Coronavirus quarantines coupled with mass migration due to deepening economic woes have boosted the number of children fending for themselves in Venezuela, child rights activists warn.Twelve-year-old Moises Bracamonte knows how to prepare fertiliser and water the black beans and corn that his family grows in Venezuela’s western Tachira state. He says the most difficult part of agricultural work is “breaking the ground” to sow the seeds without a tractor or an ox.
“Why is it difficult with a pick? Because the pick is heavy, and you have to do a lot of picking if you have a lot of seeds,” he said in an interview in the living room of his house in Cordero, a town some 800km (500 miles) southwest of Caracas.
With schools closed and no access to the internet, Moises and his 11-year-old brother Jesus help their father, also named Moises, 58, grow the food that provides for their family, something they almost never did before the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus quarantine measures have boosted the number of children in the workforce in Venezuela, according to child protection activists in the South American nation, which faces a deep economic crisis that has worsened in the last five years.
The child labour problem has been fuelled by a mass migration of more than five million Venezuelans that turned many children into breadwinners for their families, according to researchers.
“[The pandemic] has aggravated the risk factors for child labour,” said Carlos Trapani, coordinator of Cecodap, a non-profit group focused on violence prevention and children’s rights. The work ranges from toiling in garbage dumps to agricultural fields, he said, adding that children in rural areas are more likely to be dependent on public assistance and are at greater risk of being recruited by gangs.
As of 2020, at least 830,000 Venezuelan children and adolescents were living without one or both parents due to migration, according to a Cecodap report published in December.
“Sometimes there are no adults because they have left the country and teenagers end up in charge of the family group,” said Leonardo Rodriguez of Casas Don Bosco, which works with disadvantaged youth.
People walk on a busy commercial street amid a spike in infections of the coronavirus disease that has led the government to extend lockdown measures, in Caracas, Venezuela [File: Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters]Venezuela does not provide statistics on child labour.
The country’s information ministry and the state child protection agency IDENNA did not reply to requests for comment.
World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organisation, conducted a survey of 420 households in Caracas and the neighbouring state of Miranda in August 2020 to determine how the pandemic had affected the risks faced by children. Respondents were those aged 30 and over, of which 71 percent were women.
“The problems that put children at greater risk during the pandemic are associated with food shortages, increased child labour … domestic violence and neglect,” World Vision said in the study, which was released in November.
Since the onset of the pandemic, more children are doing housework for other families in exchange for money or food and more of them are begging and selling products such as water or cigarettes in the streets, according to the study.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the UN’s International Labour Organization estimated in June that the impact of the pandemic could push more than 300,000 Latin American children and adolescents into the workforce, adding to the 10.5 million who are already part of it.
Musk said on Twitter in April that SpaceX was going to put a ‘literal Dogecoin on the literal moon’.SpaceX will launch the “DOGE-1 Mission to the Moon” in the first quarter of next year, with Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company accepting the meme-inspired cryptocurrency Dogecoin as payment.
“SpaceX launching satellite Doge-1 to the moon next year – Mission paid for in Doge – 1st crypto in space – 1st meme in space”, Musk said in a tweet.
Geometric Energy Corporation announced the Dogecoin-funded mission earlier on Sunday, with the statement not disclosing the mission’s financial value.
Geometric’s website describes the firm as a private Canadian company originally founded to invent renewable energy technologies and since expanded into areas like space.
“DOGE has proven to be a fast, reliable, and cryptographically secure digital currency that operates when traditional banks cannot and is sophisticated enough to finance a commercial Moon mission in full,” Geometric said in the statement. “It has been chosen as the unit of account for all lunar business between SpaceX and Geometric Energy Corporation and sets precedent for future missions to the Moon and Mars.”
“This mission will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce”, SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero was quoted as saying in the statement released by Geometric Energy.
Musk said on Twitter in April that SpaceX was going to put a “literal Dogecoin on the literal moon”.
Dogecoin lost more than a third of its price on Sunday after Musk called it a ‘hustle’ during his guest-host spot on the Saturday Night Live comedy sketch TV show.
Musk’s tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency, which began as a social media joke, into a speculator’s dream.
On crypto data tracker CoinGecko.com, Dogecoin has jumped more than 800 percent over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalisation of $73bn. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.
Musk is also CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, which said in February it had bought $1.5bn worth of Bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride towards mainstream acceptance that sent Bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly $62,000.
Zhang Yiming built ByteDance Ltd. into the world’s most valuable private company via a string of blockbuster apps like TikTok that challenged Facebook and other incumbents on their own turf. His latest target: Alibaba.
The 38-year-old AI coding genius, searching for ByteDance’s next big act, has set his sights on China’s $1.7 trillion e-commerce arena. The co-founder has hired thousands of staff and roped in big-name sponsors like Xiaomi Corp. impresario Lei Jun to drive what he calls his next “major breakthrough” into global business — selling stuff to consumers via its addictive short videos and livestreams. That endeavor will test not just Zhang’s magic touch with app creation and ByteDance’s AI wizardry, but also investor reception ahead of one of the tech world’s most hotly anticipated IPOs.
His startup is already starting to make waves in an industry long controlled by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc. It sold about $26 billion worth of make-up, clothing and other merchandise in 2020, achieving in its maiden year what Alibaba’s Taobao took six years to accomplish. It’s shooting for more than $185 billion by 2022. Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese twin, is expected to contribute more than half of the firm’s $40 billion domestic ad sales this year, driven in part by e-commerce.
“Short video platforms have so much traffic that they can basically do any business,” said Shawn Yang, managing director of Blue Lotus Capital Advisors. “Douyin is not only in ads, but also live-streaming, e-commerce, local life services and search. This has a lot of room for imagination.”
A burgeoning e-commerce business could help the firm surpass its $250 billion valuation when it goes public, countering concerns around Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s internet behemoths. Preparations are said to be underway for a listing that would be one of the world’s most anticipated debuts. The startup is working with advisers on the offering and is choosing between Hong Kong and U.S. as the listing venue, people familiar with the matter have said. While ByteDance won’t handle sales or merchandise itself, it hopes to sell more ads to merchants, boost traffic and take a cut of business.
The internet giant is a late entrant to China’s social commerce scene, where influencers tout products to fans like a Gen-Z version of the Home Shopping Network. The format, pioneered by Alibaba as a marketing tool in 2016, developed a life of its own last year when Covid-19 spurred demand for at-home entertainment. Last year, Alibaba’s Taobao Live generated over 400 billion yuan ($62 billion) of gross merchandise value and Kuaishou Technology’s social platforms hosted 381 billion yuan of transactions, more than double Douyin’s.
ByteDance is counting on its artificial intelligence-driven, interest-based recommendations to help its e-commerce business catch up. In a splashy coming-out party for the one-year-old business last month, executives explained that the company intends to replicate its success with using AI algorithms to feed users content in online shopping. By scrolling an endless stream of social content, now connected with physical goods more than ever, Douyin users won’t be able to resist their impulse to buy, they said.
It’s “sort of similar to shopping on the street,” Bob Kang, Douyin’s 35-year-old e-commerce chief, told an audience of hundreds at the Guangzhou event. “As people get richer, they don’t go to shopping malls or boutique stores with specific things in mind, they just buy if they see something they like.”
Kang, a former Baidu Inc. engineer who was poached by ByteDance in 2017, is one of a slew of fast-rising young lieutenants tasked by Zhang to break new ground for the company. He was previously the tech lead for ByteDance’s Helo app, one of India’s most-used social platforms for sharing content like videos — until the South Asian nation shut it down along with dozens of Chinese apps last June on national security grounds.
Since Kang took over as e-commerce head, Douyin has banned live-streamers from selling items listed on third-party sites and invited them to open their own in-app stores, preventing rivals like Alibaba and JD.com Inc. from profiting off its traffic. He grew a team of customer support staff from just one hundred to about 1,900 to fight counterfeits and is hiring for more than 900 other positions to support the business. ByteDance also has an online matchmaking system that helps connect merchants with influencers and their agencies, and it’s set up physical bases to house live streamers and merchandise, similar to what Alibaba does.
The initiative gained traction from celebrity endorsers like Lei, the Xiaomi founder who has hosted livestreams promoting his Mi TVs and smartphones. Luo Yonghao, a once high-flying entrepreneur who had sought to challenge Apple Inc. with his smartphone business, is another top influencer, shifting more than $17 million of merchandise in his first-ever livestream on the platform.
Smaller merchants are following their lead, like Zhou Huang, who set up a Douyin storefront for her jewelry business in October, bypassing conventional platforms like Alibaba’s Taobao. Instead of stumping up hefty fees to platform operators for traffic, she’s managed to amass a fan base of about 20,000 by creating videos that offer practical tips like how to choose the right size when buying a bracelet online.
“It’s challenging for brand new merchants like me to attract customers on Taobao,” says Huang, whose Douyin store broke even after just three months. “Sometimes, people come to our store not for shopping, but for entertainment. But once we have enough visitors, we can make a sale.”
ByteDance is lending a hand. In Foshan, Huang and 200 other jewelry sellers are coached on everything from registering a store and marketing to shooting quality videos. Around-the-clock technical assistance is available: Huang says that whenever her livestream channel goes down, ByteDance technicians immediately come to the rescue.
Huang is one of about 1 million creators who have generated e-commerce sales on Douyin as of January, drawn to the platform’s 600 million-plus daily users. The platform — which brings in commission fees from merchants as a new revenue stream — aims to have more than a thousand brands this year join the likes of Suning.com Co. in setting up stores on Douyin, and that number could increase fivefold by 2022, the company predicted in an internal memo. GMV may grow to as much as 600 billion yuan this year before doubling to 1.2 trillion yuan in 2022.
ByteDance’s ambitions aren’t limited to Alibaba. The firm has also started to let users book hotels and restaurants through Douyin, offering lifestyle services similar to super-apps like Meituan and Tencent’s WeChat.
Douyin’s e-commerce foray in China may offer a roadmap for TikTok, which has begun testing the waters in online shopping through tie-ups with WalMart Inc. and Canadian e-commerce firm Shopify Inc. Back in December, Zhang told global employees that e-commerce, when combined with live-streaming and short videos, offers an even bigger opportunity outside China, according to attendees who asked not to be identified. The company has also been quietly building a team of engineers in Singapore to grow TikTok’s nascent e-commerce operations.
ByteDance’s push into online shopping comes as its other businesses face headwinds. To grow video gaming, ByteDance has been buying development studios but churning out blockbuster hits like Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s Honor of Kings could take years and China has previously cracked down on the industry in fits and starts. In online tutoring, regulators have sought to rein in excess marketing and competition is fierce against a slew of deep-pocketed startups like Alibaba-backed Zuoyebang.
In April, Zhang’s firm was one of 34 corporations ordered by the antitrust watchdog to conduct internal investigations and rectify excesses. And though its payment service has only just gotten off the ground, ByteDance and its peers were slapped with wide-ranging restrictions on their fast-growing financial operations following a meeting with regulators including the central bank last month.
But the same scrutiny could help the TikTok owner make inroads into China e-commerce, the largest online marketplace in the world. Alibaba has held off rivals JD.com and Pinduoduo Inc. over the past decade allegedly through practices like forcing merchants into exclusive arrangements. Regulators have since levied a record $2.8 billion fine on Jack Ma’s flagship firm and made eradicating “pick one from two” one of the main goals of its antitrust campaign, creating room for up-and-comers like ByteDance.
For now, the biggest and most immediate boost from ByteDance’s expansion into e-commerce is in advertising revenue, which still accounts for the bulk of its earnings. As the number of merchants on Douyin increases, so has their marketing spending within the platform. The firm projects that e-commerce may surpass gaming to become the biggest contributor to ad sales. At rival Kuaishou, merchants contributed about 20%, the company said in March.
“It’s more about getting greater share of advertising spending from brands that would otherwise be spending money on platforms like Alibaba,” said Michael Norris, a senior analyst with Shanghai-based market research firm AgencyChina. “This is where the threat to Alibaba comes from.
This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 83%. (I’m a bot)At least 10 Japanese companies have had direct business ties with firms affiliated with Myanmar’s military or have taken part in projects that could be sources of income for the junta, a Kyodo News investigative team found recently.The results of the probe were released Saturday amid concerns that funding and business deals by Japanese state-run and private entities may be aiding human rights abuses by Myanmar’s military government, while calls are growing in the United States and European countries, as well as from shareholders, to sever ties with the junta.The probe targeted Japanese companies listed by the United Nations and international human rights organizations as having ties to the Myanmar military.Extended Summary | FAQ | Feedback | Top keywords: military#1 Myanmar#2 firm#3 company#4 Japanese#5
The blaze, which erupted in a distillation unit, was caused by a leak in a pumping station, state media reported.Syrian firefighters extinguished a major blaze on Sunday that engulfed areas of its main Homs refinery in the west of the nation.
The fire started in a distillation unit because of a leak in a pumping station, state media reported without elaborating.
State television showed live footage of flames shooting out of parts of the refinery with black smoke plumes in the distance as firefighters battled the blaze.
SANA, the state news agency, citing a local firefighting official, reported the fire was later brought under control without causing casualties.
“The cooling process is now underway. There are no casualties,” chief of the Homs firefighting brigade, Hassan Amar, said.
In late April, Syria’s oil ministry said a fire erupted in an oil tanker on its coast after what it said was a suspected drone attack.
There was a large fire and blast at Homs refinery in January involving a nearby crude oil loading station and dozens of trucks that transport petroleum products across the country.
Both Homs refinery and Banias on the Mediterranean coast have faced supply shortages in recent months because of erratic supplies of Iranian crude to the sanctions-hit country, which relies mainly on Tehran for its energy needs.
Syria has for years faced gasoline and fuel shortages, forcing it to ration supplies distributed across government-held areas and to apply several rounds of steep price hikes.
The European Union and India have agreed to resume stalled free trade negotiations and seek closer cooperation to combat climate change at a virtual summit, as concerns about China bring Brussels and New Delhi closer.
Partly overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis in India, the meeting on Saturday brought together Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all of the bloc’s 27 leaders for the first time in eight years in a sign of the EU’s renewed interest in the Indo-Pacific region.
Past EU-India summits have involved only the Indian prime minister and the EU’s chief executive and chairman.
“We agreed to resume negotiations for a … trade agreement which would respond to the current challenges,” EU and Indian leaders said in a statement after the talks, adding that for talks to succeed, both sides had to solve market access issues.
In parallel, EU and India will start talks on a separate investment protection deal and an accord on geographical indications – famous brand names often linked to the places they are made, from France’s champagne to India’s Darjeeling tea.
“Between the EU and India there is a close relationship but also a lot of untapped potential,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “The most untapped potential is in trade and investment.”
China’s rise from a benign trading partner to a rival power with a growing military presence has alarmed the West and its allies in the Indo-Pacific, where Brussels wants more influence.
“We agreed that, as the world’s two largest democracies, the EU and India have a common interest in ensuring security, prosperity and sustainable development in a multi-polar world,” the joint statement said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the resumption of talks.
“The negotiations have also stalled many times and that is why I am so glad that they have now been resumed,” she said after an informal EU summit.
She said she expected work would move ahead at a “much faster pace”.
EU-India trade talks were frozen in 2013 over differences including tariff reductions, patent protection, data security and the right of Indian professionals to work in Europe.
Today’s meeting was a milestone in 🇪🇺🇮🇳 relations.
We agreed that we will resume the Free Trade Agreement negotiations!
In parallel, we will launch negotiations on an EU-India investment protection agreement & on Geographic Indications. pic.twitter.com/FwA35u4G6K
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 8, 2021
Competition with China
The bloc’s leaders, at an EU summit in Porto in Portugal, faced pressure over the Modi government’s crackdown on dissent, with civil society groups including Amnesty International holding a candlelit vigil outside the summit venue.
Ahead of the talks, Amnesty International called on EU leaders to push Modi to “live up” to shared values.
“An intolerance of dissent has been a hallmark of Prime Minister Modi’s time in office,” Eve Geddie, the rights group’s EU office director said.
A 2020 study by the European Parliament put the benefits of a trade deal for the EU with India at up to 8.5 billion euros ($10.2bn), although the estimate was made before the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc.
The EU and India also agreed to build joint infrastructure projects around the world, notably in Africa, to be described as a connectivity partnership.
The deal follows an accord between the EU and Japan in 2019, seeking an alternative to China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure strategy that raised suspicion in the West and Tokyo.
Both sides also pledged increased cooperation to limit climate change. The statement said the EU and India would hold meetings to collaborate in renewable energy, energy storage technology and modernising power grids.
There has been no shortage of headline-grabbing business and economic stories this week.
Once again, the pandemic topped the global news agenda with India’s devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections. But there was also good news: United States President Joe Biden’s administration joined dozens of other nations in backing a plan to waive patent protections on COVID vaccines and boost the global supply of jabs, particularly for less-developed countries.
We’ve rounded up the numbers to know this week, including a sobering read on the labour market recovery in the US; an uplifting (literally) milestone from private space company SpaceX; a high-profile divorce announcement from two of the biggest names in philanthropy; and plenty of crypto-mania, including a regulatory crackdown that came too late for some Turks.
So before you unplug for the weekend, pour yourself another cup of coffee and give these in-depth reads a scroll.
The number of countries to have thrown their support behind a proposal at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
In a move described by World Health Organization as “monumental,” the Biden administration announced this week that it too would back the plan.
Al Jazeera’s Virginia Pietromarchi breaks down what you need to know about the battle over COVID vaccine IP protections – and what’s at stake in the global fight against the virus – right here.
The number of new COVID-19 infections India has averaged each day for the past seven days, bringing the total number of reported cases to 21.4 million.
“The spiralling numbers have overwhelmed the country’s creaking healthcare system, leaving millions scrambling for medicines, oxygen cylinders and beds,” writes Al Jazeera’s Megha Bahree.
Into that void have stepped volunteers, including an all-women network of 50 people who have “divided themselves into subgroups to tackle various requests – such as those for beds, home intensive-care setups and oxygen – and to scour for locations for COVID-19 tests,” often for complete strangers. Read the inspiring stories of Indians who are stepping in to help here.
The plunge in value (a little more than 10 percent, actually) of the Turkish lira against the dollar since the start of 2021, prompting some in Turkey to bet instead on red-hot cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
But hundreds of Turkish investors ended up losing their shirts instead after two cryptocurrency exchanges in the country collapsed within days of each other, prompting regulators there to tighten the noose on the sector.
But for those who lost their savings, the crackdown comes too late, as Al Jazeera’s Andrew Wilks reports here.
The number of seats available on Blue Origin’s first commercial flight into suborbital space, slated for July 20.
Jeff Bezos’s space firm announced on Wednesday it was ready to take paying passengers — and opened up online bidding for the final seat on its inaugural flight.
Not to be outdone, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the fifth test flight of its Starship on the same day.
The two space-obsessed billionaires have made no secret they’re far from BFFs. They are even in the middle of a Moon feud. Al Jazeera’s Amy Thompson has that story here.
Massive windows on the Blue Origin’s crew capsule are designed to treat passengers to stunning views as they spend roughly 10 minutes floating in zero gravity before returning to Earth [Credit: Blue Origin]
The number of jobs the US economy added in April, and a massive disappointment, given that many Wall Street analysts were expecting roughly one million jobs to have been created last month.
And the sluggish labour market recovery isn’t hitting everyone equally. In April, the share of women over the age of 20 in the US who were either gainfully employed or actively looking for a job fell to 56.2 percent from 56.6 percent the months before.
Women have quit their jobs in droves during the pandemic as they’ve been forced to shoulder the brunt of a larger childcare burden resulting from remote schooling and daycare centre closures.
That means women, especially working mothers, could lose years of progress in the workplace, which is also bad for companies and the economy because diversity and inclusion boost the bottom line.
So will the pandemic’s disruptions result in woker workplaces for mothers? Al Jazeera’s Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath explores the debate here.
The high price Dogecoin hit this week, part of the Shiba Inu-themed cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise since the start of the year.
A mix of daytrader FOMO and high-profile shoutouts from the likes of Elon Musk, who is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend, have helped fuel a spectacular rally.
But critics say the joke coin could end in tears for less savvy investors. Woof. Al Jazeera’s Ben Piven breaks down what you need to know about Doge mania here.
The net assets of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2019, making it the largest private philanthropic foundation in the US and one of the largest in the world.
News that Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing after 27 years of marriage sent shockwaves through the world of philanthropy this week. The Gates are among the world’s wealthiest people, and their divorce is likely to entail a complicated division of their substantial assets.
That process seems to have already begun: following the announcement, Bill Gates’s company transferred $1.8bn in equities to Melinda.
Canada’s labour market recovery hit a major snag in April, as the economy shed 207,100 jobs.Canada’s job recovery hit a snag in April as a third wave of lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions led to fresh employment losses.
The country shed 207,100 jobs last month, Statistics Canada reported Friday from Ottawa, partially erasing large gains over the previous two months. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had predicted a drop of 150,000. The unemployment rate rose to 8.1% in April, from 7.5% a month earlier. The rate was below 6% before the pandemic.
Despite the setback, analysts expect a quick rebound as early as June once containment measures have been lifted with the economy back on track toward full recovery — as was the case after previous lockdowns. The bulk of the losses were limited to pandemic-exposed sectors, like retail, food and accommodation, a sign that the slowdown isn’t broad-based.
“Today’s jobs data doesn’t change the structural backdrop for the Canadian economic recovery,” Simon Harvey, a senior foreign exchange analyst at Monex Canada, said by email.
Canada’s economy remains about half a million jobs shy of pre-pandemic levels. The Canadian dollar was little changed after the report. The yield on Canada’s 10-year benchmark bond dipped to 1.49% as of 9:30 a.m. in Toronto, from a close of 1.514% on Thursday.
The U.S. Labor Department also released soft jobs data Friday that were even more disappointing. U.S. payrolls increased by just 266,000, versus estimates for a 1 million gain.
“Today is a concerning day,” Frances Donald, global chief economist and head of macro strategy at Manulife Investment Management, told BNN Bloomberg television. The U.S.’s scant job creation is a sign of possible future headwinds because Canada has trailed the U.S.’s growth trajectory by six to nine months, she said.
Overall, Canada’s labor market has recovered more quickly than in the U.S. It’s one of the key reasons why the Bank of Canada has indicated it’s prepared to start paring back its stimulus before the Federal Reserve, though the soft jobs data on both sides of the border could prompt a rethink on the pace of withdrawal.
The Bank of Canada curbed its purchases of Canadian government bonds in April, and is expected to do so again in coming months as the recovery accelerates.
“April will be a very weak month for the economy,” Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Capital Markets, said by email. “Those who thought the Bank of Canada might taper again in July might have a rethink.”
Rising virus cases due to a combination of rapidly spreading variants and a vaccine rollout plagued by delays and confusion prompted Canadian authorities in recent weeks to reintroduce strict containment measures that hit jobs in close-contact sectors.
Friday’s jobs numbers suggest a tough start for the nation’s economy in the second quarter. Hours worked — which is closely correlated to output — fell 2.7% in April, the biggest monthly drop since the depths of the recession. April also saw the first drop in full time employment — down 129,400 — in a full year.
Still, the country has a strong track record of bouncing back after prior waves of the virus, bolstering confidence it will do the same again.
“The good news is that the curve is bending in some regions of the country and vaccinations are picking up pace, both of which should help the labor market begin to recover as the summer gets rolling.,” Royce Mendes, an economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said by email. “Evidence from the recoveries after past waves suggest job growth can show up relatively quickly after virus cases are brought under control.”
(Updates with details throughout.)–With assistance from David S. Joachim.
US Justice Department argues evictions risk spreading COVID-19, as the federal ban on most evictions remains in place for now.A federal judge has temporarily stayed an order that found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exceeded its authority when it imposed a federal eviction moratorium to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The stay, issued late on Wednesday by a federal judge in Washington, DC, came after the Justice Department filed an emergency appeal in the case. The administrative stay means there will be no immediate effect on the ban, which was extended in March to go through the end of June.
“Scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone,” Brian Boynton, acting assistant attorney general, said in a statement.
US District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington, DC, said issuing the stay was not based on the merits of the Justice Department’s argument but instead is meant to give the court time to consider the motion and any potential opposition.
Opponents of the moratorium, including the National Association of Realtors, welcomed the judge’s initial ruling and said the solution was rental assistance, not a ban on evictions.
The eviction ban, initially put in place last year, provides protection for renters out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during the pandemic would further spread the highly contagious virus.
Proponents of the ban argue it is necessary since the pandemic is still a threat and so many people are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. Nearly four million people in the US said they faced eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
Nationwide data on eviction proceedings has been inconsistent according to researchers at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, but a recent study suggested more than 1.5 million evictions were prevented in 2020 by government bans.
Eviction moratoria prevented 1.55 million evictions in 2020, a finding that’s published in @SociusJournal today.
This raises the question – why couldn’t we prevent not only 1.55 million, but every eviction that happens every year? pic.twitter.com/hhjVoyBzAq
— emily honda lemmerman (@e_lemmerman) April 28, 2021
Judge Friedrich had said on Wednesday the “plain language” of a federal law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the response to the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, blocked the CDC’s moratorium.
The National Association of Realtors welcomed the judge’s decision, saying a better solution would be to help tenants pay rent, taxes and utility bills.
“With rental assistance secured, the economy strengthening and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to continue a blanket, nationwide eviction ban,” the group said.
As part of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed earlier this year, the US Congress provided $30bn in rental and housing assistance for people at risk of eviction or losing their homes.
Friedrich’s initial decision, when it takes effect, would provide relief for landlords struggling with delinquent tenants and vacancies. The moratorium had been scheduled to lapse on June 30.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request by the Reuters news service for comment.
At least 43 states and Washington, DC, have imposed their own temporary halts on residential or business evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, though the protections are far from uniform.
A separate eviction and foreclosure moratorium for federally financed housing from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development expires on June 30.
The CDC moratorium was issued last September, during former President Donald Trump’s administration, and had been extended three times, most recently in March under President Joe Biden’s administration.
An estimated 200,000 crew are stuck on commercial vessels globally amid attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.Unilever Plc and other big retail brands are among consumer giants adopting a toolkit to audit their shipping supply chains in an effort to help bring seafarers stuck on commercial vessels back home and eliminate human rights risks.
The voluntary initiative, which launches later this week, calls on companies that put cargo on shipping containers to address problems stemming from government-imposed restrictions on crew changes. It’s estimated more than 200,000 crew around the world are still stuck on vessels beyond the expiration of their contracts and well past globally accepted safety standards.
The program — part of a project by the UN Global Compact — is also expected to be endorsed by the powerful Consumer Goods Forum, a body that counts hundreds of the world’s biggest consumer companies as members, including Coca-Cola Co., Marks & Spencer Group Plc and Nestle SA.
“Businesses, from multinational firms to global brands, have a responsibility to respect the human rights of seafarers as workers along their supply chain,” said Sturla Henriksen, a UN Global Compact special adviser for sea issues. “There is a vast gap between business aspiration and business action on human rights. This tool seeks to address that.”
Any company that puts any sort of cargo on ships will be encouraged to use the checklist, which includes asking ship owners and those who charter space on vessels to support crew changes and ensure clauses aren’t being added to contracts that prevent crew relief.
Earlier, Bloomberg reporting found that some big commodities firms are avoiding hiring certain vessels or imposing conditions that block crew changes to relieve exhausted seafarers. Brands are also being encouraged to work with the union and shipping chamber to request a detailed audit of their supply chain — down to the ships that are being used to ferry their cargo as part of the human rights due diligence initiative.
Unilever, which like Bloomberg was able to review the program’s details before its launch, plans to adopt the toolkit, according to Chief Supply Chain Officer Marc Engel. The company last year spearheaded a letter urging world leaders to help stuck seafarers. This latest initiative spells out practical, concrete steps that all businesses can take to make sure their sea logistics address human rights flags, Engel said.
Engel said the tool kit should prompt some frank discussions with suppliers as well as encourage dialog around costs within the shipping industry, which is fragmented and often employs a network of ship owners, charterers and brokers.
Since the pandemic, some countries and their governments have either stopped or limited access for ships to conduct seafarer changes in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid. A Bloomberg investigation published in September found numerous violations of international maritime law designed to protect seafarers, including allegations of unpaid overtime and insufficient medical attention. There’s fear governments may again tighten restrictions as countries try to contain mutant virus strains.
The International Chamber of Shipping, the industry association that represents ship owners, is on board with the new initiative, said Secretary General Guy Platten. “The crew change crisis is far from over,” he said. The initiative also calls on companies to put pressure on governments to support the industry, which Platten says will help.
Some of those brands that have made the effort to dig into their supply chains have been surprised.
Fashion retailer TFG London conducted an investigation of its supply chain in 2020. It asked its shipping partners for a detailed map of the logistics network at sea and sought help from the seafarers’ union to undertake welfare checks on some of the ships carrying its cargo. The company found that five vessels didn’t have agreements with the union.
“We felt powerless to act as we didn’t have meaningful tools or leverage to respond to this crisis,” said Francesca Mangano, TFG London’s corporate social responsibility and sustainability executive. “This tool is set to drive change.”