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Meet the typical Walmart shopper, a 59-year-old white suburban woman earning $80,000 a year

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 15:04
  • Walmart has more than 3,500 Supercenters across the US and made $555 billion in sales last year.
  • The retail giant has the highest customer loyalty among the leading brands in a survey of shoppers.
  • Walmart's average customer is a woman who is 59.5 years old, white, married, and earning $80,000 per year.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, pulling in more than $555 billion in sales last year. Each week, 220 million customers visit its stores across 24 countries.

In the US, the company has more than 5,000 locations, including 3,570 Supercenters, and it employs nearly 1.6 million people.

Because of the retail giant's scale, the average Walmart shopper has a lot in common with the average US consumer, according to data from the analytics firm Numerator prepared for Insider.

Roughly 95% of the shoppers in Numerator's panel visited Walmart two or more times in the past year. Not only that, Walmart has the highest customer loyalty of the leading retailers profiled by Numerator.

More than 95% of those who shopped in 2020 visited the store in 2021, while only 2.2% quit shopping there – the lowest percentage of leavers of any brand in the survey.

Numerator found that Walmart's typical shopper in the US is a white woman between 55 and 64 years old, who is married and living in the suburbs of the Southeast. She typically has an undergraduate degree and earns about $80,000 per year.

She visits Walmart at least once per week — about 63 trips per year — and picks up 13 products for a total cost of about $54 per trip. 13.5% of her spending takes place at Walmart, while she spends about 11% at Amazon.

Her primary shopping categories in-store are groceries, including chicken, fruit, snacks and sweets, but she also gets a lot of fast food. Her favorite five brands at Walmart are Turkey Knob, Cheetos, Betty Crocker, Dole, and Tyson.

Read more of our typical shopper profiles:

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Cathie Wood says Ark is open about its strategy to help regular investors 'stay on the right side of change'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 15:01
  • Cathie Wood says Ark is open about its investment strategy to help individual investors know what's coming.
  • Ark gives away its research because it wants parents to read it and influence their children, she told Time.
  • The Ark CEO said it wants to democratize investing in innovation and restore confidence in markets.

Cathie Wood has said Ark Invest shares its strategy to help retail traders understand the innovation-driven shifts coming and get more people involved in the markets.

She told Time magazine that Ark, gives away its research because it wants grandparents and parents to read it and influence their children.

"That's one of the reasons we're so open and transparent," Wood said in the Time interview published Sunday.

"We want to say, 'Hey world. Look at what's about to happen. It's so exciting. But make sure you get and stay on the right side of change.'"

Ark sends out a daily trading update on which stocks its exchange-traded funds are buying and selling. The firm also holds regular webinars and podcasts, and Wood even invited people to join the company's brainstorming sessions in the interview.

Ark funds back five key "disruptive innovation" themes, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. Its flagship ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK), managed by Wood, soared by 150% in 2020 and has seen a compounded annual growth rate of 37% over the past five years.

But its performance faltered in 2021, when it fell 21%. It is down more than 23% year to date, as of Friday's close.

Asked whether Ark's transparency will make it easy for retail traders to mirror its strategy, she said part of the mission is to restore trust in Wall Street, which was dented by the 2008 financial crisis. 

"We wanted to bring transparency and democratization into investing in innovation; we consider ourselves the closest you'll find to a venture capital firm in the public equity markets."

In March, Wood said she believes individual investors could lead the charge in bringing a shift to the heavily indexed or benchmark approach to investing, according to a CNBC report.

Retail traders, or individual investors, have invested heavily in the markets over the past year. The Reddit meme-stock frenzy in early 2021 led to a sharp increase in trading, due largely to social media. 

In the interview, Wood justified the behavior of amateur investors who banded together to go after hedge funds that had bet against their favored stocks, such as movie-theater chain AMC and video game retailer GameStop.

"We tend to base all our investment decisions on our research. Some people base their investment decisions on technicals," she said.

"These individuals were simply taking a look at how incredibly shorted these stocks were, all by the same kind of hedge funds. I'm not going to criticize it."

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Peloton's high-tech fitness bike and treadmill will soon cost you as much as $350 more as it hikes prices to cope with higher costs

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:48
Peloton is hiking prices for its high-tech fitness bike and treadmill as inflation accelerates.
  • Peloton is hiking prices for its fitness bike and treadmill by $250 and $350 respectively.
  • Delivery and setup were previously free with purchase, but customers will have to pay separately from January 31.
  • A Peloton spokesperson told CNBC it was being hit by "global economic and supply chain challenges."

Peloton is adding extra costs to its high-tech fitness bike and treadmill as inflation bites.

Delivery and setup costs were previously included with the purchase of Peloton hardware, but customers will have to pay separately from the end of the month.

The connected-fitness company says on its website that Peloton Bike customers will have to pay a $250 fee and Peloton Tread customers a $350 fee for the services from January 31.

Peloton lowered the price of its Bike twice during the pandemic, and it currently costs $1,495. The more advanced Bike+ costs $2,495, and its Tread costs $2,495.

Peloton customers also have to pay separately to access on-demand content, which costs $39 a month.

A spokesperson for the company told CNBC: "Like many other businesses, Peloton is being impacted by global economic and supply chain challenges that are affecting the majority, if not all, businesses worldwide."

Inflation accelerated in December to the fastest pace since 1982, with the Consumer Price Index surging 7% year-over-year. A shortage of workers, including more calling off sick with the coronavirus, rising demand for products, and port jams have wreaked havoc across the supply chain and led to spiraling inflation.

The Peloton spokesperson added that the company believed that it was still offering "the best value in connected fitness" even with the price increases, and said that customers could use various financing options.

Other companies have also raised their prices in response to higher costs, including Chipotle, Unilever, and Dollar Tree.

Peloton sales soared at the start of the pandemic as lockdown forced people to work out from home. But now, as gyms are reopening, the company's sales are slumping and its stock price has plummeted.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Why the government is raising an eyebrow at Gen Z's favorite new way to spend: 'Buy now, pay later'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:30
Buy now, pay later companies like Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna are making big marketing pushes.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later services have exploded in recent years, and the government is playing catch-up.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened an inquiry into the sector last month, citing debt concerns.
  • The firms' rapid growth and popularity with young shoppers bring a spate of credit risks, experts say.

Americans — and mainly Gen Zers — have been increasingly tapping Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services for instant gratification and delayed payment.

That's sounding debt-risk alarms in Washington.

The services essentially do what they say on the tin. Shoppers using BNPL take on short-term, often interest-free loans to pay for their purchases and sign on to a scheduled repayment plan to pay back the debt.

But the services' surging popularity has raised concerns over how much debt these BNPL businesses are letting people assume, and how quickly it's happening. Additionally, a lack of oversight has also clouded whether the lending is safe, or potentially the foundation for a broader financial mess.

The firms in question aren't just handing out free cash over the internet. Participating businesses pay BNPL services a small cut for the extra business — yet details around these terms and disclosures to consumers are murky.

BNPL has led to a pandemic-era spending and debt boom

BNPL services emerged before the pandemic, but the health crisis lit the fuse for their explosive growth. The businesses boomed as people stuck at home moved their shopping online. The option is most popular with younger consumers, with 61% of Gen Z having already used a BNPL service, according to a March survey conducted by The Ascent.

That meteoric rise has sparked some concern with regulators around just how much debt risk BNPL could be creating. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened an inquiry into BNPL firms including Affirm, Klarna, and Afterpay on December 16, citing concerns around debt growth, data harvesting, and consumer disclosures. Since the services don't yet face the same regulations as other forms of borrowing, they pose new risks of a possible credit bubble, according to the agency.

"Buy now, pay later is the new version of the old layaway plan, but with modern, faster twists where the consumer gets the product immediately but gets the debt immediately too," Rohit Chopra, the bureau's director, said in a statement.

The debt pile could be massive. Cornerstone Advisors estimates BNPL purchases totaled nearly $100 billion in 2021. That's up from just $24 billion the year prior. Separately, CB Insights projects the global BNPL industry could surpass $1 trillion in yearly volume as early as 2025.

Gen Z could be facing a debt cliff

BNPL's top users are possibly an even bigger risk. The services have successfully attracted a younger audience that "might not be credit-worthy or have a lot of experience with traditional types of credit," Marisabel Torres, director of California policy at the Center for Responsible Lending, told Insider.

Gen Z is also the most likely to be caught off guard when student loan repayment is set to resume in May. The generation's oldest members have spent more time post-graduation with their payments frozen than not due to the federal government's pandemic moratorium. The May 1 deadline could be "concerning" for those who can't balance student loan obligations with delayed BNPL payments, Torres said.

It isn't just government authorities that are catching up to the BNPL boom. Credit-rating agencies including Equifax and TransUnion are still working on adding BNPL debt to their reports and aim to start the services in the coming weeks, American Banker reported earlier in January.

The firms probably aren't too late to catch a major bubble, but their slow action is some cause for concern, especially with the financial crisis still a recent memory, Susan Sterne, president and chief economist at Economic Analysis Associates, told Insider. 

"The three big agencies that follow consumer debt have yet to really get their hands around this as its a relatively new concept," Sterne said. "They've been diligent post-financial crisis, but I guess nothing has changed. They should have been more aware of this."

The fine print could trip up borrowers

The CFPB's inquiry represents a "great first step," but the BNPL industry needs more transparency if it's to keep growing at its current pace, Torres said. Regulation can put new protections in place so buyers aren't tripped up by each services' differences. Even something as simple as returning an item can be confusing and put buyers at risk, Torres said. Where people can expect refunds in a certain number of days with a traditional purchase, those guidelines don't exist for BNPL shopping. One service could require someone to pay off the remainder of their loan, while another could give refunds of only the amount paid back.

The complications around returning items are only one example where the law hasn't caught up to the industry. The longer the government waits, the greater the chance shoppers fall in the gaps between existing regulations, Torres said.

"We've been flooding the market with all this credit and no one's been keeping track of what's been happening," she said. "Unfortunately, if it seems too good to be true, it might be. This is not always the free financing option that it's marketed to be."

Read the original article on Business Insider
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No evidence of fraud found in GOP-backed audit of election results in Macomb County, Michigan, which Trump won anyway

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:23
Nancy Galloway, a supporter of Donald Trump, protests the visit of President Joe Biden to Howell, Michigan, on October 5, 2021.
  • An audit of 2020 votes in Michigan's Macomb County found no signs of outside interference. 
  • The audit was commissioned by county clerk Anthony Forlini, a Republican. 
  • It's the latest audit to produce no evidence to back up Donald Trump's election-fraud claims. 

An audit of 2020 presidential election votes in Michigan's Macomb County found no evidence that voting machines had been meddled with as part of a plot to subvert the election. 

Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini, a Republican, commissioned the audit as conspiracy theories spread among supporters of Donald Trump that the machines had been hacked or tampered with.

Forlini commissioned Alabama-based Pro V&V, a company accredited by federal election authorities, to examine voting machines in the county for signs of interference, or other malpractice.

The $16,000 audit was ordered despite Trump having won the county with 53% of the vote to Joe Biden's 45% in the November 5 2020 election.

Joe Biden was the overall winner in Michigan with 51% of the vote to Trump's 48%. 

In a letter last week, Forlini said the inquiry found no evidence to substantiate the conspiracy theories. 

"As a result of the audit dated January 5, 2022, we learned that there was no outside interference in our election server, our election software, as well as our modem communication systems," Forlini wrote.

"This was just one step to restore confidence in the election process."

Forlini told Michigan Live that on taking office as county clerk in January 2021 he faced questions about mass fraud. He said he commissioned the audit because he had not personally supervised the election the previous year. 

The county Republican party has backed Trump's election-fraud conspiracy theories, calling for a more widespread audit of 2020 election results in the state, reported Detroit's Metro Times. 

No evidence has emerged to substantiate Trump's claims of mass fraud in Michigan, or any other state, in last year's election.

The claims have been rebutted or dismissed in a series of legal challenges, but supporters of the former president have continued to push for audits in battleground states.

Despite this, Trump has continued to claim that victory in last year's election was stolen from him, and has made support for the claim a litmus test of loyalty, boosting candidates in the mid-terms who have backed it. 

A Republican-commissioned audit of votes in Arizona's Maricopa County last year also found no evidence that Biden's win was the result of a miscount. Trump allies are seeking similar audits in states including Georgia and Pennsylvania. 

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Americans will drive less and make fewer shopping trips in 2022 because of pricey gasoline and soaring inflation, Target CEO says

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:22
Target CEO Brian Cornell said Americans will make fewer shopping trips this year, Bloomberg reported.
  • Target CEO Brian Cornell said Americans will make fewer shopping trips in 2022, Bloomberg reported.
  • Shoppers are likely to eat at home and look for cheaper own brands, Cornell said, per Bloomberg.
  • It comes as gas prices are on the rise and inflation hit a nearly 40-year high in December. 

Target CEO Brian Cornell said on Sunday that Americans will drive less and make fewer shopping trips this year because of expensive gasoline and accelerating inflation, Bloomberg reported.

"Some of the historical ways consumers react to inflation will play out again in 2022," Cornell said at an event held by the National Retail Federation in New York cited by Bloomberg.

"You'll drive fewer miles, you'll consolidate the number of times and locations where you shop," Cornell said at the event, per Bloomberg.

Shoppers are likely to eat at home rather than in restaurants, and look for cheaper own brands compared to pricier national brands, Cornell said, according to Bloomberg's report. 

"We're going to learn a lot about how the consumer reacts in the next 60, 90, 120 days to rising prices," the Target CEO said at the event.

Inflation in the US hit a near 40-year high in December after the consumer price index rose 7% from a year earlier, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced in January.

Insider previously reported that the cost of gas rose year-over-year by nearly 50% in November. Prices dropped slightly between November and December, but have again been on the increase in January, according to a report by the American Automobile Association.

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'Shark Tank' star Kevin O'Leary sees just a 9% return for stocks this year as markets go back to normal

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:21
Kevin O'Leary.

After a stellar 2021, equity investors could be looking at returns of just 9% in 2022, according to "Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary.

A common pattern in major US indices last year was that stocks hit record high after record high, as investors appeared unfazed by rising inflation. Corporate earnings largely flourished. Moreover, low interest rates also drove investors to seek returns in stocks, rather than low-yielding bonds. 

"The hallmark of that year (2021) was no volatility, even though it was horrific in terms of the pandemic and other issues," the O'Leary Funds boss, who goes by the nickname "Mr. Wonderful," said in a CNBC "Halftime Report" interview on Friday.

"But more normal markets are now here, and we're going to get volatility."

The S&P 500 has risen 23% and the Nasdaq is up 21% over the last year. But gains of more than 20% this year aren't likely, according to O'Leary. He said investors can expect 8% earnings growth and 1% in dividends.

"So you're looking at a 9% year," he added.

The investor's forecast comes after the US consumer price index jumped 7% in 2021, the largest 12-month gain since June 1982. The widely followed inflation index rose 0.5% from November, exceeding forecasts. Supply chain bottlenecks and a shortage of qualified workers in the labor market have driven up prices and eroded the spending power of people and businesses.

Tech names are known to be especially sensitive to rising prices. That's because rising interest rates, and resulting higher bond yields, make tech stocks less attractive

"Nobody thinks that's sustainable but it's still scary to see it," O'Leary said of the inflation print. "So, that's going to put a bit of a spook on equities too, particularly tech. And you're seeing that manifest itself in these flattish-to-down Nasdaq days."

The tech-heavy Nasdaq is already down 4.3% so far this year, as Fed officials are weighing up moving faster than previously expected to tackle the strongest inflation since the 1980s. This has sent some investors into a panic.

"But the inherent growth in those companies is still there. Nothing's really changed. And so, I think it will sort itself out," the famed investor said.

O'Leary also said he's expecting a higher rise in the Cboe Volatility index, known as the VIX, a gauge to help measure the level of nervousness among investors.

"I'm looking for muted returns with a lot more increase in the VIX," he said, adding that market participants should get used to it.

Historically, if the VIX is higher than 20, that's when fear is entering the market. It's a sign of a higher-risk environment. The VIX last closed at 19.19 on Friday, but that's a far cry from the highs above 70 at the start of the pandemic in early 2020. 

O'Leary's advice to investors is to get over volatility and still allocate to equities "because there's really nothing else to do if you want to beat inflation."

Read More: A gamer who makes up to $148 a day in a play-to-earn game explains how to onboard — and lists the top 10 metaverses releasing titles in 2022 that he says will have the highest earning potential and be fun to play.

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More than 1,300 US flights were canceled Monday after 3,000 cancellations Sunday, as a huge winter storm engulfed the southeast

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:17
American Airlines cut 674 flights on Sunday, the most cancellations of any airline, FlightAware data showed.
  • More than 1,300 US flights have been canceled Monday amid bad weather, FlightAware data shows.
  • More than 3,000 flights to, from, or within the US were canceled Sunday, per FlightAware.
  • Charlotte Douglas and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta airports were the worst affected.

More than 1,300 US flights were canceled Monday as a winter storm engulfed the southeast, adding to Sunday's travel misery.

As of 8:00 a.m. ET on Monday, 1,314 flights to, from, or within the US had been canceled, per data from FlightAware, the flight-tracking website. This included 407 flights to or from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, making up almost a third of the airport's schedule for Monday.

Airlines canceled 3,058 flights to, from, or within the US on Sunday, according to figures from FlightAware. A further 4,671 flights were hit by delays, the data showed.

Sunday's cancellations included more than 1,200 flights that were scheduled to land in or depart from Charlotte, which represented more than 90% of the airport's schedule for Sunday.

Almost 400 flights set to land in or depart from Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport were canceled Sunday, per FlightAware data.

Hundreds of flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Raleigh-Durham International in North Carolina, and LaGuardia in New York City were also canceled.

American Airlines, which has a hub at Charlotte International, had the highest number of cancellations, with 674 flights being cut on Sunday, according to FlightAware data. This amounted to almost a quarter of its US-wide schedule for the day.

More than 500 flights operated by American subsidiary PSA Airlines, or 71% of its schedule, were canceled.

A spokeswoman for American said: "This weekend's winter storm has had a significant impact on our operation. The vast majority of impacted flights have been canceled in advance so we could proactively notify and accommodate our customers and avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport. Additionally, we issued a travel notice to allow customers whose travel plans are impacted by the storm to rebook without change fees."

Delta said it canceled about 500 flights Sunday and 75 on Monday.

Southwest, Republic, and United all canceled at least 10% of their Sunday schedules, per FlightAware data. The airlines did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment, which were made outside normal working hours.

The cancellations were in part due to a winter snow storm which the National Weather Service said could lead to hazardous travel, fallen trees, and power outages for portions of the eastern US through Monday. The agency said parts of New England should expect heavy snow Monday and that the Atlantic coastline could face strong winds and coastal flooding.

American Airlines said in a statement Friday that "winter weather" may affect its operations, and issued travel alerts for some airports in parts of the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast US, as well as Canada. Southwest warned customers that some flights over the weekend could be delayed, diverted, or canceled. Delta issued a travel waiver.

Airlines have canceled thousands of flights since Christmas Eve, citing bad weather alongside rising staff sickness as the Omicron coronavirus variant spreads.

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Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai personally oversaw an illegal deal that misled publishers and advertisers, unredacted suit alleges

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:15
  • Unredacted court documents reveal a string of new allegations against Facebook and Google. 
  • The firms' CEOs signed off on a deal that misled advertisers and publishers, state AGs alleged.
  • Do you work at Google? Contract reporter Martin Coulter on mcoulter@insider.com or +447801985586. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Meta chief exec Mark Zuckerberg personally signed off on an illegal advertising deal in 2018, according to newly unredacted US court filings that claim collusion at the very top of both firms.

According to the complaint, first filed by a coalition of states in 2020, the deal guaranteed that Facebook would both participate in and win a fixed percentage of Google's online ad auctions, in what the plaintiffs describe as an "illegal price-fixing agreement."

As Insider's Lara O'Reilly wrote in April, Google dominates how marketers buy ads, the tech which sites use to sell ads, and the exchange that connects the two. The suit alleges that Google used its dominant position and "exclusionary tactics" to distort competition in online ads.

Most of the allegations in the suit hinge on Google's fear of "header bidding," an alternative to its own ad auctioning practices described as an "existential threat" to the company.

Header bidding was developed by a roster of independent ad tech players that compete with Google as a way to democratize the way ad slots on publishers' sites get filled, and maximize their ad revenue.

Per the suit, Google executives were worried by Facebook's early moves into this space around 2017, and sought to bring the rival tech giant on board as a partner, rather than risk greater competition.

The lawsuit cites an email from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, sent to Zuckerberg and other execs, in which she describes the potential partnership as "a big deal strategically."

The execs' names are redacted, but their titles are given in the suit.

Sandberg is alleged to have followed up with an email sent directly to Zuckerberg, writing: "We're nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward."

The email allegedly sent by Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

It was previously reported that this 2018 agreement, codenamed "Jedi Blue" internally, was allegedly signed by Sandberg and Google's chief business officer Phillip Schindler

The unredacted lawsuit also contains further details of "Project Bernanke," a secret initiative through which Google allegedly used bidding data collected from outside advertisers using its exchange to benefit its own ad system. The allegations around Project Bernanke appeared to back up industry concerns that Google dominating every aspect of the online ad ecosystem gives it an advantage over more specialist firms.

The lawsuit alleges Google's AdX exchange sometimes overcharged advertisers bidding for space on publishers' websites, allowing the tech giant to pocket the difference.

These additional funds were then placed in a pool and redistributed among advertisers bidding for space using Google tools, in order to artificially boost their performance, according to the complaint.

The antitrust lawsuit was first filed in 2020, fronted by Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, and was originally heavily redacted. The new revelations follow a judge order on Friday to unseal parts of the amended complaint.

Paxton led a coalition of states who alleged the tech giant had used "exclusionary tactics" in order to distort competition in the online ad market.

Google previously told Insider that's Paxton's lawsuit was "meritless," adding: "We will strongly defend ourselves from his baseless claims in court."

A Meta company spokesperson told the Guardian on Friday: "These business relationships enable Meta to deliver more value to advertisers while fairly compensating publishers, resulting in better outcomes for all." 

Insider approached Google and Meta for further comment. 

Do you work at Google? Got a tip? Contact reporter Martin Coulter via email at mcoulter@insider.com, or via encrypted messaging app Signal at +447801985586.

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3 killed after suspected drone attack near Abu Dhabi airport that blew up fuel trucks

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:02
  • At least three people are dead after fuel trucks exploded in Abu Dhabi airport on Monday, police said.
  • It may have been a drone attack, and six more people are injured, police added.
  • Houthi rebels, who have launched drone attacks in Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility.

At least three people are dead after fuel trucks exploded near Abu Dhabi airport on Monday in a suspected drone attack, police said.

The city's police said that six people were also injured in the explosion, which happened after a fire broke out near oil company ADNOC's storage facilities, United Arab Emirates news agency WAM reported.

Police said those killed were two people from India and one from Pakistan, the report said. 

Abu Dhabi police said in a statement that "initial investigations found parts of a small plane that could possibly be a drone at both sites that could have caused the explosion and the fire," Reuters reported.

The police added that there was no "significant damage," according to Reuters.

The Houthi movement claimed responsibility, Reuters reported.

 The Houthi rebels overthrew the government in Yemen in 2015, and Iran is accused of supporting the group.

They often attack Saudi Arabia, 

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As one of only 2 Black women CEOs in the Fortune 500, I'm often asked about how to close the US's racial wealth gap. The key is helping people save for retirement.

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 14:00
"Lacking resources to live out your final years in dignity inarguably is an injustice," says Duckett.
  • Thasunda Brown Duckett is the president and CEO of financial-services firm TIAA.
  • She is one of only two Black women CEOs in the Fortune 500.
  • Duckett says that policymakers and leaders must build more educational and employment opportunities for people of color.

Closing the wealth gap for people of color in America is one of the toughest issues we face as a nation, and it's one of the issues I have been asked about most often since becoming one of two Black women CEOs in the Fortune 500 last year.

My answer draws heavily from the teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on breaking the cycle of poverty. In fact, he originally intended his "I Have a Dream" speech as a call for an end to economic and employment inequality for all people. Dr. King continued to push for reforms that would increase access to work for people vulnerable to economic dislocations.

In speech after speech and through his writings, he urged U.S. policymakers and business leaders to create a path to financial stability for people who were drowning in debt, barely able to get by from one payday to the next, and utterly unable to save for the future.

We still have a tremendous amount of work left to do at a time when 83% of older Americans who are Black do not have enough savings to retire; when 1.8 million women — many of them women of color — have dropped out of the workforce due to COVID-related family needs and may never make up for lost earnings and retirement savings. And those inadequate savings sometimes have to last for decades, since half of those retiring at age 65 can expect to live past age 85.

All of this means we have to think harder about how to replace our income in retirement.

These issues are even more of a struggle in the Black community.

If you have suffered pay inequities throughout your lifetime, and you haven't been able to save enough for retirement, it's hard to take care of yourself.

When we can't cover our own bills in retirement, we often have to rely on our children, our younger family members, and then we are taking away resources they could be saving for their own future or their children. It's a cycle we have to break.

Every American is entitled to a secure, dignified retirement. As employers strive to create good jobs and opportunities for promotion for more people of color, especially women, I would implore my fellow leaders to also give employees access to retirement savings plans, the ability to save for guaranteed lifetime income, and the tools to provide the information we all need to know: "Am I on track? If not, what do I need to do?"

It's critically important for employees from all walks of life to understand that these opportunities, from financial education to saving for retirement, are for them.

My own father did not save enough through his company's retirement plan because no one explicitly told him about it, and he didn't think that information was relevant for him. That ignited a spark in me to get everyone better access to the information they need to achieve retirement security.

I believe that public policymakers and corporate leaders can work together to be the change.

The first step is working more systematically to increase access to opportunities for career advancement that can increase pay and savings. I am hopeful that we can continue to accelerate progress in educational and employment opportunity — including expanding the pipeline to good jobs through systematic measurement and tracking, seeking talent from new sources, and recognizing ways in which we inadvertently impede progress, such as requiring years of experience unlikely among otherwise qualified applicants.

When it comes to saving for retirement, I find hope in the leadership demonstrated by Congress with the SECURE Act in 2019, which paved the way for employers to offer investments that would provide lifetime income in retirement. Now, lawmakers are considering ways to make it even easier, possibly even letting employers match employees' student-loan payments with retirement contributions.

These are the kinds of critical actions we must take to ensure that all US workers can effectively save for the future with the peace of mind they deserve.

As Dr. King wisely observed in a 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Lacking resources to live out your final years in dignity inarguably is an injustice.

So many are struggling to support themselves and their extended families two years into the pandemic. Let's be the change needed to ensure that their burdens don't last a lifetime.

Thasunda Brown Duckett is the president and CEO of TIAA.

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Cathie Wood's career advice for women: 'Make your boss look brilliant'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 13:49
Cathie Wood, founder and CEO of Ark Invest.
  • Ark Invest's Cathie Wood has advised women how to get ahead in the financial services industry. 
  • She told TIME: "Work hard, keep your head down, and make your boss look brilliant."
  • But she advised women to quit if their bosses didn't provide "growth opportunities."

Women working in financial services should make their bosses "look brilliant" if they want to get ahead, the veteran investor Cathie Wood has said.

However, in an interview with TIME, published Sunday, the founder and CEO of Ark Invest advised women to leave their jobs if their bosses didn't give them "growth opportunities."

Wood, who founded Ark in 2014, is one of a handful of women to lead a high-profile asset management firmA favorite among followers of the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, she shot to fame after making successful bets on Tesla and bitcoin.

Asked about the lack of women working in the upper echelons of the financial services industry, Wood told TIME: "As far as my own experience and advice, it has been: work hard, keep your head down, make your boss look brilliant."

She added: "If your boss does not give you growth opportunities, I would then suggest leaving and getting into a [better] situation. Because I really do think our industry is fantastic for women."

A 2021 study by Knight Foundation found that just 1.4% of an estimated $82.24 trillion of assets under management were handled by a female- or minority-led firm. Ingrained stigmas and structural societal inequalities were some of the barriers found to be behind the "glass ceiling" that exists in many industries. 

Wood said asset management can be a "wonderful" industry for women if they can move into a situation where their performance is measured objectively. The way to do this is to move into asset management positions, like portfolio manager and research analyst, she suggested.

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These are the 25 books that Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates think you should read to get smarter about business and leadership

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 13:45
  • Many business leaders credit books for giving them the knowledge that helped make them successful.
  • Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have recommended many books over the years, from biographies to leadership guides to sci-fi novels.
  • Here are 25 books that they say have taught them a lot about business, leadership, and the world.

You learn by doing, but you also learn a lot by reading.

Many influential business figures, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. say they learned some of their most important lessons from books.

The trio has recommended countless books over the years that they credit with strengthening their business acumen and teaching them about leadership.

Here are 25 books recommended by Bezos, Musk, and Gates to add to your reading list for 2022: 

Some of Jeff Bezos' favorite books were instrumental to the creation of products and services like the Kindle and Amazon Web Services."The Remains of the Day"

This Kazuo Ishiguro novel tells of an English butler in wartime England who begins to question his lifelong loyalty to his employer while on a vacation.

Bezos has said of the book, "Before reading it, I didn't think a perfect novel was possible."

"Sam Walton: Made in America"

In his autobiography, billionaire Walmart founder Sam Walton recalls his career building one of the world's largest retailers.

"Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies"

This book draws on six years of research from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business that looks into what separates exceptional companies from their competitors. Bezos has said it's his "favorite business book."

"Creation: Life and How to Make It"

Steve Grand discusses artificial life through the lens of his 1996 computer game Creatures in this book.

"The Innovator's Dilemma"

Clayton Christensen examines various companies' successes and failures in disruptive innovation in this book.

"The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement"

Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox examine the theory of constraints from a management perspective in this novel.

"Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation"

This book imparts lessons about improving efficiency based on case studies of lean companies across various industries.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized the term "black swan" with this book, in which he defines such events as highly improbable, unpredictable, and impactful. 

Elon Musk's must-reads include a number of sci-fi novels and books on artificial intelligence.Elon Musk, Tesla CEO"Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future"

Peter Thiel shares lessons he learned founding companies like PayPal and Palantir in this book.

Musk has said of the book, "Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how."

"The Lord of the Rings"

Musk has said he read a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels as a kid and once quoted a line from Tolkien's famous trilogy on Twitter.

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

In the same vein, Musk read "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" as a teenager and has even said the spacecraft in it is his favorite spacecraft from science fiction.

"Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"

Musk's reading list isn't without biographies, including this Walter Isaacson book on Benjamin Franklin.

"Einstein: His Life and Universe"

Musk enjoyed Isaacson's biography on Albert Einstein as well.

"Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies"

Musk has also recommended several books on artificial intelligence, including this one, which considers questions about the future of intelligent life in a world where machines may become smarter than people.

"Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era"

On the subject of AI, Musk said in a 2014 tweet that this book, which examines its risks and potential, is also "worth reading."

Bill Gates is known to make book recommendations quite often."Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012"

One of his favorites is Warren Buffett's "Tap Dancing to Work."

"A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety"

Gates also likes former president Jimmy Carter's "A Full Life." 

"Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think"

This book probes the thinking patterns and tendencies that distort people's perceptions of the world. Gates has called it "one of the most educational books I've ever read."

"Origin Story: A Big History of Everything"

David Christian takes on the history of our universe, from the Big Bang to mass globalization, in this book.

"Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World"

"Range" explores the idea that, though modern work places a premium on specialization, being a generalist is actually the way to go. Gates has said Epstein's ideas here "even help explain some of Microsoft's success because we hired people who had real breadth within their field and across domains."

"The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History"

Elizabeth Kolbert plumbs the history of Earth's mass extinctions in this book, including a sixth extinction, which some scientists warn is already underway.

"Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street"

Gates has said this is "the best business book I've ever read." It compiles 12 articles that originally appeared in The New Yorker about moments of success and failure at companies like General Electric and Xerox.

"The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age"

This Archie Brown book examines political leadership throughout the 20th century.

"Making the Modern World: Materials & Dematerialization"

Vaclav Smil examines the materials and processes that made our modern world in this book. 

"What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions"

Randall Munroe, creator of the hit web comic xkcd, proposes funny yet informative answers to life's wildest hypothetical questions in this book.

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Bitcoin's slump could be the start of a 'crypto winter' that sees prices crash, UBS says. Here are three reasons why.

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 13:27
UBS said there are a number of challenges that could trigger a crypto winter.
  • A growing number of factors suggest a "crypto winter" could be on its way, analysts at UBS have warned.
  • The case for bitcoin as a currency and inflation hedge is dwindling, and its tech has several flaws, they said.
  • Bitcoin has fallen sharply in recent weeks as investors brace for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

Crypto markets could be set for another "winter" of price crashes and could fail to recover for years, analysts at investment bank UBS have warned, as clouds gather to take the shine off digital assets.

Interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve in 2022 are set to dent the appeal of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in the eyes of many investors, the analysts, led by James Malcolm, said in a note to clients on Friday.

That's because rising interest rates are putting paid to arguments that bitcoin is a good alternative currency or store of value, they said.

Other factors are the technology has a lot of shortcomings, and regulation could stymie the development of the industry.

Bitcoin's price has slumped in recent weeks as markets became more convinced the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates three or more times in 2022. The leading cryptocurrency by market value was down around 1% to $42,722 Monday, far below a record high of close to $69,000 touched in November.

But the UBS analysts believe there are reasons to think things are about to get worse, leading to a "crypto winter" where assets slide and then fail to come back for a long time. 

The last crypto winter occurred at the end of 2017 and early 2018, when bitcoin tumbled from around $20,000 to stand below $4,000 more than a year later, causing many investors to lose interest in digital assets.

If central banks are moving to get a handle on inflation, then that damages the argument that investors should hold bitcoin as protection against price rises, , Malcolm and his colleagues said.

It's also simply bad for the price, as central bank stimulus was a key factor lifting crypto tokens in 2020 and 2021.

The Fed, which held US interest rates low last year, is seen as likely to bring in at least three increases this year, as it grapples with sky-high inflation.

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

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

Another problem that could lead to a sharp fall in prices is the shortcomings of crypto technology.

For example, blockchain technology is hard to scale up because of its decentralized design, which requires all members of the network to be able to oversee and verify transactions, the UBS analysts said.

Regulation is a third major problem, they wrote. Rampant speculation on crypto networks "inevitably invites closer oversight to guard consumers [and] protect financial stability," UBS said.

"High-flying stablecoins and [decentralized finance] projects seem almost sure to face bigger setbacks from authorities in the coming months."

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An accountant got $20,000 in student debt wiped out. 5 months later, he quit his job and ran for office.

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 13:15
  • In August, David O'Keefe, 36, got his remaining $20,000 student debt load forgiven.
  • That gave him the financial security to quit his job and run for office five months later.
  • He told Insider that without student-loan forgiveness, there's no way he could've pursued his passion.

When Insider spoke to David O'Keefe in August, it was just days after his $20,000 student-debt balance turned to $0.

Now, free of that financial burden, the 36-year-old is quitting accounting and running for office as a county commissioner in his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida.

"Running for office absolutely would not have been a possibility if PSLF didn't process my application," O'Keefe said, referring to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, a federal program that forgave his debt after 10 years of working in the public interest and making payments.

"If you look at why we don't have young people running for office or even people in their late 30s running for office, it's partly because you have this debt burden that keeps you from doing anything other than working a regular job," he told Insider.

David O'Keefe.

45 million Americans collectively hold a $1.7 trillion student-debt load, and it can hold back homeownership, employment opportunities, and even retirement.

While older Americans hold significant amounts of student debt, those in O'Keefe's generation aren't immune. The average millennial has an average debt balance of $29,500, are they're also the most likely to support broad debt relief, a Morning Consult poll found.

O'Keefe is more than grateful to be free of that burden — but he wishes more people could say the same.

"There are millions of people just like me who cannot start their own business, who cannot run for office, who cannot start families, who are putting off important parts of life because this debt is holding them back," he said.

'Feeling useful and having a sense of purpose is very important'

As a public accountant, O'Keefe qualified for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The federal program was created to forgive student debt for public servants, like government employees, after ten years of qualifying payments.

O'Keefe made those payments — and then some. Due to interest that kept accumulating, he paid off $60,000 and was still left with $20,338.42 a decade later, even though he originally borrowed $61,236.

But after repeated denials of loan forgiveness and an "anxiety-producing" process following-up with his student-loan company, he got the notice on August 19 that his PSLF application was successful, and his student debt was gone.

Now he was free to chase his dream. Three years ago, O'Keefe started thinking about running for office. Although he'd worked as an accountant for 15 years and made a comfortable salary, he'd started to become more involved in local issues. That helped him realize he didn't feel fulfilled from his job — but his student debt was holding him back from making any significant life changes.

"I think for a lot of people in my generation, feeling useful and having a sense of purpose is very important," O'Keefe said. "But it's very difficult to do with the realities of our financial situation."

Once O'Keefe found out he would not longer be footing a $600 monthly bill, he and his wife decided they had the financial security to pursue a run for office "to make a bigger impact and be more useful to more people," he said. He's now gearing up for the primary election in August and is a member of The Debt Collective — the nation's first debtor's union that advocates for cancellation of all forms of debt.

While O'Keefe's decision to take a different career path was motivated by student-debt cancellation, it also reflects a growing trend of Americans quitting their jobs for better conditions. Insider previously reported that reasons 38 million workers have joined the "Great Resignation" in 2021 include stress from the job and better pay, and it's raising standards for workers across the country.

Student-loan forgiveness would likely help more follow that trend. The Education Department recently announced reforms to PSLF to make it easier for borrowers to be relieved of their debt burdens after the program ran up a 98% denial rate for years, but when it comes to broad cancellation, President Joe Biden has not acted.

And O'Keefe said it's hindering community involvement.

"These student loans got me through college and helped me get independent and support myself," O'Keefe said. "But there's a whole generation of people saddled with student loan debt that can't participate in this important part of civic life."

Do you have a story to share about student debt? Reach out to Ayelet Sheffey at asheffey@insider.com.

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Global shares rise with focus on Europe and Asia, while US markets take a breather after weaker start to the year

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 12:43
  • US markets were closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day, with Q4 earnings reports due Tuesday.
  • Economic growth reports in Europe and Asia expected to be focus this week as China reports sluggish growth.
  • Cardano soared over the weekend, bringing gains for the "ethereum killer" to 30% in the last 7 days.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Global shares edged up on Monday in thinner trade than usual, given US markets were closed for a public holiday, leaving investors to pour over Chinese economic data.

US markets were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr public holiday, meaning no trading in stocks or bonds. 

The major benchmark indices bounced back towards the end of last week, having hit three-month lows on the back of growing fears of a far less stocks-friendly environment if US interest rates rise quickly and inflation refuses to die down.

Earnings reports are expected to be the main market movers in the US this week, given that Federal Reserve policymakers will not be making any public comments ahead of next week's interest-rate decision. 

Fourth-quarter earnings season continues on Tuesday in the US after kicking off Friday with JPMorgan beating expectations and posting profits of $10.4 billion. 

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 rose 0.5%, boosted by gains in the media, technology and healthcare sectors. 

"Today's market open looks set to see European stocks open higher, with the main focus this week, away from US earnings, set to be on the latest wages, unemployment and inflation numbers from the UK economy, and the Bank of Japan tomorrow." Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said.

In Asia, the Chinese central bank cut borrowing costs for medium-term loans for the first time in almost two years to help protect the economy from further slowdown, following data that showed GDP growth of just 4% in the final quarter of 2021 after outbreaks of Covid and property market woes stifled activity. 

Meanwhile, tensions between Russia and Ukraine continued over the weekend as the Ukrainian government warned citizens to "be afraid and expect the worst." This increased risk sentiment will likely continue as talks between the US, its NATO allies and Russia didn't progress. 

Finally, in the cryptocurrency market things stayed relatively flat over the weekend with some altcoins seeing gains while bitcoin and ethereum remained largely unchanged. Cardano was the big winner though, jumping 30% over the past week and up over 10% in the last 24 hours. 

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McDonald's restaurants are open 10% fewer hours than before the pandemic, CEO says

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 12:36
McDonald's is struggling with staff shortages, CEO Chris Kempczinski has said.
  • McDonald's US restaurants are open 10% fewer hours than pre-pandemic, the boss of the chain has said.
  • In an interview with The WSJ, CEO Chris Kempczinski pointed to staff shortages.
  • McDonald's has about 13,000 locations in the US.

McDonald's restaurants across the US are open for fewer hours than before the pandemic because they don't have enough staff, the boss of the burger giant has said.

CEO Chris Kempczinski told The Wall Street Journal that the 13,000 McDonald's restaurants in the US had cut their opening hours by 10% on average.

Record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Others have returned to education, switched industries, or taken early retirement. This has caused a huge labor shortage across industries such as education and trucking, with restaurants hit particularly hard.

Meanwhile, there has been a huge increase in the number of workers calling off sick as coronavirus cases soar amid the spread of the Omicron variant. Some restaurants have been forced to slash opening hoursscale back their menusditch on-site dining, and hike up prices – either because they don't have enough staff or because the staff they do have are self-isolating.

Kempczinski said at McDonald's most recent earnings call, on October 27, that its service was getting slower because it couldn't find enough staff, and that some restaurants had cut their hours. He added that McDonald's staffing hadn't recovered as quickly as he'd expected and predicted the problems would persist into "the next several quarters."

According to The Journal, Kempczinski said that McDonald's workers didn't need a union, and the company's younger employees would view unions as too restrictive in the future.

Many workers across the US have attempted to unionize during the pandemic, including staff at Starbucks, Alphabet, and Amazon.

A report by Kalinowski Equity Research in October estimated that McDonald's labor shortage was pushing the chain's sales down by 3 to 4%.

Companies have been scrambling to attract new hires, offering perks like higher wages, sign-on bonuses, and long-term benefits. Kempczinski said at McDonald's October earnings call that the company's corporate-owned restaurants had raised their wages by an average of 15% in the year to date, and he told The Journal that the chain needed to provide jobs that people wanted and look after its workers.

Some McDonald's franchisees have been taking matters into their own hands. Insider previously reported that a McDonald's in Illinois was offering iPhones to some new hires, while another in Florida gave $50 to anyone who came for an interview.

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Meet the Congressman pushing a 4-day work week law: 'I care about making capitalism sustainable and more humane'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 12:30
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) (L) shakes hands with Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) during a rally and news conference with leaders from LGBTQ advocacy organizations before the House votes on the Equality Act May 17, 2019 in Washington, DC.
  • Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat, wants to make a 32-hour work week law.
  • He says it'd be part of building a new normal that reflects the past two years.
  • It would also raise wages by ensuring workers get paid overtime for hours worked over 32.

Representative Mark Takano wants you to work less — or at least collect a lot more overtime pay.

The California Democrat proposed legislation in July that would slash the standard work week to 32 hours. That also means anyone who works over 32 hours a week would receive overtime. The legislation is still awaiting a vote and recently garnered the support of the powerful Congressional Progressive Caucus.

In Takano's vision, the shorter work week would help address three of the biggest issues raging in the workplace right now: low wages, how much power workers have, and how to navigate a new work normal shaped by ongoing pandemic trauma.

"There's a great sort of opening for people to see it as part of a new normal, a new normal that they'd like to build," Takano told Insider. "800,000 Americans dying within a two to three year span has been traumatizing, and we have an opportunity now to look at the world with far more experienced eyes."

In December, Jobs site Indeed surveyed people who had quit two jobs during the pandemic; 92% said "the pandemic made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren't passionate about."

A record-breaking 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But hiring remained robust, suggesting that workers — especially the record 1 million leisure and hospitality workers who threw in the towel — are switching into different roles.

All told, the data suggests that Americans are ready for a new normal, or at least a rethink of work, particularly better-paying, more flexible work. According to Takano, that's exactly what a 32-hour workweek could achieve.

Americans are experiencing a 'Great Realization'

"This much stronger connection to human mortality has made people value their time," Takano said. "I think there was a Great Realization among a lot of Americans — how hard they're working and that they wanted to move on from the jobs that they were working at. So a four-day work week is something that connects a lot of Americans." 

A four-day work week would also address another priority for Takano: Inequality in income and working conditions. His bill is a revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which instituted the 40-hour work week.

"I care about making capitalism sustainable and more humane — and less low road and less cutthroat," Takano said.

The substance of his legislation, Takano said, is a work week where overtime kicks in once someone has worked 32 hours. That doesn't mean that all workers have to cut their hours down to 32 — but they'll be paid time and a half for any hours worked beyond that.

"What begins to happen for workers who are covered by this law is that they have greater leverage in a labor market — meaning that they are likely to be able to make more money for the hours that they do work," Takano said. 

Takano said that a 32-hour work week would make employers "think twice" about cutting hours back in a tight labor market. Employers who are looking for workers would have to weigh trying to find more workers to train — a tall order as labor shortages persist and some workers remain on the sidelines for a better deal — or incentivize the current workforce by paying more for those now-longer hours.

It would help enshrine some of what's already happening in the economy into law. Wages have been growing sharply over the past year, soaring 4.7% year-over-year as of December 2021. Leisure and hospitality workers, who work in the country's lowest-paid sector, have seen their wages grow by 14.1% in just one year. 

Four-day work weeks have started to catch on around the world

A trial of the shorter week in Iceland saw that productivity and quality remained the same — and workers felt more positive and happy. Countries like Spain and Scotland have said they'll test it out, and several companies have already adopted it or are considering slashing hours. But experts warn it could be harder to implement in the US, in part because the US is less unionized — and the US's obsession with ever-present employees.

Takano said that, in tandem with a shorter work week, workers need easier access to labor unions and organizing. The Build Back Better Act contains some provisions from the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) that would do just that.

"I think we do have a chance of seeing people actually making a livable salary, a livable wage at 32 hours a week," if it's coupled with stronger unions, minimum wage, and overtime provisions, Takano said. "We want a world where there is a sustainable wage for everybody. We need workers to be able to have some leverage with regard to employers. It can't be that all the power is with employers."

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China tells citizens to avoid mail from abroad and open packages with gloves, claiming that Omicron is spreading through foreign post

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 12:29
Delivery workers sort parcels at a makeshift logistics station in Beijing, China.
  • China is advising people to avoid foreign mail and open packages outside, citing COVID-19 risks.
  • Beijing's disease center said an Omicron infection could have come through international mail.
  • Experts say the virus is unlikely to spread via mail, as it doesn't last long on surfaces.

Officials in Beijing are telling people to avoid international mail and to open their packages outdoors and with gloves, saying cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant could have spread through foreign mail.

Experts have repeatedly said that there is little risk of getting the coronavirus from mail. There is no indication that this has changed with the Omicron variant, though it is more infectious.

But Robin Brant, the BBC's China correspondent, tweeted on Monday that Beijing was telling residents not to order goods from abroad, and to open packages outside with gloves and a mask on.

The South China Morning Post also reported on Monday that Beijing's center for disease control and prevention said that people should order as little as possible from abroad, and that people should wear gloves and masks when opening any mail from high-risk countries.

It comes as the center said the first recorded case of the Omicron variant in Beijing could have entered via mail.

The man who was infected said he was sent mail from Canada on January 7, which had passed through Canada and Hong Kong before arriving in Beijing, the state-run People's Daily reported.

Pang Xinghuo, the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention's deputy director, said "we do not rule out the possibility that the person was infected through contacting an object from overseas," the Post reported. Pang said the Omicron variant was found on the letter, the report said.

Canada's post office noted, citing the country's public-health agency and the World Health Organization, that any risk of spreading coronavirus through mail is low as the virus does not live long on surfaces.

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Jen Psaki backed her kid's school in a fight with Virginia's GOP governor over mandating masks for students

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 12:27
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on October 19, 2021.
  • Jen Psaki backed Arlington Public Schools in a mask-mandate argument with the state governor.
  • The district is defying a move by GOP Gov. Youngkin allowing parents to opt out of mask rules. 
  • Psaki said that, unlike her, Youngkin doesn't have kids at the schools in question.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki weighed in on a dispute between Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and her local school district, backing its decision to press ahead with masks mandates despite his instructions.

Youngkin sparked a dispute with Arlington Public Schools by ordering that school systems allow parents to opt out of compulsory masks rules in the classroom. 

Psaki in a tweet Sunday said: "Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don't believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong). Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant."

—Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) January 17, 2022

In the tweet, she linked to a report by Nick Ianelli of the local WTOP network on Youngkin pledging to take action against the school district — though noting that it was unclear exactly what this this meant.

The Arlington Public Schools said Saturday it would continue to require kids to wear a masks in schools and on school buses. It noted that public schools were by compelled by law to comply with CDC guidance to slow the spread of the disease, and that the agency still recommends masks. 

Youngkin in November became Virginia's first GOP governor since 2009.

He made educational issues the central battleground of his campaign, pledging to stop COVID-related school closures and loosen restrictions and taking aim at the teaching of critical race theory, the academic analysis of structural racism. 

In a flurry of executive orders after taking office, Youngkin announced he was banning the teaching of critical race theory, as well as seeking to roll back rules seeking the slow the spread of COVID.

Republican leaders are said to see Youngkin's campaign as a blueprint for national success in this year's mid-terms, as school districts impose new restrictions and closures in response to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

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