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On the surface, the surprise announcement Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it would reverse mask mandates and limits on gathering sizes for people vaccinated against COVID-19 looks like great news both for Americans looking for work and for those employed and looking for a pay increase.
News stories across the country have been full of business owners and executives bemoaning their inability to fill open positions in recent weeks. Restaurants and travel and entertainment companies, in particular, were preparing for a ramp-up in business by scrambling to bring in more staff, and the news from the CDC, some said, just gave further impetus to a welcome trend.
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Disney CEO: CDC change is ‘big catalyst’
In an interview with Bloomberg television, Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said that the CDC announcement would go a long way toward getting the company’s theme park business back to normal and getting the company’s theme park workers back on the job.
“We are really encouraged by what we’re seeing in terms of not only current attendance but forward bookings,” he said. “Today, with the CDC guidance in terms of relaxation of a mask requirement, we think it’s again going to be a big catalyst for growth and actually being able to put the number of people in our parks that we’re more accustomed to. So it’s very, very positive. Our future bookings are working really great in Walt Disney World U.S. In fact, they’re already back up to the fiscal year 2019 levels.”
The announcement came at the same time that Amazon announced that it would be hiring 75,000 people in the U.S. and Canada in the coming months, in some cases offering $1,000 signing bonuses and additional $100 bonuses for workers with proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations. Chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Chipotle have also begun offering wage increases and hiring bonuses to lure people back into the workforce.
Supply vs. demand
The laws of supply and demand suggest that companies competing for scarce workers will have to pay more to attract the help they need, which is good news for the labor force. However, the impact on wages might not be as pronounced as current levels of employer desperation suggest. That’s because while the new CDC guidance is likely to boost demand for labor, it could also have the countervailing effect of expanding supply, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, U.S.
It is important to remember that there are between 9 million and 11 million fewer jobs in the United States now than there would have been if the economy had not been sidelined by the pandemic last year. The workers who held those jobs may have disappeared from the workforce, but they haven’t disappeared. Essentially, as the danger of being infected by the coronavirus declines, multiple factors contribute to a more willing labor force. “What is also happening is that schools are opening up — that makes more people able to enter the workforce,” she said. “And more people are getting vaccinated. That means that more people feel safe reentering the workforce.”
A resurgent workforce
Gould and other economists believe that as the country approaches something like pre-pandemic normalcy, many of those workers will move back into actively seeking employment, easing the supply-demand mismatch currently plaguing U.S. firms. So while there may be some temporary efforts by employers to attract workers, it is by no means certain that a reinvigoration of the economy over the next few months will result in large or lasting gains for the labor force.
“Maybe for a time we’re seeing a bit of an increase in wages,” Gould said. “Particularly in leisure and hospitality — you’re not seeing it across the economy. If employers have to entice those workers in a tighter economy, they would certainly have to provide better working conditions, better wages, and better benefits. But it’s hard to see that there’s going to be that much pressure.” She said, “It’s hard to imagine a normal labor market when you have such a huge, huge number of unemployed, predominantly lower-wage workers, in these kinds of sectors. Employers will be able to find people to hire as those things are resolved.”
Another contributing factor to a growing workforce is likely to be the decision by governors in more than two dozen states to eliminate the federal unemployment insurance subsidy that has added $300 per week to the benefits that out-of-work Americans are receiving. Although there is no hard evidence the supplement is keeping a large percentage of workers on the sidelines, for a certain percentage of workers on the margins, the difference could be decisive in sending them back to the workforce. So any workers looking to leverage the current labor shortage for better pay or conditions may be in a position to do so for the time being, but that window is expected to start closing soon. (VOA/JC)
LONDON — A work by British street artist Banksy that sensationally shredded itself just after it sold at auction three years ago fetched almost 18.6 million pounds ($25.4 million) on Thursday — a record for the artist, and close to 20 times its pre-shredded price.
"Love is in the Bin" was offered by Sotheby's in London, with a presale estimate of 4 million pounds to 6 million pounds ($5.5 million to $8.2 million).
After a 10-minute bidding war involving nine bidders in the saleroom, online and by phone, it sold for three times the high estimate to an undisclosed buyer. The sale price of 18,582,000 pounds ($25,383,941) includes an auction-house fee known as a buyer's premium.
The piece consists of a half-shredded canvas in an ornate frame bearing a spray-painted image of a girl reaching for a heart-shaped red balloon.
When it last sold at Sotheby's in October 2018, the piece was known as "Girl With Balloon." Just as an anonymous female European buyer made the winning bid — for 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) — a hidden shredder embedded in the frame by Banksy whirred to life, leaving half the canvas hanging from the frame in strips.
Sotheby's received some criticism at the time for failing to spot the hidden shredder. But the 2018 buyer decided to go through with the purchase, a decision that was vindicated on Thursday as the work's price soared. Image source: voa
Sotheby's received some criticism at the time for failing to spot the hidden shredder. But the 2018 buyer decided to go through with the purchase, a decision that was vindicated on Thursday as the work's price soared.
The work quickly became one of Banksy's most famous, and Sotheby's sent it on tour to cities including New York and Hong Kong before Thursday's auction.
Auctioneer Oliver Barker joked that he was terrified to bring down the hammer to end Thursday's sale. There were jitters among Sotheby's staff to the last that Banksy had another surprise planned.
Alex Branczik, Sotheby's chairman of modern and contemporary art, called the shredding "one of the most ingenious moments of performance art this century."
Banksy, who has never confirmed his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England, and has become one of the world's best-known artists. His mischievous and often satirical images include two male police officers kissing, armed riot police with yellow smiley faces and a chimpanzee with a sign bearing the words, "Laugh now, but one day I'll be in charge."
Several of his works have sold for multiple millions at auction. In March, a Banksy mural honoring Britain's health workers, first painted on a hospital wall, sold for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million) at a Christie's auction, until Thursday a record for the artist.
"Girl With Balloon" was originally stenciled on a wall in east London and has been endlessly reproduced, becoming one of Banksy's best-known images. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Banksy, Artwork, Auction, Girl With Balloon, Sotheby
WASHINGTON — Suspected ransomware payments totaling $590 million were made in the first six months of this year, more than the $416 million reported for all of 2020, U.S. authorities said on Friday, as Washington put the cryptocurrency industry on alert about its role in combating ransomware attacks.
The U.S. Treasury Department said the average amount of reported ransomware transactions per month in 2021 was $102.3 million, with REvil/Sodinokibi, Conti, DarkSide, Avaddon, and Phobos the most prevalent ransomware strains reported.
President Joe Biden has made the government's cybersecurity response a top priority for the most senior levels of his administration following a series of attacks this year that threatened to destabilize U.S. energy and food supplies.
Avoiding U.S. sanctions
Seeking to stop the use of cryptocurrencies in the payment of ransomware demands, Treasury told members of the crypto community they are responsible for making sure they do not directly or indirectly help facilitate deals prohibited by U.S. sanctions.
Its new guidance said the industry plays an increasingly critical role in preventing those blacklisted from exploiting cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions.
The new guidance also advised cryptocurrency exchanges to use geolocation tools to block access from countries under U.S. sanctions. Image source: Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash
"Treasury is helping to stop ransomware attacks by making it difficult for criminals to profit from their crimes, but we need partners in the private sector to help prevent this illicit activity," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
The new guidance also advised cryptocurrency exchanges to use geolocation tools to block access from countries under U.S. sanctions.
Hackers use ransomware to take down systems that control everything from hospital billing to manufacturing. They stop only after receiving hefty payments, typically in cryptocurrency.
Large scale hacks
This year, gangs have hit numerous U.S. companies in large scale hacks. One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline led to temporary fuel supply shortages on the U.S. East Coast. Hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agricultural company, sparking fears of disruptions to grain harvesting in the Midwest.
The Biden administration last month unveiled sanctions against cryptocurrency exchange Suex OTC, S.R.O. over its alleged role in enabling illegal payments from ransomware attacks, officials said, in the Treasury's first such move against a cryptocurrency exchange over ransomware activity. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Cryptocurrency, United States, Hacking, Ransomware
The gregorian calendar has been adopted worldwide for the convenience of worldwide communications. There remain numerous lunisolar calendars that are followed in different parts of the world. The Hindu calendar is one of the various lunisolar calendars that is traditionally used in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, with further regional variations for social and Hindu religious purposes. It is used to determine the dates of Hindu festivals and when to observe the fasts.
The Hindu Calendar is based upon the motion of the moon. Each lunar year comprises twelve months. The lunar year comprises 354 days, compared to 365 ¼ days of the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar system i.e. the number of days earth takes to complete one revolution around the sun. Whereas in a lunar calendar a lunar month, is the time required for the moon to orbit once around the earth and pass through its complete cycle of phases. These months are formulated in accordance with the successive entrances of the sun into the 12 Hindu rashis or the signs of the zodiac derived from the 12 constellations marking the path of the sun.
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Studies of Vedic literature show that the knowledge of chronology (the science of Time) and chronometry (scientific measurement of Time) existed even during Vedic times. People during the Vedic age knew planetary motions, constellations, eclipses, solstices, seasons, etc. Thus, the Indian calendar was devised to serve the affairs of day-to-day living; it was allowed the freedom of being both lunar and solar. The Rig Veda, cites months being lunar, but year being lunisolar. This adjustment makes sure that the seasons, festivals, etc. retain their general position alongside the solar year. This is the reason why the Hindu festivals fall around the same time every year, for example, Diwali always falls between late October and early November.
The Hindu Calendar is based upon the motion of the moon. Wikimedia common
Lunar days in the Hindu calendar are known as the tithis, which are calculated scientifically using the difference of the longitudinal angle between the position of the sun and the moon. A singular tithi is defined by the time required for the longitude of the Moon to increase by 12° over the longitude of the sun. The length of a tithi can vary in lengths from about 20 hours to nearly 27 hours. In the Hindu calendar, each month is 29.53 tithis. Because the Hindu calendar is based on the motion of the moon one can figure out the date by looking at the moon. If the moon is new it is Amavasya, if the moon is full it is Poornima, and there are 15 days in between which one can figure out according to the phase of the moon. Since the lunar calendar is approximately 354 days long, adjustments are made to the lunar-based calendar every 2.5 years to keep it synchronized with the solar calendar, in which years are approximately 365 days long. To achieve the ideal synchronized calendar an additional month called an 'adhik' is added to the Hindu calendar every 31st month.
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The Hindu Calendar months and the Gregorian calendar months are as follows:
- Chaitra: March- April
- Vaishakh: April-May
- Jeth: May-June
- Ashadh: June-July
- Shravan: July-August
- Bhadarvo: August-September
- Aaso: September-October
- Kartik: October-November
- Margashirsa: November- December
- Posh: December- January
- Magha: January- February
- Falgun: February- March
Every three years, one of these months occurs twice in the same year.
Keywords: Calendar, lunar calendar, Hindu calendar, Vedic literature