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A Wall Street chief strategist explains how the shockingly quick onset of pandemic fear may have set up both the economy and stock market for a surprisingly strong 2021

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 11:41am  |  Clusterstock
  • The sharp reaction to the coronavirus pandemic through widespread saving and economic policy could boost the US recovery in 2021, James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group, said in a Friday note.
  • The government's degree of policy support dwarfs that seen during recessions in the 1980s and 2008. 
  • Companies took similarly drastic precautions by slashing extraneous costs to lower breakeven points, Paulsen noted.
  • Americans reacted by saving more and taking defensive positions with their investments.
  • These trends "could combine to produce an unexpectedly strong economy in 2021 and, perhaps, a surprising further rise in the stock market," the strategist said.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Leaders in government, business, and finance might all be overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic, James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group, said in a Friday note.

That overreaction could be exactly what the economy needs to thrive through 2021, he added.

By some gauges, the V-shaped rebound hoped for by most economists has played out. The stock market retook its pre-pandemic highs and touched record highs just weeks ago. Purchasing managers' indexes show the US manufacturing industry roaring back to life. Retail sales quickly bounced back in May and continue to trend higher.

To be sure, other gauges signal there's plenty of room for recovery before the economy is back on track. Lasting pain in the labor market has led the government officials to leave much of their policy support in place. But the unprecedented level of aid, as well as the potential for a second stimulus bill, stands to boost the economy well after it fully recovers, Paulsen said.

Read more: Buy these 30 stocks that offer the best bargains for strong sales and earnings growth in a pricey market, Credit Suisse says

For one, annual M2 money-supply growth sits at nearly 25%. The same metric reached just 11% the first time the unemployment rate was at 8.4% in 1983. After the financial crisis, money-supply growth was 10% when the unemployment rate slid below today's level.

"What does their outsized, over-reactionary 2020 economic policy suggest about economic and earnings growth in 2021?" the strategist said.

In the private sector, companies have made their own precautionary moves. Firms "moved quickly and decisively to scale back operations and lower breakeven points" as the virus roiled economic activity, Paulsen said. The moves set up companies to record strong profits and enjoy new efficiencies once the US fully reopens and the virus threat subsides.

Read more: 'The worst crash in our lifetime': One market expert says stocks are screaming towards a Great Depression-like setup in early 2021 — and warns an 80% to 90% plunge isn't out of the question

Finally, Americans are largely waiting on the sidelines even as several metrics suggest the opposite. The household savings rate sits at 18%, a historically high level, even after surging to 33.7% earlier in the pandemic. That reading "implies that stimulus checks are so far not being spent," Paulsen said, leaving swaths of cash ready to boost the economy.

Separately, credit card debt has steadily declined through the downturn. In previous recessions, balances generally didn't drop until well after the slump.

Invested Americans exhibited similar behavior. Despite major indexes sitting just below record highs, hundreds of billions of dollars in investor capital moved from stocks to safe havens and remain there. The American Association of Individual Investors' survey backs up the trend, as the share of bears versus bulls has trended higher by 10% to 30% since March, Paulsen noted.

Read more: Buy these 16 tech stocks that are beaten down from the pandemic and now primed for explosive growth in the months ahead, Stifel says

"The COVID collapse has left investors sitting on a considerable amount of dry powder, over-weighted with defensive assets, and pessimistic about future financial-market scenarios," he added.

The coronavirus crisis and subsequent recession is likely the most emotional recession faced by Americans, Paulsen said. While an overreaction is "understandable," it also drives behavior that will shape the nation's recovery into 2021 and beyond.

Once the coronavirus is handled, the cocktail of accommodative economic policy, healthy household saving, defensive investing, and corporate efficiencies will likely drive an "unexpectedly strong economy in 2021 and, perhaps, a surprising further rise in the stock market," the strategist added.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

A senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley's $665 billion investment management business tells us why the tech stock plunge isn't a cue to abandon the sector — and where to find the biggest gains as the recovery resumes

Bank of America boosts 3rd-quarter GDP forecast and lowers 4th-quarter outlook on mix of pros and cons

UBS doubles price target for Tesla stock as Battery Day innovations materialize

Read the original article on Business Insider

A photographer breached Joe Biden's security perimeter at a Pennsylvania airport

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 11:09am  |  Clusterstock
Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, board their plane at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport on Sept. 11, 2020.
  • A credentialed photographer breached Joe Biden's airport security perimeter in Pennsylvania on Friday.
  • Biden and his wife, Jill, were walking up the chartered airplane's staircase when the photographer was able to join the press pool under the aircraft's left wing.
  • The man was quickly caught by Secret Service and physically removed from the tarmac. No one was harmed in the incident.
  • The Biden campaign has endured other security breaches over the course of 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's security perimeter was compromised by an unidentified photographer at a Pennsylvania airport Friday afternoon, according to CBS News.

As the Democratic presidential nominee walked up the staircase to his chartered plane at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport with his wife, Jill, a cameraman walked onto the airport tarmac and went behind the plane, finding his way to a group of credentialed members of the press who were observing the Bidens board the plane under its left wing.

—Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) September 11, 2020

 

Once the breach was detected, the man was physically removed by a Secret Service agent. Neither Biden nor his wife were harmed in the incident.

"A member of the media who was credentialed for an event earlier in the day attempted to gain access to the airport tarmac for the departure of Presidential Candidate Biden," a Secret Service spokesperson told CBS News. "The individual encountered law enforcement, disregarded their instructions, and accessed the tarmac. U.S. Secret Service personnel apprehended the individual and escorted him from the area." 

Earlier that day, Biden and his wife traveled from Delaware to New York to attend the annual 9/11 memorial service at ground zero. Afterwards, they traveled to Shanksville, Pa., to visit the Flight 93 Memorial, which commerates the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93. After visiting firefighters at the Shanksville volunteer fire department, the couple headed to the Johnstown airport.

The Friday breach was not the first major security issue that the Biden campaign has faced this year.

This past March, two protestors jumped onstage at a primary night rally in Los Angeles. One protestor was removed by Biden's private security, while the other protestor was blocked by Jill Biden and several campaign aides. Later that month, Biden began receiving full secret service protection, according to CBS News.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Oxford and AstraZeneca are resuming coronavirus vaccine trials after a participant fell ill

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:58am  |  Clusterstock
Capped vials are seen during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222.

Clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have resumed in the United Kingdom, the company said Saturday in a press release.

The statement said the UK Medicines Health Regulatory Authority approved trials to resume after an independent review of data "triggered a voluntary pause" on September 6. STAT reported on September 8 that the company had paused the Phase 3 study after a "suspected serious adverse reaction" in a UK-based participant and The New York Times cited a person familiar with the situation to report that the participant was diagnosed with an inflammatory condition that affects the spinal cord and is "often sparked by viral infections." 

The company did not acknowledge reports of an adverse reaction in its statement on resuming trials, but said "the UK committee has concluded its investigations and recommended to the MHRA that trials in the UK are safe to resume."

Read more: There are 176 coronavirus vaccines in the works. Here's how top drugmakers see the race for a cure playing out in 2020 and 2021 and when the first shots might be available.

Temporary halts are common in vaccine trials, but the pause on the front-runner for the coronavirus raised eyebrows earlier this month as at least 176 ongoing research efforts as medical leaders in countries across the world race to deliver a vaccine to get a hold on the coronavirus pandemic.

AstraZeneca's CEO Pascal Soriot said last week that despite the halt in trials, it "is still feasible" the company's vaccine will be ready by the end of the year.

Soriot said Thursday that AstraZeneca is "on track for having a set of data that we would submit before the end of the year," Business Insider previously reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

PRESENTING: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says workplace rules are dead and credits much of the company's success to scrapping strict office policies

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:57am  |  Clusterstock
Reed Hastings.

The world of work completely shifted since the pandemic hit — and maybe for the better. In this exclusive op-ed, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix and co-author of his new book "No Rules Rules," shares how the shift to a less controlled and bureaucratic environment in the workplace is beneficial for success. 

He explains his radical approach to leadership, and why he believes scrapping stringent policies around expenses, travel, mandatory office hours, and vacation time provides employees with autonomy to properly adapt to changing circumstances.

His idea of perfect leadership? "It hasn't happened yet, but I believe the most successful quarter I could have as CEO is one where I don't make a single decision," Hastings said.

Subscribe here to read our feature: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says workplace rules are dead and credits much of the company's success to scrapping strict office policiesRead the original article on Business Insider

A Navy early-warning plane was damaged after hitting a fighter jet while landing on an aircraft carrier

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:49am  |  Clusterstock
An E-2D Hawkeye lands on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.
  • A Navy E-2C Hawkeye early-warning plane struck the tail fin of a missile on a parked F/A-18 fighter jet when the Hawkeye landed on the aircraft carrier Nimitz.
  • No one was injured, but the Navy hasn't said whether the accident has sidelined the aircraft.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two Navy aircraft were damaged when one of the planes struck the other while attempting to land on an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea.

An E-2C Hawkeye with Carrier Air Wing 17 "made partial contact" with an F/A-18F Super Hornet parked on the flight deck of the carrier Nimitz on August 24, said Lt. Cmdr. Liza Dougherty, a spokeswoman for Carrier Strike Group 11.

No personnel were injured in the mishap, she added, which happened at about 4:30 p.m. local time.

The Naval Safety Center reported that the Hawkeye "struck the tail fin of a CATM-9X missile on a parked F/A-18F during a hook skip bolter."

When asked whether striking the missile's tailfin posed a risk to the Nimitz crew, Dougherty said that deployed aircraft carriers' flight decks are inherently dangerous work environments.

"[That's] why we continually engage in rigorous training and safety procedures as part of our mission readiness," she said. "The safety of our personnel is a top priority."

An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

There were five crew members in the Hawkeye, Dougherty added. No one was in the Super Hornet. The incident is under investigation.

Dougherty did not address questions about whether the aircraft were sidelined by the mishap, saying only that the airwing and carrier remain "fully mission capable and ready to answer the nation's call."

It was the second mishap on the Nimitz in two weeks. On Sunday, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Ian McKnight was reported missing, kicking off a three-day search in the North Arabian Sea.

The Navy announced Tuesday that the search-and-rescue efforts had been called off, though McKnight is still listed as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown.

The incident was also the second involving a Navy E-2C Hawkeye in recent weeks. On August 31, a Hawkeye crew bailed from their aircraft before it crashed in Virginia during a training flight.

All four crew members in that aircraft were safe. That incident also remains under investigation.

The Nimitz, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 11, has been operating in the Middle East since July. The strike group deployed in June.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The USPS is accused of 'confusing' voters by mailing all Americans 'postcards with misinformation' about voting

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:37am  |  Clusterstock
The Colorado Secretary of State on Friday said the postal service is confusing voters by mailing out a nationwide postcard encouraging Americans to plan ahead.
  • The United States Postal Service was accused Friday of misleading American voters by sending a national mailer encouraging them to plan ahead before they vote by mail.
  • Jena Griswold, the Colorado secretary of state, leveled the accusations against USPS in a tweet late Friday, arguing the mailer is "confusing" because laws and vote-by-mail procedures vary on the state level. 
  • "This may have started off as a well-intentioned effort by @USPS, but their refusal to listen to election experts combined with the recent postal slowdown in some parts of the country is beyond suspect," Griswold, a Democrat, tweeted.
  • Griswold on Saturday announced a lawsuit against USPS over the postcard, calling for it "to cease this mailer and help shield Colorado voters from this misinformation." 
  • In a statement to Business Insider, a USPS spokesperson said the mailer had already been delivered to most American households and was meant to function as "all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state election rules."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The United States Postal Service was accused Friday of misleading American voters in mailing the same postcard about absentee voting to all Americans despite variances among how states are choosing to conduct their November election.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said Friday that the USPS postcard was inaccurate and could be "confusing" to voters.

"I just found out the @USPS is sending this postcard to every household and PO Box in the nation. For states like Colorado where we send ballots to all voters, the information is not just confusing, it's WRONG," Griswold said in a tweet late Friday.

The nationwide USPS mailer encourages voters to plan ahead if they decide to cast their ballot by mail. While the postcard says "rules and dates vary by state" and encourages voters to find individual state policies online, it tells voters to "request their mail-in-ballot" at least 15 days prior to Election Day, echoing its previous guidance from July.

Griswold pointed out that voters in several states, including Colorado, would not need to request an absentee ballot because it would be mailed to every registered voter. Business Insider previously reported most or all registered voters in California, Colorado, Washington, DC, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington State, and Vermont, will automatically have a ballot delivered to them via the USPS.

"Secretaries of State asked @USPS Postmaster General DeJoy to review a draft before election information was sent to voters to ensure accuracy. But he refused," she said. "Now millions of postcards with misinformation are printed & being mailed to voters."

Griswold said the postal service outright refused Colorado's request that it avoid sending the mailer to Colorado residents.

"Confusing voters about mail ballots in the middle of a pandemic is unacceptable," she said. "It can undermine confidence in the election & suppress votes. I will do everything in my power to stop @USPS from sending misinformation to voters."

On Saturday, Griswold announced a lawsuit against the USPS, calling for it "to cease this mailer and help shield Colorado voters from this misinformation." 

"As the Chief Election Official of the state of Colorado, it's my job to try to stop misinformation and any unnecessary election confusion," she said in a statement.

In a statement to Business Insider, a USPS spokesperson said the mailer had already been delivered to most American households and was meant to function as "all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state election rules."

"The main message of the mail-piece is that voters should plan ahead, educate themselves about voting options available in their jurisdiction, and if they choose to vote by mail, to give themselves enough time to receive, complete and return their ballot," the spokesperson said. "We specifically encourage voters to visit their local election board website and provide a link for this purpose."

He continued: "The Postal Service recognizes that not every state requires a voter to request a ballot in order to obtain one by mail for the November election.  The Postal Service's guidance remains that individuals need to understand their state's rules and deadlines, and to plan ahead."

The Washington State Secretary of State also on Friday called attention to the USPS mailer, similarly alerting state residents that they did not need to request an absentee ballot in order to receive it, as the postcard suggested.

—Washington Secretary of State (@secstatewa) September 12, 2020

The USPS has been embroiled in months-long controversy over delays and cost-cutting measures instituted by the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Last month, DeJoy, a former Republican donor, promised lawmakers he would temporarily halt further changes to the postal service until after the November election.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and his allies have positioned themselves as opponents of state expansions of vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic, claiming for months without evidence that the practice will lead to widespread voter fraud.

Expanded Coverage Module: insider-voter-guideRead the original article on Business Insider

The hard truths about 9/11's aftermath and the US's legacy in Afghanistan

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:34am  |  Clusterstock
Smoke pours from the World Trade Center towers after they were hit by two hijacked airliners in a terrorist attack September 11, 2001.
  • Nineteen years after the September 11 attacks, memories of that day and its destruction are still vivid in the minds of Americans and others around the world.
  • In Afghanistan, September 11 was just the start, and the war the US has fought there since then will last long after US troops leave, writes Candace Rondeaux, senior fellow and professor of practice at the Center on the Future of War.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In the 19 years that have passed since I watched the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse, not a single moment of that day has faded from memory.

It was my second day on the job as a cub reporter for the New York Daily News, and I am still a bit embarrassed to admit I was running a little late that morning. I had stopped at the elementary school polling station near my apartment in Queens to cast my vote in the mayoral primaries at around 9 a.m.

A few minutes later, as I hustled to catch the Manhattan-bound F train, my favorite deli guy — the same one who gave me a free cup of coffee and a bagel, two years earlier, when I had excitedly told him I'd won a scholarship to go to journalism school — asked if I had heard about a plane crashing into one of the towers. "You better get a move on," he said.

Dumbstruck, I remember running down the stairs to catch the next train — and then the eerie silence when it pulled up to Rockefeller Center in Midtown and the conductor told us all to get off. Upstairs, at the corner of 6th Avenue and 47th Street, the siren red Fox News ticker blared: "New York and Washington Under Attack!" All of Manhattan at that moment seemed to be looking up and south. A girl in a phone booth I ran past was crying. Tears streaking her cheeks, she screamed into the receiver, "Oh my God. I think mommy is in there! She's working today."

Only two weeks earlier, I had quit my part-time summer job at the offices of the General Services Administration at the World Trade Center, where I worked as a tour guide at the nearby, historic African Burial Ground. I was in the final stretch of graduate school at New York University, and just before the fall semester started, I lucked into a reporting internship at the Daily News.

Although I moved to New York to go to college only a year after Ramzi Yousef, the operative for the nascent al-Qaida who trained in Afghanistan, set off a truck bomb in a parking garage below the north tower in February 1993, I don't remember giving the World Trade Center much thought before the summer of 2001.

New York back then — in the days before America lost its mind at Ground Zero and its soul to the forever wars — was still reeling from protests over the death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was killed by plainclothes police in the Bronx who fired 41 shots at him.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, reviled by many New Yorkers in the city's minority communities for his racist "tough-on-crime" stance, and at the same time revered by others for cleaning up parts of the city, was near the end of his second term. That summer, in July 2001, the city paid out $8.75 million — the largest settlement in its history for a case of police brutality — to Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, who endured unspeakable horrors at the hands of a NYPD officer who tortured him while he was in custody.

Two decades on, the list of Black victims of police brutality is so much longer. They are usually overlooked in thinking about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in America since 9/11.

Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, January 5, 1997.

That September morning in the waning minutes before the towers fell, the Metro editor on duty dispatched me and two other interns to the local city morgue in Queens, on the assumption that there would be too many bodies for the ice rink at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to hold.

There were no bodies delivered that night, and for many nights afterward. The city soon seemed paralyzed with grief at the realization that many in the towers had been instantly incinerated when the planes struck, or lost in the rubble when the towers collapsed.

In the weeks that followed, I went to countless fire stations and funerals where the only remnants of those lost were framed photos, ribbons and flowers. The most poignant memorial was the first one I covered, for Ladder 7 firefighter Robert J. Foti. I remember his three young children, his weeping widow, the giant photo of him draped in black, and his brother who politely told me through tears how he was too broken up to talk. I hated my job that day.

Seven years later in Kabul, standing on the street with a notepad and camera in hand not far from the US Embassy, staring down at the mangled, headless body of an Afghan teenage suicide bomber, I hated my job even more.

I wonder how many Afghans and Americans are adrift this week in their own dark memories about all that has passed, and all that has been lost.

Earlier this week, the Taliban threatened once again to halt negotiations in Qatar with representatives of the Afghan government, over their picayune quest to see every last Taliban prisoner — even those with the bloodiest of hands — released. On Wednesday, the Taliban also tried, yet again, to assassinate their fiercest adversary, Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh.

Afghan security forces and British soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, August 22, 2015.

When I saw that news, I immediately flashed backed to the day in December 2012 when a young Taliban suicide bomber nearly assassinated my one-time next-door neighbor in Kabul, Asadullah Khalid, an accused war criminal who, like Saleh, once headed Afghanistan's notorious intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security. Khalid now serves as acting minister of defense.

Luckily, I was not home that day. I had quietly fled Afghanistan in great haste only a few weeks earlier, after I was accused in the local Afghan press of working variously for Mossad and the CIA. Members of Afghanistan's parliament said my hands should be cut off for writing a report for the International Crisis Group on the challenges of holding a credible presidential election and the risks of further destabilization and unrest. My worried bosses in Brussels urged me to get out of Afghanistan, fast.

The report — correctly, as it turned out — predicted that the 2014 presidential elections and US drawdown would set off a downward spiral in the country. Afghanistan's then-president, Hamid Karzai, didn't like it.

I also later heard from friends that the US Embassy in Kabul, which remained silent about the threats to one of its own citizens, didn't care much either for the report's damning but accurate critique of the American government's bumbling Afghan strategy.

The incident upended my world and the lives of the 12 brave Afghans who I worked alongside for years in Kabul. Almost all them have since fled the country in fear and sought refuge abroad. Some exited on educational and work visas. Some are still holding onto hope just across the border in Tajikistan. Others paid smugglers their life savings to guide their family members over treacherous overland and sea routes to safety.

All but a few are now part of the legions of the Afghan diaspora who have streamed out of the country since the Soviet incursion in 1979. Most are happy to be alive and out, but I doubt I will ever stop feeling guilty. Though we only touch base occasionally now, their lives and mine are forever inextricably linked.

I thought of them this week when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the US was right to impose sanctions on the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, for daring to call for an investigation into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Pompeo is wrong. All he really did was reinforce the narrative that many Americans apparently believe they are above the law and above reproach, whether for their historical mistreatment of minorities at home, or their military's abuses abroad.

Since leaving Kabul, I have spent every 9/11 anniversary dwelling on all these things. Nearly two decades on, we seem only a little closer to a political settlement in Afghanistan, but peace and stability are a distant dream. The Taliban seems intransigent. The Afghan government is dithering. Just over the border in Islamabad, champions of jihadist violence in the Pakistani military are rubbing their hands in anticipation.

They are not alone in wanting the United States gone. But anyone in Moscow, Beijing or Tehran — or Washington for that matter — who thinks that is when Afghanistan's war will end is kidding themselves. These are the very hard truths about America's legacy in Afghanistan, and the long aftermath of 9/11, that will remain long after the troops finally exit.

Candace Rondeaux is a senior fellow and professor of practice at the Center on the Future of War, a joint initiative of New America and Arizona State University. Her WPR column appears every Friday.

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Now is the worst time to buy a new Xbox

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:12am  |  Clusterstock
The Xbox One X, left, and Xbox One S, right.
  • With two new Xbox consoles scheduled to launch on November 10, there has never been a worse time to buy a current-gen Xbox One.
  • The new Xbox consoles will do everything that the current Xbox One consoles can do, plus they'll be able to power next-gen games.
  • Most critically: Both next-gen Xbox consoles cost the same price as the current ones, at $300 and $500.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When the next-gen Xbox consoles arrive on November 10, they will directly replace the current generation.

This is true for both price and functionality: The Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X cost the same $300 and $500, respectively, as the current-gen Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Moreover, the next-gen Xbox consoles duplicate the functionality of the current-gen consoles: They will play all your Xbox One games, and all the original Xbox and Xbox 360 games that your Xbox One would play, and it'll work with all your Xbox One accessories.

Both the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X are, ostensibly, Xbox One consoles with additional functionality.

And in both cases, that additional functionality means being able to play next-gen games — games that look better, load faster, and occasionally run at higher resolutions than ever before on a game console. 

But in addition to all of that, there's another great reason to wait for a next-gen Xbox instead of buying an Xbox One: The Xbox All Access program.

For $25 or $35 per month, you'll get a brand new Xbox Series S or X with a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — a Netflix-like gaming service that allows you to download and/or stream hundreds of video games. 

It is, to put it mildly, a tremendously good deal: If you fulfill the term of the contract, you walk away with an Xbox Series S or X that cost retail price and two years of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate at a big discount.

Moreover, you get a brand new next-gen Xbox console with no money down and a relatively low monthly payment plan. 

Here's the math: $25 for 24 months is $600, and $35 for 24 months is $840. If you paid $300 for the Xbox Series S and $15 a month for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, it would cost $660. If you paid $500 for the Xbox Series X and $15 a month for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, it would cost $860.

By using Microsoft's Xbox All Access financing plan, you actually save money in the long run. 

Or, alternatively, you could drop anywhere from $300 to $500 on the current Xbox One with just weeks to go until the launch of the next-gen Xbox consoles on November 10. But I wouldn't suggest it.

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@businessinsider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Athletes, priests and politicians: 9 public figures who didn't take the coronavirus seriously and then got infected themselves

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:11am  |  Clusterstock
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro adjusts his protective face mask at a press statement during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, March 20, 2020. Picture taken March 20, 2020.
  • Some political figures, athletes, and celebrities didn't take the COVID-19 pandemic threat seriously, refusing to wear face masks or publicly joked about the virus.
  • But despite dismissing claims about the threat of the virus, they ended up getting it themselves.
  • Scroll down to read about the 9 different public figures who didn't take COVID-19 seriously, and then got it themselves. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, some politicians, athletes, and celebrities either didn't take COVID-19 seriously, dismissed it, or even blamed it on gay people.

They refused to wear face masks, joked about the virus, or threw large parties despite health safety restrictions. But it was the infection that had the last laugh, and several of the high profile doubters, deniers, and anti-maskers ended up getting ill.

Here are nine public figures who tested positive for COVID-19 after they didn't take its threat seriously or even denied it.

1. Tennis player Novak Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 after hosting a controversial tennis tournament in June. Novak Djokovic attends a press conference during an opening program of the Adria Tour, a charity exhibition hosted by Novak Djokovic Foundation, on June 12, 2020 in Belgrade, Serbia.

Novak Djokovic and his wife announced they tested positive for COVID-19 on June 23, shortly after hosting a controversial tennis tournament in eastern Europe.

The event, which Djokovic organized and involved several other professional players, was mostly void of any coronavirus restrictions.

Social distancing was not enforced in the stands, face masks were rare, and players mingled freely, regularly exchanging hugs and handshakes.

Besides Djokovic and his wife, two coaches and at least three prominent players also tested positive for the virus.

Indeed, Djokovic revealed that he does not believe in vaccines in April and would be reluctant to take one for COVID-19.

"Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel," the world's top-ranked male tennis player said, according to The Guardian.

"I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don't know," he added.

In his autobiographical cookbook "Serve To Win," Djokovic previously expressed his faith in the form of alternative medicine known as "applied kinesiology."

2. Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who had been skeptical about wearing masks, died after contracting the virus. Herman Cain, CEO, The New Voice, speaks during Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington.

The former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died on July 30 after he was hospitalized with COVID-19. He was 74 years old.

The day before Cain was hospitalized, he tweeted in support of the Trump campaign's decision not to require masks at an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore.

Cain said in a now-deleted tweet: "Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!" 

Cain suggested that vaccine skepticism was justified in another tweet because the government and the media had "incinerated their credibility." 

It is not clear how Cain contracted the virus. 

3. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who repeatedly belittled the threat of coronavirus, tested positive for the virus on July 8. Jair Bolsonaro removed his mask after announcing he had tested positive for coronavirus in a TV broadcast, on July 8, 2020.

From the onset of the pandemic, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro downplayed risks of what he called the "little flu," according to the BBC.

Bolsonaro opposed local lockdowns, accused the media of spreading panic, and continuously railed against "dictatorial" measures, such as wearing face coverings.  

Before testing positive for the virus on July 8, the Brazilian president attended several public events without a mask on and was shaking hands and hugging supporters.

Bolsonaro said he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria medication that was also championed by President Donald Trump. The drug has not been proven to be effective against the virus.

Brazil has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases and second-highest deaths in the world, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

 

4. Leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Filaret, tested positive for COVID-19 after saying the virus was God's punishment for gay marriage. The honorable patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Filaret, after a meeting of the Synod in Kiev, Ukraine on Friday, May 24, 2019.

Patriarch Filaret, who leads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, tested positive for COVID-19 on September 8.

The religious leader sparked outrage in March after he told a Ukrainian TV channel that the coronavirus was God's punishment for the "sinfulness of humanity; first of all, I mean same-sex marriage," according to the Independent.

The 91-year-old discovered he had COVID-19 during planned testing and is said to have "satisfactory" health, the Independent reported.

5. Rep. Louie Goh­mert had been walking the halls of the US Capitol without a mask on before he tested positive for the virus. Rep. Louie Gohmert waits to speak during the markup of the articles of impeachment on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 12, 2019.

US Congressman Rep. Louie Goh­mert tested positive for the coronavirus on July 29 after refusing to wear a mask in the Capitol.

Gohmert later suggested that he might have contracted the disease because he was wearing a face covering.

"I can't help but think that if I hadn't been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it," he said, according to The Daily Beast.

Following his positive test result, the congressman reportedly didn't isolate immediately and returned to his office instead because he wanted to inform his staffers about his diagnosis in person.

Goh­mert said that he had used the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat his illness.

6. Similarly, GOP Rep. Tom Rice also contracted the virus after refusing to wear a face mask. Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., listens during the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on President Trump's budget proposals for the fiscal year 2018 on May 24, 2017.

Rep. Tom Rice, who refused to wear a face-covering on the House floor, became the first lawmaker to report contracting the coronavirus.

Rice later said that he had no regrets about not wearing a mask in the Capitol.

"My understanding is that a mask doesn't really protect you as much as it protects other people," Mr. Rice said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"I don't think it would have made much of a difference. That is, if I caught it on the House floor...I doubt that had anything to do with it," he added.

7. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in March that people would be "pleased to know" that the virus would not stop him greeting hospital patients with a handshake. He tested positive two weeks later. Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visits the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust on July 13, 2020 in London, England.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he tested positive for the coronavirus on March 27 and was later admitted to hospital.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the prime minister held a press conference in which he said he had visited coronavirus patients in a hospital and that people would be "pleased to know" that the virus had not stopped him from shaking their hands. 

The British government has been accused of acting too slowly in its initial response to the pandemic.

In April, one senior cabinet minister said that Johnson had missed five consecutive emergency briefings in the buildup to the coronavirus crisis despite warnings issued in January and repeated in February.

 

8. Usain Bolt tested positive for the virus a few days after throwing a big party for his 34th birthday. Jamaican Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt poses during a photo session as he launches a new brand of electric scooters named "Bolt" in Paris, on May 15, 2019.

The world's fastest man Usain Bolt tested positive for COVID-19 on August 25, a few days after throwing a big party for his 34th birthday.

Videos and pictures on social media from the party showed Bolt dancing in a big crowd of people, most of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing. 

9. Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert joked about the virus at a press conference before becoming the first NBC player to test positive. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz reacts after their loss to the Denver Nuggets during the 2020 NBA Playoffs on September 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Four months ago, the NBA season was suddenly suspended after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.

Days before his diagnosis, Gobert had joked about the virus and at a press conference, touched every microphone and recorder in front of him.

—CBS News (@CBSNews) March 12, 2020

Later, the French basketball player released a public apology on Instagram in which he wrote: "I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis ... mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment."

"The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse," he added. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

I've been trying to teach my kids about collective responsibility during the pandemic. It's too bad our political leaders are undermining the message.

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:07am  |  Clusterstock
A mother with her two daughters wearing masks to guard against spreading COVID-19 on a walk, May 9, 2020 in Salerno, Italy.
  • During the pandemic, I've been trying to be a good role models for my children. Telling them to social distance, limit contact with others, and wear masks.
  • But many of our leaders have been terrible role models and our fellow Americans have been flouting the rules. This makes it harder to teach collective responsbility to kids.
  • People need to realize that our actions affect not just us, but the population at large.
  • Kathi Valeii is a writer living in Southwest Michigan.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

I can overhear my third-grader on a video chat with her friend: "What?! A party? You know you're only allowed to gather with 10 people.... Did you all wear masks?.... Did you stay six feet apart?" 

For an 8-year-old, the pandemic restrictions are unpleasant but make sense. She feels it's her job to not only adhere to the rules but to encourage others to, as well. If I were only parenting a rule-following third-grader, my job would be pretty straight-forward. But, I'm also parenting a teen, and with the conflicting messages from health authorities and national leadership, it sometimes feels impossible to teach my kids about collective responsibility during a pandemic.

When health experts say one thing and the president, some governors, and sheriffs, contradict that information and downplay the impact of the virus, who is a kid supposed to believe? Aren't the people running the country supposed to protect us?

Spot the lie 

As my kids have come of age during the Trump presidency, I've been talking with them about propaganda and how to recognize it. Never, in my wildest dreams, though, could I have imagined how I'd have to use those talking points during a global pandemic. I would never previously have considered how a virus could be politicized. But, here we are.

Since local, state, and national leaders aren't consistently interpreting data through a lens that relies on science, I can't, as a parent, simply point to the mandates and say, "Here's why we're following this rule: it's because everyone is, and it's for the collective good." Instead, when I talk to my kids, I have to lay out the information from all sides and discuss with them what influences one or the other.

In Michigan, Governor Whitmer has been harshly criticized by Trump and his supporters for her strict protocols. Even so, as the state began to slowly re-open, more than two months after the stay-home order was issued, I dreaded the renewed conversations with my kids. I quickly learned that to some of their friends' families, the re-opening, as many worried it would, signaled the worst was over.

My son's friends were soon playing video games in each other's basements, shoulder-to-shoulder. We had to start all over again discussing how, while the virus might not be deadly to him, it could be to others. We had to rehash how long a person can remain infected without symptoms, and why that made it particularly dangerous to everyone they interacted with.

We stopped eating at the dinner table in March. The table, transformed to an impromptu school station, was constantly covered with school books, papers, markers, crayons, tablets, and laptops.

But, the real reason we took our dinners to the living room and turned the TV on to "Community," is because we needed a distraction to keep us from arguing with each other. We needed moments of levity and belly laughing. What was there to talk about at the dinner table besides the things we couldn't do, the friends we couldn't see? And ultimately, it often circled around to being our fault. After all, their friends were still hanging out, why couldn't they?

While we try not to make the pandemic a focal point in all of our conversations, we do point out how things are trending and what health officials are saying, and compare them to how they stack up against Trump's delusional picture of the state of things. Trump's repeated, illogical assertions that the US has more cases because we have more testing and his bizarre Axios interview, where he claimed the US is containing the virus well and shrugged off the hundreds of thousands of deaths with, "They are dying. That's true. And it is what it is," offer examples of how the president lacks compassion and bends and twists information to shrug off responsibility and  deny reality.

These pieces of information offer my 15-year-old valuable context for the parameters that we're establishing in our household. Our kids have mostly moved away from anger, lashing out, and blame, to resignation and understanding. I suppose it's somewhat like stages of grief, considering the immense loss teens must feel in terms of their social activities being taken away.

It's ridiculous that families have to have this added stress at all. Instead of being able to simply rely on accurate, consistent information from federal leaders, families like mine have to weed through outright lies and conspiracy theories. Because the government doesn't share a message of collective unity and responsibility, it's up to me to teach these lessons to my children against a backdrop of misinformation and the assertion that those of us taking precautions seriously are nuts.

The collective burden

When Governor Whitmer released her Safe Start Plan, I printed out the chart of the phases and hung it on the fridge. When my son asks when he'll be able to hang out with friends in the ways they're accustomed to, I pull the chart down and look at it with him. We look at what phase we're currently in, talk about what's happening with cases and whether it seems like we'll soon be sliding up or down the scale.

Ultimately, the chart is just one tool, and in the end, none of us knows for sure when our lives will return to some semblance of normal. Instead of wondering as we all did back in March if it would be weeks, or, god-forbid, months, we're now looking at a year from now with hopeful optimism.

It's maddening for kids, whose social networks are their lifelines, to make these kinds of sacrifices and watch so many grown adults throw temper tantrums about putting on a simple mask to get groceries. As an American, I can't even fathom what it must be like to have a society that collectively agrees to sacrifice for the greater good. 

Americans are whole-heartedly committed to rugged individualism and the so-called "rights" that accompany it. Wearing masks, staying home, and social distancing aren't fun; but, it's frustrating that we can't see how those collective behaviors get us to an end goal more quickly. If we'd have had the same aggressive mandates across the entire country from the very beginning, maybe it could have been safer to open schools this month.

While a portion of the population goes on trips, plans "social distancing" parties, or just goes about life as usual, for the past five months, only some of us have been holed up at home, carrying what should be a collective burden. The discrepancy between our adherence to mandates and others' complete disregard for them makes the job I'm trying to do to protect my family seem futile and never-ending, and it undermines the collective work we all should be doing to protect each other.

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Job diary: Here's what it's like to be a cat sitter during the pandemic, where landing a gig is more competitive than ever

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 10:00am  |  Clusterstock
Madolline Gourley and Jaspurr the cat from her recent pet sit.
  • Madolline Gourley is a 29-year-old traveler and writer from Brisbane, Australia who has worked around the world as a house and pet sitter since 2012.
  • Gourley hadn't scheduled any sits since March due to the pandemic, but in August she accepted a cat sit for former clients who were planning a week-long vacation.
  • Gourley says that beyond observing social distancing measures in the apartment complex and using hand sanitizer more frequently, the sit wasn't much different from other sits she'd had pre-pandemic.
  • Here's what her week-long cat sit in Brisbane was like.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

House and cat sitting opportunities are few and far between right now, even local ones. And landing a gig is more competitive than ever.

During the pandemic, I've seen some listings get up to 40 applications. A sit I applied for in Bangalow — near Byron Bay, Australia — got 15 responses overnight. Properties in less urban parts of Australia have become a popular holiday alternative after an international travel ban was issued in late March.

But while I haven't been actively looking for house and cat sitting opportunities since returning home from the coronavirus craziness in New York City, I recently had the chance to sit for a Brisbane couple I'd already met through TrustedHousesitters last year.

Instead of advertising online, which is how I've found previous sits, the couple messaged me in early July.

"We are hoping to go for a Queensland getaway in August and are wondering if you would be available to look after Jaspurr," the text read. This was going to be their first proper holiday since I sat for them last Christmas. 

I usually meet the owners on the first day of the sit, but since Jaspurr's owners were flying out at 7 a.m., we arranged a quick handover the day before, where I learned there was still a bit of uncertainty surrounding their holidays plans.

"Did you hear the news this morning? There's six new coronavirus cases linked to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre worker." Their flight, however, was still scheduled to depart as planned.

When I do a local sit like this one, I like to bring my car, assuming there's somewhere to park it. I was fortunate enough to be given one of the couple's designated parking spots at their apartment complex. They had two spaces and they took their second, smaller car with them to the airport.

This gave me easy access to the elevator, and I only had to do two trips up and down to bring in my belongings for the week. I noticed the elevator was equipped with hand sanitizer and had posters detailing appropriate social distancing measures for residents to observe.

Both elevators in the building had self dispensing hand sanitizer for residents and their guests. On the first day, I got settled in and reacquainted with Jaspurr

Jaspurr came running out of the main bedroom as soon as I opened the front door. It looked like he got his hair cut recently. It was quite short — but still so soft.

I continued to walk through the apartment and noticed a few updates. The balcony now had its own bar table and the guest bedroom — my room for the week — had a new home office-type setup inside.

Jaspurr trying to work out where the treats are hidden.

Treats had also been scattered throughout the two-bedroom apartment. The couple said they do this to keep Jaspurr's mind stimulated when no one is home. Tuna-flavored Feline Greenies were left on his lounge chair, some areas of the carpet, and the fake grass on their balcony.

My sitter responsibilities were consistent from day to day

Jaspurr making the most of the morning sun.

Jaspurr's daily routine had me giving him wet food twice a day and topping up his bowls of dry food each morning. I'd change his water and clean the litter when I woke up, and that's all that was asked of me as the couple's house and cat sitter. 

Of course you're expected to clean up after yourself and take the rubbish out on a regular basis, but I think those two things go without saying. The couple also had a professional cleaner who gave the apartment a thorough clean and tidy up the day before the sit finished. 

I kept the owners in the loop by sending daily updates and photos of Jaspurr. I usually do this, but occasionally have been told by other owners that they know their cat is in good hands, and not to worry too much about regular communication.

I spent most of the week working from home to spend time with Jaspurr

It was nice to stay in than venturing to my office via a cold, dark morning walk to downtown Brisbane. A Brisbane winter is probably what some people from the Northern Hemisphere would refer to as a mild summer.

We see an average daily temperature of 77°F, but getting up when it's only 53°F is really hard for us Queenslanders.

Working from home is still somewhat new to me, but I feel fortunate to have it as an option. I'd been without a job since returning to Australia from the US at the end of March, but I recently secured a six-week contract — now extended until Christmas Eve — helping a newly formed statutory authority build their websites.

Most people at the company have continued to work from home, but about 20 or so opt to come into the office each day.

Downtown Brisbane remains quiet as most office-based staff are still working from home.

Being able to work out of the couple's apartment allowed me to keep the balcony door open for Jaspurr to come and go as he pleased, and I had the convenience of a decent coffee shop less than a minute's walk away. The central West End location meant I could walk along the Brisbane River on the one day I did decide to work from the office. It took less than 40 minutes walking to get downtown — about the same time it'd take on the bus during rush hour.

Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Jaspurr. The week had flown by. I packed my things, sanitized my hands in the elevator one last time, and dropped the keys in the couple's mailbox.

Their holiday had gone smoothly, and was largely unaffected by an increase in the state's coronavirus numbers. I sent them a final text message saying I was about to leave and to reach out if they had any problems, and they responded thanking me for the stay.

Jaspurr enjoyed some extra 'outside' time during the week-long cat sit.

Throughout my stay, I was sure to observe the appropriate social distancing measures within the apartment complex and used hand sanitizer when necessary, but overall, house and cat sitting during the pandemic wasn't hugely different from any other sit I've done.

This may be because our community transmission and confirmed case rates are low compared to other developed countries, or just due to the relaxed nature of Australians.

Madolline Gourley is a freelance writer and international pet-sitter. Follow her cat sitting journey on her blog, One cat at a time, and on Instagram.

Read the original article on Business Insider

We're ignoring one of the most obvious ways to avoid spreading the coronavirus: stop talking so much

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:45am  |  Clusterstock
Teachers wearing masks attend a meeting at Jean-Jaures elementary school in Cenon near Bordeaux, France on May 11, 2020 amid preparations to re-open primary schools.
  • Talking loudly may spread the virus to others better than being quiet.
  • It's possible that this is part of the reason why English speakers have had higher infection rates than the Japanese. 
  • But that doesn't mean we should all go silent. 
  • Talking to others is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your mental health during the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

More than half a year into our global viral catastrophe, it's become clear that being within spitting distance of other people is a potentially dangerous activity.

We've seen how singing can send the coronavirus soaring into others' bodies. Shouting in bars can move the virus around among a crowd of people, too. 

In short, one of the very things that makes us human — talking to communicate our feelings and ideas — can now be considered a deadly threat, loaded up with potentially infectious virus particles.

The louder the communication, the more risky it is. Much like coughing, any kind of yelling, laughing, or singing can project infectious bits of virus into the air towards others, launching those particles further than quieter tones. 

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic went so far as to recently recommend that perhaps we should "shut up" almost entirely when out in public right now.

"It makes sense to encourage quiet talking, or even whispering" during a pandemic, epidemiologist Saskia Popescu told Insider in an email, though she stressed that being quiet should never be considered a substitute for wearing masks, socially distancing, and avoiding crowds.

But don't start shushing your neighbors. Verbal communication is a vital way to keep us healthy at an otherwise isolating time, according to linguist Deborah Tannen. We just have to do it safely. 

Speech can propel virus particles into the air that linger there for several minutes A teacher explains mathematics during a lesson with sixth graders, who are sitting at socially-distanced desks, on the second day back at class since March (during the novel coronavirus pandemic) on May 5, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Talking loudly is dangerous because it projects more spit into the air. 

When we communicate verbally, we release both large, heavy droplets and tiny aerosols of gunk that are smaller and can stay aloft longer in the air. The more forceful the spray, the likelier it is to waft over to someone else, entering their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Scientists still don't know exactly how big of a dose of the coronavirus it may take to get us sick, but it's generally accepted that the more virus we're exposed to, the more at risk we are of developing infection, and the sicker we may become.

This means that just as not all interactions carry the same amount of risk, not all talking is created equal, either. Keeping a distance from the people you're chatting with, and avoiding yelling and spitting when you converse is key, but not everyone is accustomed to this. 

As a New Yorker, Tannen says her own speech mannerisms may be especially dangerous. 

"Shorter pauses, standing closer, speaking more loudly, being more relatively direct, talking about more personal topics, getting to the point more quickly, all those things go together," the linguistics professor at Georgetown University and author of the forthcoming book "Finding My Father," said.

"I call it a high-involvement style, that you show you're a good person by emphasizing your involvement or connection to other people, as compared to a high-considerateness style, where you show you're a good person by not imposing on other people." 

The amount of spit we swap is not just determined by volume and proximity to others. The language we speak matters too. For example, Chinese and English are generally considered more spitty by nature than, say, Japanese.

There's even been some suggestion by researchers that one of the reasons why there were no probable cases of SARS in Japan during that global outbreak in 2002 and 2003, while more than 70 people were diagnosed with the illness in the US, is because Japanese doesn't have the same forcefully-exhaled breaths in front of p's, t's, k's q's, ch's and c's that Chinese and English do.

With the novel coronavirus, too, infection rates have been impressively low in Japan, raising questions about whether the Japanese language and manners of speaking may play a role in preventing transmission.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pennsylvania school of medicine recently watched as people uttered the English phrase "stay healthy," with its explosive 't' and 'th' sounds, which they hypothesized might spread virus well (confirming that suspicion in the lab would be a highly unethical form of research.)

They estimated that just a minute of loud talking generates "at least 1,000 virion-containing droplet nuclei that remain airborne for more than 8 minutes," potentially triggering coronavirus infections if they are inhaled by others. 

The atmosphere we're in when we talk is also important, as stagnant, stale air can turn speech into a "slowly descending cloud, emanating from the speaker's mouth," those same study authors said

Like every other precaution, talking softly is only one part of an interwoven system. Being around sick people, whether they speak or not, is always risky, especially when the interaction is indoors and they are just starting to get sick.

Being quiet could make large gatherings safer, but they're still not risk-free "Trop Violans" collectif member Olivier Goudet speaks to masked protesters gathered in front of the Prefecture of Guiana in Cayenne, French Guiana on July 22, 2020, as France's South American territory is reeling from a surge in COVID-19 cases.

There's nothing more dangerous than being indoors, in a poorly-ventilated space, with lots of people.

Outdoor gatherings, where there's near-infinite space for virus particles to dissipate, are safer, but crowds should still try to be quiet, according to Renyi Zhang, a professor of atmospheric sciences and chemistry at Texas A&M.

If football games go on this year (at 25% capacity, with masks) at Texas A&M, he thinks trying not to yell or cheer could mitigate spread of the virus during games. 

"It's going to be hard for them to control their emotions, it's going to be hard for them to stop supporting their team," he said of the A&M fans. "Enjoy the game, but try to be as quiet as possible. I think that will help."

He, for one, won't be in the stands. 

"It's a lot safer to stay at home," he said.

Talking is still necessary, especially right now A medical worker wearing a face mask talks on her mobile phone inside the new coronavirus intensive care unit of the Brescia Poliambulanza hospital, Lombardy, on March 17, 2020.

Being silent probably won't extinguish the virus entirely, but it could extinguish us.

"Talking to people is our fundamental way of being human, and getting through the world," Tannen said.

Talking is also largely the point of getting together face to face.

"The idea that you should not talk is ridiculous," she added. "We have enough to worry about." 

Instead, the 75 year-old's found other ways to stay safe and still communicate. When she got together recently with a friend from virus-laden Arizona, she was so cautious about sharing potentially infected air that the pair sat "significantly further than six feet apart," she said. 

Then, they each picked up their cell phones for a socially-distanced version of a face-to-face chat.

"As long as you're six feet apart, you're wearing masks, I don't think you should worry about how much you talk, or whether your language has plosive p's or not," she said.

"What people are really looking for is this in-person experience," Zhang said of the professors, students, and colleagues who are opting for some in-person meetings. 

He said a classroom or office with a few people inside is "probably okay," and people shouldn't be worried too much about keeping their voices down very low, or whispering, which might only serve to push people closer to one another anyway. 

Silent or loud, it's going to be quite a while before we can safely gather in big groups indoors again.

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said we should wait until a safe, effective vaccine "has been around for almost a year," enough time for most of the population to get inoculated, before we start packing into theaters unmasked again.  

"Instead of going to the theater at night and getting together with friends, we're Zooming with friends and having a lot of dinners at home," Tannen said.

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4 ways to strengthen your soft skills as a freelancer

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:35am  |  Clusterstock
Having solid soft skills is key to being a successful freelancer.
  • Learning to leverage soft skills — such as collaboration, time management, communication, and critical thinking — can help you stand out in today's job market. 
  • As a freelancer, it's critical to take notes and ask for feedback to pick up on details about expectations for new projects. 
  • You are in charge of your own schedule, so hone in your time management skills, and be specific when explaining to clients how you prioritize and juggle multiple tasks.  
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Whether you're side hustling or at it full-time, freelance business owners can and should build incredible soft skills. Whether you decide to stay in business for yourself or ultimately leverage these into a full-time position, with honed soft skills, you'll be competitive in the market.

Employers are increasingly struggling to find the right fit when it comes to soft skills. Three in four reported that recent college grads just didn't show up with them. And even if you're working freelance for these companies, you still need to be able to leverage soft skills to get the job done, especially if you want the opportunity of repeat work. And trust me, you want that.

Soft skills include non-technical aspects that are essential when working with a client or as part of a team — collaboration, prioritization, time management, communication, and critical thinking. Coming to the table with the technical ability to do the job plus soft skills can make you an in-demand freelancer overnight.

Take notes

Listen carefully to read between the lines. In open communication, clients and team members will often let slip valuable details that tell you exactly where other people fell short. When taking your notes about potential projects or expectations, make a note of these.

If your prospective client was completely annoyed that their last freelancer ghosted them, make a point to send your recap email and proposed next steps within a few hours after the close of the meeting. It shows you listened and that you're organized. There are so many people who don't listen for these clues, much less use this knowledge to their advantage. You'll stand out from other freelancers for doing this, and it takes so little effort that it's a no-brainer.

Ask for feedback

Clients not giving you feedback? You're missing out on the chance to hear constructive criticism and to apply more objectivity to your own work. At first, it really stings to hear someone say that your work product isn't perfect. But adapting to hearing reasonable feedback and being easy to work with are as rare as diamonds in some freelance niches. Being able to hear feedback and not take it personally makes you that much easier to work with, and opens all kinds of doors.

When I embarked on writing my first book as well as preparing for my first TEDx talk, I was beyond grateful that I'd had years of people critiquing my work. It had fine-tuned my ability to know what to push back about and what really was fair feedback that would make the final product better.

If your client doesn't give you feedback, ask for it! Even if they don't have any negative feedback, it's so helpful to know what they love about working with you. This information can be turned into testimonials or even used when pitching future clients. Think about how great and honest it would be to share in your newest pitch that clients say you're the easiest contractor they've ever worked with. Let others sell your soft skills whenever you can, and that feedback loop is where you pull that data.

Hone your time management skills

Being able to keep your own business streamlined makes potential freelance clients want some of that magic in their own company, too. If a client asks you how you prioritize things, be able to provide specific answers. "I get up early and work all day long" or, "I just do one thing at a time" won't cut it. Talk about how you use systems and structure to determine not just what you'll do first but how you'll do it, what tools you'll use, and how you'll make the process faster without cutting corners.

When clients ask about this, use specific cases. Talk about how you recently helped another client hit a goal before a deadline or with way less stress than the client expected. This is a form of social proof that is really powerful even if it's not directly coming from that other client.

Always be learning

No one is perfect, but the more you can seek out learning opportunities, the better your soft skills will be. Look for learning options that allow you to strategize, work with, or communicate with others. This could be as a mentor or even in a group learning environment. It can help to make up for lack of work experience when you're first getting started, too.

Soft skills can even infuse your personal life with more success, but they're becoming increasingly crucial in the professional world. Pack the one-two punch of ability and soft skills to generate retainers, referrals, and testimonials in your freelance business and you'll become an asset for your clients and their businesses.  

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 lessons about mental strength I learned from being a therapist

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:30am  |  Clusterstock
Amy Morin.
  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
  • In her years working as a mental health professional, Morin says her understanding of what mental strength is has evolved, and adds that most people have misconceptions when it comes to mental strength.
  • It's very possible to be mentally strong in one area of your life but not in another, Morin explains, and says that mental strength should be treated like a muscle that needs to be regularly exercised.
  • If you're struggling, call the SAMHSA National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
  •  
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

College taught me about mental health. But my experiences as a therapist are what taught me about mental strength.

In school, I learned how to diagnose anxiety disorders, when to describe someone as having a "flat affect," and how to use behavior therapy to interrupt patterns that reinforce depression.

But it was through my work with real people in my therapy office that I learned what it means to be strong. Some of the mentally strongest people I've ever met were battling mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. Despite their struggles, they worked hard on strategies that could help them feel better — a true hallmark of strength.

I've learned a lot from people like that. Here are seven lessons I learned about mental strength from being a therapist:

1. Most people misunderstand what it means to be "strong"

Quite often, people said things like, "I'm getting stronger. I didn't cry as much this week." But strength isn't measured by the number of tears you shed.

After all, it often takes more courage to express your emotions than it does to hide them. Suppressing your emotions is more about acting tough, not actually being strong. Mental strength is about acknowledging your emotions, expressing them, and coping with them in healthy ways.

2. No one is born with mental strength

Sometimes, people assume strong individuals are just "cut from a different cloth." But the truth is, no one is born strong. Everyone has the ability to develop mental muscle — just like everyone can build physical muscle.

I've seen people from all walks of life and at all different stages in their journeys build mental strength. It's all about the choices you make every day, like facing your fears and practicing gratitude.

3. Mental muscles need ongoing exercise or they'll get weak

Sometimes, people say things like, "I don't need to worry about my mental strength. I'm already strong enough." But that's just like saying, "I don't ever need to go to the gym again. I'm strong enough." We accept that physical muscles atrophy. But for some reason, people often assume their mental muscles don't need to be challenged.

But, if you don't work out your mental muscles, your brain gets a little lazy. It'll take unhealthy shortcuts when you're making decisions. Or your uncomfortable emotions will tempt you to reach for instant gratification rather than practice self-discipline. You need to practice mental strength exercises every day to keep a healthy mindset that prevents you from sliding into unhealthy habits.

4. Kids have the ability to develop incredible mental strength

It's tempting to shield kids from pain. But tough experiences can be some of life's greatest teachers. And when kids receive the right balance of support and freedom, they develop confidence in their ability to tackle challenges.

So rather than let them grow up thinking they need to be rescued because they're fragile, teach them how to build mental strength. Kids can be incredibly strong — I've seen it in my therapy office as well as with my foster children — if we give them the exercises to practice.

5. You can be strong in one area of your life and not another

How many times have we heard about an incredibly self-disciplined athlete who has an addiction? It happens. You might possess mental strength in certain areas of your life, but struggle with others.

Perhaps you don't mind giving a speech in front of a room full of people, but the thought of asking someone on a date makes you weak in the knees. Or maybe you manage most of your emotions really well — except anger.

It's important to recognize that no one is completely mentally strong. We all have areas in our lives that could benefit from improvement.

6. Environment plays a big role in strength

You can't be the strongest and best version of yourself when you're in a toxic environment. An unhealthy relationship, a toxic workplace, or even an overly cluttered chaotic space can drain you of the mental strength you need to be your best.

If you're in a position where you have to waste a lot of energy resisting temptations or managing your stress, you won't have much brain power leftover to build mental strength. On the other hand, a supportive, healthy environment can help you thrive.

7. You can't measure someone else's strength by looking at them

You might look at someone who works out at the gym every day and think, "Clearly, that person has mental strength." But in reality, that person might be pushing their body to the limit because they're filled with self-loathing, not self-love.

You never know what internal battles someone is fighting. That person who speaks up in a meeting in front of five people might be mustering up more courage than the person delivering a speech in front of 5,000.

So you can't always tell how strong someone is based on what you see on the outside. You never know what is going on in their minds. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump's $300 unemployment benefit is expiring with nearly 30 million Americans still on unemployment

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:20am  |  Clusterstock
  • Trump's Lost Wages Assistance program aimed at supplementing weekly unemployment checks by $300 is ending this week.
  • FEMA said states still setting up their programs will get enough funding to provided six weeks of benefits dating back to August 1.
  • Nearly 30 million Americans are on unemployment as prospects dim on another coronavirus relief bill for the foreseeable future.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For millions of Americans this week, a temporary $300 bump in their unemployment checks will be their last.

Funding for President Donald Trump's $300 unemployment benefits is starting to run out, leaving nearly 30 million people on unemployment benefits with only a fraction of their past wages.

In a statement to Business Insider, the Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed on Thursday that states setting up their Lost Wages Assistance programs will get six weeks of funding dating back to August 1.

That puts the end of the federal initiative at September 5, the final benefit week. At least five states already paying out the money announced an end to their programs in recent days: 

Last month, Trump approved the creation of the program using $44 billion in disaster relief funding from FEMA after negotiations on another coronavirus relief bill collapsed. 

Michele Evermore, a policy expert at the National Employment Law Project, described the initiative as "too little, too short, and too late.

"This was in no way a substitute for an actual extension," she recently told Business Insider.

Normal state unemployment benefits, which typically cover about 30% to 50% of a person's past wages, will continue in states where the Lost Wages Assistance program expires.

Read more: Morgan Stanley says the stock market's future is 'unusually dependent' on another stimulus package — and recommends 5 portfolio moves to make if Congress passes another round

The average unemployment check amounts to roughly $330-per-week — a dramatically smaller figure compared to what millions of people had received in the spring and summer.

From March to July, Congress had authorized a $600 federal supplement to state unemployment checks through the CARES Act. Many economists said it helped maintain consumer spending for groceries and other essential goods even as the pandemic hit the economy.

But it expired amid fierce disagreements between both parties. House Democrats passed legislation that would reinstate the $600 benefit until January. But Republicans staunchly opposed it, saying it disincentivizes people from seeking work. Several studies have contradicted their argument.

Democrats blocked a slimmed-down GOP stimulus bill on Thursday, dimming the prospect of more federal aid arriving to jobless people anytime soon. A top Senate Republican said additional assistance may not arrive before Americans cast their ballots in November.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed that sentiment during an event in Kentucky, saying lawmakers are in "a challenging period."

"Regretfully, I can't tell you today we're going to get there... I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package but it doesn't look that good right now," he said.

Read more: A strategist at the world's largest wealth manager lays out 4 election-related risks that could damage investors' portfolios — and shares how to safeguard against each one now, regardless of who wins

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook wants to know how it's shaping the 2020 elections — researchers say it's looking too late and in the wrong places

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:17am  |  Clusterstock
Facebook's executives have repeatedly pledged to do better about cleaning up the platform, but the company has a long way to go.
  • Facebook said it will pay thousands of users to participate in an independent study of how its social media products influence the 2020 US elections.
  • The company wants to know "whether and how" social media changes people's votes, but said it doesn't expect results until at least mid-2021, long after Americans will have cast their ballots.
  • Researchers are asking why Facebook waited until two months before the election to start the study, and whether its focus might end up understating the impact of political misinformation.
  • They applauded Facebook for promising to be more transparent than it has in the past but also worried it could use the study to absolve itself of responsibility and future criticism.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook was first warned in late 2015 that Cambridge Analytica was misusing data illicitly harvested from millions of Americans in an attempt to sway the 2016 US elections.

It didn't pull the plug on the firm's access to user data until March 2018 after reporting from The Guardian turned the breach into a global scandal.

More than two years later — and barely two months before the deadline for votes to cast their ballots in the 2020 elections — Facebook has decided it wants to know more about how it impacts democracy, announcing last week that it would partner with 17 researchers to study the impact of Facebook and Instagram on voters' attitudes and actions.

But researchers outside of the project are conflicted. While they praised Facebook for promising to ensure more transparency and independence than it has before, they also questioned why the company waited so long and just how much this study will really bring to light.

"Isn't this a little bit too late?" Fadi Quran, a campaign director with nonprofit research group Avaaz, told Business Insider.

"Facebook has known now for a long time that there's election interference, that malicious actors are using the platform to influence voters," he said. "Why is this only happening now at such a late stage?" 

Facebook said it doesn't "expect to publish any findings until mid-2021 at the earliest." The company did not reply to a request for comment on this story.

Since the company is leaving it to the research team to decide which questions to ask and draw their own conclusions — a good thing — we don't yet know much about what they hope to learn. In its initial announcement, Facebook said it's curious about: "whether social media makes us more polarized as a society, or if it largely reflects the divisions that already exist; if it helps people to become better informed about politics, or less; or if it affects people's attitudes towards government and democracy, including whether and how they vote."

Facebook executives have reportedly known the answer to that first question — that the company's algorithms do help polarize and radicalize people — and that they knowingly shut down efforts to fix the issue or even research it more.

But even setting that aside, researchers say they've already identified some potential shortcomings in the study.

"A lot of the focus of this work is very much about how honest players are using these systems," Laura Edelson, a researcher who studies political ads and misinformation at New York University, told Business Insider.

"Where I'm concerned is that they're almost exclusively not looking at the ways that things are going wrong, and that's where I wish this was going further," she added.

Quran echoed that assessment, saying: "One big thing that they're going to miss by not looking more deeply at these malicious actors, and just by the design, is the scale of content that's been created by these actors and that's influencing public opinion."

A long list of research and media reports have documented Facebook's struggles to effectively keep political misinformation off its platform — let alone misleading health claims, which despite Facebook's more aggressive approach, still racked up four times as many views as posts from sites pushing accurate information, according to Avaaz

But political information is much more nuanced and constantly evolving, and even in what seem to be clear-cut cases, Facebook has, according to reports, at times incorrectly enforced its own policies or bent over backward to avoid possible political backlash.

Quran and Edelson both worried that Facebook's election study may not capture the full impact of aspects of the platform like its algorithms, billions of fake accounts, or private groups.

"You find what you go and you look for," Edelson said. "The great problem of elections on Facebook is not how the honest actors are working within the system."

Quran also said, though it's too early say this will happen for sure, that because it's Facebook asking users directly within their apps to join the study, sometimes in exchange for payment, it risks inadvertently screening out people who are distrustful of the company to begin with.

"We're already seeing posts on different groups that share disinformation telling people: 'Don't participate in the study, this is a Facebook conspiracy'" to spy on users or keep Republicans off the platform ahead of the election, he said. "What this could lead to, potentially, is that the people most impacted by disinformation are not even part of the study."

In a best-case scenario, Edelson said the researchers could learn valuable information about how our existing understanding of elections maps onto the digital world. Quran said the study could even serve as an "information ecosystem impact assessment," similar to environmental impact studies, that would help Facebook understand how changes it could make might impact the democratic process.

But both were skeptical that Facebook would make major changes based on this study or the 2020 elections more broadly. And Quran warned that, despite Facebook's efforts to make the study independent, people shouldn't take the study as definitive or allow it to become a "stamp of approval."

It took Facebook nearly four years from when it learned about Cambridge Analytica to identify the tens of thousands of apps that were also misusing data. And though it just published the results of its first independent civil rights audit, the company has made few commitments to implement any of the auditors' recommendations.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I've spent weeks using Microsoft's ambitious new foldable phone with 2 screens — here are the best and worst things about it

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:15am  |  Clusterstock
  • Microsoft's Surface Duo is a foldable Android smartphone with two screens that can open and close like a book.
  • The Surface Duo's unconventional design and hinge make it great for productivity.
  • But it still has many drawbacks, especially when it comes to the quality of its camera.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

After remaining largely absent from the mobile phone industry for years, Microsoft finally made its grand reentry with the Surface Duo: a dual-screened Android phone that folds in half like a book.

It's an ambitious idea to say the least. Like the Surface tablet that preceded it, the Surface Duo was born from the idea that a mobile device doesn't have to fall into just one category. The Surface tablet, for example, aimed to replace some of the duties of your laptop.

The Surface Duo isn't quite trying to serve as both a tablet and a phone. But with two screens and an unconventional design, it's certainly trying to do more than the average smartphone.

While I loved having two screens for multitasking, the Surface Duo, which launched on September 10 for $1,400, asks you to make too many compromises. 

Here are the best and worst things I've found about using the Surface Duo over the course of the last two weeks.

The Surface Duo's versatile design made it a great daily companion.

Whether I was propping it up like a tent to use as a second screen throughout the day, or holding it like a book to read in Amazon's Kindle app, the Surface Duo's flexible design is easily its best trait.

That's all thanks to the Surface Duo's 360-degree hinge, which enables the two screens to bend all the way back so that the device can assume a variety of poses. 

The ability to take on multiple form factors — combined with the extra screen real estate you get from a phone that can bend in half — make the best case yet for why foldable phones should exist in the first place. 

It also offers excellent battery life.

The Surface Duo never left me scrambling for a charger. After a full day's worth of use, I still had more than 30% of a charge left the next morning.

It's common for the batteries in high-end smartphones to last for more than a full day, but based on my experience that's an unusually high percentage to have left over.

Of course, it's important to remember that battery life will always vary depending on how you use your device. During my time with the Surface Duo, I primarily used it for checking email, browsing the web, chatting with co-workers on Slack, and streaming video.

 

It also has promising software features to take advantage of those two screens.

With the Surface Duo, Microsoft didn't just join two screens together — it ensured that the software was designed to work smoothly across both displays. 

Certain apps like Amazon's Kindle reader and Microsoft's suite of Office tools and apps have been optimized to work especially well on both screens. Kindle, for example, has been updated with a page-turn animation to recreate the experience of reading a hard-copy book. Microsoft's news app also lets you browse headlines on one screen while reading a story on the other.

But unfortunately, the software still has its quirks.

The Surface Duo's software is generally good at switching between orientations, but there is some lag. This is especially noticeable when using the camera app. Since the Surface Duo's camera is located on the inside of the device, you need to physically flip the device around to switch between selfie mode and world-facing mode. There were several instances, however, where the camera simply didn't know which direction to face, which can be frustrating.

And the Surface Duo's camera can't compare to those found on other popular smartphones. The iPhone 11 Pro's camera

If you take a lot of photos with your phone, the Surface Duo probably isn't for you. The 11-megapixel camera on the Surface Duo is decent, but in my experience didn't take photos that were as sharp, colorful, or crisp as rivals like the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

And for $1,400, you'd want a camera that's at least on par with top-of-the-line phones. 

Plus, its size and shape can make it difficult to use discreetly or with one hand.

The Surface Duo isn't meant to look or feel like a regular smartphone. But even so, switching from a standard smartphone to the Surface Duo comes with a notable learning curve, especially when using it in public.

The Surface Duo's unusual design means it's much wider than the average phone. It measures 93.3 millimeters across, or 3.7 inches, making it feel daunting at times when you just want to quickly take out your phone, send a quick text, and then put it away. It's also nearly impossible to use it with one hand. 

So should you buy it?

There's a lot of promise in the Surface Duo. After all, we spend most of our days buried in our phones as they've become our lifeline to our social life, work, and much more. So it makes sense that a company like Microsoft that's rooted in productivity would invent a product to help us do more with our phones on the go.

But before a device like the Surface Duo can replace your phone, it needs to do everything equally as well as your phone — including taking photos and offering stable performance when running apps. 

The compromises that come with the Surface Duo make it hard to recommend, especially for $1,400. But it certainly makes me excited about where the industry is headed.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A government agency just warned this week's West Coast wildfires could spark a financial crisis. A top economist thinks the effects could linger for years.

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:10am  |  Clusterstock
Firefighters battle wildfires in Southern California on Saturday.
  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the government agency that regulates the US deriviatives markets, released a report this week that said increasing wildfires in the US could spark a financial crisis. 
  • Further, the CFTC said climate change 'poses a major risk to the stability of the US financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy.' The ripple effect on home values, state tourism, and local government could be profound, per the report. 
  • Matthew Khan, distinguished economics and business professor at John Hopkins University, said the west could see a 'brain drain' if the perception emerges of a declining quality of life due to ever-increasing wildfires.
  • Khan also said the next generation is at risk of developmental problems due to air pollution, which would impact their productivity down the line. 
  • Workers are less productive when there's high air pollution, studies show. Rising air pollution that would impact millions could therefore impact GDP, Khan suggested. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

More than 85 wildfires are ripping through California, Oregon and Washington state, and people's lives and homes aren't the only things at risk. 

The historic 2020 wildfire season, which has already burned over 3 million acres, is far worse than last year's due to climate change, scientists have said. The trend has economists saying the economy for the region — and even the country — is in danger.  

These climate risks could exacerbate some of the stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, such as declining home values, state tourism, and local government budgets, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a government agency that regulates the US derivatives markets, stated in a recent report

"Beyond their physical devastation and tragic loss of human life and livelihood, escalating weather events also pose significant challenges to our financial system and our ability to sustain long-term economic growth," Rostin Behnam, CFTC commissioner, said in a press release. 

The West Coast —  home to Silicon Valley and tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Apple — could take a dramatic hit over the next five to 10 years because of increasing wildfires, according to Matthew Khan, a Bloomberg distinguished professor of economics and business at Johns Hopkins University and a provost professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. 

For one, Apple, Google, and Microsoft may not want to keep their headquarters there, if there's a perception that these wildfires are threatening their workers' quality of life. 

"If there's the belief that California and the West will face a decline in quality of life because of ever-increasing wildfires, then this could actually lead to a brain drain if these companies move headquarters to higher quality of life places in the US," he told Business Insider. 

This would hit the state's tax revenue stream hard, he said. And thousands of workers could potentially move with their companies, resulting in declining home values and consumer spending. 

But on a more macro level, labor productivity across a major portion of the US could be at risk, which could impact GDP. 

Workers are not as productive when there's high levels of air pollution, numerous studies show. 

One 2019 study found that top chess players made significantly more mistakes when the indoor concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — air pollution — increased. 

Another study (conducted earlier this year by Khan and his colleagues) found that high levels of air pollution decreased outdoor worker productivity. It also lowered the day-to-day sentiment of the overall population (including indoor workers). Research has found that happier workers are more productive

"People are less productive when it's polluted outside," Khan said. 

Increasing wildfires would also be detrimental to the next generation of America's workforce: Children, particularly low-income children who live in higher risk areas and whose families may not be able to afford expensive air purifiers. 

"Epidemiology has shown us that prolonged exposure to air pollution is terrible for people's health and children's development. And so if it continues, and millions of children, millions of lower-income children are exposed to this pollution, it lowers their development, their work potential," he said. 

Khan added, "That would have really bad consequences." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

How rural states can bridge the 'digital divide,' according to two economic development experts

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:05am  |  Clusterstock
These are the state policies that impact digital access among rural Americans.
  • Rural communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as limited access to high-speed internet makes it difficult for people to work from home, access healthcare, and homeschool their kids. 
  • Brian Whitacre and Roberto Gallardo, experts in economic development, examined initiatives and restrictions from rural state governments to determine which policies impacted the "digital divide."
  • Many states, including Minnesota, Tennessee, and North Carolina, dedicated funding, resources, and policies that have, on average, increased broadband availability and helped get rural Americans connected.  
  • However, Whitacre and Gallardo say access solves only one part of the issue — factors like affordability can also hugely impact municipal policies. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The current public health emergency has shown just how critical adequate and affordable broadband infrastructure is for communities and individuals trying to work, access healthcare, and attempt to teach kids from home.

Yet millions of rural Americans lack access to broadband, with some estimates suggesting as many as 42 million lack access.

The problem has spurred many state governments to take an active role in trying to connect more rural communities to high-speed internet, whether it's by incentivizing providers to serve rural areas or creating dedicated offices aimed at helping more people get online.

As part of our ongoing research on how broadband access affects economic development, we conducted a study that examined which of these state policies are actually working.

Why broadband matters

The pandemic has brought home the importance of high-speed internet access in all manner of everyday life.

Recent studies have found that broadband matters for jobs, income, business relocation, civic engagement, and health.

While availability has generally increased over the past decade, there is still a significant "digital divide" in terms of who has access to broadband. The latest data available shows that in some states, less than 50% of rural residents have a broadband connection available where they live.

Policies meant to increase access

Many state governments have adopted one or more of three approaches that can affect broadband availability: establishing broadband offices, increasing funding, and restricting municipal networks.

In 2018, 25 states, including Minnesota, Tennessee, and North Carolina, had offices with full-time employees devoted to getting more residents connected to high-speed internet. In general, they work with providers and communities to find ways to connect those without high-speed connections and to improve adoption rates where broadband already exists.

A total of 18 states, such as Colorado and California, had special funding programs that help subsidize broadband deployment in rural areas. These programs offer financial incentives to providers to install broadband infrastructure in lower-density areas where obtaining a profit is more difficult.

Utah, Wisconsin, and 18 other states have adopted policies that restrict the ability of cities, utilities, and other public entities to build their own broadband networks. Supporters of these restrictions, which aren't intended to increase access, argue that municipal networks represent unfair competition to private providers.

We wanted to know how these policies affected the share of rural Americans connected to either standard broadband — with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second — or a fiber-optic network. We also considered how the policies affected competition, defined as access to two or more providers. We analyzed data from 2012 to 2018 on all 3,143 US counties and focused on the changes in the rural portions of each county since a policy was put in place. We performed a regression analysis to tease out the impact of each individual policy in states that implemented more than one.

We controlled for a variety of characteristics that might also affect broadband availability, such as population density, income, and education. We also factored in political ideology, under the assumption that more conservative residents and legislatures are less likely to support a broadband office or funding and more likely to impose municipal broadband restrictions.

Assessing the impact

Overall, rural areas saw an average increase in broadband availability of 47 percentage points, rising from 24% in 2012 — around when many states began implementing policies — to 71% in 2018. Access to faster fiber climbed 16.5 points to 23%.

But these figures varied widely depending on which state a rural American lived in — and what policies were in place.

Having a dedicated funding program turned out to have the greatest positive impact on getting more people in rural areas connected to broadband and fiber. Our analysis found that the policy increased broadband access by an average of 1.8 percentage points compared with states without the policy in place. Gains for fiber were even higher at 2.1 percentage points. The share of counties with access to more than one broadband provider climbed 1.4 points above what would otherwise be expected.

Imposing restrictions on municipal broadband, on the other hand, had a significant dampening effect on internet access. Counties whose states imposed such restrictions experienced broadband access gains 3.7 percentage points less than what they would have enjoyed without the policies in place. Fiber access was 1.6 points less, while the policy had a negligible impact on competition.

We found that state broadband offices had little impact on the availability of broadband or on the number of competitors, though they did lead to higher fiber availability, raising access by 1.5 percentage points more than in states without the policy. Recent research has emphasized the importance of the faster speeds that fiber provides for economic growth and employment.

But since broadband offices are relatively new, we believe the jury is still out on how effective they are. Other research has found benefits to broadband offices, such as better planning and outreach. It may just take more time for more of their benefits to show up in the data.

Moving in the right direction

Putting it all together, we would estimate that a state like Louisiana — with restrictions on municipal broadband and no dedicated funding program — could improve rural access to broadband by 5 percentage points above their normal rates of growth over the next six to seven years by changing those two policies.

And it seems like some states may already be aware of the advantages of doing so. In 2019, seven more states put in place funding programs to encourage broadband, and five softened their restrictions on municipal networks. Tennessee is currently considering removing its restrictions entirely.

On the whole, states have made significant gains in narrowing the rural-urban digital divide. Hopefully, states that have seen less improvement will learn from their neighbors.

But access is only part of the equation. Another important factor is affordability, which is why it's important for states to pursue policies that can increase competition and reduce prices, too.

Brian Whitacre, professor and Neustadt chair in agricultural economics, Oklahoma State University and Roberto Gallardo, director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, Purdue University

 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Apple has been noticeably absent from the race for a foldable phone — and there's a good reason why

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 9:02am  |  Clusterstock
Apple's iPhone 11
  • Tech companies like Samsung, Microsoft, and Motorola are among the first to launch foldable smartphones.
  • But today's foldable phones are still noticeably more expensive than standard phones, and it's clear that companies are still refining their ideas.
  • Plus, there still isn't any evidence that customers are actually interested in foldable phones.
  • If Apple does release a foldable phone, it's likely to wait until the market has matured a bit more as it has done with other products like smartwatches.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Apple essentially invented the modern smartphone with the original iPhone in 2007. Now, companies like Samsung, Huawei, Microsoft, and Motorola are racing to figure out what comes next by launching phones that can bend and fold into different forms.

But Apple is nowhere to be found.

There are several good reasons why Apple hasn't entered the foldable phone market just yet. 

Foldable phones have barely been on the market for a year. And during that time, it's become clear that phone makers are still ironing out the kinks and growing pains that come with developing a new type of computer.

Take Microsoft as an example. The PC giant's anticipated $1,400 Surface Duo, which has two screens joined together by a folding hinge, received middling reviews for its buggy software and lackluster camera. 

But perhaps the most obvious signal that foldable phones are not yet ready for prime time is their launch cycles. Samsung is already on its third foldable phone (fourth if you count the 5G version of its Galaxy Z Flip) after just launching its first one about one year ago. The original Samsung Galaxy Fold also endured a months-long delay in 2019 because of issues with the screen breaking after it folded.

Motorola, too, just announced a new version of its foldable Razr flip phone little more than six months after launching the original. The new model comes with support for 5G, an improved camera, and other upgrades.

These erratic launch cycles suggest that foldable phones are still in somewhat of an experimental stage. Consumers may not feel confident purchasing a foldable phone knowing that a better version may launch less than a year from now.

But one of the biggest reasons Apple may be holding off on foldable phones is also the simplest: There's no evidence yet that people actually want them.

Market research firm Gartner predicts that foldable phones will account for less than 5% of high-end phones by 2023, and Strategy Analytics says that foldable phone shipments will hit just 100 million by 2025. That may sound like a high number, but consider that The International Data Corporation predicted that total smartphone shipments for 2019 would reach 1.38 billion.

The original Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Chances are slim that Apple will be joining the foldable phone craze anytime soon. The company has a reputation for being first to market, but for refining existing product categories and popularizing them.

Look to the Apple Watch as an example. Apple was far from being the first tech company to launch a smartwatch, but it's now the market leader, according to estimates from Canalys and Counterpoint Research.

In other instances, Apple has waited until a category has matured before bringing it to its own lineup. Apple launched its first big-screened iPhones with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from 2014, for example, long after Android smartphones had offered roomier displays. Those models were regarded as being among Apple's most successful iPhones.

And there are some products that Apple simply hasn't tried yet despite the interest of its rivals. For example, Apple has yet to release an augmented or virtual reality headset, although rumors and reports suggest such a device is in the works. Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, and Facebook have all delved into the space in one way or another, either with standalone VR headsets, helmets tethered to computers, or headsets that merge the aspects of virtual and augmented reality.

There's plenty of speculation that Apple could indeed be working on a foldable iPhone. Apple has several patents for devices with flexible and foldable screens, one of which has a display that wraps around the entire phone. Analysts at UBS have also written that Apple could release a foldable mobile device by 2021 after analyzing the company's intellectual property filings. A leak from notable Samsung leaker "Ice Universe" also recently claimed that the South Korean tech giant had supplied Apple with displays for prototyping foldable iPhones.

Apple isn't the only tech giant biding its time. Google also hasn't made any mention of plans to release a foldable version of its Pixel phone yet, although 9to5Google reports that the company may be working on one. 

"I don't think that the product is quite innovative enough yet," Mario Queiroz, the former Google executive that previously oversaw the company's Pixel division, told Business Insider in May 2019. "Just folding your phone, that's interesting, and turning it into a tablet, there's some incremental benefit to it, but it's not like that breakthrough thing where you say, 'Wow this is something that's very different.'"

Despite the early hiccups, there's promise in foldable phones. I wrote that the Surface Duo just didn't perform well enough as a phone to replace your current smartphone, but I loved using it as a secondary display and for reading books. The Galaxy Z Fold 2's ability to double as a phone and a tablet makes it great for times when I want a bigger screen — perhaps for reading the news or checking email — but don't want to reach for my tablet or laptop.

The smartphone hasn't meaningfully changed since its introduction. Yes, phones have gotten much faster, their cameras now rival those of professional setups, and their screens have become much sharper and crisper. But the overall form factor is long overdue for an update, and it's exciting to see the industry providing a glimpse at what's to come.

Just don't expect to see Apple joining the fold anytime soon.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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