Business News

‘We were all packed, then they cancelled our holiday’ – BBC News

James and Georgina Preston and family Image copyright Preston
Image caption The Prestons booked their week’s holiday in Norfolk in November 2019; it was cancelled on the day it was due to start.

James Preston, a police officer in Yorkshire and his wife, an NHS radiographer, both worked long days through lockdown. By the end of July they were more than ready for their holiday.

“We were literally all packed, kids had their rucksacks,” says James. “Half the stuff was in the car.”

They were just about to set out on the four hour drive to Alder Country Park in Norfolk, when the phone rang.

The holiday that they booked before Christmas was no longer available.

“I was shell-shocked,” says James. “We said, how can it not be available? We booked it last year.”

Their eldest daughter is in a wheelchair so they plan well ahead to ensure they find somewhere that can accommodate her needs. But they were told that a maintenance problem at the lodge they’d booked meant it was cancelled.

‘Sorry kids’

In a normal year Hoseasons, the firm through which it had been booked, says it would have tried to find them an alternative, but with demand for UK holidays sky high this year, everywhere was fully booked.

“I came off the phone and said ‘sorry kids, no holiday’, says James. The younger ones burst into tears.

The Prestons aren’t alone. Dozens of holiday-makers have contacted BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme to say their holiday has been cancelled at short notice. A Facebook page set up by disgruntled Hoseasons customers has more than 500 members.

Rod Leaman booked a four night stay at the Welcome Family Holiday Park in Devon through Hoseasons in February.

Less than a fortnight before he was due to go he received an e-mail saying that his booking had been cancelled as the dates he’d chosen were no longer available.

Image copyright Getty Images

When Mr Leaman phoned the holiday park itself, he was told that when it reopened in July the owners had decided not to take bookings for less than a week.

“I would happily have paid for the extra three nights, but that option wasn’t given to me,” he says. The booking was for his daughter Claire so she could get away for a holiday with her partner and her fifteen-year-old daughter Rayah.

Some disappointed holidaymakers were given no explanation at all. Jill Turner, a teacher from Poole in Dorset, received a text message from Hoseasons, apologising for cancelling the caravan she’d booked for four nights in mid-August.

It took Jill an hour to get through to the company on the phone, she says. Even then, she says they didn’t offer any reason why they couldn’t honour her reservation. After the BBC looked into Jill’s case, Hoseasons admitted the caravan had been double-booked.

Booking numbers

“I’m really disappointed about the whole situation, that a company who we thought we could trust… that they could send an ‘oh we are sorry’, when they weren’t”, says Jill.

“What was really annoying was that no-one actually seemed to care.”

Hoseasons is part of the holiday rental company, the Awaze group. The group also owns, many of whose customers have reported similar last-minute cancellations.

Hoseasons told the BBC that double-bookings had occurred in a small number of cases because of the large volume of bookings and rebookings taking place as lockdown was eased.

Duplicate bookings

On 31st July, the day James and his family were told their holiday was cancelled, Henrik Kjellberg chief executive of Awaze UK published a letter of apology to customers.

“Though we expected demand to resurface as UK travel restrictions were lifted, we didn’t plan for a tenfold increase, which is what we’ve experienced on some of our platforms in recent weeks,” he wrote.

“To put it simply – our systems didn’t scale to the level we needed them to and this regrettably caused some duplicate bookings to occur.”

The firm says as well as the technical glitch there have been a handful of other reasons for cancellations. Hoseasons doesn’t own the properties it takes bookings for and says some became unavailable after owners decided to withdraw them, either to use them themselves, or as a result of concerns around Covid-19.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bookings for UK holidays have surged due to the coronavirus pandemic

The firm says late cancellations have affected less than 1% of bookings in July and August and those affected will be promptly refunded.

But customers who contacted the BBC and joined the Facebook site said it has been hard to get hold of Hoseasons to arrange a refund.

The firm says it will be adding further capacity by hiring more staff for its contact centre.

James and Georgina Preston, who paid the full £1,500 bill for their holiday back in January, have been told they will get some compensation, but they haven’t yet received it or their money back. They are still angry and feel they are owed an explanation.

Countrywide, which owns Alder Country Park, says the maintenance issue at the lodge, caused by a hot tub, was only identified on the day the Prestons were due to arrive. Countrywide apologised for the late cancellation.

Mr Preston says he still feels like he’s in limbo, but in hindsight it is less about the money than the disappointment.

“It’s been tough for everyone – during what’s happened in lockdown. It’s been tough for Hoseasons, I get that. What I don’t get is just dropping it on us with five hours’ notice. How can they not have known?”

You and Yours is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 12.15pm


NCAA president: No fall sports championships, including FCS football, in 2020 – CBS Sports

Watch Now: Big 12 Football Carrying On As Planned (2:35)

The NCAA announced last week that fall championships for each sport will be canceled if more than 50% of the playoff-eligible teams in each sport cancel their seasons. NCAA president Mark Emmert made it official on Thursday by announcing “we cannot, at this point, have fall championships.”

The Southland and Southern Conference announced on Thursday that it will not have conference play this year, leaving just the Ohio Valley Conference as the only FCS conference yet to make a formal announcement on the future of its season. 

“We can’t in any Division I NCAA sport have a championship, other than FBS football,” Emmert said.

The Southland and Southern join the Ivy League, MEAC, Patriot League, CAA, NEC, Pioneer Football League, Big Sky, Big South, the SWAC, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference as leagues that won’t play conference games this fall. However, Emmert believes that they can conduct fall championships in the spring. 

“There are ways to do this. I’m confident we can figure this out. If schools and conferences want to move forward and try and have… more than half want to do it. Let’s do it,” Emmert said.

“We can use the fall to keep kids healthy, keep them in engaged with their coaches and athletic departments, focus on their academic success, work with them, let them practice and stay ready to play.”

Concern over the health and well-being of players and coaches has altered the landscape of college athletics. The need to test for COVID-19 on a regular basis combined with spikes in cases around the country late last month and earlier this month have called into question the feasibility of holding sporting events. 

Costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have also hit the college athletics world hard. It’s unlikely that fans will be in the stands in 2020, which has cut out a massive revenue stream for athletic departments across the country. 


Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Reports Q2 2020 Results – GlobeNewswire

COS COB, Conn., Aug. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE), one of the largest operators of streaming advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) networks, today announced its financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2020.
Second Quarter 2020 Financial SummaryGross revenue of $13.9 million, compared to $12.2 million in the year-ago period.Net loss of $10.0 million compared to net loss of $5.9 million in the year-ago period; $9.0 million net loss before preferred dividends, compared to $5.1 million net loss before preferred dividends in the year-ago period.Adjusted EBITDA was $2.7 million, compared to $1.3 million in the year-ago period. Year-to-date Adjusted EBITDA increased approximately 10x over year-to-date 2019 results.Online networks, which include Crackle and Popcornflix, generated $5.4 million in net revenue compared to $10.0 million in the year-ago period. The year-over-year decline reflects the absence of approximately $4.0 million in advertising revenue in the 2020 period due to the closing of Playstation Vue, the elimination of $1.2 million of intercompany revenue share payments to our Distribution & Production business, and the weaker 2020 advertising market environment.Distribution & Production generated $8.5 million in revenue, compared to $2.2 million in the year-ago period due to strength in the performance of Screen Media’s content on Crackle Plus and TVOD revenue.Recent Business HighlightsOriginal & Exclusive content represented 17.5% of total viewing on Crackle Plus in the quarter up from 15% last quarter and 0% a year ago, reflecting the company’s strategic focus on original programming.Continued to expand pipeline of Original & Exclusive content. Crackle Plus is fully programmed into early 2021 despite industry production delays and has announced agreements including 200 hours of new original and exclusive programming.Acquired an in-process next-generation technology platform to support delivery and growth of AVOD networks from Sony for $4.6 million; acquisition will enable Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment to accelerate completion of platform, which will improve service and drive ongoing operating cost efficiencies beginning immediately.Increased liquidity through bond issuance that raised an aggregate principal amount of more than $22.1 million after underwriters exercised their over-allotment option.“Despite a challenging Q2 advertising market, we were able to exceed top line expectations and increase our EBITDA by 10-fold for the six months ended June 30, 2020 on a year-over-year basis. Our results are validating our differentiated business model focused on Original & Exclusive content for our AVOD networks, and acquiring and producing that content cost-effectively through our combined Distribution and Production operations,” said William J. Rouhana Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. “Since establishing the Crackle Plus joint venture a little over a year ago, the execution of our strategic plan is going well, and we believe we now have a solid foundation on which to implement the next stages of our growth strategy, which include accelerating the rollout of our next generation technology platform, growing viewership through increased distribution relationships, and building audience and advertising revenue. While the pandemic adversely impacted us in the quarter and continues to create uncertainties, we have adapted and now have momentum and significant tailwinds to our performance potential in the second half of 2020.”Gross profit for the quarter ended June 30, 2020 was $0.6 million, or 4% of net revenue, compared to $3.6 million, or 30% of net revenue for the year-ago period. The change in the percentage of gross profit resulted in part from $6.4 million of non-cash amortization of the film library in the company’s traditional distribution business, which is required by GAAP to be included in cost of revenue. Without this non-cash film library amortization expense, the gross profit would have been $7.0 million or 51% of total net revenue.Operating loss for the quarter ended June 30, 2020 was $13.1 million, compared to an operating loss of $3.0 million for the year-ago period. Without this film library amortization expense, the operating loss would have been $6.7 million.Net loss was $10.0 million, or $0.83 per share, compared to a net loss of $5.9 million, or $0.49 per share in the prior-year second quarter. Excluding preferred dividends, the net loss in the second quarter of 2020 would have been $9.0 million, or $0.75 per share, compared to net loss of $5.1 million, or $0.43 per share last year.Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter ended June 30, 2020 was $2.7 million, compared to $1.3 million in the same period last year.As of June 30, 2020, the company had $4.7 million of cash and cash equivalents compared to $6.4 million at December 31, 2019, and outstanding debt of $18.6 million as of June 30, 2020 compared to $20.2 million as of December 31, 2019. The company completed debt and equity financings after the end of the second quarter that increased liquidity.For a discussion of the financial measures presented herein which are not calculated or presented in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), see “Note Regarding Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” below and the schedules to this press release for additional information and reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures.The company presents non-GAAP measures such as Adjusted EBITDA and Pro Forma Adjusted EBITDA to assist in an analysis of its business. These non-GAAP measures should not be considered an alternative to GAAP measures as an indicator of the company’s operating performance.Conference Call InformationDate, Time: Thursday, August 13, 2020, 4:30 p.m. ET.Toll-free: (833) 832-5128International: (484) 747-6583Conference ID: 6999674A live webcast and replay will be available at under the “News & Events” tabConference Call Replay InformationToll-free: (855) 859-2056International: (404) 537-3406Conference ID: 6999674ABOUT CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ENTERTAINMENT
Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) operates streaming video-on-demand networks (VOD). The company owns a majority stake in Crackle Plus, a company formed with Sony Pictures Television, which owns and operates a variety of ad-supported and subscription-based VOD networks including Crackle, Popcornflix, Popcornflix Kids, Truli, Pivotshare, Españolflix and FrightPix. The company also acquires and distributes video content through its Screen Media subsidiary and produces original long and short-form content through Landmark Studio Group, its Chicken Soup for the Soul Originals division and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is a subsidiary of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC, which publishes the famous book series and produces super-premium pet food under the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand name.
Note Regarding Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures
The company’s consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (“GAAP”). It uses a non-GAAP financial measure to evaluate its results of operations and as a supplemental indicator of operating performance. The non-GAAP financial measure that is used is Adjusted EBITDA. Adjusted EBITDA (as defined below) is considered a non-GAAP financial measure as defined by Regulation G promulgated by the SEC under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. Management believes this non-GAAP financial measure enhances the understanding of the company’s historical and current financial results and enables the board of directors and management to analyze and evaluate financial and strategic planning decisions that will directly affect operating decisions and investments. The presentation of Adjusted EBITDA should not be construed as an inference that future results will be unaffected by unusual or non-recurring items or by non-cash items. This non-GAAP financial measure should be considered in addition to, rather than as a substitute for, the company’s actual operating results included in its condensed consolidated financial statements.
“Adjusted EBITDA” means earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and non-cash share-based compensation expense, and also includes the gain on bargain purchase of subsidiary and adjustments for other identified charges such as costs incurred to form the company and to prepare for the offering of its Class A common stock to the public, prior to its IPO. Identified charges also include the cost of maintaining a board of directors prior to being a publicly traded company. As the IPO has been completed, director fees will be deducted from Adjusted EBITDA going forward. Adjusted EBITDA is not an earnings measure recognized by GAAP and does not have a standardized meaning prescribed by GAAP; accordingly, Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. Management believes Adjusted EBITDA to be a meaningful indicator of the company’s performance that provides useful information to investors regarding its financial condition and results of operations. The most comparable GAAP measure is operating income.A reconciliation of net loss to Adjusted EBITDA is provided in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-Q for the three and six month periods ended June 30, 2020 under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Reconciliation of Unaudited Historical Results to Adjusted EBITDA.”FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This press release includes forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements are statements that are not historical facts. Such forward-looking statements are subject to risks (including those set forth in the Annual Report on Form 10-K, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 30, 2020) and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ from the forward-looking statements. The company expressly disclaims any obligations or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the company’s expectations with respect thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based. Investors should realize that if our underlying assumptions for the projections contained herein prove inaccurate or that known or unknown risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results could vary materially from our expectations and projections.
Taylor Krafchik
Kate Barrette
RooneyPartners LLC
(212) 223-0561

Economy News

Britain’s disastrous GDP figures – The Economist

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”

Reuse this contentThe Trust Project

Why your company should have a ‘flexible talent resource manager’ – Business Insider – Business Insider

  • Amid the business world’s transition to remote work, tapping flexible workers — such as contractors, freelancers, and consultants — can be more valuable than ever.
  • But managing the legal, logistical, and cultural implications of such hires can be a challenge with a blended and diffuse workforce.
  • Business Insider spoke with several experts for their advice about how to seamlessly integrate flex workers into your organization’s talent strategy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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.”

Forex News

COVID-19 Spikes In US, USD Resumes Downtrend – Forex News by FX Leaders – FX Leaders

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 than 1,000 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.

USD/CAD, Weekly Chart

Overview: For the time being, it’s short-or-nothing for 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.

Economy News

Why 2020 will see the birth of the ‘trust economy’ – World Economic Forum

  • 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.

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Attitudes towards working from home have shifted markedly

Attitudes towards working from home have shifted markedly

Image: Statista

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.

World News

Belarus election: Women form ‘solidarity chains’ to condemn crackdown – BBC News

Women rally in support of detained and injured protesters in Belarus Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many women have been wearing white as they protest against the disputed election result and police violence

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.

Image copyright EPA

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.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “Not one life is worth what is happening now”

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.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption These medics held up notices saying “doctors against violence” and “medics with the people”

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”.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some of the performers covered their mouths with crosses to say their voices had been stolen

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 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.

Image copyright EPA

A 25-year-old man also died in the south-eastern city of Gomel.

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.

Crypto News

Feds announce largest seizure of cryptocurrency connected to terrorism – NBC News

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.

The U.S. also indicted two Turkish nationals, Mehmet Akti and Hüsamettin Karatas, on charges of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Authorities have now seized millions of dollars across 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites and four Facebook pages connected to these groups.

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.”

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.

A banner for the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, encouraged supporters to donate via Bitcoin.Department of Justices

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.

Pete Williams contributed.


Sharp decline in arts jobs reinforces urgency of swift action from government, says Bectu – BECTU Magazine

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.

Bectu members took part in the #WeMakeEvents #RedAlert protest on 11 August highlighting the economic crisis facing the live events sector. Photo shows the Tate Modern lit up in red

The Tate Modern lit up in red as part of the #WeMakeEvents #RedAlert protests on 11 August

Responding to the Office for National Statistics August labour market overview, head of  Bectu Philippa Childs said:

“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.”