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A fintech behind the first 'crypto mortgage' sees a multi-billion dollar market in allowing borrowers to pledge their bitcoin to gain access to the real estate market

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:57
Edward Smith/Getty Images
  • A fintech company named Milo is introducing what's billed as the world's first crypto mortgage. 
  • It says its 30-year, low-interest rate US crypto mortgage allows qualified borrowers to hold their bitcoin and buy real estate. 
  • Loans have been granted in an early-access stage, with the product expected to be available to most applicants early this year. 
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

A financial tech company is rolling out what it calls the world's first crypto mortgage through which borrowers obtain bitcoin-backed loans to buy real estate — combining the relatively new asset with one of the most established avenues of building wealth in America. 

The company, Milo, said its 30-year, low-interest rate US crypto mortgage will allow potential borrowers to pledge their bitcoin to purchase property and qualify in financing 100% of the purchase with no dollar down payments required. Loans have been granted in an early-access stage, with the product slated to be available to most applicants in early 2022. 

"I think this product really is a game-changer for many, many people. It accomplishes a lot of the aspects of what this consumer wants, which is to just continue to hold their bitcoin and be able to diversify and buy real estate – another fantastic wealth-creating asset," Milo CEO Josip Rupena told Insider in an interview. 

The crypto loan industry is already taking shape, as the cryptocurrency market marked a notable year in 2021 when it briefly soared beyond a $3 trillion valuation for the first time. Crypto-backed loans are secured loans that use bitcoin and other digital assets as collateral. 

Milo said its crypto mortgage already has a "large" waitlist, highlighting appetite among crypto investors to extend their wealth-building activities into housing as well as their reluctance to let go of their bitcoin to fund such purchases. 

Josip Rupena is the founder and CEO of fintech company Milo

It can be "very difficult for [crypto holders] to qualify for a mortgage because the existing framework with banks and other lenders out there don't consider that crypto wealth. What that means is that they have to look for alternative ways of buying real estate," said Rupena. "Once they sell their bitcoin or crypto, that creates unintended consequences of having to realize gains and tax consequences," he said. 

"And at the same time, the biggest concern for them is the opportunity cost over the existence of a bitcoin and digital assets. We've seen that over time it increases and appreciates, and has been appreciating," he said. "It's different for someone who has crypto than someone who lives in the conventional dollarized world. They really don't want to sell their crypto." 

If the purchase price of a property is $500,000, a potential Milo borrower would need to pledge, through a third-party custodian, at least $500,000. Rupena said it will underwrite the borrower, look at various data points and run due diligence on the property, the title, and all other aspects of a pending transaction. 

"That bitcoin will allow us to get comfortable with the consumer to be able to give them that loan. At the same time, they will continue to own the bitcoin through the course of the transaction," said Rupena. Milo is aiming to expand the product to allow borrowers to pledge other cryptocurrencies. Mortgage borrowers can pay monthly using crypto or fiat currency. 

Like other crypto loans, Milo's crypto mortgage has a margin-call component. 

"If the crypto does go down by a certain amount … they could be subject to that. But they do have the opportunity to pledge more to mitigate against those factors," said Rupena. He said transactions are structured to minimize the impact of price volatility. 

A licensed lender, Milo started in 2018 and is familiar with dealing with specialized customers as it has had a significant focus on clients living outside of the US. Rupena said the idea of a US crypto mortgage started because international customers who were holding digital assets were asking for such a product. 

He said credit checks are part of the lending process for US domestic borrowers. "For  international clients, [as] they don't have credit, we have found alternative ways of underwriting without credit … and then it's just one more data point for us." 

Milo's other mortgage products for foreign nationals have originated millions of dollars in loans, with applicants from at least 63 countries, he added. 

The crypto-mortgage market could be worth tens of billions of dollars, Rupena estimated. 

"We know that there are billions of dollars outstanding of existing loans that are backed by crypto, by the number of buyers out there. So we believe at a minimum, it's a multi-billion dollar opportunity, if not larger, and it could be larger given the size of real estate as an asset class," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Muga silk is known as the 'golden thread.' Here's why a sari made with this silk can cost $6,500.

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:49
  • A sari made from regular silk can cost $250 in India, while a muga silk sari can cost $6,500.
  • Muga silk has been made in Assam since 300 BC and was previously reserved for Indian royalty. 
  • This silk comes from the cocoons of muga silkworms, which are in danger of disappearing.

Unlike any other fabric, muga silk has a naturally lustrous gold sheen. It comes from the cocoons of muga moths that feed on som trees. A saree made with muga silk can cost $6,500, thousands more than other saris. But the caterpillars needed to make it are in danger. So what's happening to the muga silkworm? And why is this silk so expensive?

Read the original article on Business Insider
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OpenSea acquires ethereum wallet Dharma Labs as the NFT marketplace's trading boom continues after landmark 2021

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:44
OpenSea.
  • OpenSea is acquiring ethereum wallet-maker Dharma Labs as part of a 2022 expansion push.
  • The largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens said it's aiming to significantly add to its team this year.
  • "We believe this union will be a force multiplier for NFTs and web3 adoption," the company said. 
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

OpenSea, the largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens, is acquiring ethereum wallet-maker Dharma Labs to help it build on a landmark 2021.

In a Tuesday blog post, OpenSea said it's in "build mode" after the market for NFTs, or digital pieces of art tied to the blockchain, boomed last year. The company said it's aiming to significantly add to its team as well as invest in the NFT and Web3 ecosystem. OpenSea's acquisition of Dharma Labs will help accomplish those goals, the company said. 

"We believe this union will be a force multiplier for NFTs and web3 adoption, and help us dramatically improve the experience of buying, minting, and selling NFTs on OpenSea — whether you're a beginner, or a pro," the company said in its statement.

As part of the deal, Dharma Labs cofounder and CEO Nadav Hollander will be OpenSea's new chief technology officer. The app, which has been around for the past two years, will sunset as part of the deal to prevent "jamming square pegs in round holes" at OpenSea, Dharma Labs said in its blog post.

The announcement follows a previous Insider report that OpenSea notched a new all-time high of more than $3.5 billion in monthly ethereum-based trading volume already in January, surging past previous records in December and August last year.

In 2021, the market for NFTs had a landmark year, according to OpenSea. Overall sales of the digital collectibles swelled to more than $41 billion last year, according to one estimate from blockchain data company Chainalysis. 

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'Black Swan' author Nassim Taleb compared bitcoin to a disease, called it a speculative bubble, and said it was worthless. Here are 8 of his best tweets about the crypto.

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:37
Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb has compared bitcoin to a disease and called it worthless in recent months.
  • "The Black Swan" author said the cryptocurrency was in a fragile, speculative bubble.
  • Bitcoin isn't a currency, store of value, inflation hedge, or haven for investors, Taleb said.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has posted a bunch of incendiary tweets about bitcoin over the past six months. The author of "The Black Swan" and "Antifragile" has compared the most valuable cryptocurrency to an infectious disease, dismissed it as worthless, and said it doesn't serve as a hedge against anything.

In the summer, Taleb said in an analysis dubbed the "Bitcoin Black Paper" that bitcoin wasn't a currency, a store of value, an inflation hedge, or a haven from government tyranny or catastrophe. He has used Twitter to amplify his view that bitcoin is a fragile bubble built on speculation instead of genuine value.

Here are 8 of Taleb's best tweets about bitcoin:

1. "View BTC is as a contagious disease. It will spread, spread & its price will rally until saturation, that is ~every sucker stupid enough to buy the story is invested. When all suckers are in, the prevailing belief will make it an 'obvious' investment. That's maximal fragility." (January 17)

2. "Almost nothing in financial history has been more fragile than bitcoin." (July 3)

3. "Bitcoin has been a magnet for imbeciles." (He was blasting critics who accused him of being too rigid in his views about bitcoin, even though he shifted from being excited about its potential to deciding it was worthless in 2020.) (July 30)

4. "Bitcoin may interest some for speculative purposes but anyone who claims that #bitcoin is a hedge against anything, financial or otherwise, is a certified fraud." (September 20)

5. "1- Bitcoin is no hedge for adversity 2- Bitcoin is no hedge for inflation 3- Bitcoin is no hedge for deflation 4- Bitcoin is no currency 5- Bitcoin is nothing." (December 4)

6. "It is an awkward, clunky & already obsolete product of low interest rates. It should collapse with inflation." (December 28)

7. "If after this morning you still think that #BTC is a hedge against world events, or represents 'diversification', you must stay out of finance, & take up some other hobby s.a. stamp collecting, bird watching or something less harmful to yourself & others." (November 26)

8. "I am not 'bearish' on #BTC. It is a tulip-bubble (without the aesthetics & disguized as a "currency"), hence it is as irrational to buy it as it is to SHORT it, perhaps even more. Gabish?" (October 21)

Read more: A 30-year market vet shares 5 indicators that show stocks are in dangerous territory as the Fed tightens and economic growth gets set to slow — all while valuations sit at historic highs

Read the original article on Business Insider
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WHO chief says pandemic 'nowhere near over' and 'new variants are likely to emerge'

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:28
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
  • The director-general of the World Health Organization said that the pandemic is "nowhere near over."
  • "New variants are likely to emerge," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. 
  • As the Omicron variant surges, the world is averaging over 2.8 million daily new COVID-19 cases.

The World Health Organization's director-general said Tuesday COVID-19 is likely to continue to place a strain on healthcare systems around the globe.  

"This pandemic is nowhere near over and with the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. 

Ghebreyesus said tracking the virus remains essential for health care workers and noted that even mild COVID-19 cases are "inundating" healthcare facilities.  

"The virus is circulating far too intensely with many still vulnerable," Ghebreyesus said. "For many countries, the next few weeks remain really critical for health workers and health systems."

As the Omicron variant surges, the world is averaging over 2.8 million daily new COVID-19 cases, according to the latest data from Worldometers

In the US, which boasts a highest number of daily new cases than any other country, the seven-day average is nearly 800,000, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical advisor, said Monday during a virtual panel discussion at the World Economic Forum that it's too soon to tell if slowing the spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant would spell the end of the pandemic. 

"I would hope that that's the case, but that would only be the case if we don't get another variant that eludes the immune response to the prior variant," Fauci said. 

He added: "It is an open question as to whether or not Omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for."

Read the original article on Business Insider
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These are the 10 most talked about stocks on Reddit's WallStreetBets forum

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:22
  • Reddit's WallStreetBets forum entered the mainstream at the beginning of 2021 during the GameStop craze. 
  • Driving stocks like GameStop and AMC, retail investors congregating on the subreddit are a force in the stock market.
  • These are the 10 most popular stocks WallStreetBets is talking about right now.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Following which stocks Reddit's WallStreetBets crowd is talking about paid off handsomely in 2021, as several have gone through epic rallies and seen heightened volatility. 

From GameStop to AMC Entertainment, the more than 11 million-member forum has driven the conversation in so-called meme stocks that have exploded higher amid overwhelming demand from retail investors. The surge in stocks with shaky fundamentals has led to several hedge fund blowups that were caught on the opposite side of the trade betting against the company in question.

GameStop's short-squeeze, in-part led by the WallStreetBets crowd, led to a more than 50% drawdown in multibillion-dollar hedge fund Melvin Capital. Meanwhile, the sharp rally in struggling movie theater chain AMC Entertainment caused billions of dollars in losses for short-sellers in May and June.

But since those short-squeezes caused destruction for some short sellers, shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment have fallen by about 60% from their record highs as investors begin to confront the fundamental backdrop behind the companies.

As traders look to replicate the success of WallStreetBets stocks, one data aggregator is compiling the most mentioned stocks on Reddit's forum. 

These are the top 10 stocks Reddit's WallStreetBets forum is focused on right now, according to data compiled by SwaggyStocks. The list is based on mentions over the past 24 hours and financial data is sourced from Koyfin

10. Nvidia

Ticker: NVDA
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 187
Market Capitalization: $651.6 billion
One-Week Performance: -4.8% 

Nvidia headquarters in Santa Clara, California

9. Apple

Ticker: AAPL
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 230
Market Capitalization: $2.80 trillion
One-Week Performance: -0.9% 

An Apple store.

8. SoFi Technologies

Ticker: SOFI
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 254
Market Capitalization: $9.9 billion
One-Week Performance: -7.7% 

SoFi Stadium during the NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams on January 03, 2021, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.

7. AMC Entertainment

Ticker: AMC
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 263
Market Capitalization: $9.7 billion
One-Week Performance: -16.8% 

6. Lucid

Ticker: LCID
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 305
Market Capitalization: $66.1 billion
One-Week Performance: -3.1% 

5. Digital World Acquisition

Ticker: DWAC
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 338
Market Capitalization: $2.5 billion
One-Week Performance: 60.5% 

Former President Donald Trump.

4. Tesla

Ticker: TSLA
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 740
Market Capitalization: $1.05 trillion
One-Week Performance: -0.8% 

3. GameStop

Ticker: GME
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 863
Market Capitalization: $8.5 billion
One-Week Performance: -15.2% 

2. Microsoft

Ticker: MSFT
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 909
Market Capitalization: $2.28 trillion 
One-Week Performance: -2.9% 

Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, CEO Satya Nadella, Executive Vice President and CFO Amy Hood, and Board Chairman John Thompson.

1. Activision Blizzard

Ticker: ATVI
WallStreetBets Mentions Over Past 24 Hours: 973
Market Capitalization: $64.9 billion 
One-Week Performance: 31.9% 

The Activision Blizzard booth during the 2013 E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo at Los Angeles Convention Center on June 11, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.Read the original article on Business Insider
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Netflix's 12 biggest TV shows of all time, including 'The Witcher' and 'Squid Game'

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:15
"Squid Game."
  • Netflix's Korean-language series "Squid Game" is its biggest TV show ever by a wide margin.
  • "The Witcher" season two is one of Netflix's biggest seasons ever after debuting in December.
  • Netflix ranks its shows by total viewing hours globally in their first 28 days of availability.
12. "Stranger Things" season two — 427.44 million hours

Description: "When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: "How many other shows about alternate dimensions and Dungeons & Dragons monsters operate with such emotional subtlety? Haters to the left." — AV Club

11. "You" season two — 457.37 million hours

Description: "A dangerously charming, intensely obsessive young man goes to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 87%

What critics said: "A self-aware work of melodrama, You combines the best elements of murder-mystery series, Millennial sitcoms, and revenge fantasies." — The Atlantic

10. "You" season three — 467.83 million hours

Description: "A dangerously charming, intensely obsessive young man goes to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: "Season 3 Is the best installment yet — and a brilliant send-up of suburbia." — Time Magazine

9. "Maid" (limited series) — 469.09 million hours

Description: "After fleeing an abusive relationship, a young mother finds a job cleaning houses as she fights to provide for her child and build them a better future."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: "The drama offers a blistering portrayal of the realities of poverty as seen through the eyes of Alex." — USA Today

8. "13 Reasons Why" season one — 475.57 million hours"13 Reasons Why."

Description: "High school student Clay Jensen lands in the center of a series of heartbreaking mysteries set in motion by a friend's tragic suicide."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 77%

What critics said: "It too often feels artificial, like a very long public service announcement." — New York Times

7. "The Witcher" season two — 484.3 million hours

Description: "Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter for hire, journeys toward his destiny in a turbulent world where people often prove more wicked than beasts."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: "In the most pleasant surprise of all, the series feels more emotionally effective than it ever has before." — Hollywood Reporter

6. "13 Reasons Why" season two — 496.12 million hours

Description: "High school student Clay Jensen lands in the center of a series of heartbreaking mysteries set in motion by a friend's tragic suicide."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 28%

What critics said: "13 Reasons Why is not fundamentally interested in starting a conversation. It's interested in shocking, and it does not care how cheaply it might go about creating that shock." — Vox

5. "The Witcher" season one — 541.01 million hours

Description: "Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter for hire, journeys toward his destiny in a turbulent world where people often prove more wicked than beasts."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 68%

What critics said: "In contrast to its halfhearted approach to exposition, the series finds its footing in the graphic depiction of violence." — Slant Magazine

4. "Stranger Things" season three — 582.1 million hours"Stranger Things."

Description: "When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 89%

What critics said: "Even while some things go a bit too predictably, the last two episodes tie everything and everyone together in spectacular, emotional fashion." — Dallas Morning News

3. "Money Heist" season four — 619.01 million hours

Description: "Eight thieves take hostages and lock themselves in the Royal Mint of Spain as a criminal mastermind manipulates the police to carry out his plan."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 80%

What critics said: "We love to see talented people overcome the odds and perform the impossible, even if in this case, they're ripping off the mint and printing stolen money. With Money Heist, we're offered a pleasure-driven, rollicking, charming mix of all of the above." — Globe and Mail

 

2. "Bridgerton" season one — 625.49 millionDaphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset on "Bridgerton."

Description: "The eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family look for love and happiness in London high society. Inspired by Julia Quinn's bestselling novels."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 87%

What critics said: "Bridgerton gives us everything we're craving right now: extravagant parties, elaborate outfits, salacious gossip, human touch." — Chicago Reader 

1. "Squid Game" season one — 1.65 billion hours

Description: "Hundreds of cash-strapped players accept a strange invitation to compete in children's games. Inside, a tempting prize awaits — with deadly high stakes."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 94%

What critics said: "Its messages hit like a sledgehammer to the head, yet this vibrant, vicious series holds a surprisingly big heart at its core. A winning blend of spectacle and sentiment." — Empire Magazine

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White House warns Russia ready to launch an attack on Ukraine 'at any point'

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 21:02
A Russian service member walks near a T-72B3 main battle tank during military drills at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region of Russia on December 20, 2021.
  • The White House warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine "at any point."
  • The US has warned of severe consequences if Russia invades the former Soviet republic.
  • "No option is off the table, in our view," Psaki said.

The White House on Tuesday warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent as top US and European diplomats scramble to prevent a new conflict in Europe. 

"We believe we're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine. I would say that's more stark than we have been," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, describing the circumstances on the Ukrainian border as an "extremely dangerous situation."

Russia, which invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has gathered tens of thousands of troops along its next-door neighbor's border in recent weeks. The Kremlin has claimed it has no plans to invade, but Western powers are highly skeptical. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Ukraine and Germany this week as the crisis escalates and the White House continues to warn Russia of massive economic consequences if it invades. 

"What Secretary Blinken is going to do is highlight very clearly that there's a diplomatic path forward," Psaki said, underscoring that it is Russian President Vladimir Putin's choice "to make whether they are going to suffer severe economic consequences or not."

"No option is off the table, in our view," Psaki said. "We continue to consult closely with European counterparts on severe consequences for Russia if it further invades Ukraine."

After visiting Kyiv and Berlin, Blinken is set to travel to Geneva to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday. Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart via phone on Tuesday, stressing "the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military build-up in and near Ukraine," the State Department said in a statement.

There have been no major breakthroughs in diplomatic talks between Russia and the US and its allies and partners in Europe this month. Russia has continued to make demands for binding security guarantees that the US and NATO have made clear are non-starters. This includes insisting that Ukraine and Georgia, another former Soviet republic that Russia invaded in 2008, never be permitted to join NATO.

Top US officials and Russia watchers have expressed concerns that Russia is looking for a "pretext" to invade amid reports of intelligence pointing to Russian operatives planning a "false-flag" operation within Ukraine to create the justification for an invasion. 

Putin has blamed the US and NATO for the heightened tensions, despite his history of aggressive actions toward Ukraine and even as his troops stage provocative exercises in the region. In addition to the recent military buildup along the Ukrainian border, Russia also sent troops into Belarus this week for war games near Ukraine

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Verizon and AT&T agree to delay launch of 5G service near airports after airlines warned of massive flight disruptions

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:52
United Airlines planes are seen at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, United States on September 29, 2021. United Airlines is firing employees over its vaccine mandate.
  • Verizon and AT&T said they'll delay rolling out 5G near airports but go ahead with deployment plans elsewhere.
  • The news comes after major airlines warned 5G deployment would cause massive flight disruptions.
  • The aviation industry has long raised concerns that 5G frequencies could interfere with plane safety systems.

Cell carriers are delaying their rollout of 5G service near airports after airlines warned the deployment would spell "catastrophic disruption" for the aviation industry.

Verizon and AT&T said Tuesday they will temporarily hold off on deploying C-band 5G technology near airports but will otherwise roll out as planned on Wednesday.

"As the nation's leading wireless provider, we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports," Verizon said in a statement Tuesday. "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation's airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries."

"At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they've had to responsibly plan for this deployment," an AT&T spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

"We are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner," the AT&T statement continued. "We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers."

President Biden thanked Verizon and AT&T for their decision to delay.

"This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled," Biden said in a statement released Tuesday. "This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans."

Biden added that his team is working with cell carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to "close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports."

In a letter sent Monday by trade organization Airlines for America, the leaders of 10 major US carriers warned that rolling out 5G too close to airport runways would harm "the aviation industry, traveling public, supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and broader economy."

"Every one of the passenger and cargo carriers will be struggling to get people, shipments, planes and crews where they need to be," the letter reads. "To be blunt, the nation's commerce will grind to a halt."

The airlines requested that 5G not be deployed within two miles of key airport runways.

The letter's signatories included carriers like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, FedEx Express, and UPS Airlines. The letter was addressed to White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, and Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

Earlier this month, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout by two weeks at Buttigieg's request after the Transportation Secretary cited concerns that the new 5G frequencies could interfere with planes' safety systems. The companies had initially rejected the request.

The FAA and Airlines for America did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Read the email Microsoft Gaming's CEO sent staff about its $68 billion purchase of Activision

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:49
Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer
  • Phil Spencer, Microsoft Gaming's new CEO, wrote an email to staff about the company's $68 billion Activision deal.
  • The exec, who was previously head of Xbox, called the deal "incredibly exciting."
  • Spencer also said the deal will likely close later this year "pending regulatory approval."

Microsoft announced plans to buy Activision, the gaming giant behind the popular "Call of Duty" franchise, for a whopping $68 billion on Tuesday.

And Phil Spencer, the former Xbox head and the new CEO of Microsoft's new Gaming division, sent an email to staff regarding the blockbuster deal, which the company posted on its website.

The new executive said the "incredibly exciting" acquisition is a "milestone for our company, our business, and our industry." It's both Microsoft's and the video game industry's largest ever acquisition, as Insider's Ben Gilbert noted.

Spencer also said the company expects the deal to close later this year "pending regulatory approval."

He used the email to announce that he was assuming the role of CEO of Microsoft Gaming, a new division that the company created as part of its Activision acquisition. Spencer previously served as the former head of Xbox, a role he took on in 2014, before becoming the executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will reportedly leave the company once the Microsoft deal closes.

Read Spencer's full email below:

Welcome back from the holidays. To start, I'd like to thank everyone for all of the hard work and dedication that have built this business and this community. Obviously, today's agreement to acquire Activision Blizzard is incredibly exciting. In fact it's a milestone for our company, our business and our industry. I and the entire Gaming Leadership Team are deeply enthusiastic about this opportunity. We also announced this morning that we have surpassed 25 million Game Pass subscribers across console, cloud and PC, a great achievement for all of Team Xbox.

As players and partners, we all know how talented and dedicated the teams and studios are across Activision Blizzard. The legendary games and franchises across that company have delighted millions of people for decades. Coming together, we can accelerate our mission to extend the joy and community of gaming to everyone. We have the capability and opportunity to build simply the best, most engaging, most fun entertainment ecosystem anywhere.

Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We're looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.

We expect this acquisition to close in FY23, pending regulatory approvals. Once the acquisition is completed, the Activision Blizzard business will report to me. In the meantime, we know you will have a lot of questions. The Gaming Leadership Team and I look forward to answering as many as we can at our next Monthly Gaming Update on Jan. 26. You can submit your questions now anonymously, or post them on our Team Xbox Yammer. Please also refresh on our corporate social media guidelines.

As Satya mentioned, I am now CEO, Microsoft Gaming. This change is a reflection of the incredible work each of you are doing to create the best entertainment ecosystem anywhere. As a leadership team, we know how much exciting but difficult work we have ahead of us, so it's crucial that we operate as a single, unified team. To that end, I'm excited to announce effective today that Jerret West, CMO of Gaming, and his marketing team will move from Chris Capossela's organization to report directly to me. Jerret will continue to be a member of Chris' leadership team and leverage critical parts of Microsoft's marketing muscle including Communications, Media, and Consumer Sales.

We will have a webcast for investors and media at 6 a.m. PT to discuss the Activision Blizzard transaction and our plans as Microsoft Gaming. Please join if you can.

Phil

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New York Post's former digital editor in chief accuses former boss of propositioning her for sex in a new lawsuit

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:43
New York Post
  • A former New York Post digital editor-in-chief accused a former editor-in-chief of sexual harassment.
  • Michelle Gotthelf said in a lawsuit Col Allan propositioned her for sex after "years of sex-based harassment."
  • Gotthelf said the Post fired her after demoting her. The Post said she "departed" the publication.

New York Post's former digital editor-in-chief Michelle Gotthelf accused her ex-boss, former editor-in-chief Col Allan, of propositioning her for sex in a new lawsuit.

Gotthelf accused Allan of "years of sex-based harassment," and said he became "more abusive" as she declined his advances, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday.

In her lawsuit — filed against Allan, current New York Post editor in chief Keith Poole, parent company News Corp, and holding company NYP Holdings — Gotthelf said she faced retaliation and discrimination after reporting her harassment accusations until she was ultimately fired. She's now seeking monetary damages for emotional distress and the loss of past and future income.

Allan and Poole did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Gotthelf first told colleagues Allan had sexually harassed her in 2015, when she said he asked her about her sex life and said, "We should sleep together," while they were grabbing drinks after work.

In April 2016, the Post announced that Allan was retiring. Gotthelf alleged in her lawsuit that he was forced to resign.

Gotthelf alleged in her lawsuit that the Post and News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch "did all they could to protect Mr. Allan's reputation."

And following Allan's exit, Gotthelf was given the new position of managing editor, the lawsuit said.

"While Mr. Allan 'retired' and was given a rousing send off, Ms. Gotthelf's responsibilities and authority were steadily eroded, often in favor of substantially less qualified men," Gotthelf's lawsuit said. "Ms. Gotthelf's complaints about retaliation and discrimination were largely met with indifference and, in one instance, she was told to 'stop complaining.'"

Gotthelf said the harassment continued despite Allan no longer being employed. After Allan left the company, Gotthelf said he called and told her that he loved her, according to the lawsuit. Gotthelf said she told the Post about this incident, but according to the lawsuit, the company shrugged it off as "just Col being Col. He hasn't changed."

Allan returned to the Post in 2019, NBC News reported at the time. Gotthelf said in her lawsuit that they ended up working closely together despite management promising that they wouldn't.

In her lawsuit, Gotthelf said Allan had the power to make decisions on stories she published, including one instance in 2019 when she said he told her to "get rid of" a story detailing E. Jean Carroll accusing then-President Donald Trump of sexual assault in the 1990s.

Poole joined the Post in 2021 as the editor-in-chief for the New York Post Group. Gotthelf said in the lawsuit that she was demoted at this time and started reporting to Poole.

According to the lawsuit, Gotthelf told Poole about the sexual harassment accusations in November 2021 after he asked what happened between her and Allan.

The Post announced Gotthelf "departed" the paper on January 12, and officially announced her exit to employees via email on Tuesday morning, according to the staff email seen by Insider.

Sources told Insider that Post staffers got wind of Gotthelf's exit last week, though no official announcement had been made at the time.

"Any suggestion of wrongdoing related to the management changes announced today is meritless," a New York Post and News Corp spokesperson said in a statement to Insider. The company didn't comment on Gotthelf's lawsuit.

Gotthelf said in a statement about her lawsuit: "For more than two decades, I took great pride in my work shaping coverage at one of the most widely read news organizations in the country. While I never intended to become the news, the truth of what happened to me deserves to be heard. I will miss my colleagues dearly and hope that by speaking out there can be positive change for other women at the Post."

Gotthelf's lawyer, Douglas H. Wigdor, said in a statement: "The New York Post's unlawful treatment of its top female editor after twenty-plus years of service is nothing short of appalling.  Moreover, the Post's decision to rehire Col Allan after he sexually propositioned Ms. Gotthelf speaks volumes about exactly the type of newsroom News Corp is running.  We intend to aggressively move forward with holding the Post accountable and protecting Ms. Gotthelf's rights."

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30,000 union workers call on Biden to cancel all student debt: 'We are wanting to let him know that unions have demands on him'

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:39
President Joe Biden.
  • The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation urged President Biden to cancel all student debt.
  • The federation also called on lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren to keep pressure on the issue.
  • Biden recently extended the pause on student-loan payments, but has yet to act on broad forgiveness.

One way President Joe Biden can show he is truly "union-friendly" is by canceling all student debt, according to a group of labor unions.

Last week, the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation, within the AFL-CIO — the largest federation of unions in the US — unanimously passed a resolution that called on Biden to cancel all student debt by executive order.

The federation, which represents 30,000 workers, wrote in its press release that 55% of the state's residents have student debt, with the average load standing at $33,256. Along with calling on Biden to act on the issue, the federation also called on Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, along with other elected officials, to continue keeping the pressure on the president to cancel student debt.

"He has framed himself as a union-friendly president, and we are wanting to let him know that unions have demands on him, such as canceling student debt," Spokesperson Ian Rhodewalt told WAMC public radio. "An executive order to cancel student debt would benefit working class people, union workers across the country," he added.

—Western Mass Area Labor Federation - WMALF (@WWmalf) January 12, 2022

Since Biden took office, many advocacy groups, unions, and progressive lawmakers have been calling on Biden to act on the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis and cancel at least $50,000 in student debt per borrower. While the president has extended the pandemic pause on student-loan payments, he has yet to cancel student debt broadly, prompting pressure for him to deliver on his $10,000 forgiveness campaign promise. 

Biden has been largely silent on his campaign promise to cancel $10,000 in student debt per borrower

Warren and Markey have both been prominent leaders in the student-loan forgiveness fight, although Warren's proposal is centered on $50,000 in debt cancellation, while the federation does not want there to be a limit on the forgiveness.

This is not the first time unions have voiced their support for broad student-loan relief. In June, 128 organizations — including the AFL-CIO and SEIU — urged Biden to extend the pause on student-loan payments until he follows through on his campaign promises to fix broken loan forgiveness programs and cancel federal student debt.

As Insider has previously reported, the president has begun reforming programs, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which forgives student debt for public servants after ten years of qualifying payments but ran up a 98% denial rate. When it comes to his promise of approving $10,000 in student debt cancellation per borrower, though, Biden has been largely silent, with his administration saying it's up to Congress to pass legislation that would carry out that measure.

Still, lawmakers and advocates are not easing up. After Biden extended the pause on student-loan payments a third time, through May 1, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter: "Yesterday President Biden announced he was extending the pause of student loan payments for 90 days. Today would be a great day for a follow-up announcement that he's going to #CancelStudentDebt!"

And Lydia Wood, executive director of the federation, agreed.

"For decades we have touted higher education as a path to the middle-class, but that path is increasingly becoming a debt trap, impacting everything from working families' ability to buy a home, start a family, to pursuing particular careers," Wood wrote in a statement. "We need President Biden to act now to forgive student loans jumpstart our economy, and free millions of Americans from a lifelong burden of debt." 

 

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The Brooklyn Nets stake claim in metaverse with a virtual realm dubbed the 'Netaverse'

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:35
Kyrie Irving #11 and Patty Mills #8 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets have created their own virtual world dubbed the "Netaverse."

The name is a riff on the futuristic concept of the metaverse, a virtual world where people interact as avatars of themselves.

For the Nets' take on it, more than 100 cameras around the court will feed into a video system that "quickly generates incredible lifelike 3D renderings in a matter of seconds," YES Network said in a video on Twitter.

The worldwide premiere of the new technology on January 15 when the Nets faced the New Orleans Pelicans on Brooklyn's home court, the Barclays Center.

"The Netaverse will bring viewers to places on the court never seen before," the YES Network's video said. In the clip, Nets players can be seen running up and down the court, just like in a regular basketball game, but in this view, they're digital.

The Nets are the first pro sports team to have the technology, YES Network said. A representative from the team did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. The Nets official Twitter account, however, retweeted YES Network's original post on the new technology. 

The metaverse only recently came into mainstream conversation after the company formerly known as Facebook rebranded to Meta as a sign of its push into immersive virtual realities. Goldman Sachs analysts recently predicted the metaverse represents an eventual $8 trillion market, as sectors like video games dive into the growing trend. 

Metaverse video games like Axie Infinity, Sandbox and Decentraland have grown in popularity, and each of their native tokens have soared in value compared to other cryptocurrencies amid growing hype around the concept.

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Disney and Sony topped the US box office in 2021, thanks to Marvel. Here's how Hollywood's studios stacked up.

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:25
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."
  • Disney topped the domestic box office in 2021, thanks to Marvel.
  • Sony followed close behind — also thanks to Marvel.
  • Here's how seven Hollywood studios ranked in box-office market share last year.

Marvel movies gave the domestic box office a lifeline last year, as theaters in the US struggled through the pandemic.

Five of the top six movies at the domestic box office in 2021 were Marvel movies from Disney or Sony, including "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."

Disney topped the domestic box office in terms of market share with 25.5% of business, according to data firm Comscore, despite releasing some movies simultaneously to theaters and Disney+ for an additional fee.

The total domestic box office in 2021 was $4.58 billion, according to Comscore. It doubled 2020's total but was down nearly 60% from 2019.

Sony followed closely behind Disney with 23%, thanks to "No Way Home" and another Marvel release, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

The studio owns the film rights to the Spider-Man franchise, which includes 600 Marvel characters ("No Way Home" was a joint production between Sony and Disney's Marvel Studios, but Sony retained distribution rights).

The bottom line: The Marvel brand still dominates the box office, even after Disney experimented with the simultaneous release of "Black Widow" and as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands into TV on Disney+. The MCU is the biggest movie franchise of all time with $25 billion across 27 movies, and that likely won't change any time soon.

Warner Bros., meanwhile, trailed Disney, Sony, and Universal, showing the limitations of its hybrid release strategy at the box office. The studio released in 2021 all of its movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. This year, it committed to a 45-day window on its theatrical releases.

But the strategy did seemingly help boost subscribers for Max. The streaming service and its cable counterpart HBO finished 2021 with nearly 74 million global subscribers, ahead of forecasts.

Below are seven Hollywood studios ranked by how much they grossed in 2021 at the domestic box office:

7. LionsgateSalma Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson in "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard."

Total domestic gross: $102.6 million

Market share: 2.24%

Biggest movie: "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" — $38 million 

6. Paramount

Total domestic gross: $278.1 million

Market share: 6.07%

Biggest movie: "A Quiet Place Part II" — $160 million

5. United Artists/MGM

Total domestic gross: $323.3 million

Market share: 7.05%

Biggest movie: "No Time to Die" — $160.8 million

4. Warner Bros."Dune."

Total domestic gross: $666.8 million

Market share: 14.5%

Biggest movie: "Dune" — $107.3 (released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max)

3. Universal

Total domestic gross: $714.2 million

Market share: 15.6%

Biggest movie: "F9: The Fast Saga" — $173 million

2. SonyTom Holland in "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Total domestic gross: $1.06 billion

Market share: 23.1%

Biggest movie: "Spider-Man: No Way Home" — $702.9 million

1. DisneySimu Liu plays Shang-Chi.

Total domestic gross: $1.17 billion

Market share: 25.5%

Biggest movie: "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" — $224.5 million

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Jen Psaki says Biden 'believes that everyone should be held to the highest standard,' but Congress should decide its own stock-trading rules

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:21
White House press secretary Jen Psaki talks to reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
  • The White House says it's up to Congress to decide stock-trading rules for its members.
  • Psaki said Biden "believes that everyone should be held to the highest standard."
  • Her remarks come after Biden's aide Brian Deese praised the idea on Friday, saying it "makes a lot of sense."

The White House said on Tuesday that it's up to Congress to decide stock-trading rules for its members amid a push by some lawmakers to impose a ban on the practice for lawmakers and their spouses. 

President Joe Biden "believes that everyone should be held to the highest standard" for stock trading, but he'll let congressional leaders and members "determine what the rules should be," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked about the topic during a press briefing.

—ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 18, 2022

Psaki also noted that during Biden's decadeslong tenure in the Senate, he didn't trade individual stocks. Biden was widely known as one of the least wealthy members of Congress.

"That is how he approached things," Psaki said. 

Last week, the White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that a ban on stock trading, which already applies to executive-branch employees, is "sensible" and called more broadly for restoring "faith in our institutions."

"There's a lot of distrust and mistrust around how politics works, around the political process," he said. "One of the things that we need to do across the board is restore faith in our institutions, whether that be Congress and the legislative branch, whether that be the Fed and otherwise and so anything we can do to try to restore that faith, I think makes a lot of sense."

White House officials later told Insider that they're not endorsing a specific proposal for ethics in Congress.

"As Brian said this morning, President Biden believes that all government agencies and officials, including independent agencies, should be held to the highest ethical standards, including the avoidance of any suggestion of conflicts of interest," White House assistant press secretary Emilie Simons said. "At this early point in the legislative process, the White House has not endorsed any bill text."

Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation found that 54 members of Congress failed to properly report their financial trades as mandated by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, also known as the STOCK Act.

Insider then reached out to the White House for comment, alerting officials about the investigation's findings. Officials were asked to comment on the findings given that Biden was vice president when President Barack Obama signed the STOCK Act into law.

At the time, Obama said the law was crucial to restoring faith in government.

Yet the White House did not reply to requests to comment on what it wanted Congress to do in light of Insider's findings. During Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, he pledged to work with Congress to pass legislation to prevent self-enrichment via personal financial holdings.

Polling shows that the idea of a ban is popular with the American public, and a crush of lawmakers have introduced bills to curtail the practice in recent weeks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while continuing to resist the idea of a ban, has asked the Committee on House Administration to review compliance with the STOCK Act and weigh imposing heftier fines on violators.

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Activision's market value is still 14% below what Microsoft plans to pay for it — and that suggests investors don't think the deal will get done

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:20
  • Activision Blizzard is trading 14% below the price Microsoft agreed to acquire it for on Tuesday.
  • The wide spread suggests investors don't have confidence the deal will be completed smoothly.
  • Microsoft's proposed $69 billion acquisition would make it the largest tech deal ever amid a period of heightened regulatory scrutiny. 
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Investors may be having some doubts about Microsoft's proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard based on Tuesday's trade.

Activision Blizzard shares hovered around $82 on Tuesday, about 14% below the proposed takeover at $95 per share. The 14% spread between Activision's current price and Microsoft's offer is wider than typical proposed mergers, which usually have a single-digit difference in price until the deal is completed.

Contributing to the large deal spread is likely a combination of both Tuesday's sell-off in the stock market, in which the Nasdaq 100 Index fell as much as 2.5%, and heightened regulatory scrutiny towards the merger activity of mega-cap technology companies.

Also on Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department's antitrust unit began rewriting merger guidelines in a sign of more skepticism on M&A.

But according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, Microsoft doesn't face as much scrutiny as Alphabet, Apple, and Meta Platforms, since the software giant also faced anti-trust scrutiny in 2001.

"From a regulatory perspective, Microsoft is not under the same level of scrutiny as other tech stalwarts and ultimately Nadella saw a window to make a major bet on [the] consumer while others are caught in the regulatory spotlight and could not go after an asset like this," Ives said in a note. 

If the deal is not approved by regulators, Microsoft will owe Activision a hefty $3 billion breakup fee. "While we expect this deal to ultimately clear regulators, however there will be some inherent speed bumps navigating both the beltway and Brussels on a tech deal of this size," Ives said.

One company that is likely to make a fuss about the proposed merger is Sony, which fell 7% on Tuesday. At risk for Sony, if the deal closes, is Microsoft's ability to make blockbuster game franchises like "Call of Duty" exclusive to its Xbox video game console, blocking out Sony's Playstation. 

That wouldn't be a new strategy for Microsoft. After the company acquired video game developer Bethesda for $7.5 billion in 2021, Microsoft said it would make its upcoming games like Starfield exclusive to Xbox and PC.

Regulators could try to take aim at this business practice and point to Microsoft's latest actions with Bethesda as supporting evidence, leading to either a botched merger or concessions around the deal. 

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Snowplow-driver shortage means some towns are offering $310 an hour and $2,000 'snow bonuses' for people with a commercial driver's license

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:18
A snowplow on March 8, 2018, in Walpole, Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts towns are offering snowplow drivers up to $310 an hour, government records show.
  • Colorado raised annual salaries to $40,000 and is offering "snow bonuses" up to $2,000, 9News said.
  • It's an attempt to lure in applicants as drivers flock to higher-paying trucking and delivery jobs.

States across the country are short hundreds of snowplow drivers this winter, causing some towns to raise wages up to $310 an hour and offer $2,000 "snow bonuses."

The salary hikes are an attempt to compete with private companies for applicants with commercial driver's licenses as workers flock to higher-paying delivery and trucking jobs.

The snowplow-driver shortage "is something all states are seeing right now as more and more private delivery jobs have been created during the pandemic," Barbara LaBoe, a spokesperson for Washington state's Department of Transportation, told Insider. 

Washington is 140 staff short of its normal 1,500 winter-operation workers, LaBoe said. Starting salaries for state-highway-maintenance workers range from $18.93 to $27.90 an hour.

The state's Department of Transportation has considered raising wages but "can't move as quickly as private industry in matters such as this," she added.

Despite this week's snow storms, staffing shortages did not cause any road closures in Washington or Pennsylvania, two Department of Transportation spokespeople said.

Pennsylvania hired 94% of its permanent snowplow operators but is missing 55% of the temporary workers typically hired during the winter. The state's seasonal CDL-operator positions range from $17.48 to $19.72 an hour. 

Snowplow drivers with their own commercial vehicles such as construction loaders will likely make the most this storm season.

Watertown, a suburb 20 minutes outside Boston, is offering hourly wages ranging from $86 to $310, depending on the type of equipment used, government documents show. The town's hourly salary for a "snow melter" is listed at a whopping $5,500 — but the required machine can cost up to $3 million

Lowell is offering $85 an hour for pickup truck drivers with snowplows and up to $155 an hour for wheel-loader drivers with a 12-foot plow, the city's website says.

In central Massachusetts, Worcester's snowplow application offers "extended season rates" that pay an additional $10 an hour for drivers who plow before December 1 or after April 1, bringing its highest-paid position to $190 an hour. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation has raised annual road-maintenance-worker salaries to $40,000 and is offering $2,000 performance-based "snow bonuses," the local NBC affiliate 9News said.

Andrew Grider, the president of Southern Sun Landscaping in Virginia, told the local NBC news station that he had to turn down clients because his snowplow drivers were so in demand

On top of needing a CDL, many snowplow operators are required to complete additional training and drive in dangerous weather conditions.

"Every snow operator knows you're usually working past that 12-hour limit, sometimes up to 24 or more hours," Grider said.

Mike Ruby, a Massachusetts resident, also emphasized on NBC Boston the long hours required of snowplow drivers and said the state's wage hikes were "pretty reasonable" considering "that you have to bring your truck and have to stay up all night and have to be prepared, and the truck has to be running." 

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See inside a $340 million Boeing military transport jet that keeps American troops and supplies moving around the world

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:11
A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow in 2021.
  • The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a workhorse transport and cargo plane of the US Air Force.
  • As many as 102 troops can be flown anywhere in the world on the aircraft. 
  • More than 800 Afghan refugees were transported to safety on the aircraft in just one flight.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III should be instantly recognizable to any US service member who has deployed to an overseas combat zone in the past two decades.A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow in 2021.Since its first delivery to the Air Force at Joint Base Charleston in 1993, Boeing's flagship military aircraft has served the US military through two wars and aided in countless conflicts and missions.

Source: US Air Force

Air Mobility Command primarily operates the US military's fleet of more than 200 C-17 aircraft, which have been delivered over the past three decades. A veritable jack of all trades, the aircraft acts as a cargo plane, a troop transport, and even a flying hospital.Most recently, though, the US military relied upon the C-17 to safely evacuate military personnel, government contractors, and refugees from Afghanistan at the end of the war there.Air Force loadmasters and pilots load people being evacuated from Afghanistan onto an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 24.The United Arab Emirates air force showed off one of its Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs at the Dubai Airshow in November, which is comparable to what the US Air Force flies. Here's what it's like inside.A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow in 2021.When it comes to four-engine workhorse aircraft, commercial aviation has the Boeing 747, and military aviation has the C-17. Nations around the world, including the UK, Qatar, UAE, Canada, India, Australia, and Kuwait, have chosen the C-17 to help power their militaries.The C-17 stands at 174 feet long and 55 feet and 1 inch tall, with an unmistakable look.

Source: US Air Force

Four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines power the aircraft and offer 40,440 pounds of thrust.

Source: US Air Force

The engines are so powerful that they are used to slow the plane during steep tactical descents, something which a commercial airliner would never dream of doing.

Source: US Air Force

All cargo is loaded through the C-17's rear cargo door, which comes equipped with a ramp for easy loading and offloading.Helicopters, vehicles, and even a 69-ton M1 Abrams tank can be transported in the back of a C-17, thanks to a maximum payload capacity of 170,900 pounds.

Source: US Air Force

The cargo compartment spans 88 feet, with a width of 18 feet and a height of 12 feet and 4 inches, enough space for 102 troops, 36 medical litters, and 54 ambulatory patients.

Source: US Air Force

Unlike a passenger airliner or even a traditional cargo freighter, there's very little that's aesthetically pleasing about the cargo hold of a C-17.Wiring and cabling run along the cabin walls and almost give the appearance that the aircraft is unfinished.As with any military aircraft, there are very few luxuries, and interior cabin fittings take a back seat to utility and performance.Passenger seats can be found along the side walls of the aircraft and are about as basic as they can get.Extra seats can be installed throughout the aircraft depending on the mission.When the plane is flying important passengers such as dignitaries, plush leather recliner seats can be installed in the cabin. They're similar to what is found in the premium economy class cabin of an international airline.Slightly more basic airline-style seats can also be installed in rows of five across.They are undoubtedly an improvement from the bare-bones seats found along the cabin wall.But these seats are a far cry from those found on any modern airline.Passengers may board through either the cargo door or the forward door that comes with a built-in set of stairs.But not all passengers enter and exit through the same door. Paratroopers will often jump from the plane using one of two side doors, just as the US military has been doing since the days of the Douglas C-47 Dakota.Paratroopers will line up in a single file and jump out of the plane one by one as their parachute cords are automatically pulled by a static line inside the aircraft.The C-17 is also capable of medical evacuations, with litters placed in the cargo compartment.The US Air Force staffs a medical-evacuation flight with two nurses and three medical technicians.

Source: US Air Force

Litters can be stacked on top of each other up to three high.The US military also proved in August that the C-17 was more than capable of flying more than 102 passengers. At the end of the war in Afghanistan, one C-17 transported 823 refugees out of Kabul to safety.On August 31, the last US military aircraft, including C-17s, flew from Kabul to Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, which marked the end of the 20-year war.Evacuees wait to board a C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 23.The C-17's cockpit is on the upper level of the aircraft, above the cargo compartment.The US Air Force prides itself on using commercially available "off the shelf" equipment on the C-17. The cockpit is as similarly unaesthetic as the cargo compartment.

Source: US Air Force

Pilots use a control-stick grip that's situated between their legs and similar to those found in helicopters and fighter jets to fly the airplane, rather than a traditional yoke.A heads-up display, also similar to those found in fighter jets, allows pilots to keep their eyes forward, which comes in handy during tactical approaches and other intense maneuvers.The C-17 can fly as high as 45,000 feet and doesn't need to land for fuel thanks to its aerial-refueling capability.

Source: US Air Force

Only two pilots are required in the cockpit to fly the Globemaster, while a loadmaster is focused on any cargo or passengers in the back of the plane.

Source: US Air Force

The loadmaster's office is on the lower floor of the C-17, directly below the cockpit.Just like on any cargo plane, the loadmaster is responsible for ensuring that aircraft are properly loaded and that the weight and balance of the aircraft on a given mission are within its capabilities.And while there may not be many luxuries on the aircraft, there's is an airline-style galley complete with a coffee maker.US Air Force C-17s traverse the globe on a daily basis as the US maintains its global military presence.The C-17 has proved its capabilities time and time again and is the military's go-to for a variety of missions.Air Mobility Command keeps the aircraft at military bases across the US including Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina, Travis Air Force Base in California, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey,A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at the Dubai Airshow 2021.

Source: US Air Force

And even during peacetime, to paraphrase one service member, there's always a job for Air Mobility Command.Read the original article on Business Insider
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Monthly checks to parents aren't coming back any time soon with Democrats and Republicans miles apart on striking a deal

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:05
President Joe Biden; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • The enhanced child tax credit expired last year and there's few signs a bipartisan deal can be struck.
  • Republicans and Democrats disagree on program basics, like who should qualify.
  • Some Republicans do favor making the credit more generous — as long as it's tied to work.

With the centerpiece of President Joe Biden's economic agenda on the backburner, it's not likely that checks to parents will make a comeback anytime soon.

The expanded child tax credit program expired at the end of last year with Congress failing to extend it. The program provided up to $300 per kid every month to families, depending on their age. It was beefed up for a year as part of the Democratic stimulus law, bringing its total amount to $3,000 or $3,600 a year for each young child. The measure was also widened so families who have little or no taxable income could qualify for the first time.

Democrats want to extend it for at least another year as part of the Build Back Better plan. But that collided into resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia who demanded that people demonstrate they have a job as a condition to get the aid. Senate Democrats can't advance the plan without him in the 50-50 Senate.

With the big bill on pause, some legislators have hoped for a bipartisan extension of the checks to parents. But Republicans and Democrats are many miles apart given their strong disagreements over the basics of the program, like which families should qualify, the benefit amount and what it should ultimately achieve.

Some Republicans do favor making the credit more generous — as long as it's tied to work.

"I think the common ground here would be to make permanent the doubling of the tax credit to $2,000 and make permanent the expansion of the credit to more families, which we did in 2017," Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means panel, said in a brief interview on Thursday. The 2017 Republican tax law temporarily doubled the amount of the credit to $2,000, but that's set to expire in 2025.

But Brady shut down the concept of families with no tax obligations from getting the money. "This has always been really based on earnings," he said. "We want to reward work."

Most Democrats favor extending the overhauled program as its currently structured — one that provides at least $3,000 annually to families with no strings attached. Republicans like Brady are against it, arguing that it discourages people from working.

Many economists say expanding the program to the poorest families packs the biggest punch when it comes to cutting child poverty. Early research about the program's effects indicate that child poverty has been reduced by nearly one-third. There's little broad evidence of work disincentives so far.

In addition, financing the program would likely be another hurdle in the path to a compromise. Republicans are dead-set against tax increases to pay for it. "No Republican, including myself, is going to say, 'Hey, I'm in favor of tax increases of any kind," Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the author of a competing child benefit plan, told Insider last week.

Some Democrats like Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado have suggested repealing the Trump tax cuts, an idea that many Republicans and even some Democrats like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona would treat as a non-starter.

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What's in the major voting rights bill Senate Democrats are mounting a last-ditch effort to pass

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:02
Protester David Barrows carries a sign during a rally to press Congress to pass voting rights protections and the "Build Back Better Act," Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, in Washington.
  • Senate Democrats are facing an uphill battle in their latest push to face voting rights legislation.
  • Democrats are planning to hold another vote on wide-ranging legislation that would reshape American elections.
  • Here's what the "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act" would do.

The Senate on Tuesday is debating the Freedom to Vote Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act for the first time after Senate Republicans blocked debate on both bills last year.

On Thursday, the House passed the two bills, now combined into one, titled "Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act." Democrats used an unrelated NASA bill as a legislative vehicle to fast-track consideration of the measure in the Senate. Because the NASA bill has already been considered by both chambers, it proceeded to debate with a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes required to advance to debate. 

But despite Democrats' creative procedural workarounds, 60 votes are still required to end debate, meaning the legislation will almost certainly get blocked again. Schumer's promise to hold a vote on changing the Senate's filibuster rules is also on shaky ground due to continued opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

If the bills did somehow pass, they would massively reshape the landscape of voting and election administration in the United States. 

The Freedom to Vote Act would standardize voting election laws across the country and would significantly expand voting access, including reversing the effects of dozens of new state-level voting restrictions passed this year. The John Lewis bill would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that have been struck down or weakened by the Supreme Court, and change the way federal courts handle election cases. 

With the Washington Monument in the background, the Rev. Al Sharpton, center, holds a banner with Martin Luther King, III, and Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas, during the march to call for sweeping protections against a further erosion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 28, 2021.Provisions from The Freedom to Vote Act 

The Freedom to Vote Act, or FTVA, is the slimmed-down successor to H.R. 1, a massive Democratic messaging bill on voting rights, campaign finance, and federal ethics, that passed the House in March.

After Senate Republicans filibustered H.R. 1 in June, a group of Senate Democrats drafted the FTVA, incorporating significant feedback from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, election officials, and other stakeholders. 

All 50 Senate Republicans moved to block debate on the bill when it came up for a vote in late October. 

What the bill would require on voting access:
  • Election Day as a federal holiday. 
  • Online, automatic, and same-day voter registration. 
  • A minimum of 15 days of early voting, including during at least two weekends.
  • No-excuse mail voting with ample access to ballot drop boxes and online ballot tracking, in addition to streamlined election mail delivery by the US Postal Service.
  • States would need to accept a wide range of forms of non-photographic identification in places where ID is required to vote.  
  • Counting eligible votes on provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. 
  • Restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people convicted of felonies. 
  • Imposes stricter regulations on voter list maintenance that make it harder for states to remove eligible voters from the rolls.
  • More protections and resources to serve voters with disabilities and overseas/military voters.  
  • Greater federal protections and oversight for voting in US territories. 
  • Improving voter registration resources and outreach, in addition to reauthorizing and strengthening the US Election Assistance Commission. 
  • The bill also includes the Right to Vote Act, which creates an affirmative right to vote in federal law.
House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre holds up maps during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021On election administration and redistricting: 
  • Prohibits partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to use certain criteria when drawing new congressional districts.
  • Requires states to use voter-verifiable paper ballots and conduct post-election audits.
  • Gives cybersecurity grants to states and directs the EAC to strengthen cybersecurity standards for voting equipment. 
  • Prohibits local election officials from being fired or removed without cause. 
  • Makes interfering with voter registration a federal crime, and imposes stricter penalties against harassment, threats, and intimidation of election workers. 
  • Restates chain of custody requirements protecting the integrity of ballots and election materials, a provision meant to combat unofficial partisan "audits."
On campaign finance: 
  • The bill includes the DISCLOSE Act, which targets so-called dark money in elections, and the HONEST Ads Act, which seeks to enhance transparency in campaign advertising. 
  • Creates a public financing program for House elections and allows candidates to use campaign funds for "personal use" services including childcare. 
  • Creates a federal obligation for campaigns to report instances of foreign interference. 
  • Stricter enforcement of illegal coordination between single-candidate PACs and campaigns. 
  • Stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations by the Federal Election Commission.  
Activists rally outside the Supreme Court on June 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.Provisions from the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act: 

The John Lewis VRAA takes particular aim at the Supreme Court and federal courts, seeking to undo rulings that have struck down or weakened key components of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Most significantly, it creates a new formula to restore the federal preclearance requirement mandating states with histories of discrimination to seek permission from the federal government before enacting new voting rules or redistricting plans. The Supreme Court struck down the previous coverage formula in the landmark 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision.

It also undoes the Supreme Court's 2021 decision in Brnovich vs. DNC, which significantly watered down the protections against race-based voter discrimination under Section 2 of the VRA.

The House version of the bill passed that chamber in late August. The Senate version, which has some relatively minor differences, was filibustered by all but one Senate Republican in November.  

  • Reverses the Supreme Court's new "guideposts" and standards from the Brnovich decision that make it harder for plaintiffs to prove racial discrimination under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 
  • Enshrines judicial precedent and legislative history to strengthen efforts to draw majority-minority districts under the parameters of the Voting Rights Act.  
  • Restores the federal preclearance regime that the Supreme Court struck down in Shelby. The bill creates a new coverage formula that requires states with recent histories of voting rights violations.  
  • Takes aim at the federal courts by requiring judges to explain their reasoning in emergency rulings they take up on the so-called shadow docket, and tries to limit judges' from relying solely on the proximity to the election in deciding emergency cases on election rules, known as the Purcell principle. 
  • The Senate version of the law also includes the Election Worker and Polling Place Protection Act, which provides greater federal protections for election workers against harassment and intimidation. 
  • The Senate version further tacks on the Native American Voting Rights Act, a bill that strengthens voting rights and voter protections for voters in Indian Country. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence during a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes on January 6, 2021.What about the Electoral Count Act? 

If these two bills fail, as expected, the best chance for serious election reform may be an update to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs how Congress counts electoral votes and seeks to provide a pathway for Congress to resolve disputed elections. 

In the year since the January 6 insurrection, experts from across the political spectrum have called for Congress to modernize the 19th-century law after former President Donald Trump and his allies exploited its ambiguities to try to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Trump's Electoral College loss. 

In particular, experts have advocated for Congress to clarify that the vice president's role is strictly ceremonial, clarify the standard for raising objections, (especially in cases where states have submitted just one uncontested slate of electors), and raise the bar for the number of lawmakers needed to raise an objection. 

Efforts to reform with lawmakers in both chambers are currently pursuing four separate endeavors to reform the law. In the Senate, a group of Democrats led by Sen. Angus King is planning on introducing a bill on the legislation, and a bipartisan group of moderate Senators are also exploring the issue. 

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.

"It's early in the process. We exchanged a list of changes we'd like to see as corrections we'd like to make to the Act, as well as other provisions related to elections," Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters on Tuesday. 

In the House, both the Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection and the Democrats on the House Administration Committee are planning to release their own analyses and recommendations for reforming the law. 

Democratic congressional leaders and the White House, however, have said that ECA reform on its own is insufficient and not a substitute for passage of major voting rights legislation. 

The number of different proposals on Capitol Hill, the lack of support for a standalone ECA bill (so far) from Democratic leadership, and no clear deadline are also working against the possibility of any ECA reform.  

"I don't think there's an urgency to get this done immediately, in part because we don't have an election where the Electoral Count Act will come into play for three years," Romney said. 

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