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Norway's unique F-35 fighter jets are taking on a new mission

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:57
One of the Norwegian F-35A aircraft assuming a NATO Quick Reaction Alert role out of Evenes Air Base, January 6, 2022.
  • Norway's F-35s officially took over responsibility for the Quick Reaction Alert on January 6.
  • The transfer of authority to the F-35 ended the F-16's responsibility for the mission after 42 years.

On January 6, 2022, the Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35A Lightning II officially took over the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) mission in Norway from the F-16 fleet.

The formal TOA (Transfer Of Authority) from the F-16AM/BM to the F-35A took place at Evenes Air Base in northern Norway, further north of Bodø air base, that has hosted the QRA cell until now.

Evenes will be the RNoAF's most important base in the north, as an advanced base for the F-35 fleet as well as the main operating base for the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft.

At Evenes, the RNoAF also has an air-defense battalion and a base-defense squadron that together will protect the airport. In addition, a number of support functions have been established at Evenes: by 2025, about 500 employees and 300 conscripts will work at the base.

As highlighted by NATO in a public statement, the TOA marked a historical milestone for the Norwegian Armed Forces and the Royal Norwegian Air Force, as it ended the F-16 fleet's 42-year-long mission serving Norway and NATO. While not on a 24/7/365 basis, the Norwegian F-35A were already taking part in the QRA mission.

—NATO Air Command (@NATO_AIRCOM) January 6, 2022

The first Norwegian F-35 landed in Norway at Ørland Air Station in November 2017. Work started immediately with operational testing and evaluation, to be ready to be able to stand on QRA from Evenes in 2022.

The Norwegian F-35As achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) on November 6, 2019, becoming the third European country to reach IOC with the F-35 after Italy and the UK. Since then, the Lightning have carried out two deployments in support of Icelandic Air Policing in Iceland (in 2020 and 2021), as well as domestic QRA from Ørland Air Station.

Full operational capability is expected to be achieved in 2025, with a fleet of 52 F-35A.

A Norwegian F-35 taking off after assuming the Quick Reaction Alert mission at Evenes Air Base, January 7, 2022.

As already explained multiple times here at The Aviationist, Norwegian F-35s are unique compared to other nations' F-35s as they are the only ones at the moment to use a drag chute during landing, housed in a special fairing on the upper rear fuselage between the vertical tails.

The drag chute was installed so that it can be used to rapidly decelerate Norwegian F-35s after landing on icy runways under windy conditions. Indeed, the TOA ceremony on January 6, 2022, at Evenes airport had to be shortened because of the heavy snowfall with little visibility …

According to the official F35.com website, the pod "distinguishes Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Belgian F-35As from other F-35s," although the system is at the moment used only by the RNoAF jets.

The system is designed as a wing pylon so that the pod can be installed and removed with minimal time and effort. The pod contains the drag chute system that rapidly decelerates the F-35s after landing on the country's short, icy runways. The pod is specifically designed to minimize effect on radar cross section and ensure the aircraft maintains stealth characteristics while flying.

Akin to the conventional parachute, the F-35 drag chute system is a device used to slow the motion of the F-35A and provide control and stability for pilots. The chute creates aerodynamic drag also known as air resistance. The F-35A drag chute uses the force of wind pushing in the opposite direction of the motion of the aircraft to safely land on short, wet and icy runways.

To deploy the chute, the pilot flips a switch up on the upper left side of the instrument panel. The switch activates hydraulic actuators that open the pod to release a Kevlar parachute. Once the aircraft is slowed sufficiently, the pilot flips the same switch down to release the drag chute as the aircraft comes to a stop.

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US aircraft carriers are taking new routes into the South China Sea, Chinese think tank says

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:55
US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in Danang, Vietnam, March 5, 2018.
  • US carrier strike groups entered the South China Sea 10 times in 2021, compared with six times in 2020 and five in 2019.
  • Use of alternative routes between islands may be designed to evade PLA radars and indicates skill diversification for US sailors, defence experts say.

The US Navy's aircraft carrier strike groups have not only increased South China Sea transits since last year, but their routes and drill patterns are becoming more complicated and unpredictable, according to a recent study.

Defence experts said the changes could indicate new countermeasures devised by the strike groups to face any contingencies in the region, such as a potential attack on Taiwan by Beijing's People's Liberation Army, or over South China Sea territorial disputes.

Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. It is also one of the rival claimants to several small islands and reefs in the busy shipping lanes of the resource-rich South China Sea. The US demands freedom of navigation in the region.

The USS Carl Vinson CSG completed a five-day joint drill with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) around the disputed Spratly Islands on Saturday, kicking off their 2022 naval schedule two weeks earlier than last year, according to the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a maritime strategic study unit affiliated to Peking University's Institute of Ocean Research.

USS Carl Vinson the South China Sea.

"The US military have drastically reinforced their military deployment in the South China Sea since last year, in terms of training scales, sorties and scenarios," SCSPI director Hu Bo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Friday.

"USS [US ship carrier strike groups] entered the South China Sea 10 times last year, compared with six times in 2020, and five in 2019, with their training patterns becoming more complicated and unpredictable."

In the past, the US warships used to enter the region via the Bashi Channel between the Philippines and Taiwan, but their routes and operation time spans had become diversified since last year, he added.

Navigation records and satellite images show that the strike groups had tended to pass through narrow waterways between the Philippine archipelagos on their way to the region, including the Balabac Strait off Palawan province, a channel between Verde Island and Mindoro, and other points, the CCTV report said.

In the latest transit last Tuesday, the CSG led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier entered the region via the Balabac Strait to team up with the Essex ARG, a landing helicopter dock group, according to the US Navy.

Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan's Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, said the US strike groups appeared to be trying to come up with new countermeasures to the PLA's anti-access strategies aimed at stopping foreign military interventions in waters off Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

A press conference in the hangar bay of US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson while anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines, November 30, 2010.

"I believe the US Navy is trying to escape the over-the-horizon (OTH) radars systems on the three artificial islands of Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross reefs, which has targeted US warships and aircraft [before]," Lu said, referring to Beijing's three artificial islands in the Spratlys.

"The US Navy can use the geographical features of the Philippines to approach the region and suddenly appear somewhere out of the PLA's expectations, because the OTH radars have limitations when it comes to monitoring approaching objects from a group of archipelagos."

The USS Carl Vinson strike group fleet includes destroyers, frigates, submarines and supply ships. The new approach of warships sailing between island groups would also require US sailors to boost their skills in traditional terrestrial navigation, Lu noted.

Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the new movements and choices of route were in keeping with the dynamic force employment concept implemented by the US Navy.

"Instead of using only those traditional routes, the increased use of lesser-known, alternative routes would reduce predictability with respect to the direction of movement of US military assets," Koh said.

"This thereby increases operational and strategic flexibility in times of peace and contingencies. Such contingencies would include the Taiwan Strait scenario to be sure."

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Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will reportedly leave the company after Microsoft acquisition closes

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:53
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.
  • Microsoft is buying "Call of Duty" publisher Activision in a $68.7 billion all-cash deal.
  • As part of the deal, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is reportedly out.
  • Microsoft said Kotick would remain in his position after the deal closes and report to Xbox lead Phil Spencer.

Microsoft is buying Activision, the major video game publisher behind the "Call of Duty" franchise, in an all-cash deal valued at around $68.7 billion.

It's Microsoft's largest ever acquisition, and the largest video game acquisition in history.

Microsoft will acquire a huge selection of intellectual property and game development resources: Game franchises like "Call of Duty," "World of Warcraft," and "Candy Crush," in addition to major game studios like Blizzard Entertainment and Treyarch. Activision's approximately 10,000 employees will join Microsoft in the deal.

One employee who apparently won't be joining Microsoft, though, is embattled Activision CEO Bobby Kotick: He's expected to leave the company once the deal closes, according to sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.

Those sources said that both Microsoft and Activision have agreed that Kotick "will depart once the deal closes," which could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

That's in stark contrast to what Microsoft said in its press release on Tuesday morning.

"Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard," the release said, "and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company's culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming."

Kotick reportedly knew for years about a variety of claims of sexual harassment and rape at his company.

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal detailed several specific examples of harassment and rape at Activision. Kotick was not only aware of those claims but, in a least one instance, reportedly intervened to keep a male staffer who was accused of sexual harassment despite the company's human resources department recommending he be fired.

At the time, Xbox head Phil Spencer said in an email to staff that Xbox was "evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments." Microsoft further addressed the issues at Activision during its investor phone call on Tuesday.

"We believe it's critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward on its renewed cultural commitments," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. "We are supportive of the goals and the work Activision Blizzard is doing. And we also recognize that after the close, we will have significant work to do in order to continue to build a culture where everyone can do their best work."

Neither Activision nor Microsoft representatives responded immediately to a request for comment.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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El Salvador's president hits back on Twitter after rating agency Moody's issues warning over its bitcoin buying

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:52
President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele hit back on Twitter on Sunday in response to a warning from rating agency Moody's over the Central American country's bitcoin investments.

The 40-year-old president tweeted: "BREAKING: EL SALVADOR DGAF." The letters are an acronym for "don't give a fuck". 

Bukele was responding to a tweet on Sunday regarding the warning Moody's issued last week about the risks its bitcoin trading poses to its sovereign credit rating.

The rating agency told Bloomberg on January 13 that El Salvador's bitcoin holdings "certainly add to the risk portfolio," especially for "a government that has been struggling with liquidity pressures in the past."

El Salvador has about 1,391 bitcoins in its coffers, according to a Bloomberg analysis, and "if it gets much higher, then that represents an even greater risk to repayment capacity and the fiscal profile of the issuer," Moody's said.

In July last year, Moody's downgraded the country's credit rating to CAA1, which reflects a very high risk of default on its debts. The rating agency cited a "challenging redemption schedule" and "a deterioration in the quality of policymaking," as its reasoning for the downgrade.  

El Salvador's aggressive bitcoin buying spree, particularly in moments when the coin's price has dipped, began in September 2021 when the Central American nation adopted the cryptocurrency as legal tender, making it the first country in the world to elevate bitcoin to that status.

This landmark move propelled Bukele to fame, especially among the crypto crowd. Supporters of his move to push El Salvador to the bleeding edge of crypto include Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood, who told Time Magazine Sunday that Bukele's bitcoin push has given citizens financial opportunities they didn't have before.

Global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street banks such as JPMorgan, however, were less optimistic.  

Recent drops in bitcoin have cost El Salvador around $10 million, Bloomberg estimates. Bitcoin was trading at $41,536 as of Tuesday afternoon in New York, approximately 40% lower than its record high of $69,000 last November.  

 

 

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Texas' new election law is creating a spike in rejected mail ballot applications and a shortage of paper registration forms

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:43
In this July 14, 2020 file photo, a voter, right, shows her identification to a Harris County election clerk before voting, in Houston. Paper shortages and a new identification rule for absentee ballots are causing problems in some counties ahead of the state's March 1, 2022 primary.
  • A paper shortage and new identification requirement are causing problems ahead of Texas' March 1 primary.
  • A rule requiring voters to provide ID information to vote absentee is causing high rejection rates. 
  • The state's new law, Senate Bill 1, also makes it harder for election officials to assist voters. 

Texas' new voting law and supply chain problems are causing a shortage of paper registration and mail ballot application forms and a spike in rejected absentee ballot applications ahead of the states' March 1 primaries. 

A new identification requirement has caused Travis County, home to Austin, to reject half of absentee ballot applications so far, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said on Thursday. Harris County, home to Houston, has rejected 16% of absentee ballot applications, according to KHOU News. Bexar County, home to San Antonio, has seen a large share of ballot applications rejected for not complying with the identification law, KSAT reported. 

Senate Bill 1, which the Republican-controlled state legislature passed along party lines in 2021, bans temporary pandemic-era voting expansions, tightens voting rules especially around absentee voting, empowers election observers, and adds a slew of new restrictions and penalties on election officials, which DeBeauvoir said is impeding her ability to help voters whose ballot applications risk getting rejected. 

"If I seem a little upset by this, it is because voters are being mistreated in this circumstance," DeBeauvoir, a veteran election official retiring after 2022, said in a Tuesday news conference.

Senate Bill 1 bumps up the penalty for fraudulent registration from a class B to a class A misdemeanor, KUT News noted, meaning the state had to produce a new voter registration form.

Texas is one of just eight states with no online voter registration for most voters, meaning the state's voter registration system largely relies on paper. It has the earliest registration deadline allowed under federal law, putting voter outreach groups in a time crunch to register voters before the January 31, 2022 registration deadline for the primary. 

A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State's office told KUT that they are "limited in what we can supply this year, because of the paper shortage and the cost constraints due to the price of paper and the supply of paper" but that counties can accept voter registrations submitted on the old forms.  

That is not the case, however, for absentee ballot application forms due to the new absentee identification requirement in Senate Bill 1.

"All the old forms, which some people have stockpiled including the League of Women Voters and a lot of campaigns and a lot of political operatives, have to be thrown away. They are no good," DeBeauvoir explained. "And a lot of people are still trying to use the old form because we've had a paper shortage and the printing of these new forms means they're scarce, they're hard to come by. Nevertheless, you have to use the new form: if somebody uses the old form, their ballot will be rejected."

Texas Gov Greg Abbott and State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, shake hands after Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.Confusion over a new identification rule is leading to ballot application rejections.

Texas, which already restricts absentee voting to those with a documented excuse, now requires voters to include identifying information — either their driver's license number, state identification number, or Social Security number — when applying for an absentee ballot. 

As Texas Monthly and VoteBeat reported in July 2021, the new rule also requires the number the voter provides on their application to match whichever number they provided when they first registered to vote. If the numbers don't match, the application is rejected, a rule that officials say is driving the high rate of rejections. 

"The voter is playing a guessing game with this," DeBeauvoir said. "The voter is trying to remember the number they signed up with at the voter registration office 10, 15, 30 years ago."

DeBeauvoir also pointed out that an identification number is also required on the return envelope for the ballot itself, creating two opportunities throughout the voting process for a voter to make a mistake that could get their ballot getting rejected. 

DeBeauvoir, whose office has sparred with the Texas Secretary of State's office on Twitter in recent days, said she and other counties are having trouble getting guidance from the office both on what to do with absentee ballot applications without the right identifying number and how to work the state's new online mail ballot tracking system. 

DeBeauvoir explained that new penalties and restrictions on election officials imposed under Senate Bill 1 make it difficult for her to advise voters on how to ensure their ballot application isn't rejected.

The bill makes it a felony offense for election officials to proactively send out mail ballot application forms, as some counties did in 2020, and bars election officials from actively encouraging or promoting voting by mail. 

"I run the risk of a state jail felony. It is illegal for me to tell anyone that kind of information," she said, advising voters to carefully follow mail ballot instructions and seek help from political party offices if they need it. 

"You're gonna have to fight for this," DeBeauvoir said. "This kind of suppression is designed to stop you from voting: do not let it stop you from voting."  

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BlackRock's Larry Fink says CEOs should give young workers what they want: 'Companies that deliver are reaping the rewards'

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:40
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink says the pandemic revealed a gap in generational expectations at work.
  • The pandemic revealed a generational gap at work, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote in his annual letter to CEOs.
  • He said leaders need to think about how to connect to social issues that matter to employees.
  • The gap between Gen Z and millennial employees grew during the pandemic, but both want the same things at work.

In a remote work world, it's not just where we're working from that's different. It's also how we're working with each other.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in his annual 2022 letter to CEOs that leaders need to work with employees to navigate the new world of work, fostering an environment that expands its focus beyond pay and flexibility. That includes thinking about how to connect to social issues that matter to employees.

"In addition to upending our relationship with where we physically work, the pandemic also shone a light on issues like racial equity, childcare, and mental health – and revealed the gap between generational expectations at work," he wrote.

The 2010s economy saw generational differences emerge as millennials overtook the workforce, bringing tech-savviness and a desire for flexibility that older generations weren't used to. The pandemic era of the 2020s ushered more Gen Zers into the foray, adding another generational divide to the mix as this generation was more assertive about what companies can do for them. It turns out, millennials and Gen Z want the same things — they just ask for it in different ways. And Fink says boomer executives should pay attention.

"Companies that deliver are reaping the rewards," he added. "Our research shows that companies who forged strong bonds with their employees have seen lower levels of turnover and higher returns through the pandemic."

Millennials and Gen Z want the same things out of work

As the The New York Times' Emma Goldberg wrote in an article that went viral late last year, millennial managers are afraid of Gen Zers, who are confidently and assertively demanding a better work-life balance.

The TikTok generation delegates to their bosses, isn't shy about asking for mental health days, works less once accomplishing their daily tasks, and sets their own hours, Goldberg wrote. It's coming as a shock to work-obsessed millennials, whose careers have always seen overworked and structured days. 

But while millennials and Gen Z may work differently, they want the same things in the workplace. Both generations experience more anxiety and stress than older generations, and both equally prioritize mental-health benefits and work-life balance. Both are also demanding corporate social responsibility, wanting the companies they work for to make a difference on issues like climate change and racial injustice.

The difference is in how the generations approach these priorities at work, which has a lot to do with the economic crises each generation confronted after graduation.

Millennials, who entered a dismal labor force broken by the Great Recession, were keen for change but risk-averse. But the era of remote work gave Gen Z the upper hand in amplifying demands for workplace autonomy, Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president at Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and author of "You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams," previously told Insider.

And so, as Goldberg wrote, they began questioning pre-pandemic workplace norms like eight-hour shifts or lack of progressive values, much to the chagrin of the millennial managers who are used to doing things their way (just like every generation).

While this creates a gap between millennials and Gen Z in the workplace, the two generations' similar needs unite them on one side of a different generational gap with boomer leaders on the other side. Millennials paved the way for a more progressive shift that Gen Z is now actively turning into a workplace norm. What Fink's comments imply is that employers need to accommodate these changes.

Of course, an increasingly progressive streak is what happens as a new generation ages into the workforce. As Rikleen said, "The quest for a workplace that respects boundaries and needs is baked in generationally. That will not change. With each new generation, this will get stronger."

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Louisiana Senate candidate smokes blunt in campaign ad highlighting non-violent drug convictions

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:30
US Senate candidate Gary Chambers (D).
  • A Democratic Senate candidate in Louisiana made a splash on Tuesday with a new ad.
  • Gary Chambers, a challenger to GOP Sen. John Kennedy, smokes a blunt in the video.
  • The ad highlights non-violent drug convictions.

Marijuana, once a taboo subject for American politicians, is featured front and center in a new campaign ad out of Louisiana.

Democrat Gary Chambers is seen lighting and inhaling a blunt in his debut TV ad, clocking in at 37 seconds.

—Gary Chambers (@GaryChambersJr) January 18, 2022

"Every 37 seconds someone is arrested for possession of marijuana," Chambers, a 36-year-old community organizer, says in the video.

Still a prohibited Schedule I substance under federal law, marijuana remains illegal without any decriminalization measures in 24 states.

"States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year," Chambers continues in the ad. "Most of the people police are arresting aren't dealers but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me."

The US has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, with roughly half of federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses. Black people are five times more likely to be locked up in a state prison than whites, according to The Sentencing Project's data for 2021.

In his tweet sharing the video, Chambers explained why he was willing to light up on camera.

"I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology," Chambers tweeted.

The pot smoking ad is the first of its kind in a Senate race, according to NBC News.

Chambers will face off against GOP Sen. John Kennedy and other candidates in the non-partisan primary on November 8, followed by the runoff contest between the top two candidates on December 10.

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BlackRock's CEO says capitalism doesn't work if it's only about lining shareholders' pockets

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:28
  • BlackRock CEO Larry Fink laid out his definition of stakeholder capitalism in his annual letter to CEOs.
  • The ideology might not be "woke," but it relies on benefitting everyone, not just shareholders, he said.
  • Capitalism is under "constant reinvention," and firms need to think beyond boosting profits, he added.

Today's capitalism isn't "woke," but it's not an all-out rush for profits, either, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said Tuesday.

The pandemic and subsequent recovery have fueled a broad rethink of the US economy. Workers are winning huge raises after decades of subpar wage growth. Millions of people are quitting each month as the labor-market shakeup continues. The shift in power from employer to employee is a much-needed course correction for the country, Fink said in his annual letter to CEOs.

And Fink argued that this shift is just the natural evolution of how capitalism can best work to build a strong economy.

"Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not 'woke,'" he said. "It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper."

Fink's words carry weight. BlackRock manages some $10 trillion in assets, making it the world's biggest asset manager and a major player in the corporate sphere. It's also been one of the loudest voices in support of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investing, with Fink often highlighting climate change and sustainability in his annual letters.

The changes seen over the past year are a hallmark feature of US capitalism, Fink said. The ideology relies on "constant reinvention" as new competition and trends shape how companies perform. While older forms of capitalism might've emphasized shareholder gains over all else, today's companies need to benefit their "full range of stakeholders" if they're to also serve as strong investments, Fink said.

"It is through effective stakeholder capitalism that capital is efficiently allocated, companies achieve durable profitability, and value is created and sustained over the long-term," he said, adding "the fair pursuit of profit" is still what powers markets.

The shifting labor market is Exhibit A of the new capitalism

The pandemic only accelerated the reinvention of the US economy. Remote work evolved from a fringe option to the new normal for millions, and the relationship between companies, their workers, and society "is being redefined," Fink said. Record-high quits and decade-high wage growth underscore just how dramatic those relationships are changing.

How companies adapt will likely shape the labor market for decades to come. Workers calling on their firms for higher pay and better conditions is "an essential feature of effective capitalism," Fink said, as it's the free market setting a new standard for deals between employers and employees. Companies meeting these calls "are reaping the rewards" and facing lower levels of turnover, while those ignoring workers are falling behind, the CEO added.

"Companies not adjusting to this new reality and responding to their workers do so at their own peril," he said. "Turnover drives up expenses, drives down productivity, and erodes culture and corporate memory."

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'Last Night in Soho,' starring Anya Taylor-Joy, is now available to rent for just $6 — here's where to watch the thriller at home

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:25

Prices are accurate at the time of publication.

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Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith in "Last Night in Soho."
  • "Last Night in Soho" is a psychological thriller starring Anya Taylor-Joy ("The Queen's Gambit").
  • The movie is directed by Edgar Wright, who is best known for "Shaun of the Dead" and "Baby Driver."
  • You can rent or buy the film to stream at home from VOD retailers like Vudu and Prime Video.
"Last Night in Soho" (Digital Rental)$5.99 FROM VUDU$5.99 FROM AMAZON$5.99 FROM YOUTUBE$5.99 FROM MICROSOFT$5.99 FROM ITUNES

"Last Night in Soho" is now available to watch at home via video-on-demand (VOD) services like Vudu, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube, and Microsoft Movies. The movie made its streaming debut in November with a premium rental price of $20, but it's now available for just $6.

The psychological thriller stars Thomasin McKenzie as an aspiring fashion designer in the present day. While dreaming, she inexplicably travels to a glamorous 1960's nightclub and meets a character played by Anya Taylor-Joy. But soon the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred, and a dangerous threat creeps in from the past.

The movie is directed by Edgar Wright who also helmed films like "Shaun of the Dead," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," and "Baby Driver." "Last Night in Soho" was favorably received by critics, and it currently holds a "75% Certified Fresh" rating on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.

Where to watch 'Last Night in Soho' online

"Last Night in Soho" is now available to watch at home. You can rent the movie for $6 or purchase it for $20 through VOD retailers like Vudu, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube, and Microsoft Movies.

Streaming platforms usually allow you to take up to 30 days to start watching a rental and then 48 hours to finish after you press play. If you buy "Last Night in Soho," you can watch it whenever you'd like with no restrictions.

$5.99 FROM VUDU$5.99 FROM AMAZON$5.99 FROM YOUTUBE$5.99 FROM MICROSOFT$5.99 FROM ITUNES

VOD retailers are compatible with most web browsers, smartphones, tablets, streaming devices, and smart TVs. For a full list of supported devices, visit your selected service's website.

What other recent movies are available to rent through VOD?

In addition to "Last Night in Soho," many recent movies are available to rent through VOD retailers. The rental prices for these films are usually the highest during the initial release, and the cost typically lowers over time.

Here's a rundown of a few popular movies that are available to rent right now.

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The 10 best new books to read in January according to Amazon's editors, from a new Colleen Hoover novel to a memoir by Roseanne Barr's daughter

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 19:24

Prices are accurate at the time of publication.

According to Amazon's book editors, the best new books to read in January include picks from Colleen Hoover, Nita Prose, and Xochitl Gonzalez.

January often means fresh beginnings, and diving into a brand new book is a great way to start the year off right. To help, Amazon's book editors picked the 10 best new books to read this month.

There's something for everyone, from a historical fiction book that spans three centuries to a contemporary novel on the complexity of a close female friendship. Other titles include a memoir from Roseanne Barr's daughter and a new book from New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover.

Here are the 10 best new books to read in January, according to Amazon's editors:

Descriptions are provided by Amazon and edited lightly for clarity.

'The Maid' by Nita Prose

Molly, a maid working in a New York hotel, discovers notorious — and very wealthy — guest Charles Black dead in his bed. This is a problem for any number of reasons, not least of which is that it offends Molly's sense of order, which is what leads her to clean Black's room immediately, and inadvertently propel her to the top of the suspect list.

Guileless, earnest, and determined, the bulk of this charming and propulsive novel is watching Molly — as vulnerable as a toddler on train tracks — hunt down the real killer. — Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Editor

$13.99 FROM AMAZON'Olga Dies Dreaming' by Xochitl Gonzalez

Olga is a successful wedding planner to the rich and soon-to-be-famous and her brother Pietro is a congressman. Both have come a long way from their Brooklyn childhood when they were abandoned by their mother, a radical Puerto Rican activist. But when Hurricane Maria strikes, Olga and Pietro are forced to confront their past and their futures.

In "Olga Dies Dreaming" there are family secrets, grievances, and the feeling of being caught between two worlds, which Xochitl Gonzalez renders with such clarity and zeal that it's nearly impossible to not read this in one sitting. — Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor

$14.99 FROM AMAZON'To Paradise' by Hanya Yanagihara

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara is a completely immersive and downright extraordinary story of men and women, lovers and friends, grandparents and grandchildren, that spans three different time periods (1893, 1993, 2093). It's easy to fall in step rooting for these characters who at times try to defy their legacy and other times try to uphold it.

The novel calls to mind David Mitchell with a dash of Edith Wharton, and something new altogether, resulting in another triumphant work of fiction by the author of A Little Life.  —Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor

$14.99 FROM AMAZON'Fiona and Jean' by Jean Chen Ho

Coming of age in southern California, Fiona and Jane's lives diverge when the former heads to New York after college. Gone are the heady days of getting drunk on soju at a strip mall Korean bar — blunting the rough edges of their disparate but equally complex adolescences, and occasionally getting them into the kind of trouble that only serves to strengthen their bond. It's a good thing, because the mettle of their relationship will be tested.

Told in alternating voices, Jean Chen Ho's tale of two Taiwanese Americans captures the comedy, the tragedy, and the love story that is unique to close female friendships. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Editor

$13.99 FROM AMAZON'Reminders of Him' by Colleen Hoover

Every aspect of "Reminders of Him" feels heightened because it's not just a romance novel and it's not just an angst-filled forgiveness and redemption story. It's not a heartrending epistolary novel written to a lost love. And it's not even a what's-best-for-the-child kitchen sink drama, though that's how the first three story arcs intersect. It's an honest-to-God, wet eyelashes, lump-in-throat (twice!), mix of all four.

You will laugh, you will cry, you will have a new appreciation for orange F-150 trucks. —Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Editor

$5.99 FROM AMAZON'Emotional Inheritance' by Galit Atlas

It is perhaps a sign of the pandemic times that there are so many books on trauma in the marketplace. Bessel van der Kolk's "The Body Keeps the Score," a pioneering work many consider to be the trauma bible, is back on bestseller lists eight years after it was originally published, a testament to the healing power of its insights (and the power of TikTok).

Just as groundbreaking, Galit Atlas's "Emotional Inheritance" illuminates the ways in which the unresolved traumas of our forebearers can unwittingly be transferred to future generations. Insightful and fascinating, it's a profound cautionary tale about the perils of trying to wall off emotional wounds. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Editor

$13.99 FROM AMAZON'This Will Be Funny Later: A Memoir' by Jenny Pentland

Jenny Pentland is the daughter of Roseanne Barr, but from the book jacket you'd never know. And that's the way it should be, as "This Will Be Funny Later" is less about being Roseanne's Daughter than it is about growing up in a complicated family that was suddenly forced into the intense spotlight of fame and its trappings.

While Pentland has had her share of struggles, she never comes across as bitter, and it's easy to root for her as she manages a quieter existence on a farm raising five sons, and hoping she gets her happy ending. —Sarah Gelman, Amazon Editor

$12.99 FROM AMAZON'Real Easy' by Marie Rutkoski

"Real Easy" is a tightly wound thriller anchored around the Lovely Lady strip club and the tenacious yet vulnerable women who dance there night after night regardless of the danger lurking in the shadows. Some of these women will die at the hands of a serial killer and one will discover the horrible truth. But regardless of their outcome, readers come away knowing each woman intimately: What drives them, what they fear, and who they love.

"Real Easy" does something rare and special in a mystery: It tingles your spine and touches your heart. — Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor

'Joan is Okay' by Weike Wang

Joan is a narrator I could read forever. She's naïve, unfiltered, intensely dedicated to her job as a New York City ICU doctor, whip-smart, wry, and views the world differently than most. And there are many reasons for that: She's a Chinese-American; her wealthy brother is constantly trying to get her to move to Connecticut; her mother is returning to the states, and her father just died. How will she cope with it all?

Weike Wang not only meets this pandemic moment with a story of identity and isolation, but she does so with bright comedy and care. —Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor

$13.99 FROM AMAZON'Anthem' by Noah Hawley

Anyone who has seen the television series "Fargo" (which Noah Hawley created and writes) or who has read his previous novels (particularly his last book "Before the Fall") knows that he is a unique talent. He is also a deep thinker. In "Anthem," a pandemic of mass suicide among young people is the jumping-off point for the story — and in the end, it is young people who will take their future into their own hands.

You will recognize much in terms of people and issues here, but you will also be pulled into an adventure that only a few authors could write so well. – Chris Schluep, Amazon Editor

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Three major cruise lines just postponed sailings on 18 ships — here are all the cruises that have been canceled amid the Omicron surge

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 18:28
Royal Caribbean's Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship docked in Hong Kong in October 2021.
  • Norwegian has postponed sailings across 12 cruise ships amid a spike in COVID-19.
  • Two Royal Caribbean Group cruise lines have also paused sailings on six ships.
  • These are all the cruise ships Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity have postponed.

Three major cruise lines have canceled sailings on a combined 18 ships as COVID-19 continues to spike around the world amid spread of the Omicron variant.

The majority of cruise ships sailing in the US have reported COVID-19 outbreaks in the last several weeks, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These ongoing outbreaks have barred cruise ships from docking at ports of calls, forced passengers to quarantine aboard ships, and infected crew members

Amid these disruptions, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have postponed several sailings, citing travel restrictions or the COVID-19 outbreak. Almost 250 cruises were set to sail throughout the first month of 2022, but this ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases could continue to cause further cancellations.

These are all the cruise vessels now facing cancelations:

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl in Amsterdam.

In early January, Norwegian announced it will be canceling itineraries aboard eight ships due to "ongoing travel restrictions." Shortly after, the cruise line began reporting additional postponements, bringing the total to 12 vessels:

  • Norwegian Pearl — postponed through January 17 
  • Norwegian Dawn — postponed through January 18 
  • Norwegian Getaway — postponed through January 19 
  • Norwegian Escape — postponed through January 22 
  • Norwegian Joy — postponed through January 22 
  • Norwegian Breakaway — postponed through January 23
  • Norwegian Sky — postponed through February 25 
  • Pride of America — postponed through February 26 
  • Norwegian Jade — postponed through March 3 
  • Norwegian Star — postponed through March 19
  • Norwegian Sun — postponed through April 19 
  • Norwegian Spirit — postponed through April 23
Royal Caribbean Cruise LineRoyal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas ship.

Citing "ongoing COVID-related circumstances," Royal Caribbean has also canceled sailings aboard five ships:

  • Vision of the Seas — postponed until March 7
  • Serenade of the Seas — postponed until April 26
  • Jewel of the Seas — postponed until February 20
  • Symphony of the Seas — postponed until January 29
  • Independence of the Seas — postponed until January 22, 2022

The Vision of the Seas is currently being used as a quarantine vessel for Royal Caribbean crew who have contracted COVID-19.

Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Eclipse in April 2010.

Royal Caribbean Group's Celebrity Cruises has canceled four sailings from March 26 through April 16 aboard the Celebrity Eclipse, which has yet to return to service, a spokesperson for the cruise line told Insider on Monday.

Are you a cruise ship worker or did you recently contract COVID-19 on a cruise ship? If you have a story to share, email this reporter at bchang@insider.com.

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Janet Yellen says in MLK Day speech that the US economy has 'never worked fairly for Black Americans'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 18:13

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends the House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington on September 30, 2021.
  • Janet Yellen said on Monday that the US economy has "never worked fairly for Black Americans."
  • The US Treasury Secretary's remarks were delivered on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
  • Yellen also said there's "much more" work to do to narrow the racial wealth divide.

The US economy has "never worked fairly for Black Americans" and there's more work to do to narrow the racial wealth divide, Janet Yellen said during a speech delivered on Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day.

The Treasury Secretary referenced in her remarks Dr. King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he likened the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to a "promissory note to which every American was to fall heir."

"It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned," Dr. King said, in the 1963 speech. "Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds."

During her pre-recorded remarks, which were delivered during Rev. Al Sharpton's annual National Action Network breakfast in Washington, DC, Yellen said Dr. King's words were more than a metaphor.

"He knew that economic injustice was bound up in the larger injustice he fought against," Yellen said. "Our economy has never worked fairly for Black Americans, or really any American of color."

Yellen said the Biden Administration is working to change that. She pointed to recent achievements within the Treasury Department, including:

But, she said, "there's much more work the Treasury needs to do to narrow the racial wealth divide."

Yellen is one of many US leaders, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who spoke on Monday to commemorate what would have been Dr. King's 93rd birthday.

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Ark Invest's Cathie Wood points to El Salvador's bitcoin push as one way innovation is making people's lives better

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 18:12
A woman withdraws money from a bitcoin ATM in El Salvador.
  • Cathie Wood noted El Salvador's bitcoin adoption has doubled how many citizens can access financial services.
  • The Ark CEO believes allocating capital to innovation will benefit people's lives around the world in the long run.
  • Through mobile phone technology, billions of people worldwide have been able to access financial services, Wood noted.
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El Salvador's grand bitcoin ambitions may have hit a snag in the crypto slump, but one markets star has a good word for them: Ark Invest's Cathie Wood.

Asked whether the finance industry increases wealth inequality, Wood told Time magazine that allocating capital to innovation will benefit people's lives around the world in the long run.

The widely followed investor pointed to El Salvador, where she believes President Nayib Bukele's bitcoin push has given citizens financial opportunities that they didn't have before.

"The president in El Salvador is giving $30 of bitcoin to every eligible adult," she said in the Time interview published Sunday.

"And what we've seen there is that, roughly, whereas only 1.2 million people have access to financial services, 3 million people now have access to new banking services and new financial services, thanks to blockchain technology."

Bitcoin became legal tender in El Salvador in September, making it the first country in the world to do so. The Central American country has developed its own digital wallet, called "Chivo," which lets people withdraw money from more than 200 ATMs.

Through mobile phone technology, billions of people worldwide have been able to access financial services, Wood noted. This, coupled with blockchain technology, will go a long way to bridging the gap between rich and poor, she believes.

"So in my book, the more we can allocate capital to innovation, the better we can make people's lives around the world," she said.

El Salvador's millennial president is known for trading bitcoin on his phone. As the leading cryptocurrency has fallen, he has touted buying the dip and the Central American country has increased its holdings to about 1,391 bitcoins, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

Recent drops in bitcoin have cost El Salvador around $10 million, Bloomberg estimates. Bitcoin was at $42,262, down about 2.5% on the past 24 hours on Monday, according to CoinMarketCap data. Trading volume was relatively unchanged over the past week.

Despite the slump, other countries and even several US cities have revealed bitcoin plans, and Rio De Janeiro's Mayor said last week he would invest 1% of the city's reserves in the cryptocurrency. 

Elsewhere in the interview, Wood told Time that Ark shares its strategy for investing in innovation freely, so that individual investors know what's coming. 

The Ark CEO and founder became a household name after the firm's flagship Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK) had a bumper year in 2020, when it rose 150%. While the fund has faltered recently — it fell 38% in 2021 — Wood's opinion is highly regarded by many retail investors. 

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Investor Bill Ackman says the Federal Reserve needs a 'shock and awe' rate hike in order to restore its credibility with markets.

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 17:47
Bill Ackman is a billionaire investor and hedge fund manager.
  • Investor Bill Ackman said the Federal Reserve should deliver a bigger rate hike to restore its credibility with markets.
  • Ackman said the Fed is losing the battle against inflation, which is at its highest in 40 years.
  • Markets show investors expect at least 4 rate hikes in 2022.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman said the Federal Reserve needs to deliver a big interest rate hike to restore its credibility and "shock and awe" the market.

In a series of tweets on January 15, Ackman said, "The @federalreserve could work to restore its credibility with an initial 50 bps surprise move to shock and awe the market, which would demonstrate its resolve on inflation."

Ackman said the Fed was losing the battle against inflation, which has risen to its highest in almost 40 years, as the economy has reopened and created shortages of raw materials and even available workers. 

Ackman said the central bank was behind the curve and added that there would be "painful economic consequences for the most vulnerable," He questioned whether three or four interest-rate rises this year would be enough. 

Financial markets reflect an expectation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates four times this year, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool, starting with a 25 basis-point increase in March. 

Major banks such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank expect four rate hikes this year. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said that the Fed may raise interest rates as many as seven times this year. 

Inflation is at a 40-year high, with the consumer price index (CPI) up 7% in December 2021 from the previous year. This was the largest 12-month rise since 1982. 

The Fed has not raised interest rates by more than 25 bps at a time since 2000. 

The Fed slashed its main interest rates, the federal funds rate, to a record low target range of between 0% and 0.25% in the spring of 2020 during the onset of the Covid pandemic. 

Ackman said the Fed's larger-than-expected 50 bps hike could prevent the need for more aggressive action in the future. 

"A 50 bp initial move would have the reflexive effect of reducing inflation expectations, which would moderate the need for more aggressive and economically painful steps in the future," he tweeted. 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that it would take higher interest ratesand tighter monetary policy to rein in consumer inflation and the economy was strong enough to withstand both. 

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Bitcoin could tumble below $30,000 this year as the crypto bubble pops, Invesco says

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 17:35
Bitcoin slumped Wednesday and into Thursday.
  • Bitcoin could fall below $30,000 in 2022 as air leaves the crypto bubble, Invesco said in its "improbable but possible" forecasts.
  • Invesco strategist Paul Jackson said the marketing around bitcoin reminds him of the run-up to the 1929 crash.
  • If bitcoin follows the trend of other manias, then a rocky couple of years lie ahead, he predicted.

Bitcoin could tumble below $30,000 this year as the air comes out of the crypto bubble, according to Invesco's list of "improbable but possible" outcomes for 2022.

"The mass marketing of bitcoin reminds us of the activity of stockbrokers in the run-up to the 1929 crash," Paul Jackson, the US investment company's global head of asset allocation, said in a note Monday.

"We think it is not too much of a stretch to imagine bitcoin falling below $30,000 this year," Jackson said, adding he believes there's at least a 30% chance of it happening.

Bitcoin soared in 2021 from around $33,000 at the start of the year to as high as $69,000 in November, before falling to end the year at roughly $46,000. The world's first and biggest cryptocurrency has since slumped further to trade at around $42,319 as of Monday, according to prices on the Bitstamp exchange.

Jackson said bitcoin could be seen as a financial mania, meaning steep losses could soon be on their way.

Read more: 2022 bitcoin price outlook: Here are the price targets set by top analysts from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and other leading Wall Street banks so far this year

"A loss of 45% is experienced in the 12 months after the peak of a typical financial mania," he wrote.

If bitcoin follows that pattern, its price will fall to between $34,000 and $37,000 by October. But Jackson said a steeper drop is possible, and the digital asset could slip below $30,000.

But that scenario is far from certain, the Invesco strategist cautioned. "Last year, we spoke of bitcoin falling below $10,000, but instead it reached a peak of around $68,000," he noted.

Yet there are growing signs that investors are worried about the outlook for bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.

Investment bank UBS published a note last week looking at whether the space might be headed for a new "crypto winter" – a period when prices fall sharply and fail to recover for more than a year.

Interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve in 2022 could well dent the appeal of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in the eyes of many investors, according to the UBS analysts, led by James Malcolm.

They also said there's also a growing realization among crypto investors that bitcoin is not "better money," because it's highly volatile and its limited supply makes it inflexible.

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Romney says he never got a call from the White House asking him to support a voting-rights bill

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 17:22
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
  • Sen. Romney criticised Biden for not creating more bipartisan support for a voting-rights bill. 
  • He said he "never got a call" seeking his support in building a consensus. 
  • Romney said he was working with a bipartisan group to pass a narrower bill. 

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said he "never got a call from the White House" seeking his support to help broker a bipartisan voting-rights bill. 

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, Romney was critical of President Joe Biden as he approaches his first year in office, saying that he should done more to build bipartisanship. 

—Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) January 16, 2022

"Things are not going well. And the president needs to stop and reset and say what is it he's trying to accomplish? And if it's to try and transform America, he is not going to unite us," said Romney, who was the Republican Party's presidential candidate in 2012.

"Bringing us together means finding a way to work on a bipartisan basis. He had one success, the infrastructure bill, and that was done by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate working together. Build on that kind of success."

Host Chuck Todd asked Romney whether he'd be willing to work with the White House on reforming voting. 

"Sadly, this election reform bill that the president has been pushing, I never got a call on that from the White House," said Romney.

"There was no negotiation bringing Republicans and Democrats together to try and come up with something that would meet bipartisan interest. Sure, we can work together on almost every issue where there's common ground."

Romney said he was already involved in an attempt by a group of 12 Republican and Democratic senators to rally bipartisan support around a more modest voting-rights act, known as the Electoral Reform Act. 

The act stops short of the sweeping measures to protect elections sought by Biden, who says that Republican-controlled state legislatures are seeking to undermine elections by limiting opportunities to vote. 

The Electoral Reform Act instead makes changes to the way elections are certified by Congress. Biden's certification as president on Jan. 6 2021 was a target the Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol.

Romney went on to criticise the more expansive measures championed by Biden, which he said amounted to a "federalized takeover" of elections, which he said had been delegated by the Founding Fathers to be conducted by states to avoid an autocrat seizing control of them. 

He also said in the interview that Biden had been elected to "stop the crazy" and reintroduce stability into US politics after the tumultuous years of the Trump administration, not to conduct sweeping reforms. 

Though a staunch critic of Trump and one of the Senate's leading GOP moderates, Romney voted against both of the voting-rights bills that Democrats have sought to pass in 2021, helping defeat them in the Senate as they failed to obtain a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority.

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How Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services are changing the global TV industry

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 16:47
"Squid Game."

Netflix has showcased the power of global TV with hits like "Money Heist" and "Squid Game," and other entertainment companies have been following its lead in expanding their streaming services internationally.

Disney's platforms including Disney+, Hulu, and Star are now in six continents. WarnerMedia's HBO Max has landed in Latin America and Europe, with Asia next on the horizon. And NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, and Discovery are bringing their services in more parts of the world. 

But, the approach isn't one-size-fits-all. 

Netflix spent years forging ties with local creators around the world before it landed hits like the South Korean show "Squid Game" and the French heist series "Lupin."

Read more about why Netflix's robust international TV strategy is far ahead of rivals.

HBO Max, which expanded into Latin America and Europe last year, is also leaning into local-language programming, and ramping up development of non-scripted programming in places like Europe.

Read more about HBO Max's European expansion.

But Disney, on the other hand, leaned on sports to propel its streaming service Disney+ in places including India. Amazon is also investing heavily in local content in India ,where it's been growing its Prime shipping business. 

Content is king, as they say. But it's not the only differentiator for global streamers. 

In the Middle East, local streamer StarzPlay grew market share by tailoring its payments strategy for consumers who don't have credit card. Its payments strategy includes partnerships with 26 regional telecoms; monthly, weekly, and daily subscription plans that vary by country; and options like micro-charges.

Read more about how StarzPlay's payment strategy helped it gain market share in the Middle East and North Africa

As competition intensifies, companies from Netflix and StarzPlay will need to get more creative in how they leverage partnerships to grow the overall audience for streaming TV worldwide. 

Here's a list of our recent coverage of how streaming is upending the global TV industry: 

Streaming's impact on global TV:

On filmmaking:

On corporate strategies:

On organizational structures:

On leadership:

On M&A: 

On industry growth:

On ad-supported video: 

On work:

On salaries:

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Warren Buffett missed out on $10 billion in gains by dumping Wells Fargo stock — but he probably doesn't regret cashing out

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 15:51
Warren Buffett.
  • Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway missed out on $10 billion in gains by dumping Wells Fargo stock.
  • Berkshire left another $5 billion on the table by exiting JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs in 2020.
  • Buffett may not regret the Wells Fargo sales, as he's been critical of the bank's management.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway missed out on about $10 billion of gains by dumping its Wells Fargo stock in 2020 and early 2021.

The famed investor's company owned 346 million Wells Fargo shares at the end of 2019, giving it a 8.4% stake in the bank. Berkshire virtually eliminated that position over the next five quarters, leaving it with only 675,000 shares at the last count.

Buffett and his team pocketed roughly $10 billion from the stock sales, based on Wells Fargo's average share price of $30 during the period. However, the bank stock has now rebounded to $58, its highest level since August 2018. If Berkshire had kept the position intact, it would be worth $20 billion today — almost triple its $7 billion cost base.

Notably, Berkshire owned 500 million Wells Fargo shares at the end of 2016. That stake would have been worth $29 billion today, making it the conglomerate's number-three portfolio holding after Apple ($153 billion) and Bank of America ($48 billion).

Regardless, Buffett probably doesn't regret selling Wells Fargo, despite being a shareholder for more than 30 years and counting it among his cornerstone holdings in the past. The investor castigated the lender's fake-accounts scandal as a "total disaster" in February 2020, accusing its executives of ignoring the problem when they should have raced to address it.

Wells Fargo's bosses also ignored Buffett's recommendation that they hire a CEO from outside Wall Street to avoid angering regulators. Moreover, Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged the Federal Reserve last year to dismantle the bank and blasted it as a "simply ungovernable" company with a "broken culture."

Given the numerous controversies clouding Wells Fargo's outlook, Buffett might be happy to have cut ties at a cost of $10 billion in gains.

Buffett sold several other bank stocks in 2020, as he was worried about the pandemic and feared Berkshire's stock portfolio was overexposed to the financial sector. For example, he exited JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs in 2020, two stocks that are now trading close to record highs.

Berkshire likely sold its JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs stakes for about $6.1 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively, based on their average share prices during the selling periods. If Buffett hadn't cashed them out, those two positions would be worth $9.5 billion and $4.7 billion each today.

In other words, Buffett's sales may have cost him a combined $15 billion in unrealized gains across only three holdings. Still, the investor has roughly doubled the $2.1 billion he plowed into Bank of America in the summer of 2020, meaning he didn't entirely miss the rally in bank stocks.

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Bitcoin is losing its dominance over other cryptocurrencies in payments to merchants, crypto processor BitPay says

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 15:34
Blue bitcoin
  • Bitcoin's leaderboard position in crypto payments to merchants is falling, according to BitPay.
  • Bitcoin use at merchants that use BitPay fell to 65% in 2021 from 92% in 2020, the company told Bloomberg.
  • Ether and stablecoins made up a substantial chunk of payments made to merchants last year.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Bitcoin's dominance in making cryptocurrency payments appears to be fading.

Both people and businesses are using other crypto coins to make cross-border payments, bitcoin payment service provider BitPay recently told Bloomberg.

Transactions made in bitcoin towards merchants that use BitPay tumbled to about 65% of payments in 2021, a sharp drop from 92% in 2020, the company said. Ether made up 15% and stablecoins were 13%. The least-used tokens to make payments were those added only recently to BitPay's roster — dogecoin, shiba inu, and litecoin — which accounted for 3%.

This shift away from bitcoin happened partly due to a preference for stablecoins, while other cryptocurrencies were dropping, Atlanta-based BitPay said. Another factor might be users not wanting to spend bitcoin if they think its price could increase 10-fold within a year. 

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies pegged (or have a fixed exchange-rate) to a real-world asset like gold or the dollar. These are designed in a manner to maintain a stable price over time. For instance, one USD Coin (USDC) is intended to always be worth one dollar. Meanwhile, bitcoin is a highly volatile crypto asset.

People used their cryptocurrency to buy luxury goods including cars, jewelry, boats, watches, and even gold, according to BitPay. The company's transactions for luxury goods soared 31% in 2021 from 9% in 2020, while overall payment volumes rose 57% year on year. It had 50% revenue growth last year.

10-year-old BitPay aids companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple in enabling customers to make cryptocurrency payments. Its transaction volumes can serve as a reference for which types of tokens are being used most.

Cryptocurrencies have recently taken a hit after the Federal Reserve's December meeting further fueled market expectations of a possible rate hike in March, enough to weaken crypto and tech stocks. This has heightened concerns about a liquidity squeeze, which can be a pressure on risk assets.

"Our business ebbs and flows to some degree with the price. When the price goes down, people tend to spend less," BitPay CEO Stephen Pair said. "We have not experienced as much of a decline in volume with this recent pullback. It's probably just a reflection of more and more companies that need to use this as a tool to conduct payments."

Bitcoin was last trading at $42,662, down from an all-time high of $69,044 in November. It's risen just 16% in the last year, compared with the S&P 500's 23% gain.

Read More: Metaverse and meme coins have crashed into retail investing giant eToro's top 20 while some other cryptos have seen open interest plummet

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Fauci says pushback against 'easy-to-understand' COVID-19 protection measures like mask-wearing and vaccination is 'very disturbing'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 15:26
Dr. Anthony Fauci is US President Joe Biden's chief medical officer.
  • Pushback against public health measures to curb COVID-19 is "very disturbing", Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
  • He told a World Economic Forum meeting we'd be "better off" if we "pulled together as a society." 
  • The coronavirus gains "an advantage" when you don't implement public health measures in a unified way, he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has described as "very disturbing" the pushback against "normal, easy-to-understand" COVID-19 public health measures like vaccination and mask-wearing

Fauci, President Biden's chief medical advisor, said Monday: "If we all pulled together as a society, we would be much, much better off."

In a virtual session of the World Economic Forum, Fauci said: "It's very disturbing, I believe to all of us as public health officials and scientists, such a degree of pushback against regular, normal, easy-to-understand public health measures. Reluctance to wear masks, reluctance to promote vaccination, reluctance to do kinds of public health measures."

He continued: "You make the virus have an advantage when you don't implement, in a unified way, all the very well-recognised public health measures — particularly the vaccines."

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added: "Even for a rich country like the United States, that supposedly was the best-prepared country for a pandemic, we are among a handful of the countries that have actually suffered the most. When you look now at the 65 million cases and the close to 900,000 deaths in our country, that is really, truly unfortunate, and something that we would have hoped would have been avoided."

The highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus has a large number of mutations in the part of the virus that infects human cells. It tends to cause a milder illness than the formerly-dominant Delta variant but can still make people sick.

In the US, where the majority of new reported cases are caused by Omicron, 151,000 people were in hospital with COVID-19 as of Friday, more than twice the number recorded a month before, Oxford University's Our World in Data showed.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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