WHEN BORIS JOHNSON opened the year with a video message promising an “exhilarating decade of growth, prosperity and opportunity”, his supporters were quick to predict a new “roaring 20s”. They were not so wide of the mark. This year has opened with Britain’s deepest recession since the post-first-world-war crash of 1919 and 1920.
A later lockdown than in many other rich countries led to better numbers in the first quarter of 2020, but the 20.4% GDP contraction in the second quarter was the deepest on record. Over the first half of the year as a whole GDP shrank by 22.1%. The length of the lockdown—restaurants and pubs reopened in July, later than in most of the rest of Europe—was the primary cause. School closures made life especially difficult for households in which both parents work, and Britain has a lot of those. Lockdown’s impact on data collection probably means these estimates are less reliable than usual, but the broad picture is clear.
The economy returned to growth in May, and in June GDP grew by 8.7%, the fastest rise on record. But big percentage increases after a huge fall are misleading. Google’s mobility data suggest that Britons have been slower to return to shops, and to start eating and drinking out again, than other Europeans. The climb out of the hole will be a long one.
Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hub
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Crash”
This summer has brought some wildly uneven and unpredictable effects on businesses across the US, resulting in both staggering job losses for some and ramped up sales for others.
While a lot of attention has been paid to transitioning to a remote workforce, less has been said about how to effectively tap flexible workers like freelancers, consultants, and contractors.
Business Insider curated advice from several experts on how to integrate flex workers into your organization’s talent strategy and came up with three main takeaways.
1. Understand the tax and legal implications of worker classifications
Issues caused by non-compliance with legal and tax regulations can destroy any short-term cost savings of hiring flex talent, said Michael Cole, lead employment counsel at Gusto, an HR and payroll platform for small businesses, “so you really need to think through the classification issues.”
In tax parlance, there are just two classifications to choose from: 1099 contract workers and W-2 staffers. But Cole cautions that state and local labor rules can cause expensive headaches for employers who try to apply their own interpretation of the rules.
The classification has management implications as well.
Most contractors expect a high degree of independence, and a major test of what differentiates a 1099 contractor from a W-2 employee is how much direct control a manager has over how the work is performed. In other words, you could get into hot water for micromanaging a freelancer.
2. Consider hiring someone to incorporate flex talent into your long-term strategy
Will Lopez, head of Gusto’s accountant community and founder of accounting firm AdvisorFi, stressed the importance of people-focused, transparent leadership when designing and executing a staffing change, especially during a crisis.
Hiring a “flexible talent resource manager” can help. The job falls somewhere between HR and procurement, borrowing a little from each: finding the right people that can boost your team and negotiating and managing contracts with talent sources.
Like remote work, flexible talent is much more than an emergency measure to get through a tough time, says Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder and CEO of We Are Rosie, a company that contracts marketing experts out to national brands like IBM and Bumble.
“Reconsidering your long-term labor strategy to incorporate more flexible talent is going to be critical moving forward because it solves agility challenges, it solves efficiency challenges, and it also solves diversity,” she said.
While highly specialized contract companies like We Are Rosie provide clients with an account manager to scope out projects and scale support according to specific needs, Olson recommends that organizations assign someone to coordinate the different contract labor relationships a company has.
3. Commit to train, delegate to, and trust your new talent
If your team needs to take on flexible talent, it’s important to actually trust those new workers to get a job done. When hiring experienced contractors, you should feel confident they can complete an assignment with little training.
Once you’ve established the parameters of a project, the contractor should be able to deliver their contribution with relatively little direct management.
“You can’t be served if you’re not delegating,” said Tricia Sciortino, CEO of Belay, a virtual assistant service that provides bookkeepers, website managers, and social media mavens. “You’ve got to be ready to really let some stuff go. Show them how to do something, let them have it, and free yourself up.”
Over the past 24-hours, the news cycle has been filled with key events. Among the most cited is the recent spike in U.S. COVID-19 deaths. Over the past two weeks, the U.S. has averaged more than1,000 deaths per day, with Wednesday/Thursday bringing a tally of nearly 1500. At this point, cases are on the uptick as the Trump administration falls under intense media scrutiny.
On the political front, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has named Kamala Harris as his VP choice. Harris as the VP selection came as a surprise to many pundits as she is from the far left of the American political spectrum. In other words, many of Harris’s economic views lean socialist, similar to ex-Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Thus far, the markets haven’t put much stock in the potential impact of VP Harris on the economy should Joe Biden win the White House.
Once again it’s Thursday and that means U.S. employment is under the microscope. The headline of today’s reports was the decrease in unemployment claims.Initial Jobless Claims(August 7) fell to 963,000, well beneath projections of 1.12 million. At this point, it looks like we may have seen the worst of the unemployment numbers.
Unfortunately for the USD, a spike in COVID-19 is likely to bring about an extension of FED QE. So far today, the greenback is taking it on the chin versus the majors.
COVID-19 Spikes, USD/CAD Falls
In a Live Market Update from earlier this month, I outlined the importance of the 78% Fibonacci support level in the USD/CAD. This level is long gone ― next up may be 2020’s low at 1.2951.
Overview: For the time being, it’sshort-or-nothingfor the USD/CAD. Rates are in a relative freefall as COVID-19-inspired dovish policy is driving values toward 1.3000. If we see WTI crude oil gain some late-summer swagger above $45.00, this pair is likely to make a legitimate run at 2020’s low.
The effect of the pandemic on our working lives underscores the growing importance of trust.
Successful remote working demands a greater level of trust, both in and between employees and employers.
In the long-term, organizations that cultivate greater levels of trust will be better placed to thrive in this new era.
When we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, we will see not just the human and economic loss inflicted by the virus, but an important gain – a growing global awareness of the value of trust.
As companies coped this spring with plummeting demand, anxious employees and volatile costs, it became increasingly clear that leadership priority has shifted to maintaining the trust of all stakeholders. As with the financial crisis of 2008, survivors in the long run will tend to have the equivalent of a strong immune system; not only in their balance sheet, but in the level of trust they have been able to develop with their stakeholders.
Working together, apart
We found this spring that we had to learn afresh about building trust, from afar. The jury is still out on how to build and regain trust in a world where our collective health depends on how good we are at staying apart.
One of the things I have learnt in the past four months is the value of spending a little extra time with my colleagues and clients in addition to our business discussions – not with any specific agenda in mind, but just to see how they are getting on during this difficult time. While these short off-topic conversations are not the best substitute for in-person conversations, they have had one positive dividend: they have given me a much greater understanding of the lives of my colleagues and customers as individuals than I had before the pandemic.
Recently, for instance, while on a video call, a senior executive’s son walked into the frame, and so I asked him to come chat with us. A few months ago, this might have been slightly embarrassing for everyone, but now the three of us had a nice chat about everything, and nothing. Meeting my colleague’s son and adding that contextual information to my knowledge of his life enriched our working relationship.
With travel curtailed, I have not been able to meet with people as I usually do. To compensate, I have invested much more time in video calls. Adapting to this new style of management has been a challenge, because when it comes to working during a global pandemic, I am as much a freshman as the rest of the human race.
A time for patience
These windows into my colleagues’ lives have also reminded me of the challenges everyone faces today. Whether they are living alone or with small children, or with anxiety about their older relatives’ health, most people have a lot on their plate at the moment. For the at-home professional, their day job is one of many priorities. As managers and colleagues, we need to be patient with each other and allow people to set some of their own boundaries and timelines so that they are able to manage work and home life.
To do that will require a stronger commitment to building a greater level of trust in all our professional relationships, be they with colleagues, clients, investors, or regulators. Achieving this trust will demand an unprecedented level of transparency from all of us. Whether you are a manager being frank about next year’s uncertain prospects or a worker explaining that the project is going to be late because your mother isn’t well and needs your constant support, if we face our challenges together with candour and patience, we can still succeed.
Obviously the work still needs to be done, but we need to give everyone the flexibility they need to take care of all their responsibilities. Such flexibility means stepping back from micromanaging. Focusing on hours worked (and when) never did make a lot of sense as a way to manage people, but now, with a semi-remote workforce, it is no longer even practical. Instead of monitoring 100% of employees for the misbehaviour of 5%, we will need to find ways to manage that difficult 5%.
Managers today must focus more on outcomes, not on hours. Workers too will need to cut their managers some slack, recognizing that they are new to coping with the pandemic. Team members can reward their leaders’ flexibility by doing the best they can under the circumstances, and by stepping up for the team.
There is no “they”
In the end, the success of distributed work will depend on distributed trust. We can’t wait for ‘them’ to learn how to do things differently. There is no them; there is only us. From here on out, every top-performing enterprise will succeed only if we build a strong culture of personal responsibility. What this means is that ‘they’ don’t work at your firm – individuals do – and we can make changes by taking the initiative to drive them ourselves.
Now more than ever, top-performing cultures demand everybody’s best efforts and best ideas.
Women have formed human chains in Belarus to condemn a crackdown on protests as demonstrations over the disputed election entered a fifth day.
Many dressed in white and carried flowers as they called for an end to police brutality.
Unrest erupted after long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared winner in a vote condemned by the EU and US as neither free nor fair.
Thousands of people have been arrested and at least two have died.
In the latest official figures, the interior ministry said police had detained 700 people during protests on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 6,700.
Some detainees were released on Thursday. Tearful relatives gathered outside a jail north of the capital Minsk, hoping to be reunited with their loved ones or for information on their whereabouts.
Several strikes have been reported at state-owned factories, where workers object to the violent treatment of protesters. Hundreds of employees were seen walking out at truck-maker Belaz, in Zhodino to the north-east of the capital.
Women in their thousands formed “solidarity chains” in Minsk and other cities as protests went into a fifth day. Participants told reporters they wanted a peaceful resolution, as they called for all detained protesters to be freed.
During the afternoon, women marched in big numbers down the main thoroughfare in Minsk, Independence Avenue, accompanied by a chorus of hooting cars.
Video footage shared on social media showed opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining the female protesters in Minsk, holding a bunch of flowers.
She was one of three women who pooled their resources to spearhead the opposition. The other two have left the country.
Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on the day of the vote while the main opposition candidate in the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was briefly detained on Monday before being forced to leave for Lithuania.
Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, released a video saying she made the “very difficult decision” to leave because of her children.
The opposition candidate was a stay-at-home mother until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote.
She became Mr Lukashenko’s toughest opposition challenge in years, leading large rallies in the lead up to the vote.
But Mr Lukashenko dismissed her bid, saying a woman could not lead Belarus.
“Our constitution is not for women,” he said earlier this year. “Our society has not matured enough to vote for a woman. This is because by constitution the president handles a lot of power.”
Nobel literature laureate Svetlana Alexievich accused the authorities of declaring war on their own people and urged Mr Lukashenko to stand down.
Aged 65, he has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994 and has described opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.
As protests continued on Thursday, some workers organised strikes and walkouts in Minsk, Grodno in the west and Zhodino.
Medics walked out of hospitals for a second day to join the demonstrations and performers from the Belarusian State Philharmonic held up a message saying “Philharmonia prays for the people”.
Russian internet giant Yandex said armed individuals had entered two of its offices in Minsk and barred employees inside from leaving. They left some hours later.
Shock at police brutality as testimonies mount
By Olga Ivshina, BBC Russian
The body of evidence of police brutality, both in the streets and inside remand prisons, is mounting. Detainees include not only opposition activists, but also many journalists and accidental passers-by.
One of the released journalists, Nikita Telizhenko of the Russian Znak.com news website, published a harrowing account of three days inside prison. Now back in Russia, he describes people lying on the floor of a detention centre, piled on top of each other, in a pool of blood and excrement. Not allowed to use the toilet for hours on end or even change position.
He says he saw seriously injured people, with broken limbs and severe bruising, not only left without medical help, but kicked and beaten by the guards more.
Telizhenko’s testimony is confirmed by countless posts on social media – photos, videos, stories. I spoke to an American woman who was visiting her Belarusian boyfriend in Minsk – he got detained for no apparent reason. Not only had he not been protesting, but he was asleep in bed when the police came to his flat, kicked down the door and took him away.
What else has been happening?
Election officials said Mr Lukashenko won 80% of the vote on Sunday, but protests erupted amid widespread allegations of vote rigging.
Hundreds of people have been injured in a police crackdown on protests, some seriously. A BBC crew was attacked by police on Tuesday evening.
Officials have confirmed the deaths of two people.
One demonstrator died during a protest in the capital Minsk on Monday. The Belarusian interior ministry alleged an explosive device had gone off in his hand.
Ambassadors from European countries laid flowers on Thursday where he died, a day before EU foreign ministers were due to consider imposing sanctions on Belarus.
His mother told Radio Free Europe that her son had not taken part in any protests and was arrested as he was going to see his girlfriend. She said he had heart problems and was kept for hours in a police van.
People have been shouting the words “get out” from their balconies, the same slogan used by protesters on the ground. Police responded by firing rubber bullets.
The United Nations has condemned the use of violence by authorities.
Video footage shared on social media has shown ex-special forces officers throwing their uniforms into bins in disgust at the actions of their former colleagues.
“I was proud of the unit I served [in]. Now I am ashamed. Shame on everyone who follows such orders,” one former officer said.
Federal law enforcement officials said Thursday that they had conducted the “largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency” connected to terrorism.
Prosecutors unsealed three civil forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint in federal court in Washington. The forfeiture complaints involve the Al-Qassam Brigades, better known as the military wing of Hamas, in addition to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Michael R. Sherwin, acting United States attorney for the District of Columbia, called this case “historical and unprecedented” at a news conference in Washington.
More than 18 months ago, the al-Qassam Brigades invited supporters through a website to donate to their cause via Bitcoin, calling such donations “untraceable.”
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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are pseudonymous but not fully anonymous. As law enforcement agencies, particularly the IRS, have shown for years, such accounts can be tracked and linked to particular suspects.
With approval from a judge, federal law enforcement seized control of the al-Qassam Brigades’ site for a time, diverting donations from a site intended to fund terrorism and sending them instead to Bitcoin accounts controlled by the U.S. government.
A second campaign involved a Syria-based group that explicitly sought to accept Bitcoin donations to fund terrorists in the region.
Federal law enforcement agencies, and in particular the IRS, partnered with the digital forensics company Chainalysis to conduct blockchain analysis as a way to specifically identify how and where various bitcoins moved around.
According to Chainalysis, an Idlib, Syria-based entity known as the “BitcoinTransfer Office,” serves as the central hub for receiving such Bitcoin-based donations to fund militant activity, particularly those affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
“However, BitcoinTransfer remains active as a service,” the company wrote in a Thursday blog post. “Given its facilitation of extensive terrorism financing activity, it’s crucial that cryptocurrency businesses examine past transactions for exposure to BitcoinTransfer and monitor transactions to address any possible future exposure.”
The third case links Murat Cakar, another Turkish national who the government described as an “ISIS facilitator who is responsible for managing select ISIS hacking operations,” to a COVID-19 fraud.
According to the criminal complaint, Cakar operated a website called FaceMaskCenter, which purported to sell N95 face masks that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, when in fact they had not.
“IRS Criminal Investigations’ ability to trace funds used by terrorist groups to their source and dismantle these radical group’s communication and financial networks directly prevents them from wreaking havoc throughout the world,” said Don Fort, the head of the IRS Criminal Investigation, said in a news release.
Cyrus Farivar is a reporter on the tech investigations unit of NBC News in San Francisco.
The news that the arts, entertainment and recreation industry has seen the largest quarterly percentage decline in vacancies of any sector makes the need for government action even more pressing, Bectu has said.
The Tate Modern lit up in red as part of the #WeMakeEvents #RedAlert protests on 11 August
“The arts and culture sector was growing twice as fast as the overall economy before the crisis, but now this sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“The sector is on its knees, with huge numbers of job losses, tens of thousands of freelancers with no support, and large swathes of the sector still in the dark about when they can reopen.
“The news that vacancies are down so dramatically only further underlines that our cultural workforce needs ongoing support until the sector can stabilise.
“The government’s cultural recovery fund is welcome, but we are concerned that the focus is on helping institutions to survive, rather than on protecting the staff and freelancers who are the backbone of the sector.
“Ministers need to look again at the scheme or risk permanently damaging our world beating culture sector.”
NEW YORK — Gathered Foods, maker of Good Catch plant-based seafood products, opened a new production facility in Heath, Ohio.
The 42,500-square-foot facility was constructed specifically for high-tech production of Good Catch’s plant-based offerings, made from a proprietary blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans, the company said. It will house up to 80 positions by the end of the year when it expands to full capacity.
“We are incredibly proud to establish a strong manufacturing footprint in the US as we grow our product portfolio,” said Christine Mei, chief executive officer of Gathered Foods. “With Good Catch’s rapid expansion and the launch of our new line of frozen plant-based entrees and appetizers, having our own production facility enables us to optimize productivity and efficiency.”
Good Catch’s new line of frozen entrees and appetizers features New England style plant-based crab cakes, Thai style plant-based fish cakes and classic style plant-based fish burgers.
The new facility builds on a $36.8 million Series B financing round that closed in January. The company also recently expanded its distribution footprint on an international scale with its Tesco launch in the UK and announced a joint distribution venture with Bumble Bee Foods.
Venezuela’s national tax harmonization agreement has been signed by the council representing 305 municipalities. They have agreed to use the country’s cryptocurrency, the petro, as the unit of account for tax payments.
Taxing in Petro
The Bolivarian Council of Mayors signed Venezuela’s National Tax Harmonization Agreement on Sunday, placing the cryptocurrency petro as the unit of account for the payment of taxes and fines in 305 municipalities. The country is comprised of 335 municipalities, incorporated into 23 states and the capital district.
Calling the agreement “historic,” Vice President Delcy Rodríguez stressed that the prohibition of collecting taxes and duties in foreign currency has been established because the unit of account for this tax is now the petro, local news outlet Ultimas Noticias conveyed. She added that for the first time in Venezuela’s history, a municipal tax harmonization was achieved.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro supports the signing, instructing Rodríguez to ensure that the harmonization of all taxes is maintained to avoid double taxation. Rodríguez explained that to achieve this, a single registry of municipal taxpayers will be created and administered by the Bolivarian Council of Mayors. It will function as a digital tool for the consultation, information exchange, and monitoring of companies with branches in different municipalities to verify declaration made in one mayor’s office but paid in another. In the future, it can also be used to cross-check information with the national tax system, she described.
Rodríguez further noted that the tax harmonization agreement also simplifies administrative procedures, such as reducing the reference codes for economic activities, industries, and businesses from 600 to 30. Sharing Rodríguez’s sentiment, Mayor Erika Farias commented:
This tax harmonization agreement, which we have reached after a great debate among the 305 Bolivarian mayors, is an unprecedented event in our country.
During the signing, Mayor José Alejandro Teran highlighted that using the petro as the unit of account for calculating taxes is not only innovative, but it also helps protect against hyperinflation, which he attributes to U.S. sanctions.
What do you think about Venezuela collecting taxes in petro? Let us know in the comments section below.
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While Bitcoin remains the dominant force in cryptocurrency, a new offering called Chainlink is gaining steam—entering the top five tokens in terms of market cap and enjoying a surge of attention in the online community.
According to CoinMarketCap, a platform that tracks the ups and downs of crypto-coins and global exchanges, Chainlink is now valued at roughly $6 billion, with a single token, known as a Link, currently worth the equivalent of around $17.
For comparison, a bitcoin is currently priced at around $11,500, and the cryptocurrency as a whole now has a market capitalization of more than $210 billion.
In 2017, the value of Bitcoin surged as hype and speculation about its potential shot into overdrive, forcing up the value of a coin to almost $20,000 before it eventually crashed. In 2020, its closest competitors include Ethereum, Ripple (XRP) and Tether.
Chainlink has now entered the fray, with Google Trends indicating people are searching for news about the coin. A Reddit community has attracted over 20,000 members and— for better or worse—it has been often mentioned on 4Chan’s /biz/ finance board.
On its website, Chainlink is described as a “framework for building decentralized oracle networks that give your smart contract access to secure and reliable data inputs and outputs.” That’s a lot to take in. So we asked a crypto expert to explain.
“Chainlink is at its core a means of bridging the gap between the world of blockchains and the outside world,” Charles Hayter, the CEO and co-founder of tracking platform CryptoCompare, toldNewsweek over email, explaining its purpose.
“Chainlink is a framework for creating decentralized oracle networks. Oracle networks act as a source of information bridging the real world and the world of blockchains.
“Its architecture and design are quite complex, but in simple terms it aims to solve the problem of trust and centralization of sources by harnessing a secure and decentralized network of information providers where data is crowd-sourced, reliability and accuracy are incentivized, and bad providers of information are disregarded and punished,” he added. “Powering this ecosystem and system of incentives is the Link token.”
Broadly, Chainlink is used to enhance smart contracts, which are agreements including a buyer and seller online using crypto, in which the transaction stored on a blockchain. Link is based on the Ethereum blockchain, which is dedicated to those transactions.
It acts as a “bridge between cryptocurrency smart contracts and off-chain resources like data feeds, various web APIs, and traditional bank account payments,” CryptoCompare says, showing Chainlink had a strong upward trajectory in the past month.
“Blockchains are by design intended to be trustless and decentralized, and many have applications running on their networks, like smart contracts,” Hayter told Newsweek.
“Smart contracts, programs running on blockchains like Ethereum, are tamper-proof agreements that automatically execute when real-world conditions are met.
“But in order to get information, like the price of an asset or whether an event has taken place—which is needed for smart contracts to function—there needs to be a trustless, decentralized source of information to tell the blockchain that the conditions have been met,” the cryptocurrency expert continued. “Without this, there may be all kinds of manipulation or falsification, particularly when financial stakes are high. Achieving this is a tricky problem, and one which Chainlink has been designed to solve.”
Santiment, a platform that provides daily crypto market insights, tweeted on August 10 that Link had become a “mainstay” on its Emerging Trends platform in recent days. It suggested it could be surging due to FOMO—fear of missing out.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean the long-term fundamentals of a project have changed from being solid hold options, but their presence on this list has been indicative of some artificial hype caused by crowd elation,” Santiment noted on Twitter.
Yesterday, Santiment noted the Link token was now up by 68.7% over the last week, but warned the recent price rally may not be here for the long-term.
“Speculative interest has exploded, and we’ve looked into some concerning signs for the #1 trending coin,” the platform’s official Twitter account elaborated.
Chainlink has existed since 2017, but officially launched in 2019 as a way to “provide external data to smart contracts on any blockchain,” one of its explainers says.
As with other cryptocurrencies, most famously Bitcoin, Link’s values will remain volatile, likely to fluctuate based on trading influenced by news, rumor and online chatter.
Addressing the recent swell of activity, CryptoCompare‘s Hayter explained: “Link has seen its price surge enormously in recent months with the ascent of DeFi [Decentralised Finance]—where oracles are particularly useful—and in line with a slew of impressive partnership announcements including Google Cloud and Oracle.”
“Link has seen major speculative interest. It has been one of the best-performing crypto assets of 2019 and 2020, with a year-to-date ROI of 668.65 percent,” he said.