twizel i New Zealand, for å ha arbeidspraksisen sin der. Praksisen skulle i
utgangspunktet vare i 15 uker. Planen var hjemreise 28. mai.
På grunn av koronapandemien har han forsøkt å komme seg hjem tidligere, men
uten å lykkes.
\- Jeg skulle ønske jeg fikk mer info og hjelp fra universitetet. Spesielt når
jeg ser at andre universiteter aktivt hjelper studenter med å komme seg hjem,
\- Da jeg reiste, var jeg obs på viruset, men Norge var ikke rammet ennå,
heller ikke New Zealand, sier Antonsen.
Da meldingen fra Utenriksdepartementet (UD) kom om at alle studenter i
utlandet skulle ta turen hjem, fikk Antonsen beskjed fra universitetet at
valget var hans. Han kunne bli så lenge han følte seg trygg:
\- Jeg vil jo hjem, men på den andre siden har jeg jo betalt mye for å ta
praksisen min her, og det er viktig for meg å få den godkjent, forklarer han.
Til slutt valgte han likevel å bestille flybillett hjem.
Andreas Førde, kommunikasjonssjef ved Nord universitet, sier i en e-post til
Aftenbladet at universitetet har sendt ut informasjon basert på UDs råd i
flere omganger til studenter som er i praksis i utlandet
\- Den siste fellesinformasjonen ble gitt 15. mars, med oppfordring om at
studentene burde reise tilbake. Samtidig har det blitt presisert at studentene
i internasjonal praksis kan velge selv om de vil reise hjem basert på
situasjonen i de enkelte landene. De har også blitt oppfordret til å holde seg
godt informert om situasjonen i det landet de oppholder seg, og følge med på
UDs og universitetets nettsider.
Tre bestilte flyturer
New Zealand stengte grensene sine forrige uke. Onsdag erklærte landet
\- Jeg har bestilt tre flyturer, som alle er blitt kansellert, sier Antonsen.
Første flytur hjem var bestilt til 1. mai, via Singapore. Den ble kansellert
for to uker siden. En ny billett ble bestilt, med mellomlanding i Dubai. Men:
De Forente Arabiske Emirater stengte grensene sine denne uken. Så ble det
bestilt en tredje billett: Med mellomlanding i Sydney. Dagen etter billetten
ble bestilt fikk Antonsen melding fra den Norske ambassaden i Canberra: Reisen
var ikke mulig å gjennomføre, siden Australia stengte for transit 26. mars, og
hadde ingen ledige flyvninger før denne datoen.
\- Min far og svoger bruker alle døgnets tider på å se etter flybilletter, men
det er ikke enkelt. Forsikringsselskapet er heller ikke oppdatert på hvilke
land man kan mellomlande i og ikke. All informasjonen jeg får, får jeg fra
ambassaden i Canberra, fordi jeg har registrert meg som reisende, forteller
Kan fortsette å jobbe
\- Lakseoppdrett, som jeg jobber med, regnes som en essensiell
samfunnsfunksjon. Derfor fortsetter jeg å gå på jobb, men jeg er usikker på om
det fremdeles kan kalles praksis, sier studenten.
Nå har han fått beskjed fra sjefene sine i praksisbedriften om at han kan
fortsette å jobbe der, hvis han ikke kommer seg hjem før praksistiden er over.
\- Det var et stort slag i trynet for meg da den siste flygingen jeg bestilte
ble kansellert. Nå har jeg ingen muligheter til å komme meg hjem, sier
Han forbereder seg nå på å bli i Twizel lenge:
\- Det virker som om universitetet antar at dette vil gå over snart. Jeg
forbereder meg på at jeg kanskje må være her til august eller september. Jeg
er her på arbeids - og studentvisum, og regjeringen her borte har sagt at det
blir mulig å få dette utvidet som følge av viruset. Så sånn sett er jeg
heldig, sier 21-åringen.
Antonsen får også støtte fra Lånekassen, heldigvis.
\- Jeg er med godt mot uansett all motgangen. Jeg vet at det er mange andre
nordmenn på reise ute i verden som er i en verre situasjon en meg.
\- Kunne vært tydeligere
\- Vi jobber med å finne løsninger som gjør at studentene skal få fullført sin
praksis, også studenter i utlandet, seier Andreas Førde på vegne av
I en epost svarer han:
«Universitetet er i kontakt med studentene som fortsatt er i utlandet, og
bistår studentene med hjelp og støtte i denne ekstraordinære situasjonen.
Studieprogramansvarlig har hatt dialog med denne studenten, og oppfordret til
å ta kontakt hvis han trenger hjelp. Slik situasjonen har utviklet seg, ser vi
i ettertid at vi kunne vært tydeligere på at vi ønsket å få han hjem.
Nå jobber vi for å finne løsninger som kan hjelpe studenten, og håper vi skal
klare å få han hjem. Vi har full forståelse for at han befinner seg i en
Markus Antonsen (21) ønsker seg tilbake til Norge. Han er en av flere norske
studenter som sitter fast i Oseania.
New Zealands statsminister Jacinda Ardern innførte onsdag unntakstilstand
etter at antallet koronasmittede i landet passerte 205 bekreftede tilfeller.
Denne meldingen dukket opp på telefonen til Antonsen samme dag.
| Cache ||
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(Bloomberg) -- Singapore Airlines Ltd. plunged after saying it would issue new shares and bonds in an effort to raise about S$8.8 billion ($6.2 billion) to contend with the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. State investor Temasek Holdings Pte., the carrier’s biggest shareholder, said it would back the resolutions.The airline’s shares slid as much as 10% to S$5.82 Friday morning following a trading halt Thursday. They are down 35% this year.The carrier will issue S$5.3 billion in new stock at S$3 apiece, 54% lower than the last closing price on Wednesday, according to a statement released early Friday in Singapore. It will also raise S$9.7 billion in 10-year mandatory convertible bonds, with as much as S$3.5 billion initially issued as 295 rights convertible for every 100 shares. The carrier arranged a S$4 billion bridge loan with DBS Bank Ltd. to support near-term cash requirements.Singapore Airlines will seek approval from shareholders on the new share sale.“We are especially grateful for Temasek’s strong vote of confidence,” Chairman Peter Seah said in a statement. “The board is confident that this package of new funding will ensure that SIA is equipped with the resources to overcome the current challenges.”The coronavirus has plunged global aviation into an unprecedented crisis. Airlines could require as much as $200 billion in government aid and bailout measures this year to survive, according to the International Air Transport Association, while CAPA Centre of Aviation has warned the pandemic will bankrupt most carriers by the end of May if they don’t get support.“SIA has been seeing strong growth before the hit from the pandemic. It has also committed to fleet renewal,” Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, the chief executive officer of Temasek International, said in the statement. “This transaction will not only tide SIA over a short term financial liquidity challenge, but will position it for growth beyond the pandemic.”What Bloomberg Intelligence Says“Singapore Air’s proposed issuance of new equity and mandatory convertible bonds would give it up to S$15 billion in cash, enabling the carrier to survive a Covid-19 outbreak of more than a year. Yet this comes at the cost of substantial dilution -- 60-82% for shareholders and 42-60% in book value per share, based on our calculations -- raising the question of whether other airlines might follow suit.”\-- James Teo, transportation analyst\-- Chris Muckensturm, transportation analystRead the articleSingapore Airlines requested a trading halt on Thursday before the market opened, pending an announcement. Its shares jumped 21% over the previous two days.Asia’s second-biggest international carrier had already said it would cut scheduled capacity through April, defer aircraft deliveries, offer unpaid leave for employees and cut salaries, including for Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong, who is taking a 30% pay reduction from April.Temasek is expected to act as a lifeline for many companies in its portfolio. Domestic businesses have traditionally represented more than a quarter of its investments and its 12 biggest shareholdings by value plunged by almost $24 billion between January 1 and March 20. The investor, which had S$44.2 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments as of March 31, 2019, has begun re-evaluating new deals so it can prepare to pump funds into existing assets instead.Singapore Airlines said Monday it was in talks with financial institutions on funding and has drawn on credit lines to meet immediate cash-flow requirements, while continuing to explore measures to shore up liquidity. Singapore announced measures in February to help ease operating costs for airlines, including rebates on aircraft parking and landing fees.Airlines have been trying to secure funding and government aid in an increasingly desperate attempt to survive the coronavirus crisis, which has infected more than half a million people and killed nearly 24,000.(Updates with share-price move in second paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
| Cache ||Singapore, Singapore, The Assistant General Counsel is a senior management-level position responsible for accomplishing results through the management of a team or department to manage and direct day-to-day legal activiti|
| Cache ||The Singapore stock market on Thursday wrote a finish to the two-day winning streak in which it had surged more than 270 points or 12 percent. The Straits Times Index now rests just above the 2,485-point plateau although it's expected to rebound on Friday.|
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Established in the year 2000, Brainvire is a global information technology, consulting and outsourcing company. Headquartered in Texas, USA, and has its international presence in USA, UK, UAE, Dubai, Europe, Canada, Australia, France, Singapore and more.
We have pioneered ourselves in providing end-to-end solutions and services in the areas of information technology, consulting and outsourcing in various segments of industry like advertising, education, finance, healthcare, life sciences, hotel/hospitality, media and entertainment, mobile and wireless, retail, real estate, sports and fitness, technology, non-profit and more.
Our team of talented, dynamic and young professionals is capable of providing high-end quality solutions to our clients with the right blend of technology, domain knowledge, and effective methodology.
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Haiyan Jindu Hardware Co., Ltd. was founded in 2005, which is a professional nuts manufacturer. Haiyan Jindu Hardware Co., Ltd was founded in 2005, which is a professional nuts manufacturer. The factory located in the northwest of the Hangzhou bay bridge, around 100 kilometers away from Shanghai, Ningbo, Suzhou and Hangzhou, convenient transportation help us save shipment costs. The factory mainly produces carbon steel nuts, include hex nuts, flange nuts, heavy hex nuts, thin nuts, nylon nuts, etc, annual output is 10,000 tons.Standards involved ISO,DIN,ANSI/ASME,BS,UNI,JIS,AS and GB,etc and non-Standard parts.The products are mainly used in the fields of wind power, construction, oil field, transportation, and furniture.
The nuts are sold to America, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and domestic markets. The company principle is “quality is the life of enterprise”, meet or exceed customer requirements by improving technology and quality.
At the same time, to assure timely delivery and perfect after-sales service, to create a satisfying purchase environment for customers, 0ur goal is to establish a good JINDU brand at home and abroad. Where there’s a fastener, there’s JINDU product.
Category: Manufacturing Heavy Industry Construction
: NO.2666 Lenggang Road,Wuyuan Town,Haiyan County,Jiaxing
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| Cache ||The World Rainforest Movement (WRM) has accused Singapore-based agribusiness company Olam of making meaningless “zero deforestation” pledges about a major oil palm development in Gabon and neglecting the rights of local communities. In a report published last month, WRM also says Olam is failing to fulfill commitments made to villagers in the central-southern province of […]|
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| Cache ||about the company Our client is an established bank and they are currently looking for a Business Development Manager. about the job Pro-active prospecting and acquisition of new ...|
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| Cache ||Ahmet T. Kuru’s new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment, A Global and Historical Comparison (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is a ground-breaking history and analysis of the evolution of the state in Muslim countries. Thoroughly researched and accessibly written, Kuru’s work traces the template of the modern-day state in many Muslim-majority countries to fundamental political, social and economic changes in the 11th century. That was when Islamic scholars who until then had by and large refused to surrender their independence to the state were co-opted by Muslim rulers. It was a time when the merchant class lost its economic clout as the Muslim world moved from a mercantile to a feudal economy. Religious and other scholars were often themselves merchants or funded by merchants.
The transition coincided with the rise of the military state legitimized by religious scholars who had little choice but to go into its employ. They helped the state develop a forced Sunni Muslim orthodoxy based on text rather than reason- or tradition based interpretation of Islam with the founding of madrassahs or religious seminaries that were designed to counter the rise of Shiite states in North Africa and counter less or unorthodox strands of the faith. Kuru’s history could hardly be more relevant. It lays bare the roots of modern-day, illiberal, authoritarian or autocratic states in the Muslim world that are characterized by some form of often rent-driven state capitalism and frequently expansionary in their effort to ensure regime survival and increase rents.
These states feature education systems that fail to develop critical thinking and religious establishments that are subservient to their rulers. Kuru’s book also in effect describes one of the original sources of the civilizational state that has become a fixture in the struggle to shape a new world order. With his book, Kuru has made an invaluable contribution to the understanding of the stagnation as well as the turmoil that has swept the Middle East and North Africa as well as the wider Islamic world.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
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Government contributes $95 million to extend and enhance the PPSP
1. In February 2020, the PPSP was introduced to provide targeted assistance to the Point-to-Point (P2P) sector and its drivers who have been impacted by COVID-19. Since then, the Government has received much feedback from the taxi and Private Hire Car (PHC) industry, which we have carefully considered. In particular, P2P operators have observed a sustained drop in ridership of over ~20%, and drivers have seen significant declines in their earnings. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, the impact on P2P drivers and operators will become more pronounced.
Government and Taxi Operators Rally to Help Taxi and PHC Drivers
2. Earlier today, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the Government will set aside another $95 million to enhance the PPSP. Taxi operators have also moved quickly to pledge an additional $25 million worth of matching rental rebates for their hirers. This $120 million enhanced PPSP will help taxi and PHC drivers and their families tide over this challenging period. Together with the earlier $77 million PPSP announced on 13 Feb 2020, and other operator support for their drivers pledged to date, more than $216 million in contributions have been made by Government and industry to support the P2P operators and drivers during this COVID-19 period.
Second Tranche of Point-to-Point Support Package (PPSP2)
Extension of Special Relief Fund for Taxi and PHC Drivers
3. Of the $120 million announced today, $78 million in Government funding will go towards the Special Relief Fund (SRF). The SRF helps active taxi and PHC drivers defray business costs through relief of $300 per vehicle per month (i.e. $10 per day). The SRF, which was to have ended in end May 2020, will now be extended to end September 2020. Over 40,000 drivers will qualify for the extended SRF. Taxi operators have also pledged to continue providing matching rental rebates worth an additional $25 million to their hirers. Details on the eligibility criteria for the extended SRF and taxi operator rental rebates will be released later.
New Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme
4. Besides the SRF, self-employed taxi and PHC drivers can also look forward to the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) announced today. SIRS will provide eligible self-employed persons with $1,000 per month for nine months, and will be administered by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
Relief for P2P Operators
5. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had earlier waived P2P operator licence fees for three months. LTA will extend this for another six months. The additional six-month waiver will help operators to tide through the current difficult business climate and will cost the Government about $3 million. To help taxi operators defray the cost of their unhired fleet, the Government will also provide up to $2,200 in special relief for each unhired taxi. All operators are strongly encouraged to pass on these business cost savings to their drivers, such as through rental reductions and waiver of early return contract breakage costs.
Waiver of $100 Outward Conversion Fee for PHCs
6. With the slowdown in demand for P2P services, the Government will reduce barriers for vehicle owners who wish to convert their PHCs out of the PHC scheme by providing a one-time waiver of the $100 outward conversion fee. This will allow vehicle owners to enjoy lower insurance premiums, and can also help ease drivers’ transition to other jobs.
Enhanced Training Support Package for P2P Drivers
7. Taxi and PHC drivers will also receive enhanced training support from SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). From 1 April till end 2020, they will be able to benefit from enhanced course fee support of up to 90% for selected courses. SSG will also work with LTA and appointed Continuing Education and Training Centres to ramp up training capacity during this period. For a start, SSG is partnering Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, and NTUC LearningHub. This training support package will help drivers to develop deep domain skills, emerging skills, as well as soft skills during this downtime.
8. Eligible drivers will also receive $10 per hour in training allowance under the Self-Employed Person (SEP) Training Support Scheme1, which is part of the NTUC Training Fund (SEPs).
9. We would like to thank all our partners for working closely with the Government to ensure the sustainability of the P2P sector during this difficult period.
1The enhanced Self-Employed Training Support Scheme will kick in from 1 May 2020.
| Cache ||Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked the Minister for Transport|
a. in the past three years, how many cases of emergencies attributed to food allergies have occurred onboard commercial flights from Singapore;
b. whether local commercial flights are subjected to regulations concerning medical equipment onboard; and
c. whether epinephrine auto injectors can be mandated for inclusion in emergency medical kits on board flights.
Reply by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan:
1. Over the last three years, Singapore carriers have reported a total of 20 incidents of food allergies on board their flights. None required the use of epinephrine or emergency flight diversions.
2. Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) regulations require Singapore carriers to carry first aid and emergency medical kits on their aircraft. Epinephrine auto-injectors are included in the emergency medical kit and cabin crew are trained in the use of the auto-injectors.
| Cache ||1. Mr Speaker Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time.”|
2. The Bill amends the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act to:
a. Enable Singapore to give effect to the 2018 amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention; and,
b. Provide a statutory basis for an approved financial security provider who has paid a seafarer for certain liabilities owed by a shipowner to the seafarer, to acquire the seafarer’s rights against the shipowner in respect of the liabilities.
Key Provisions of the Bill
3. Let me highlight the key provisions of the Bill.
Enhancement in Employment Protection for Seafarers in Captivity
4. First, Clauses 3 to 5 amend the Act to enhance employment protection for seafarers in captivity. Should a seafarer be held captive on or off a ship as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against the ship, the seafarer’s employment agreement continues to have effect during the period of captivity. This is regardless of whether the date fixed for the expiry of the seafarer’s employment agreement has passed or either party to the seafarer’s employment agreement has given notice to suspend or terminate it.
5. Further, a captive seafarer’s wages and entitlements must continue to be paid during the period of captivity, until the day the seafarer is released and duly repatriated, or until the seafarer’s death while in captivity. The seafarer’s employer is also obligated to repatriate the seafarer upon release from captivity.
Acquisition of Seafarer’s Rights by Approved Financial Security Provider
6. Besides enhancing employment protection for seafarers in captivity, we are making another amendment to facilitate the acquisition of a seafarer’s rights by an approved financial security provider which provides insurance or other financial security required under the Act to shipowners. Clause 6 facilitates the transfer to and vesting in the financial security provider of a seafarer’s rights against a shipowner as a result of any liability arising from the shipowner’s obligation to repatriate the seafarer (for example, the liability to pay the seafarer’s wages and entitlements). It amends the Act to provide a statutory basis for the financial security provider to acquire such rights if the provider has paid the seafarer under a contract of insurance or other financial security for such liability.
7. To conclude, the provisions in this Bill will help protect seafarers’ welfare and enhance Singapore’s international reputation as a responsible maritime nation.
8. Mr Speaker Sir, I beg to move.
| Cache ||Singapore yesterday took action against 21 workplaces, including construction sites, for ignoring safe distancing rules ...|
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As the Austrian school of economics demonstrates in the calculation theory of socialism, no central planning body has the capacity to organize society based on coercive mandates. The main reason is that the central planner is unable to obtain all the necessary information to organize society in this way, as information has subjective, creative, dispersed, and tacit qualities. This principle is fully applicable to the containment of a pandemic. Individual responsibility along with transparency of information are crucial to stopping a pandemic. Taiwan makes a very good case for how individualism and voluntary corporation work effectively in resisting the coronavirus pandemic.
Close to the Chinese Mainland, but Relatively Few People Infected
At the moment in Taiwan, the infection has been completely contained despite being one of the countries with the highest risk of suffering a pandemic, given that the Republic of China (ROC) is very close to the Chinese mainland (the People’s Republic of China (PRC)). Until January there were flights between Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, and the epicenter of Wuhan, China. However, as of March 21 there were only 153 infected at the same time that Europe, far away from the Chinese mainland, has more than ten thousand affected by the coronavirus. However, in Taiwan and other parts of Asia, including Singapore and Hong Kong, no massive mandatory quarantine or containment has been applied so far.
How did Taiwan achieve this?
The first cause of Taiwan's success is the transparency of information, which stopped the rapid growth of infection. The containment in Taiwan has been carried out with relatively high transparency. As early as December 31 of last year the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Taiwan began to take serious the potential danger of the Wuhan pneumonia, informing citizens every day about the developing trends of the infection and its status. The information provided by the Taiwanese authority also includes whether the infected in Taiwan contracted the illness from overseas input, which helps people take measures to protect themselves in a timely manner. In the constant press conferences, the Taiwanese government provides different options and recommendation that people can choose to adopt voluntarily but are not imposed coercively. The abundant information provided continuously has allowed individuals to make their own informed and balanced decisions under conditions of uncertainty. In contrast, the governments of the European Union countries reacted slowly and as late as February did not provide sufficient information about the potential pandemic, making the situation difficult to handle.
Voluntary Decision-Making and Cooperation among Individuals and Private Sectors
The type of quarantines established by the Taiwanese government are mostly self-quarantines. The Taiwanese government acknowledges that it is crucial to rely on people’s voluntary actions to resist the pandemic. As we have noted above, most cases of contagion in Taiwan come from outside and are almost always detected at the border.Taiwanese people’s voluntary self-protection is effectively suppressing the spread of the coronavirus in their country, and forced quarantines are usually for the most serious cases, for example, the infected Taiwanese evacuated from the Chinese mainland.
One of the problems with the coronavirus has been maintaining a balance between economic activity and containing the infection. In this regard, different from what the southern European countries such as Italy and Spain do, the Taiwanese government's policy is not to take preventive measures to stop the outbreak by impeding economic activities. Taking the schools as an example, the beginning of the course was delayed for two weeks at first. Currently schools' policy is to take students, teachers, and workers' temperatures. If fevers are detected, classes in that school are suspended, but massive class suspensions do not occur. At the same time, online teaching is being encouraged, but is not being forced by the government. In many Taiwanese universities, online teaching is being promoted in order to let those who are not able to attend class in person to take courses. Although it is true that online education as a way to avoid infections has already been adopted in other countries, the peculiarity of Taiwan lies in the fact that it has not been imposed by government order. Not everyone is required to study online or telecommute, but there has been strong encouragement to do so. The government’s transparency of information has also given the Taiwanese enterprises the time they need to voluntarily prepare and adopt teleworking progressively. Other countries instead suddenly shut many businesses down through mandatory government orders, as Spain did on March 13, without giving enterprises and their workers time to prepare for quarantine.
The Taiwanese government is controlling the spread of the infection with flexible policies, which leave much room for individuals to take initiative and make their own decisions. Each individual can take the most appropriate measures for their own situation, having their own incentives to be cautious. Likewise, the fact that the Taiwanese citizens have been warned since the beginning of the infection has created a generalized awareness to make the necessary preparations and has given citizens enough time to assume that they must make changes in their lives in order to avoid being infected.
This flexibility in containment and transparency policies has led to a high degree of individual responsibility. Proof of this is not only in the population's tendency to wear masks that the Taiwanese population, which can be observed in any means of communication, but also in the adoption of new ways of continuing daily activities so as to avoid contagion. Private sectors have also taken quick actions to protect their clients. Most residential buildings have at least one ethyl alcohol dispenser so that everyone who enters can disinfect his or her hands. For example, ethyl alcohol has been available in Uber cars for several weeks.
To conclude, with transparency and diligence the Taiwanese government has avoided many problems. The key is that the Taiwanese government and the Taiwanese people understand that the individual's own responsibility and actions are essential to suppressing the coronavirus pandemic, not a mandatory massive shutdown. This is what the world needs to learn.
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| Cache ||Now that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has enacted a critical new ruling to change the maximum leverage for foreign exchange products from 500:1 to 200:1, what can forex brokers looking for greater leverage do? We explore the available options.|