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The economy - oops
Robert VerBruggen, a conservative writer for the National Review, recently wrote a piece about zoning regulations, which can be found here:

Quote:To put it bluntly, zoning regulations that aggressively restrict density, both in big cities and in the suburbs, are horrible. They make housing far more expensive than it needs to be. They limit what owners can build on their property. They make it hard for the working class (and in some cases even the middle class) to live in thriving places with lots of jobs, which misallocates the labor supply and hinders upward mobility. They prevent economically strong cities from growing. And they stunt economic growth in general: By one estimate, housing constraints “lowered aggregate US growth by 36 percent from 1964 to 2009.”

The conservative reaction to his piece was basically that letting property owners do what they want with their property is "socialism," and he talked about that on Twitter:

Quote:The most fascinating thing about the reaction to this piece, in which I call for reining in zoning regulations by passing laws at the local and possibly state level, is how many people called it "socialism" or "communism."
Well, this guy's a piece of work:

Quote:Still, the idea raised a red flag for Robert Wright, who lives in a Victorian house in the Julian St. James neighborhood. His two-story house had been a triplex since the 1930s, he said, but when he and his wife bought it they tore down the internal walls to turn it into a single-family home. A retired teacher, he said, he’s concerned about racial segregation but worries denser housing would “degrade” neighborhoods such as Naglee Park, south of where he lives.

“I don’t know what the answer is but there’s got to be a better way.”

Wright’s opposition to denser housing in his San Jose neighborhood has made him bedfellows with one rather uncomfortable partner for the self-described liberal: President Donald Trump, who has decried efforts led by Wiener and others to build “low income housing” in suburban communities.

“It’s an absolute nightmare for me to say anything that is so close to what Trump has been saying about the invasion of the suburbs,” Wright said. “There’s a very embarrassing and disturbing parallel.”
How's that gig economy going, California?

Quote:Hopefully @DCComics @WarnerMedia @WBHomeEnt @HBOMax realize many journos in California can't report on #DCFanDome & other news a/b DC projects for the rest of the year, b/c of the #AB5 law restricting freelance writers to 35 articles per yr.

I'll hit my own 35 limit tomorrow. Sad

So studios, be prepared for a lot of replies saying "I'd love to cover this event/item/etc you're pitching/inviting me to, but I can't do any more coverage until next year b/c of #AB5," when you ask them to review or cover or otherwise participate in anything for your films.

& fans, be prepared NOT to get reviews, scoops, coverage, etc from a LOT of your favorite writers & sites when writers hit their 35 limit & can't do any more stories. This fall/winter will start to suck really quick for studios & fans who want more coverage from Hollywood media.

For fans surprised to hear a/b this limit, it's a CA law #AB5 passed by the @AssemblyDems. Writers created the @cafwu & have fought hard to get it changed, but legislators are dragging their feet while writers lose their jobs, homes, financial security, & health. It's shameful.
Eh, this is the law Uber & Lyft are spending big to overturn, so color me skeptical. Also making me skeptical: that the author of the tweet neglects to mention that the 35 article limit is only for the -same- publication, which is a pretty big piece of info to leave out.

What the law does is require publications to actually hire writers that write more than 35 articles for them, instead of exploiting them as "freelancers".

Someone who writes 36 articles within a year for the same publication is NOT a freelancer, and should not be denied employee benefits so that the publication can make more money.

I'm hoping that our opinion of worker's rights isn't so beaten down that we vote to overturn this law this fall. It may not be perfect, but the alternative of trusting predatory corporations has already proven to be disastrously foolish.
Gamertag: Tweakee
Relief for freelance writers in California:

Quote:UP NOW: #AB5 fix from @LorenaSGonzalez for freelancers, musicians etc. Removes 35-submission cap. Passes 66-0, on to @GavinNewsom who will sign
I guess that has to be addressed at a federal level... but I'd still say that allowing a company to avoid paying benefits to "contractors" whose services they use dozens of times a year is predatory and exploitative.

I've worked as a contractor... Once we got to the point where the same company had a laundry list worth of tasks lined up for me, we did a multi-year deal. If they had instead offered a series of forty-plus one-time gigs, I'd have immediately known I was dealing with assholes.
Gamertag: Tweakee
A great read on the daunting difficulties of getting Broadway back on its feet:

Quote:For months now, Thomas Schumacher's dining room table has been taken over by a master list of every Broadway show that's seeking to reopen or schedule an opening night — from the established "The Lion King" to the new "Diana: A True Musical Story." Since the pandemic-related shutdowns, the Disney Theatrical Group president and his colleagues have been working through various scenarios to get New York theater back on its feet.

But a half-year into an ongoing human tragedy and economic calamity that has drained the cultural lifeblood of the city, neither Schumacher — who is also chairman of the Broadway League trade group — nor anyone else knows for sure when the nation’s premier performing arts district will start up again. The earliest estimates for some of New York’s concert halls and theaters to resume are spring 2021; a few new productions, such as “The Music Man” with Hugh Jackman and “Plaza Suite” with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, have announced early spring beginnings on Broadway. Even so, those involved in the planning say privately that it could be autumn 2021 before venues reopen.

Repeatedly, as science and government grapple with understanding covid-19’s patterns and devastating impacts, arts leaders here — as elsewhere — have had to build and rebuild safety plans for both arts workers and audiences. At the city’s pace-setting institutions — the 41 theaters of Broadway, the campus of Lincoln Center, the dance and music and other performance spaces of downtown and the outer boroughs — dates for reopening have been set and then pushed back, as the logistical questions evolve and multiply.

The task has proved far more daunting than anyone could have imagined, amounting to a struggle of wrenchingly complex proportions with no reliable end in sight. And at this point, though, Broadway — the ultimate land of make-believe — is holding on to a hope that early 2021 is still feasible. “I am believing that this spring we will be back because we have to commit to it,” Schumacher said. “We have to come back. And we have to gird our loins.”

Still, he and his colleagues are wrestling with monumental challenges: How do 10 or 20 or possibly even 30 productions — all essentially starting from zero in ticket sales — manage to reanimate Broadway all at once? How is the industry’s limited rehearsal space assigned? How staggered do the reopenings have to be? Should shows that were struggling before be gently encouraged to throw in the towel?

Broadway alone accounts for more tickets sold each year than for all of the metropolitan area's professional sports teams, and the industry pumps on the order of $13 billion annually into the city economy. It seems fair to say, then, that until the return to health of the performing arts, the city cannot really be said to be back.

The problems for theaters and concert halls — ventilation systems in need of updating, cramped quarters for artists and other workers in backstage areas, a lack of specific federal guidance about what safety measures are required, and a host of other issues — are bedeviling the path back for the purveyors of some of the world’s premier venues and attractions. Some of Broadway’s theaters, such as the Belasco and Lyceum, date back to just after the turn of the 20th century, with narrow passageways and dressing rooms, sometimes shared, that are more like closets. An actor’s quick costume change in a tiny nook backstage can require two or even three assistants, all breathing in the same few cubic feet of oxygen.

Such is the degree of difficulty that while the city’s flagship art museums are already reopening, with state- and city-approved controls on capacity and mandates for masks, theaters have no firm restart date.

The timetable hinges on advances in detection and prevention of the novel coronavirus, via development of rapid testing and vaccines. These are crucial in the commercial domain of Broadway, where social distancing is an untenable remedy for multimillion-dollar productions that require their 1,000- to 2,000-seat spaces to be filled to near-capacity to be profitable. Museum directors like Adam Weinberg of the Whitney Museum of American Art say they have been able to demonstrate that their air-filtration systems and crowd-control procedures are adequate. Performance venues have not.

As Scott Rudin, producer of now-dormant Broadway hits such as “The Book of Mormon” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” explains, the other variables that must be taken into account are mind-boggling. “How many shows come back and at what level of attendance?” he said in a Zoom interview. “What will labor do? What will [theater] owners do? What does working from home mean for the nightlife of New York? What happens to hotels, restaurants, tourism? How many people leave the city and don’t come back?”

Tallying the financial losses to a bedrock sector of the New York economy is itself a gargantuan task: In the six months since the historic shutdown began — a closure without parallel in American life — the jobs of thousands of performers, directors, designers, stagehands, ushers, box-office workers, administrators, publicists and more have been cast into limbo. The aid doled out by the federal Paycheck Protection Plan and unemployment benefits helped arts staffers hold on, but now, stories abound of performers and other creative-economy workers leaving the city.

The financial losses are staggering, and mounting: Consider that for the period in 2019 of the second week in March to Sept. 1 — the length of the shutdown so far — Broadway alone took in $853 million in ticket sales.

“In my neighborhood, I’m watching three people move away a day,” said Warren Adams, a choreographer who, with actor T. Oliver Reid, created the Black Theatre Coalition to help bring more people of color into the industry. Reid added: “I have friends, couples, who are both in the business — people with Tony nominations — their work stopped and they have no money coming in. How are we looking at this as a culture, as an industry?”

Marcy Richardson is hanging on, but only barely, and she’s both angry and illustrative of how the pandemic has upended artists’ lives. A classically trained opera singer who lives in Brooklyn, she honed a second specialty as an acrobat and has worked steadily for years in variety shows and high-end burlesque, with avant-garde troupes such as Bushwick’s Company XIV and event producers including Susanne Bartsch. Now, as the $75,000 she made last year as a singing aerialist goes to zero, Richardson, 40, doesn’t understand why government aid has not been solidified to help sustain backbone-of-the-city steady earners like herself.

“We are small, locally owned businesses that are trying to make art a business,” she said. “I’ve never felt less valued and so disrespected as an artist. I want to know, ‘Do you not care if we disappear into thin air?’ ”

At this point, federal aid for the arts sector exists on paper only: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the “Save Our Stages” bill this summer, seeking $10 billion in relief aid for live venues. But its chances in the short term are not good.

"It felt more realistic in June than in August of an election year,” said Narric Rome, vice president of government affairs and arts education for Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group. “There are definitely not too many members of Congress who want to talk about that right now.”

Richardson’s plea resonates with another issue outlined by Henry Timms, president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which runs 30 indoor and outdoor facilities on a 16-acre campus housing the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center Theater and nine other organizations: how this turbulent time affects not only the bottom line, but also the psychology of a city that prides itself on its cosmopolitanism.

“We frame this conversation in terms of economic recovery,” Timms said in an interview. “But actually the biggest question is about social recovery. The arts in general have a critical place in terms of recovering from the pandemic, and the really interesting challenge for the arts — when we are seeing some of the worst of ourselves — is that the arts represents the best of ourselves. The job of the arts is to be part of that human recovery.”
Remind me again who's been in charge recently in the U.S., Brazil and Hungary.

The data technically goes back a decade, for the record.

Quote:This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are no longer the country we like to think we are,” said Porter.

The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.

The Social Progress Index finds that Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.

The United States has high levels of early marriage — most states still allow child marriage in some circumstances — and lags in sharing political power equally among all citizens. America ranks a shameful No. 100 in discrimination against minorities.

The data for the latest index predates Covid-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on the United States and seems likely to exacerbate the slide in America’s standing. One new study suggests that in the United States, symptoms of depression have risen threefold since the pandemic began — and poor mental health is associated with other risk factors for well-being.
“D.C. is one of the five cities nationwide that has experienced the most acute drops in restaurant revenue, bringing in only 50 percent of last year’s daily earnings.”

Quote:More than 70 small restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment hubs and fitness studios in the city have permanently closed since March, with around 20 closures in July alone, according to a Washington Post analysis of data provided by 11 nonprofit Business Improvement Districts. And that number is likely only a fraction of D.C.’s total small business closures, which have gone largely untracked by local and national groups.

Neighborhoods dependent on office workers or those that lacked resources before the pandemic have been particularly hard-hit, according to local officials and The Post’s analysis.

Those who are still in business have found themselves increasingly dependent on piecemeal agreements with landlords, innovative business strategies and, often, deep personal sacrifices from owners and employees to make ends meet.

While small businesses nationwide have been pummeled by the economic fallout from the pandemic, those in the District have been particularly impacted. Toast, a restaurant management platform, reported that D.C. is one of the five cities nationwide that has experienced the most acute drops in restaurant revenue, bringing in only 50 percent of last year’s daily earnings.

Officials say the region’s sustained economic losses can be explained in part by the confluence of rising coronavirus cases and rule-abiding residents. The greater Washington region saw an increase in the seven-day average of new cases between late June and mid-August, climbing from an average of 900 to close to 2,000. The average leveled off by late August, but residents have remained hesitant to venture into public spaces such as indoor restaurants and shops.
We've known for a while that Trump's been uninterested in foreign students at U.S. schools.  Mix that with COVID, and you get this:


"Just 43 percent of households in Midtown have filled out the Census so far — running more than 19 percentage points behind 2010, potentially costing more than $49 million in federal funding alone."

Quote:Gotham’s ritziest neighborhoods are among the biggest laggards when it comes to filling out the 2020 Census — potentially risking the loss of $3 billion in federal funding over the next decade, a Post analysis shows.

Manhattan is home to fourteen of 20 New York neighborhoods that have the biggest gaps between the rate at which they’ve completed the 2020 Census compared to the 2010 count, according to stats compiled Friday.

And that’s an unexpected headache for the City Hall census czar Julie Menin’s effort, which has managed to get the Big Apple’s response rate within 7 points of the national average of roughly 66 percent  — slashing the 14 point-gap from 2010 by more than half.

“Without a doubt we’d be close to the national average,” if it weren’t for Manhattan, she added.

Menin’s team chalks up the poor returns to wealthy Manhattanites heading upstate or out to Long Island when the coronavirus struck in the spring so they could ride out the pandemic and shutdown in more spacious environs.
Some long-term investors are taking advantage of the price drops and buying properties in New York that they can sell once things return to "normal."

Quote:Lately, it seems that many are rooting for the fall of New York City, reporting on an alleged exodus and claiming the calm of the suburbs will replace the rumble of the Big Apple, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. And in many ways, they are right, but various real estate professionals from the tri-state area believe the New York City exit is temporary and complicated.

"The Manhattan housing market has been hit particularly hard," said Garrett Derderian, the founder of GS Data Services, adding that as potential buyers remain cautious about purchasing property in the city, the number of condo contracts declined by 34%, co-ops dropped 33% and small family homes dropped 11%.

Meanwhile, in Greenwich, Connecticut, the number of contracts signed went up 186% compared to this time last year. In the Hamptons, contracts went up 104%, and in Westchester, agents also saw more activity, though the market may have already peaked, Derderian said.

Yashmin Lloyds, a Compass broker in Connecticut, said that while, yes, Greenwich is having the strongest market it has had in a decade, it's all very "temporary," and with all the demand, realtors are actually running out of inventory. There are no rentals available, and most of the homes still on the market are very high-end.

For even the most established of realtors in the city, the boom in the suburbs is a red flag, but that doesn't mean it's permanent.

"Everyone's scared. A lot of major landlords are extremely nervous," Chris Okada, a broker and investor in Manhattan, told ABC News. "I mean, the Upper East Side is a ghost town. There are moving trucks everywhere ... But we're hopeful."

"When people talk about the New York City exodus, they're talking about pockets of Manhattan," he said. "But they're forgetting that Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island have a whole demographic of people that are not gonna be moving at all, because of family, because of work, because of different situations."

Lindsay Barton Barrett, a Douglas Elliman agent in Brooklyn, said the stories about the exodus came out because the city was shut down and other markets started operating much sooner. "So, if you shut down New York for any time, of course you are going to see a comparative activity anywhere else," she said.

She said that many New Yorkers went to their parents' or in-laws' second homes for the first few months of the pandemic and were active in neighborhoods where they usually aren't. Summer towns got activity before the summer, suburbs got an influx of people, and still, New York remained closed. "It changed the market temporarily," Barton Barrett said, "but not fundamentally."

Currently, Derderian said, the Hamptons is the strongest luxury market in the tri-state region, with the number of sales between $3-5 million up 259% and the number of sales priced between $10-20 million up 150%. But many of those buyers also have properties in the city, and may be investing in the suburbs because they've realized they want more space and better living conditions on the weekends.

Other real estate professionals are seeing the current New York City housing market as an opportunity to invest and to sell the suburbs.

Jacqueline Trelease, an agent for The Corcoran Group in the Hamptons, does believe there is a New York City exodus, but in her eyes, it's a good thing.

"Schools [in the Hamptons] have had declining enrollment for years, businesses and restaurants struggle to survive on the offseason," she said. "I think this is going to be refreshing. Year-round residency is a different vibe than summer. It should be seen as a good thing and probably with our ability to work virtually a more long-term situation."

About half of the clients she's rented to this year are choosing to stay in the Hamptons rather than return to the city, she said.

"They've been out of the city with yards and pools since March and they've realized these places offer a lot more year round than they thought," she said.

Prices for homes in the Hamptons have risen, she added, but there's so much demand that people are agreeing to pay a lot more money than usual.

For many, experts said the pandemic was the excuse they needed to leave New York City.

Lisa Chajet, of Warburg Realty, said she does think there is a demographic that is leaving the city and not coming back. "It's the younger people who always had one foot out the door and this just pushed them," she said. "They were the 20 and 30-year-olds who were living here out of convenience and in small rentals. Why are they paying $6,000 a month for a crappy two-bedroom when everyone was working from home?"

Lloyds said that people moving to Connecticut from the city are young families or older couples looking for more space and a better quality of life. "But it was already in their 10-year plan," she said. "For some, it just tipped the scales."

The same goes for parts of Brooklyn -- while the borough is not a suburb, it is also not Manhattan, and for residents hesitant to leave the city amid the coronavirus outbreak, it's far enough. "They are people who always thought about doing it before," Barrett said. "They were waiting for the right time and this presented itself as the right time."

Because of the overall uncertainty, though, some prices are dropping. "Studios in Manhattan and Brooklyn are getting the biggest reduction because no one can live in a studio right now, it's too claustrophobic," Jane Sosi, a Compass agent in the city, said.

"Right now, there are many apartments coming on the market," said Dorothy Schrager of Warburg Realty. "The crisis has caused many people to reevaluate their financial future and sell their apartments. And, if the country remains as angrily divided as it is, that might also cause more people to leave. The outcome of the elections can be a big factor in the future of all cities."

Still, long-term investors are taking advantage of the price drops and buying properties in New York that they can sell once things return to "normal."

Okada, who is a commercial real estate broker, bought his first residential property in Brooklyn amid the pandemic. "I felt it was the best opportunity because there was no competition," he said, adding that while "there's not necessarily a New York exodus, people are going to look for a better quality of life, so places like Brooklyn are going to do even better."

"Exodus... perhaps to Brooklyn," agreed UrbanDigs' COO and co-founder, John Walkup. "The Brooklyn market is doing better this summer vs. last summer, so perhaps the problem is not New York City, per se, but Manhattan and its price points. While Manhattan certainly seems quieter, it's still an open question as to how many folks have permanently left and how many are just waiting out the pandemic in other places. We need certainty on schools, jobs, and safety before the full numbers on any exodus will be known."
Hobby Lobby is going to raise its minimum, full-time, hourly wage to $17 starting in October:

Quote:Changes are coming for employees at Hobby Lobby!

The arts and crafts store announced it will be raising its minimum full-time hourly wage to $17.

The changes go into effect Oct. 1.

According to Hobby Lobby's website, it was one of the first retailers to establish a nationwide minimum hourly wage well above the federal minimum wage and has since raised its minimum wages ten times over the last eleven years. In 2014, Hobby Lobby raised its full-time minimum hourly wage to $15.

"We have always worked hard to be a retail leader when it comes to taking care of our people," said Hobby Lobby founder and CEO, David Green. "From closing our stores on Sundays and at 8 p.m. the rest of the week, to providing some of the best pay and benefits in the retail industry, we are thankful that we are able to share our success with our valued employees and provide time for rest, family and worship. These investments allow Hobby Lobby to attract and retain a great group of associates who in turn help provide the wonderfully unique shopping experience enjoyed by our many loyal customers."

Hobby Lobby is not the only one making changes in its minimum wage pay. In June, Target and H-E-B announced their companies would be giving employees a raise.
I've been meaning to read more about Akon's plan to build a smart city in Senegal where people would use Akoin, a proposed cryptocurrency, after he funded that libertarian candidate in the U.S.

Well, Business Insider has me covered:

Quote:Flash-forward to 2020, and Akon's music may no longer be blasting from teenage girls' cars, but the singer has been far from inactive. He's pivoted from churning out hip-hop and R&B hits to carving out a new identity as a tech entrepreneur in Africa. First there was his solar-power company. Then came his own cryptocurrency. Along the way, he bought a diamond mine in South Africa, The Guardian reported.

Now he's building a $6 billion sustainable smart city in Senegal that leaves little doubt as to the star power behind it. The name? Akon City. The cryptocurrency proposed to power it? Akoin.

"We plan to literally franchise the city," Akon told TMZ in August of the development on the coast of the West African country where he spent part of his childhood.

The 2,000-acre waterfront oasis is being designed to serve as a hub for business and tourism, and the renderings are the stuff of science fiction. Akon City's official website depicts a futuristic metropolis filled with gleaming twisting skyscrapers and palm trees. There are plans for residents to be able to use Akoin to pay for the tram, basic utilities, business licenses, and even their taxes. And if Akon has his way, this will be the first of several more Akon-branded smart cities throughout Africa.

One of the key players in this ambitious endeavor is Akon's business partner Jon Karas, a former Hollywood producer. Karas is the president and cofounder of Akoin and the CEO and cofounder of Akon Legacy Ventures, Akon's business entity that encompasses his other pursuits.

"Akon City has been a dream and vision of Akon's for probably more than a decade," Karas told Business Insider on a recent phone call. "It was just the how and what, and having the team and resources to pull off such a massive undertaking."

In interviews with key players in the project and experts in the tech and sustainable-development fields in Africa, Business Insider delved into how this project is playing out. What we found is that Akon is helming a $6 billion project that teeters largely on a single named investor's backing — one who has a history of lawsuits on file regarding unpaid debts. And while several of the most prominent people involved in the city's development — including Akon — tout the city as a future job generator for locals, none were able to lay out a plan for how exactly locals would benefit from the construction of this gleaming giant.
Expect low interest rates for the foreseeable future in the United States:

Quote:Federal Reserve officials expect to leave interest rates near zero for years — through at least 2023 — as they try to coax the economy back to full strength after the pandemic-induced recession, based on their September policy statement and economic projections released Wednesday.

The announcement also reinforced the central bank’s August pledge to tolerate slightly higher price gains to offset periods of weak inflation, underscoring that Chair Jerome H. Powell and his colleagues plan to be extraordinarily patient as they try to cushion the economy in the months and years ahead.

The policy setting Federal Open Market Committee “expects it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time,” officials said in their statement.

“Effectively we’re saying rates will remain highly accommodative until the economy is far along in its recovery,” Mr. Powell said at a news conference following the meeting.

Mr. Powell noted that while the economy has picked up, the recovery in household spending probably reflected “substantial and timely” fiscal support, and said services that involve people gathering together — like entertainment and tourism — remain depressed.
And the Bank of England is considering interest rates below zero:

Quote:The Bank of England gave the clearest signal yet that it may consider cutting interest rates below zero for the first time in its history as the economy faces a surge in coronavirus infections and the risk of a no-deal Brexit. The pound fell.

With multiple threats to the outlook looming, the BOE will begin “structured engagement” with U.K. bank regulators on how it might implement negative rates. Governor Andrew Bailey said last month the policy has become part of the central bank’s toolkit.

The comments in the minutes of Thursday’s policy decision prompted money market traders to bet that the next 10 basis points of easing will come in February, with another cut of the same magnitude to follow after the summer. The pound weakened, and was trading down 0.7% at $1.2876 at 1:36 p.m. in London.

Quote:So the ownership of TikTok Global will be, according to a person familiar with the matter:
Oracle - 12.5%
Walmart - 7.5%
ByteDance - 80% ...

But 40% of ByteDance’s ownership is US venture capital funding. That’s how the Trump admin is calculating this deal as “majority US $”

Quote:Tried to explain to my tween daughter that Oracle and Walmart taking over TikTok was the dorkiest most uncool companies in America taking over the coolest company and they will ruin it. Crony capitalism is hard to translate to kids but I tried.

Surely the company behind Java applets, arcane enterprise databases, and insanely privacy invasive adtech teaming up with Walmart, a cathedral of soul-crushing consumerism, will ensure TikTok remains the most relevant app of the moment. Trump donors say so so it must be true.

If any TikTokker was young enough to have to endure the trauma of installing Oracle Java to run some garbage applet then this deal would never had gone through. They would’ve killed it just like they killed Trump’s Tulsa rally. Just saying.

Parent: Oracle is the bane of my professional existence. It makes me want to throw my computer out the window on the regular.

Child: What is Oracle? I hear they are taking over TikTok.

Trump solved a marginal data privacy concern after committing the most egregious mass data abuse scandal in history (remember his Cambridge Analytica, a sketchy international military contractor) by picking his donor cronies, Oracle and Walmart, to do bullshit tech nationalism.

Trump picking winners so that Oracle and Walmart collect your tweens data instead of the PRC is tech nationalism and crony capitalism in its most purest contemporary form. Microsoft would have been a better choice for privacy, but obviously that co isn’t sufficiently Trumpist.

Tech nationalism is real. Data sovereignty is real. Data protection enforcement is a joke across the globe. Parental anxiety about all this is real. Trump is exploiting it all for political gains. Does Biden even have a stance on #datarights? There’s a lot going on right now.
A big investigative report was released today, about the complicity of big banks in money laundering -
(09-21-2020, 12:27 AM)Iron Maiden Wrote:

Quote:Tried to explain to my tween daughter that Oracle and Walmart taking over TikTok was the dorkiest most uncool companies in America taking over the coolest company and they will ruin it. Crony capitalism is hard to translate to kids but I tried.

Quote:Trump's Tik Tok play is the kind of thing that, had another country done it to a big US concern during the Cold War, would have had the CIA working on a coup.
General Motors received more than $60 million in tax credits to operate a massive assembly plant in Ohio until 2040. But after the facility closed last year, the state says GM must pay back roughly half of those tax benefits.

Quote:The state of Ohio on Monday ordered General Motors to repay $28 million in public subsidies for reneging on its promise to keep its sprawling Lordstown plant open.

The automaker, which had pledged to keep operations going until 2040, closed its assembly plant last October, drawing criticism from elected officials in both political parties, including President Donald Trump. At the time, GM cited the collapsing market for small cars; Lordstown produced the compact Chevrolet Cruze.

But state officials said the closure violated the terms of two economic development agreements GM signed with Ohio more than a decade ago. Between 2009 and 2016, the company received more than $60 million in tax credits to maintain operations at the massive plant, which employed over 4,000 people.

On Monday, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority said GM must pay back roughly half of those tax benefits, as well as provide an additional $12 million in community support in the Mahoning Valley, the economically depressed region where the plant was located. The funds are targeted for education and job training at Youngstown State University and other colleges, community programs and infrastructure projects.

The payments are due by Dec. 31, 2022, the tax authority said. In a statement, GM said it has agreed to the terms of the deal.
Former UAW president Dennis Williams admitted to embezzling funds from the union, the latest guilty plea in a long-running federal corruption probe:

Quote:United Airlines, in a new letter to employees, says it is furloughing 13,432 workers starting tomorrow. But— like American Airlines— $UAL says “we haven’t given up.” It will recall furloughed employees if Congress reaches a deal soon to extend the Payroll Support Program.
(09-11-2020, 11:08 PM)Iron Maiden Wrote:

I remember some podcast about one of these from 2012 or there abouts (might have been the same one. Not sure). It was documenting how the building of publc transport like this would bring out people from all over the city to oppose it. They and their well paid lobbyists(! Anti public transport lobbyists!) made all sorts of arguments about misuse of public money to affecting land values, fumes, "danger to children" and all sorts of stuff. They laid it out pretty clearly when comparing it to trainlines and bus routes that don't face this opposition though. If you plan one that seems to make it a little too easy for the poor neighbourhoods to connect to the more well off ones, people who never went to town meeting in their lives will turn out in droves: out of district, anywhere.

They will deny with the usual pointed outrage that this has anything to do with race or class, but it... um... is what it is about.

Now, if he can only convince those 'prosperity gospel' assholes...

Pope: Market capitalism has failed in pandemic, needs reform

Quote:“It is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war,’” Francis wrote in the most controversial new element of the encyclical.

Francis had started writing the encyclical, the third of his pontificate, before the coronavirus struck and its bleak diagnosis of a human family falling apart goes far beyond the problems posed by the outbreak. He said the pandemic, however, had confirmed his belief that current political and economic institutions must be reformed to address the legitimate needs of the people most harmed by the coronavirus.

“Aside from the differing ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident,” Francis wrote. “Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

He cited the grave loss of millions of jobs as a result of the virus as evidence of the need for politicians to listen to popular movements, unions and marginalized groups and to craft more just social and economic policies.

“The fragility of world systems in the face of the pandemic has demonstrated that not everything can be resolved by market freedom,” he wrote. “It is imperative to have a proactive economic policy directed at ‘promoting an economy that favours productive diversity and business creativity’ and makes it possible for jobs to be created, and not cut.”

He denounced populist politics that seek to demonize and isolate, and called for a “culture of encounter” that promotes dialogue, solidarity and a sincere effort at working for the common good.
I used to be with "it", but then they changed what "it" was. Now, what I'm with isn't "it", and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me.   -Grandpa Simpson
It's not everyday that a president, one month away from an election, is uninterested in doing something that will make him more popular, but we all know about Trump's ego.  

Trump not giving a shit about the following list is a fitting end to his populist promises that he never tried coming through on:

Quote:Key consequence of stimulus talks falling through:

-- Close to 30 million jobless ppl to permanently see an income cut of ~50%

-- 40% of restaurants face closure in ~6 months, per surveys

-- Tens of thousands of airline workers will be laid off

-- No stimulus checks 2.0

-- No rental relief money

-- No more funding for testing and tracing

-- No Medicaid or COBRA money or newly uninsured

-- No $100B to help schools reopen safely
“An elderly woman covered in bedbug bites threw $1.88 into the pot. ‘It’s all I got,’ she said.”

"She turned down a 61-year-old woman whose room was thick with swarming flies. Her husband had died in the motel room earlier in the year. 'This is not me. I’m a neat freak,' the woman pleaded as her 5-year-old granddaughter watched. 'I just get depressed.'”

This is a downright terrifying report from Orlando during a pandemic.

A ton more at the link:

Quote:Rose Jusino was waking up after working the graveyard shift at Taco Bell when a friend knocked on her door at the Star Motel. The electric company trucks were back. The workers were about to shut off the power again.

The 17-year-old slammed her door and cranked the air conditioning as high as it would go, hoping that a final blast of cold air might make the 95-degree day more bearable. She then headed outside to the motel’s overgrown courtyard, a route that took her past piles of maggot-infested food that had been handed out by do-gooders and tossed aside by the motel’s residents. Several dozen of them were gathered by a swimming pool full of fetid brown water, trying to figure out their next move.

The motel’s owner had abandoned the property to its residents back in December, and now the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was turning an already desperate strip of America — just down the road from Disney World — into something ever more dystopian. The motel’s residents needed to pay the power company $1,500.

"This is the third time they’re back here!” one man fumed as the power company workers, protected by sheriff’s deputies, pulled the meters from the electrical boxes. “The third!”

“We a bunch of sorry ass men!” shouted a former felon who had served prison time on cocaine and battery convictions. “If our kids go without light, it’s because of our sorry asses.” He castigated his neighbors for spending their stimulus checks on drugs and alcohol, and then peeled a $20 from a three-inch stack of cash.

“Who else? Who else?” he called out as he dropped the bill on the sidewalk. “We need money!”

Soon the pile was growing, and the Star residents who gave were angrily accusing those who hadn’t of freeloading. “Nobody trusts nobody,” yelled a woman in a tank top and red pajama pants who tossed a $50 bill onto the sidewalk.

“I paid my rent,” shouted someone, who tossed in a $10 bill.

An elderly woman covered in bedbug bites threw $1.88 into the pot. “It’s all I got,” she said.

They were still $525.12 short.

Rose hung on the edge of the crowd, thinking about the $40 she had stashed in her bedside table. The motel she called “hell on earth” and “this malnourished place” had been her home for the past nine months.

She worried about her 65-year-old grandmother, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and needed power for her daily oxygen treatments. She worried about her mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder and was forgoing her medicine to save money. She worried about her neighbors, whose tempers were already frayed by the stress of the pandemic, joblessness and boredom. Gunshots at the motel were becoming a regular occurrence. The power company had cut off the motel two times earlier in the summer. Rose knew that no electricity made everything worse.

She walked back to her room for the $40, threw it on the pile and headed to another shift at Taco Bell.

When she returned home in the evening, the power was back on, but she knew it wouldn’t last long. The next bill, which included unpaid charges going back to March, was for $9,000 and it was due in five days.

The aging motels along Florida’s Highway 192 have long been barometers of a fragile economy. In good times they drew budget-conscious tourists from China, South America and elsewhere, whose dollars helped to pay the salaries of legions of low-wage service workers; the people who made one of the world’s largest tourism destinations — “the most magical place on earth” — run.

In tough times, the motels degenerated into shelters of last resort in a city where low-income housing shortages were among the most severe in the nation and the social safety net was collapsing. Now they were fast becoming places where it was possible to glimpse what a complete social and economic collapse might look like in America.

The pandemic had heaped crisis on top of crisis. The 2008 housing collapse and recession had caused the tourist market to tank at the exact moment the foreclosure crisis was forcing thousands of homeowners and overburdened renters from their homes. Struggling motel owners began renting rooms to the only customers they could find, those who had no place else to go.

In the decade that followed, the tourists returned to Orlando by the millions. Executive salaries at companies such as Disney and Universal soared. So did local real estate prices, buoyed by a booming market for gated, luxury vacation homes.

But almost nothing was done to address the reality that many service workers had emerged from the recession saddled with stagnant wages, bad credit or eviction records that made it nearly impossible for them to rent an apartment and return to a normal life. Many spent much of the past decade stuck in motels with restful names — the Paradise, the Palm, the Shining Light, the Star, the Magic Castle — that belied an increasingly grim reality for both the owners and tenants who found themselves trapped together.

At the Palm, scars of the past recession and the current collapse were evident in the motel’s cramped lobby, which was full of broken air-conditioning units and mattresses stacked to the ceiling. A dozen loaves of donated, day-old bread sat on a table by the front door.

Next door at the Paradise, a leak in the roof had caused black mold to bloom across the walls of one of the rooms. Cockroaches scurried across the floors of others. At the motel’s front desk, a sign warned guests that “due to shortages” there was a charge for toilet paper: $1 a roll.

“We can’t afford to fix anything right now,” the clerk confided.

The owner, who had emigrated from Bangladesh, complained that more than three-quarters of his 40 guests were weeks or months behind on their room bills. Many had jobs or were collecting unemployment insurance, he said, but were refusing to pay because they were protected by the state’s eviction moratorium.

“This kind of business never brings good people,” the owner said, “only bad people.”

Up and down the highway, motel owners told the same story of mounting bills, customers who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for their rooms and buildings that were slowly falling apart because there was no money to fix them.

The worst of them all was the Star. A six-foot-high wall of trash bisected the parking lot, and children rode their bicycles through big puddles of raw sewage that spilled from a broken pipe. When Rose’s family landed at the motel earlier this year, after a few years in a house followed by a string of increasingly dilapidated motels, she felt as if she had hit “rock bottom.” The hot water didn’t work, and the toilet was clogged with hypodermic needles and crack pipes, she said. Rose’s grandmother and her 12-year-old brother, J.J., shared one bed. Her mother and stepfather took a second bed. Rose had a mattress to herself.

Rose’s grades suffered, she got into a fight at school and was suspended from her high school’s JROTC program, which had been a source of stability and pride in her life.

In April she started a gofundme account, hoping it might help her escape the Star. “Moving from hotel to hotel just want to be stable with my family,” she wrote in her pitch. But it drew no donations.

A few weeks later, she moved into an abandoned room near the front of the property that cost her $100 a week. Her brother, who had grown weary of sharing a bed with his grandmother, upgraded to a mattress of his own.

Rose cleaned the dog feces off the room’s floor and scrubbed her new room’s soiled mattress with bleach and Pine-Sol. Then she bombed the place with bug spray to get rid of the roaches and tracked down a working air conditioner from another room.

By early August, it was clear that it was just a matter of time before the motel was permanently shuttered. The power company had its demands, and the water company wanted $57,000 by January.

Some residents bought gas-powered generators. Some searched nearby trailer parks for a place that might take them. Others tried to blot out their anxiety with drugs and liquor. Rose waited and tried not to worry.

“Just gotta survive,” she said.

For much of the past year she had watched a gated community, consisting of 1,000 vacation homes, take shape just across the six-lane highway from the Star. All the while, her family sank deeper into poverty. The lesson for Rose was inescapable.

“The economy just keeps going up, up, up, and the minimum wage is staying the same. So how do they expect people to be able to pay their rent and pay for their car? That’s why more people are ending up in these hotels. There’s not enough resources out there to help us be able to help ourselves.”

A few miles west of the Star Motel on Highway 192, the Rev. Mary Lee Downey was reaching the same conclusion. The pandemic, she worried, was pushing the Orlando area to the brink of a collapse far more serious than the 2008 recession.

That recession had led her to start the Community Hope Center, which had helped hundreds of families escape the motels. Still, the total number of motel families never really shrank despite the decade long run of economic growth.

What was happening at the Star drove home the problem. Many families had filled out forms seeking help from a program administered by Downey’s organization that would pay two months rent and their security deposit if they could find an apartment they could afford. “Trying to find rental or anything to get us out of here,” wrote Maykayla Harper, who was 20, pregnant and earning about $9 an hour at Burger King.

Rose’s family had filled out the same form.

The problem: There were almost no apartments for people earning less than $25 an hour. To Downey it often seemed as if everyone — local government officials, residents at the Star, congregants at her church — expected her 19-person charity to fix a problem that had festered for more than a decade.

Before the pandemic, Downey had planned to build a 200-unit apartment complex on 5.5 acres that the Methodist Church gave her in 2018. All of the apartments would be reserved for the area’s lowest wage earners.

Downey estimated that she would need to raise about $15 million to make it work. But this summer, just as the economy was sinking, a consulting company that she had hired to study the feasibility of a fundraising effort told her that she wouldn’t be able to pull in more than $3.5 million.

“Maybe we should consider buying the Star,” one of her board members suggested.

Downey quickly concluded it would cost far too much to buy and renovate the decrepit motel. Instead she suggested they consider buying the Magic Castle, a shabby, purple 107-room motel where Rose’s family had stayed off and on over the years.

The owners, who purchased it in 2005, were asking $4.7 million, more than Downey could afford. But she thought that if they were willing to be flexible on the price, she might be able to buy the motel, rehab the rooms and use them as temporary bridge housing.

As word spread that Downey might buy the Magic Castle, some motel owners questioned whether she was tough enough to kick out drug abusers and other problem tenants. “Mary has a heart of gold. She’s tireless,” said one motel owner who has worked with Downey. “But it isn’t the 99 percent nice that runs a hotel. It’s the 1 percent nasty.”

Downey had different reservations. If the recession persisted, wages stagnated and the unemployment rate stayed high, the families she took in might be stuck in rooms for years on end. She had started her charity to get families out of motel rooms. Buying a motel felt a bit like surrender.
Politicians ride planes all the time, so no surprise here:

Quote:Trump administration official confirms White House is pushing for a standalone bill on the airlines

Pelosi's office sounds open to it

Of course, a package 4 the airlines alone would leave out:

-- Millions of unemployed
-- Failing restaurants
-- $ for schools
-- Checks 2.0

What a joke. These assholes can't manage to structure their businesses in a way that allows them to remain profitable DURING OPTIMAL OPERATING ECONOMIC CLIMATES, and they're the first to get rescued? Screw them. I'm sorry for the thousands of employees, but that is ridiculous.

New Orleans music halls and bars, particularly black owned venues, are facing a crisis as a result of COVID:

Quote:Like venues across the city, however, Bullet’s stage has been quiet since March. At first, “I wasn’t worried,” Garcia says. But after more than six months, that’s starting to change. Although Mayor LaToya Cantrell this week announced the city would begin a phased reopening of bars — the second time New Orleans has tried to reopen bars — he has little faith. The announcement is “a crock of bull,” Garcia says bluntly.

He argues the plan to allow bars to initially sell go-cups will only help high-volume tourist bars in the Quarter, and even when bars can begin serving customers indoors again, occupancy rules will likely make it economically unworkable. Though it’s technically possible to put on socially distanced shows, the money just doesn’t add up. "You would have to charge maybe $20 a head, because after you get the people in there at social distance, you can’t make money with it,” he says.

Garcia isn’t alone. Bar and music venue owners across the city have become increasingly concerned they are being left behind by government officials at all levels, particularly Black-owned neighborhood venues like Bullet’s, which have been the backbone of New Orleans’ music culture for decades.

The situation is nearing a tipping point, owners and community activists say, warning the city’s music landscape could be fundamentally changed if steps aren’t taken to keep these venues alive now.

Quote:AIRLINES: @SenToomey and @SenMikeLee make clear in statement that they are not going along with consenting to passage of airlines aid bill this week without chance to offer amendments.  Urge airlines to seek gov loans intead of grants

Quote:Flight attendant union president @FlyingWithSara: 

"If this government doesn’t work for us, we need to focus on the fact that it is our labor that gives all the value to this country. This country doesn’t run without us as workers. We have to think about that option as well."


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