Posts

Elon Musk Has Plans For Twitter As The Company’s Largest Shareholder

The richest man in the world, Elon Musk, has become Twitter’s largest shareholder with a 9.2% stake in the company. Musk immediately took to Twitter to announce some of his plans for the social media site.

New Data Reveals How The End Of Covid-19 Pandemic Protocols Could Negatively Impact US Healthcare 

Whenever the Covid-19 pandemic ends, the US healthcare system may be disrupted greatly due to the amount of hospital systems who have been able to acquire new technology and resources to keep up with temporary emergency measures throughout the pandemic.  

When the many temporary emergency measures that have been implemented throughout the US’s healthcare system end, an estimated 15 million Medicaid recipients will likely need to find new coverage. Congress will need to take action in order to preserve the broad telehealth access that many Medicare users have been able to use throughout the pandemic. 

Beyond just patients, payment policies are also likely to change for doctors, hospitals, and insurers. Many are raising concerns over these issues because of their tie to the coronavirus public health emergency declaration that was made more than two years ago and needs to be periodically renewed in order to keep these protective policies in place. 

Embed from Getty Images

The state of emergency is set to end on April 16th, and it’s expected that Biden will likely extend it through July, but many healthcare workers are hoping for a more secure extension that will last longer. Juliette Cubanski is a Medicare expert working with the Kaiser Family Foundation who recently spoke on the potential consequences of stepping back from the state of emergency. 

“The flexibilities granted through the public health emergency have helped people stay covered and get access to care, so moving forward the key question is how to build on what has been a success and not lose ground.”

Medicaid currently covers 79 million people through its state-federal health insurance program which is designed to assist low income individuals. The amount of people covered by Medicaid has increased at record rates throughout the pandemic. 

The Urban Institute revealed research that estimates about 15 million people could lose their Medicaid coverage when the public health emergency ends, at a rate of 1 million individuals per month. Matthew Buettgens of the Urban Institute stated that almost all of the people losing Medicaid will likely be eligible for “another source of coverage through employers, the Affordable Care Act or, for kids, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Embed from Getty Images

“But that’s not going to happen automatically. Cost and lack of awareness about options could get in the way. This is an unprecedented situation. The uncertainty is real,” said Buettgens. Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is an administrator at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, and she advises states to take it slow when it comes to rolling back on policies so that they have time to connect with Medicaid recipients who will be disenrolled to provide them with additional coverage. 

“We are focused on making sure we hold on to the gains in coverage we have made under the Biden-Harris administration. We are at the strongest point in our history and we are going to make sure that we hold on to the coverage gains,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. 

The end of the public health emergency could impact telehealth access for millions enrolled in traditional Medicare and other insurers. 

“Congress has given itself 151 days after the end of the public health emergency to come up with new rules. If there are no changes to the law after that, most Medicare beneficiaries will lose access to coverage for telehealth,” the Kaiser Foundation’s Cubanski said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra recently told The Associated Press that his department is “committed to giving ample notice when it ends the public health emergency. We want to make sure we’re not putting in a detrimental position Americans who still need our help. The one that people are really worried about is Medicaid.”

Uber Lyft

Uber And Lyft Now Adding Fuel Surcharges To Rides As Gas Prices Continue To Rise 

Uber and Lyft announced this week that customers will be paying more for rides temporarily, as both companies are now adding a surcharge to deal with the rise in gas prices nationwide. 

In a statement made to the media, Lyft said that the company is asking riders to pay a “temporary fuel surcharge” which will go directly to the drivers as a means of compensation for the rise in gas prices nationwide. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We’ve been closely monitoring rising gas prices and their impact on our driver community,” a company spokesperson said.

The company didn’t specify how much the surcharge would be, but it will likely be dependent on the length of the trip for the rider. Uber announced last week that they would also be adding a surcharge on all Uber trips and Uber Eats services for the next 60 days. After that, the company will reassess the charges. 

“We know that prices have been going up across the economy, so we’ve done our best to help drivers and couriers without placing too much additional burden on consumers,” Uber said in a statement.

Uber customers will be paying a surcharge of either $0.45 or $0.55 on every trip, while Uber Eats deliveries will now include a charge of either $0.35 or $0.45 on each order, depending on the location of delivery. 

Embed from Getty Images

Uber said the surcharges will also go directly to the drivers. Uber also clarified that the surcharge will not apply to rides that begin in New York City of Uber Eats deliveries within the city’s limits because drivers there are receiving a 5.3% increase to the city’s minimum earnings standard for the past month. 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas prices have risen exponentially all around the nation. Uber and Lyft have both stated that the rise in fuel prices is the reason they’re both implementing the surcharges into their ride policies. 

As of this Monday, the average cost of a regular gallon of gas has reached $4.325, according to AAA. That price reflects a 26 cent increase in the past week alone.

Around this time last year the average price for a gallon of regular gas cost around $2.859. 

President Biden announced a ban on all US imports of Russian oil and gas, a move that he acknowledged would likely cause the price of gas to increase nationwide. Biden also pledged to do everything in his power to not have the rise in gas prices impact Americans and their wallets. 

“Defending freedom is going to cost, however, it’s going to cost us as well in the United States,” Biden said.

Amazon Opens Up First Cashierless Whole Foods 

Amazon has officially brought its cashierless Just Walk Out technology to a Whole Foods store for the first time. Customers can now shop and leave the store with all their items without having to interact with any cashier. 

The revamped Whole Foods opened up on February 23rd in Washington, DC’s Glover Park location, where there’s been a Whole Foods for over 20 years. 

Embed from Getty Images

While Amazon has introduced this technology in Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh branded stores, this is the first time the cashierless technology is being fully implemented into a Whole Foods store. 

Amazon bought the Whole Foods grocery chain back in 2017 for $13.7 billion, but up until this point Amazon’s integration with the chain has been more minimal; offering discounts and free delivery services to Prime account holders. 

The Whole Foods is a 21,500 square foot location, however, the Amazon Fresh store in Washington is the largest Amazon location to implement Just Walk Out cashierless technology. Amazon’s implementation of this technology in a preexisting Whole Foods location with no additional Amazon branding being added to the overall design and aesthetic is proving to experts that the tech company is very confident in the cashierless technology.

Embed from Getty Images

There’s no official word yet if Amazon plans to bring the technology to all Whole Foods stores, but it’s likely more Just Walk Out stores will begin to appear throughout the nation. 

According to a reporter who went to the DC Whole Foods location, the store features Amazon’s palm-recognition technology for entry, alongside with QR codes. The store still has employees staffing various counters who are also there to assist customers who may not fully understand the cashierless technology at first. 

The store is overall leaning into a more self-service model. Customers are able to cut their own loafs of bread and other features that promote independence. 

The cashierless technology is being met with mixed reactions, especially from DC residents who were used to shopping regularly at that specific Whole Foods location. 

The second Whole Foods store that’s set to open with cashierless Just Walk Out technology is located in Los Angeles. The brand announced that it will likely be opening later this year.

Record-Breaking 4.5 Million US Workers Quit Their Jobs In November 

According to the US Department of Labor, a record-breaking number of employees quit their jobs in November while the total amount of employment openings continued to drop, the department reported this Tuesday. 

Around 4.53 million Americans resigned from their jobs throughout the month of November, according to the DOL’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. This marks an 8.9% increase in resignations when compared to October. The data also shows November beating September’s record of resignations, which peaked at 4.36 million. 

Embed from Getty Images

The recent months of Americans resigning has been labelled as the Great Resignation. Workers have been leaving their positions for a multitude of reasons, including not enough pay/benefits, lack of health and safety precautions, and increased mobility in the labor market. Job openings in America currently outnumber the amount of citizens looking for work. 

In October there were around 11.09 million job openings throughout the nation, and around 10.56 million in November. This time last year the job opening rate was around 4.5%, and has since increased to 6.6%. 

“The Great Resignation shows no sign of abating, with quits hitting a new record. The question is why, and the answers are for starkly different reasons,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. 

“COVID-19 burnout and fear are continuing, but also, many Americans have the confidence to quit given the high level of job openings and rising pay.”

Embed from Getty Images

A separate economic report from the ISM Manufacturing Index showed that manufacturing rates throughout December were slower than initially expected. The index registered a 58.7% rate, 1.3% lower than the 60% expectation. 

The index also showed major decreases in supplier delivery, which fell by 7.3% last month. While inflation in general is running at its highest level in nearly 40 years, the index also showed a shocking decrease in prices; 14.2%.

The employment index within manufacturing, however, has shown a .9% gain in employment, which is a sign that hiring within the sector is remaining relatively strong. 

As Covid cases continue to surge, the healthcare and social assistance industries are experiencing some of the highest levels of resignation, with a 3% rise in November, the highest percentage on record for that sector. 

The Labor Department is expected to release their closely watched nonfarm payroll count for December within the week. Experts in the field are expecting, and hoping, to see a growth of around 422,000 jobs with an unemployment rate of 4.1%.

Apple’s Most Affordable 5G iPhone Projected To Get A Billion Android Users To Switch 

Apple is currently rumored to launch a third-generation of their iPhone SE in early 2022, this time with 5G support. According to analyst’s from JP Morgan, the upgrade “has the potential to attract more than a billion non-premium Android users.”

According to Reuters, the third-generation of the iPhone SE could lure nearly 1.4 billion low-to-mid-end Android phone users to switch, as well as around 300 million older iPhone model users.”  

Embed from Getty Images

“Apple’s trade-in program for non-iPhones is admittedly not as attractive as the iPhone trade-in values, it could nonetheless lead to an average starting price range of $269 to $399 for the 5G iPhone SE, which is still very competitive,” analyst Samik Chatterjee, said.

In a separate note, J.P.Morgan said “consumer demand for major upgrades like 5G models is expected to remain strong and also a priority for supply, even as it wanes for most hardware products including smartphones, TVs and PCs.”

According to online rumors, the iPhone SE third-generation is expected to feature the same physical form as it currently has; the equivalent of a 2017 iPhone 8. The phone will likely have a 4.7 inch LCD display, an upgraded processor, and of course, 5G capabilities. 

Embed from Getty Images

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that the new phone will likely have either an A15 Bionic processor, as seen in the iPhone 13, or an A14 Bionic chip, as seen in the iPhone 12. Either way, it will be a major upgrade for the SE models. 

JP Morgan’s analysis also found that for the fiscal 2022 year, iPhone SE “unit sales are expected to rise to 30 million units and annual iPhone shipments are expected to reach 250 million units; 10 million units higher than a year earlier.”

The report itself doesn’t specify exactly how or why the potential “billion” Android users will switch, but based on past market trends when it comes to switching from Android to Apple every time a new device is released, it makes sense that more users would be making the switch this time around to take advantage of a much cheaper 5G capable smartphone. 

There is currently no predicted date as to when Apple will release the next generation of SE models, however, it will likely take place at some point in the spring.

Cyber Monday Sales Drop For The First Time Ever In 2021

This Cyber Monday, consumers spent upwards of $10.7 billion collectively on deals from their favorite online retailers. However, according to data from Adobe Analytics, this total marks a 1.4% decrease when compared to the lowest amount spent during Cyber Monday on record. 

Adobe Analytics initially began tracking e-commerce in 2012, and analyzes more than 1 trillion visits to retailer websites. This year’s tally for Cyber Monday marks the first time that the company has recorded a slowdown in spending on a major shopping day during the holiday season. 

Embed from Getty Images

Last Cyber Monday wasn’t much different either, with consumers spending about $10.8 billion online. Last year was more predictable, however, as we were still in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and most people weren’t leaving their house or in a position to spend a lot of money for the holidays. 

Adobe is still expecting that throughout the rest of this year’s holiday season, online retailer’s will see a relative increase in e-commerce activity. More shoppers have been opting to spread out their orders when it comes to holiday shopping to make it easier to pay off certain gifts. 

Between November 1st and Cyber Monday consumers in the US alone have spent about $109.8 billion online, which is an 11.9% increase from last year’s numbers, and the previous year’s. The company is anticipating digital sales to reach $207 billion by the end of the year, which would represent a record hain of 10%. 

Adobe reported that the Cyber Monday sales stats aren’t exactly surprising either. As previously mentioned, more shoppers have been spreading out the days in which they spend their money, as opposed to waiting for “Cyber Week” (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) to get all their shopping done. 

Embed from Getty Images

Many larger online retailers have seen these patterns, and have even gone as far as to offer Black Friday deals all autumn and winter. Adobe reported that retailers made about $8.9 billion in online sales this Black Friday, and about $5.1 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving Day. 

According to data from Sensormatic Solutions, another retail tracker, shopper traffic on Black Friday was up 47.5% when compared to last year’s numbers, however, it was still down 28.3% when compared to 2019/pre-pandemic levels. 

“With early deals in October, consumers were not waiting around for discounts on big shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday,” said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights.

Adobe predicts that online retail trends will continue to fuel the market throughout the holiday season as deals on major retail websites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart continue to push “Black Friday Deals” throughout the entire holiday season.

Man in Prison

American Journalist Danny Fenster Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison In Myanmar

A military court in Myanmar has sentenced Danny Fenster, a 37-year-old American journalist from Detroit, to 11 years in prison, according to a statement from his lawyer. Fester has been detained in Myanmar for more than 5 months now. 

Fester was denied bail and has been held in Insein Prison since his arrest on May 24th. Than Zaw Aung, Fester’s lawyer, claimed Fester was found guilty this week of three charges brought against him by the Myanmar military, which seized control of the country in a coup back in February. 

The charges against Fester include breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group, and incitement under section 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code; which makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that may “cause fear or spread false news.”

Embed from Getty Images

About 100 journalists have been detained in the country since the coup, and about 30 remain behind bars. Fester’s lawyer also announced that he has now been hit with two new criminal charges under the nation’s sedition and terrorism laws, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. 

The new charges were made under Section 124a of Myanmer’s Penal Code, which mandates seven to 20 years in prison for attempting to bring hatred, contempt or disaffection toward the government or military.

The other charge is under “Section 50a of the Counter Terrorism Law, which makes it a crime to have contact with officially designated ‘terrorist’ groups. Under the terrorism charge, Fenster could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison if convicted,” according to his lawyer and Myanmar’s sentencing guidelines.

Fester was initially arrested at Yangon International Airport while trying to leave the country to visit his family in the US. It was unclear why the charges were brought against the former managing editor of Frontier Myanmer. 

Embed from Getty Images

Frontier Myanmar said in a statement posted on Facebook it was “deeply disappointed at the sentencing. Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family,” said Thomas Keen, Frontier’s Editor-in-Chief.

Frontier Myanmar said the “charges were based on the allegation that Fenster was working for banned media outlet Myanmar Now in the aftermath of the military coup. But Fenster had resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020, and at the time of his arrest in May 2021 had been working with Frontier for more than nine months.”

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Kean.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the sentence was a “travesty of justice executed by a kangaroo court operating at the beck and call of the Myanmar military junta.”

“The rationale for this outrageous, rights abusing sentence is really twofold: To intimidate all remaining journalists inside Myanmar by punishing Fenster this way, while at the same time sending a message to the US that the Tatmadaw generals don’t appreciate being hit with economic sanctions and can bite back with hostage diplomacy,” Robertson said.

“Journalism is not a crime, and it shouldn’t be treated that way — meaning that Danny Fenster and the many Burmese journalists still behind bars should urgently be freed.”

Corporate Google Building

Alphabet, Google’s Parent Company, Earns $65 Billion In Revenue Thanks To Online Ads

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, posted that they earned $65 billion in revenue during the third-quarter, exceeding Wall Street’s initial predictions and doubling their expected profits thanks to online advertisements. 

Over the last three months Alphabet’s revenue rose by 41% to $65.2 billion, marking its largest revenue figure in 14 years. Before the pandemic the corporation posted a profit of $21 billion.

Embed from Getty Images

Alphabet saw its share price increase by 57% as well for the year. This makes it the best performer of all the “FAANG” companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). Its advertising revenue alone rose to $53 billion, up from $37.1 billion last year. 

Revenue from Alphabet’s cloud division rose by 45% to $4.99 billion, trailing behind Amazon Web Service and Microsoft Azure. Operation losses for the sector decreased by nearly 50%, from $1.2 billion to $644 million. 

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet and Google, said “search is the heart of what we do. This quarter’s results show how our investments there are enabling us to build more helpful products for people and our partners.”

“Google campuses and cloud services will be run on carbon-free energy by 2030, and Google’s maps function will offer drivers an eco-option to find more fuel efficient routes to destinations and a wildfire system, so that consumers can make quick and informed decisions during emergencies.”

Embed from Getty Images

Chief business officer Philipp Schindler said “it’s clear that uncertainty is the new normal for the global economic outlook, as uneven access to Covid vaccines affect different countries and regions experienced rates of economic recovery. The world is in flux. When it comes to anticipating change, predicting demand and investing in innovation, businesses need as much support now as they did a year and a half ago.”

In shopping, Schindler said, “some regions were experiencing a fourfold increase in search activity. Often those searches preceded in-person visits to stores. Bricks-and-mortar isn’t dead. Instead omni-channel [shopping] is in full force.”

Alphabet also emphasized their commitment to high-quality and accurate journalism, as well as open-access to information for all. Schindler explained that within the last quarter the company has added 120 news providers to it’s 1,000 information sources on Google’s News Showcase. 

Google intends to also purchase a New York City office building for $2.1 billion in the near future, as well as another campus in Silicon Valley, as a means of motivating employees to come back to the office.

Nice Restaurant

US Restaurant Workers Demanding Livable Wages Amid Reopenings 

America’s restaurant industry has opened up for business, however, a majority of staffers in these eateries are still coping with the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, its economic impact, and the responsibility of enforcing health and safety protocols on angry customers for small wages. 

Restaurants all throughout the country have been struggling to find enough workers who are willing to fill open positions for minimum payment. Many industry workers throughout the nation blame the labor shortages on poor pay, unsafe working conditions, disrespect from customers, and concerns over the pandemic in general. 

Iesha Franceis is an employee at a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers chain in Durham, North Carolina, who recently spoke to the Guardian about why she believes restaurants throughout the nation are struggling.  

Embed from Getty Images

“I currently make $11.40 an hour, employees are still struggling and employers are still not caring, and it’s their own fault these corporations are experiencing worker shortages. We are all still not making livable wages and these companies are still trying to penny pinch any way that they can.”

The leisure and hospitality industry currently has 1.7 million fewer jobs available when compared to before the pandemic. For the food industry, jobs declined by 42,000 in the month of August 2021, and overall has experienced a surge of workers quitting all throughout 2021. 

Francis herself led multiple walkouts at her restaurant over Covid-19 safety concerns and poor working conditions throughout the entire pandemic. This is a common form of protest that many industry workers have turned to in order to show their employers that they should be valued for being an essential worker during a global health crisis, and being paid like they’re working a summer job in high school is not going to cut it anymore. 

Franceis explained “many employees left through the pandemic while operating hours are still reduced, which has left me and my co-workers to deal with increased workloads and work extra hours to try to compensate for staffing shortages.

“Pay me what I’m worth. Because if I can sacrifice myself for your business to keep your wheels turning, then it’s time that you sacrifice yourself to keep my wheels turning. It’s off of our backs that their lives are so easy.”

Embed from Getty Images

A spokesperson for Freddy’s said in an email: “Freddy’s has an uncompromising commitment to safety and expects each of our franchisees to provide a safe working environment for their employees, including following proper cleaning and sanitation protocols. Additionally, as an independent franchisee, the local owner in Durham is solely responsible for setting their employees’ hourly pay and salaries.”

Lily Nicholson is a server at a restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee who discussed the constant harassment and issues workers are facing from customers who refuse to abide by mask mandates and Covid-19 safety protocols. Leading to a much bigger discussion over why low-paid employees are having to deal with verbal abuse from customers when they’re the ones working during a pandemic to provide services. 

“It’s such a precarious scenario. We’ve been the worker who has been deputized into enforcing this rule at the door that you’re supposed to have a mask on, so at the door you already have an altercation,” said Nicholson.

Many fast food employees also had no paid sick leave throughout the entire pandemic, so if they did happen to catch Covid, they were losing money everyday they had to stay home, and in some cases, employees were fired for not showing up. 

Essential workers in every industry are growing tired of not being as valued as the nation has made it seem to be throughout the past two years. Individuals are literally putting their lives on the line to clock into work and make the bare minimum so they can continue to scrap by. Time will tell how much longer the food industry, and others, will be able to last without a proper source of labor.