September 19, 2020

Surviving Fashion’s Summer From Hell

“She gets in the dressing room with them, tucking and untucking and scrunching up sleeves,” Ms. McMullen said. “She does it with such ease that women feel connected to her, like they know her.”

Beginning in late March, weeks went by without payments from some of Tibi’s stores, Ms. Smilovic said. When the layoffs came, the only team Tibi kept intact was finance, which scrambled to secure government support, renegotiate bills and rent — Ms. Smilovic’s single biggest source of stress at the time — and rigidly monitor cash flow amid the wave of bankruptcies and order cancellations.

She spent April crunching numbers, “gripped with fear,” she said. In May, when some stores and offices reopened in early, that fear ebbed slightly. She’d signed a fashion-industry open letter calling for a more sensible seasonal shopping calendar. She felt good that Tibi had donated 1,300 pieces of clothing to front-line workers.

She was also inspired to work on Tibi’s internal stylebook, articulating the rules for the creative pragmatist’s wardrobe, which she’d been sharing during the live styling sessions and on her own blunt Instagram account. Like: The best pieces can adapt from work to home to evening to weekend. A good outfit has three textures. Don’t match your shoes to your top. Don’t wear skinny jeans with stilettos.

“It’s showing people who we are,” she said on a Zoom call in May. “I don’t know where or how it will pay off, but it feels like the right thing to do.”

Then, on May 25, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, catalyzing Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Some of those reopened stores closed again, boarding up windows to prevent vandalism.

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‘It’s So Essential’: WeChat Ban Makes U.S.-China Standoff Personal

Other people said they were scrambling to find alternatives to WeChat. Sirui Hua, 29, a resident of Jersey City, N.J., told family and friends in China to sign up for QQ, a messaging app also owned by Tencent. He is also planning to use Apple’s FaceTime to video chat with his parents in China. But it is hard to replicate the experience of WeChat, where he has more than 2,000 contacts, he said.

Every Saturday evening, Mr. Hua’s parents, who live in Jiangsu Province near Shanghai, message him — their only child — on WeChat for a one-hour video chat. Lately, they have warned him to stay home and to always wear his mask as coronavirus rates increase in the United States. It’s a reversal from early this year, he said, when he warned his parents to stay home in China because of soaring infection rates there.

During the pandemic, WeChat has been a particularly important line of connection, he said. Mr. Hua has his WeChat desktop app open during the day, getting messages from dozens of friends in China. His phone app is where he sees the app’s scrolling Moments feed, similar to a Facebook Timeline, which keeps him updated on how they are doing.

Other WeChat users in the United States rely on the service to keep in touch with customers or maintain important cultural traditions.

Hong Allen, 53, works for Usana Health Sciences, a nutritional and dietary supplement company that is based in Salt Lake City and has operations in China. Most of her clients and customers are in China, and she uses WeChat to communicate with them. Now, she is afraid she will lose all her contacts.

“I really don’t know what to do,” said Ms. Allen, a resident of Vancouver, Wash. “How do I live?”

Huajin Wang, 43, of Pittsburgh, uses WeChat to send a virtual red envelope of money — a Chinese tradition of giving a cash gift in red packets for special occasions or holidays — to friends and family. The U.S. restrictions would prevent that small but meaningful gesture, she said.

“It’s just a small amount, like 50 cents a person, but it is a tradition and sending it make me feel connected to these traditions,” Ms. Wang said.

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Inside the Social World of Shift-Scheduling Apps

Amber Hitchcock, 27, who works at a steakhouse in Florida, said that most employees use the app for its intended purpose. “But then people are like, ‘Hey, I have a pressure-washing business,’ or, like, ‘Here’s a cat I found.’”

How people use the service is largely a reflection of workplace culture. A restaurant worker in South Carolina, who was granted anonymity by The New York Times to protect his job, described how a male co-worker once used the app to send inappropriate messages to a woman he worked with; when the co-worker was let go, he sent a message to the entire staff lashing out at his managers.

HotSchedules is, at its core, a tool for managers, and so managers dictate how, and how well, it’s used. “I’ve used HotSchedules at four to five different restaurants now,” said Sierra Cordell, a supervisor at a restaurant in Denver. “I’ve worked places where it was discouraged to use it for anything other than strictly scheduling,” Mx. Cordell said, “but at other places, we’ve set up our fantasy football league through HotSchedules messaging.”

In March, when local restaurants were ordered to close for in-house service, Mx. Cordell’s employer told the staff they wouldn’t be working for a while. “One server sent out a lot of very detailed information about unemployment in Colorado and sent over some helpful tips regarding getting contact with the unemployment office,” Mx. Cordell said.

Chatter shifted to Facebook and group texts until June, when workers started getting their first notifications from HotSchedules: Shifts were once again available. Since then the app has been key as a hub for weekly updates about changes to service, coronavirus precautions and staffing issues.

In the early days of the pandemic, Sara Porcheddu, a bartender and server in Cambridge, Mass., was similarly encouraged by how communicative her employer was on HotSchedules. When she and her colleagues were furloughed in March, the communication continued: messages about “local emergency funds we could apply for, unemployment insurance tips, when and how we could pick up our final tip and wage checks, as well as being generally warm and supportive,” she said.

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Facebook Tried to Limit QAnon. It Failed.

“The groups, including QAnon, feel incredibly passionate about their cause and will do whatever they can do attract new people to their conspiracy movement. Meanwhile, Facebook has nowhere near the same type of urgency or mandate to contain them,” Mr. View said. “Facebook is operating with constraints and these extremist movements are not.”

Researchers who study QAnon said the movement’s continued growth was partly related to Facebook’s recommendation engine, which pushes people to join groups and pages related to the conspiracy theory.

Marc-André Argentino, a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University who is studying QAnon, said he had identified 51 Facebook groups that branded themselves as anti-child trafficking organizations, but which were actually predominantly sharing QAnon conspiracies. Many of the groups, which were formed at the start of 2020, spiked in growth in the weeks after Facebook and Twitter began enforcing new bans on QAnon.

The groups previously added dozens to hundreds of new members each week. Following the bans, they attracted tens of thousands of new members weekly, according to data published by Mr. Argentino.

Facebook said it was studying the groups, but has not taken action on them.

The company is increasingly facing criticism, including from Hollywood celebrities and civic rights groups. On Wednesday, celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry and Mark Ruffalo said they were freezing their Instagram accounts for 24 hours to protest Facebook’s policies. (Instagram is owned by Facebook.)

The Anti-Defamation League also said it was pressing Facebook to take action on militia groups and other extremist organizations. “We have been warning Facebook safety teams literally for years about the problem of dangerous and potentially violent extremists using their products to organize and to recruit followers,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the A.D.L., said.

The A.D.L., which has been meeting with Facebook for months about its concerns, has publicly posted lists of hate groups and conspiracy organizations present on the social network. David L. Sifry, the vice president of A.D.L.’s Center for Technology and Society, said that the A.D.L. has had similar conversations about extremist content with other platforms like Twitter, Reddit, TikTok and YouTube, which have been more receptive.

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Explaining Trump’s Potential Ban on TikTok, WeChat: Q&A

Yes. Apps like WeChat and TikTok are not static. They are live internet services that require maintenance, which includes security and bug fixes, and if you stop receiving updates, the apps may eventually cease to work properly. So even if you are grandfathered in, so to speak, this type of prohibition could effectively bar you from using the apps alongside other TikTok and WeChat users around the globe. (Best-case scenario, the apps will continue to work but poorly.)

The situation may be even more dire for WeChat users. Because of the ban on transactions between American businesses and WeChat, the service may begin to degrade on Sunday. Messages may begin sending slowly or even time out.

For TikTok users, that service degradation won’t happen unless a full ban takes effect on Nov. 12.

Nothing practical. TikTok is trying to reach a deal with Oracle, an American tech company, and others before November to avoid a ban.

Google Android users may try to “sideload” future versions of the WeChat and TikTok apps on to their devices, a process that involves changing some security settings to download apps from outside Google’s official app store.

Apple phones also have methods to install unauthorized applications. But sideloading and installing apps through unofficial channels is impractical, because it can compromise device security, and it is not simple for many people to do.

Apple and Google users could also try to download the apps from foreign app stores by traveling to other countries. Or they could use a virtual private network, a service that creates a virtual tunnel to shield your browsing information from your internet service provider, to manipulate their device location. Again, this is impractical.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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Trump Admin to Ban TikTok, WeChat From U.S. App Stores

TikTok would also face some changes, but would still be allowed to function until Nov. 12, Mr. Ross said, at which point it would face the same ban as WeChat if there was no deal that satisfied the administration’s concerns.

“As to TikTok, the only real change as of Sunday night will be users won’t have access to improved updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance,” he said.

That delay will allow users of the popular social media app — who are primarily young — to continue using the service ahead of the Nov. 4 election. TikTok has increasingly become a political force, with its users posting in support of their favored candidates and offering commentary on current events. It has also been utilized as a political tool — hundreds of teenage TikTok users claimed credit for low turnout at a rally for Mr. Trump in Tulsa, Okla. earlier this year.

The actions take aim at two of China’s most popular and successful tech exports, which knit together nearly two billion people worldwide.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance but does not directly operate in China, has become a wildly popular platform for sharing viral videos in the United States. WeChat, which is owned by Tencent Holdings, functions as a chat app, a payment platform and a news source for people in China and the Chinese diaspora around the world. It is also a conduit for Chinese propaganda and surveillance.

As of Friday morning, the Chinese government had not issued any statements, and it was not immediately clear if China would retaliate. China has long blocked access to such American social media as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp that it cannot readily monitor or censor.

The prohibitions raise the question of whether Google and Apple, the major operators of American app stores, could sue the administration.

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Global investors ready to put $9.5 billion into Russia’s Arctic LNG 2 project – report

The long list of lenders includes Chinese and Japanese banks as well as European credit and insurance firms, according to a document seen by Reuters. Asian peers are reported to have the most generous offers, with the China Development Bank providing $5 billion and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) offering $2.5 billion.

Also on Russia beating United States in battle for China’s huge energy market

French state investment bank and credit agency Bpifrance and German credit insurance firm Euler Hermes are looking to provide $700 million in credit finance and $300 million respectively. Italian Export Credit Agency SACE plans to put $1 billion into the project, while an unnamed Russian bank is reportedly considering a $1.5-billion investment.

If all the foreign backers of the massive energy project stick to their financial pledges, Arctic LNG 2 will receive the external funding its developer initially hoped for. Russia’s biggest privately owned natural gas producer, Novatek, which stands behind the project, earlier said that it wants to attract between $9 and $11 billion in external financing.

Also on First Russian LNG cargo reaches Japan via Arctic sea route

Earlier this month, Russia’s biggest lender, Sberbank, announced that it was ready to provide more financial support for the Arctic LNG 2 than it previously did for another key Novatek project, the Yamal LNG. Sberbank’s commitment to the Yamal project, which already supplies foreign buyers with Russian LNG, amounted to €2.7 billion ($3.2 billion).

Novatek’s second plant for liquefying gas in the Arctic region has drawn the interest of several foreign companies, including those from China, Japan, and France. Chinese partners – China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Company (CNODC) – took a 10-percent stake each, while similar deals were secured by France’s Total and Japanese consortium Mitsui Co (Mitsui) and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC). The plant is expected to be launched in 2022-23, producing 19.8 million tons of LNG per year.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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$2.50 a Year in Interest? That’s What $5,000 in Savings Gets

Other funds that you expect to use within the next year or two — say, for a down payment on a home — should also be kept in a low-risk account even though they are paying low rates, she said.

Online banks, which generally lack brick-and-mortar branches, typically pay higher rates, but still aren’t paying anywhere near the 2 percent interest they offered last year. Now, their rates are typically below 1 percent, even on so-called high-yield savings accounts. Ally Bank, for example, is offering 0.8 percent on its savings account; Capital One is offering 0.6 percent. (Your $5,000 deposit would earn you $40 at Ally and $30 at Capital One after one year, assuming you didn’t make additional deposits.)

Certificates of deposit, which lock in a rate for a fixed period, aren’t much better, and you’ll typically pay a penalty if you take the cash out early. Marcus, Goldman Sachs’s retail bank, is paying 0.85 percent on a one-year C.D.

If you really want to earn more, you may have to take on extra risk. One potential option to consider are “ultra” short-term bond funds, which invest in a mix of government bonds and high-quality corporate debt with terms of one year or less. But it’s important to know that they aren’t risk free.

“Yes, you’ll get a higher rate,” Ms. Costa said. “But there is the possibility of losing some money.”

Corbin Blackwell, a financial planner with the online adviser Betterment, said that while savings rates were quite low, they were better than leaving your money in a traditional checking account. If you’re comfortable with taking some risk, she said, another option may be to invest your cash conservatively, in a mix of 15 percent stocks and 85 percent bonds.

Here are some questions and answers about savings rates:

Are there C.D.s that don’t carry a penalty for early withdrawals?

Yes. Many banks, including online banks, have no-penalty C.D.s, which guarantee a rate for a specific term and don’t charge for early withdrawal. The downside: The rate will be a bit lower than a traditional C.D. of the same term. But if you don’t want to worry about access to your money, this can be a reasonable option.

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Tax Strategies to Embrace, or Avoid, Before the November Election

In life, having an acceptable hedge is always a bonus.

Roth I.R.A. conversions can fit in here. A good hedge would be to convert some portion now and more after the election. Another strategy would be to see how the public markets respond to the election. If stocks go down, complete the Roth conversion then; the lower market value will translate into a smaller tax bill.

There are risks. Income tax rates could actually fall, and “you could end up paying a lot of taxes you don’t need to pay,” said Kim Bourne, chief executive of Playfair Planning Services.

People looking to transfer money to heirs can make a loan to a trust now and then, depending on how the election goes, keep the loan in place or forgive it. If the loan is forgiven, that amount will count toward their gift exemption, said Alison Hutchinson, managing director at Brown Brothers Harriman.

One of her clients lent money to a trust she created for her children and grandchildren this month. The trust has to pay her a small amount of interest on the loan, but if it looks like the exemption levels for gifts are going down, her client will forgive the loan. Ms. Hutchinson said that process would be as simple as writing a letter to say she forgave it.

“We’re focused on flexible and resilient structures that can withstand different outcomes,” Ms. Hutchinson said.

The ultimate flexibility for couples is to create trusts that move the money out of one spouse’s estate but maintain the other spouse’s access to it. Called spousal lifetime access trusts, they can act as a safeguard against changes to a tax strategy that could backfire.

“You’ve completed and made a full transfer into the trust,” Ms. Hovanessian said. “You have cut off personal rights, but you can have your spouse as a beneficiary. It’s your backdoor strategy to have access to the funds.”

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US economy in decline under crushing debt & rising power of China – Ray Dalio

He told MarketWatch that life in the US could become more difficult due to fewer opportunities for ordinary citizens to get ahead financially. Another factor, according to the investor, is worldwide lack of trust in the US dollar that diminishes Americans’ purchasing power and could lower their standard of living.

The founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund firm, Dalio said that today the capitalist system, the foundation of the US economy, is not working efficiently and effectively enough for all. 

“Capitalism and capitalists are good at increasing and producing productivity to increase the size of the economic pie,” he said, adding that “Capitalism also produces large wealth gaps that produce opportunity gaps, which threaten the system.” 

According to the billionaire, unless Washington takes steps to provide greater opportunity for more Americans to achieve personal growth and financial security, the consequences likely will be painful for the country. “What’s going on is an economic downturn together with a large wealth gap and the rising power of China challenging the existing power of the United States.”

Also on China will dethrone US as world’s leading economy this year – RT’s Keiser Report

Dalio explained that “The United States’ relative position in the world, which was dominant in almost all these categories at the beginning of this world order in 1945, has declined and is exhibiting real signs that should raise worries.”

The US has a lot of debt, “which is adding to the hurdles that typically drag an economy down, so in order to succeed, you have to do a pretty big debt restructuring. History shows what kind of a challenge that is.”

He also pointed out that the US doesn’t have a good income statement and balance sheet in dealing with the rest of the world. “If the US loses that ability and it doesn’t force itself to be more productive, one day it will lose that ability to borrow and then will have to cut spending, which is painful,” said Dalio.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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