But it’s not clear how much of the crime is organized. Matthew Fernandez, 49, who works at a King Soopers in Broomfield, Colo., said he was stunned when he watched a thief walk out with a cart full of makeup, laundry detergent and meat and drive off in a Mercedes-Benz S.U.V.

“The ones you think are going to steal are not the ones doing it,” he said. “From high class to low class, they are all doing it.”

Ms. Barry often gives money to the homeless people who come into her store, so they can buy food. She also knows the financial pressures on people with lower incomes as the cost of living soars.

When people steal, she said, the company can write off the loss. But those losses mean less money for workers.

“That is part of my raise and benefits that is walking out the door,” she said. “That is money we deserve.”

Ella Koeze contributed reporting.

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Spain turns to Africa, lobbies NATO, allies over Ukraine-driven migration

  • Spain hosts NATO summit this week
  • Spain likely to push for more shared intelligence, sources
  • Families making dangerous crossings from Africa to Canaries
  • Morocco clamping down on migration after deal with Spain
  • Migrant deaths in Melilla highlight dangers, NGOs say

MADRID/LAS PALMAS, June 27 (Reuters) – Spain is shifting its foreign policy towards Africa while lobbying the EU and NATO for support to address migration from the continent, aggravated by the Ukraine invasion, two senior government officials and two diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Spain will use a NATO summit in Madrid this week to press its case, and is likely to ask for increased intelligence sharing by the alliance including on issues related to migration, the diplomats said.

Even before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez had revived a strategy mothballed by previous governments of working with African partners to contain migration and to tackle root causes such as instability and climate change, two officials close to him said.

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That drive has now taken on more urgency, they added.

“We are looking for good relations with all the neighbours around us and jointly managing phenomena that no one, not even the most powerful state on the planet, can deal with on its own,” Spain’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares told Reuters. He declined to give details.

Spain, its southern neighbours and EU officials are increasingly alarmed that a hunger crisis worsened by the disruption of Ukraine’s grain exports will trigger chaotic migration from the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions of Africa, with numbers already on the rise this year, the sources said.

On Friday, at least 23 migrants died after clashes with Moroccan security forces when around 2,000 people tried to cross into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla. Morocco in recent weeks has toughened containment measures following Spain’s new diplomatic approach. read more

Migration by sea to the Canary Islands, another risky but popular entrance point into Europe, jumped 51% between January and May this year compared to last year, Spanish data showed, with the busiest period of the year still to come.

Reuters Graphics

Spain is used as a gateway to Europe by migrants from other continents, including Africa and Latin America. Although it is largely a transit country, previous jumps in arrivals have put its border resources under intense pressure.

Albares said the new strategy, which has seen Sanchez visit nine African countries since last year, was designed to keep migrants from danger.

“We cannot allow the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, to become enormous watery tombs where every year thousands of human beings die when all they aspire to is a better life,” Albares said.

Human rights groups and migration advocates, however, say Spain’s quest to outsource enforcement puts vulnerable people in the hands of security forces in countries with a history of abuses and heavy-handed policing.

The deaths in Morocco “are a tragic symbol of European policies of externalizing the borders of the EU,” groups including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights and Spanish migration charity Walking Borders said in a joint statement on Saturday.

Sanchez’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

INTELLIGENCE SHARING

In a sign of its growing anxiety, Madrid hopes to secure a commitment at the NATO summit to better policing of “hybrid threats,” including the possibility irregular migration is used as a political pressure tactic by hostile actors. It will also lobby NATO to dedicate resources to securing the alliance’s Southern Flank. read more

Madrid will ask NATO for “allied intelligence sharing,” including on issues related to migration, a senior Spanish diplomatic source and an EU diplomat said. This could formalise and expand on existing intelligence cooperation.

At the summit, NATO will reinforce cooperation efforts with southern countries and agree a package for Mauritania to help “the fight against terrorism, border control and strengthening its defence and security,” NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told newspaper El Pais at the weekend.

The expanded NATO presence could see Mauritania, which works closely with Spain, help coordinate with other countries in the Sahel region, said Felix Arteaga, senior defence analyst with Madrid’s Elcano Institute, a think tank.

Foreign Minister Albares declined to give details on how NATO could expand operations in Africa.

NATO sources and academics signal that Spain’s proposals will face resistance amid conflicting needs from countries such as Russia’s vulnerable neighbours in the Baltic States. read more

Spain says the growing influence of Russia in unstable countries including the Central African Republic and Sahel nation Mali risks fuelling insecurity to the south of Europe. read more

Citing the presence of Russian military contractors in Mali, the blockade of grains exports from Ukraine and Moscow ally Belarus’ policy last year of allowing migrants into the EU, Madrid says President Vladmir Putin could use migration and hunger as part of his war effort.

“Putin wants to use food crisis to orchestrate a repeat of migration crisis of the magnitude we have seen in 2015-16 to destabilise the EU,” one European Union official told Reuters.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions that limit its own exports of grains for a jump in global prices.

Russia’s foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

FUNDING FOR THE SAHEL

In recent weeks, Sanchez has held a flurry of bilateral meetings with heads of state and officials from Nigeria, Morocco and Mauritania to discuss economic cooperation, human trafficking, capacity building for controlling borders and the fight against terrorism.

In June, the government sent to parliament a new development bill to channel funding to the Sahel. The legislation would mark a significant expansion of existing funding for migration control to eight African countries.

Italy too has sought to enlist support, with the government earlier hosting a meeting of southern European nations to push for a post-Ukraine migration policy that distributes arrival numbers more evenly throughout Europe. read more

People are already on the move. Data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shows departures from the Sahelian nation of Niger in the first four months of this year have risen by 45%, and from neighbouring Mali they have doubled.

The rise has not yet been reflected by arrivals to European shores.

A Reuters review of data from European border and coast guard agency Frontex showed migrant numbers arriving in the Canary Islands from the Sahel region of Africa and below it, from Guinea, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, rose in the first five months of 2022 compared to the same period last year.

Whole families are increasingly making the trip to the Atlantic islands in fragile rubber dinghies from as far south as Senegal and Guinea, citing insecurity, climate change and, in more recent cases, high food prices, said Jose Antonio Rodríguez Verona, a Red Cross official in the Canary Islands.

Morocco remains the biggest origin country and transit point for migrants to Spain, with record numbers of Moroccans reaching the Canary Islands in January and February this year.

Those figures however fell by 85% in March and April from the previous two months, according to figures from Frontex, after Spain changed its policy on the disputed Western Sahara to align with Morocco’s stance. Albares has attributed the drop directly to the change of policy.

Reuters Graphics

“I would like to thank the extraordinary cooperation we have with the Kingdom of Morocco,” Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez said on Saturday, after the deaths in Melilla, which he blamed on human trafficking gangs.

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Reporting by Belen Carreno, Joan Faus and Borja Suarez, additional reporting Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Emma Farge in Geneva, Ed McAllister in Dakar, Ahmed El Jechtimi in Rabat, editing by Aislinn Laing and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Vylla Home Introduces Military to Real Estate Career Professional Program

ALISO VIEJO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–​Vylla Home, the nationwide real estate brokerage of The Carrington Companies, recently introduced the Military to Real Estate Career Professional Program, which provides Veterans who are transitioning from military service with support that is integral to achieving a thriving career as an agent with Vylla Home.

“Carrington’s commitment to Veterans is ongoing and unwavering,” says Bruce Rose, CEO and Founder of The Carrington Companies. “Vylla Home’s Military to Real Estate Career Professional program is another way we can honor the heroes who served our country with distinction to preserve the greater freedoms we have long held dear.” Mr. Rose notes that the Signature Programs of the Carrington Charitable Foundation provide Mobility, Stability, Purpose and Prosperity for our Veteran community. Mr. Rose adds: “This program supports Purpose and Prosperity for those transitioning out of military service.”

The Carrington Companies and the company nonprofit Carrington Charitable Foundation (CCF) have long been committed to supporting Veterans causes. From building homes for catastrophically injured Vets and their families through the Carrington House Program, to ongoing support of such Veteran-focused nonprofits as the Veterans Airlift Command and the Travis Mills Foundation, Carrington also has created the Senior Management Associate (SMA) program to introduce graduates of The Honor Foundation’s program, which focuses on career training for former U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) members, to work and life at Carrington and Vylla. Now in its initial stages, The Carrington Companies are working with The Honor Foundation to provide a career development curriculum designed to meet the needs of the more than 200,000 Veterans who leave military service each year. Most recently, Carrington and CCF the Gold Star Family Housing Initiative to retire the mortgages of struggling Gold Star families – the immediate family of a fallen service member who has died while serving during a time of conflict.

The transition from a military to civilian career can be challenging. Some Veterans experience anxiety, confusion and self-doubt post-military as they re-enter the civilian job market, after having spent most of their working lives in the military. Most importantly, Veterans leave behind the camaraderie and cohesion that successfully binds our military units. Vylla Home understands this, and exemplifies a culture that embraces solidarity, support and a sense of belonging that is critical – not only to our men and women in uniform, but to any successful organization.

This program provides Veterans with an opportunity to pursue their passion to become a REALTOR® at Vylla Home. In addition to financial assistance, the program provides foundational mentorship, guidance and resources elemental to starting a successful career as an agent. Vylla Home will take time to learn each Veteran’s needs on a case-by-case basis to determine what the company can do to help align their individual goals to its overall organizational mission. Designed to fit each Veteran’s needs, three tiers are offered for candidates depending on their needs: be it a side gig, part-time or full-time career in real estate.

“We are honored to offer such a program to our nation’s Veterans, enabling them to become successful real estate agents,” says Kat Cox, Senior Management Associate for Carrington. “Not only with financial assistance, but, more importantly, with the mentorship, leadership and camaraderie similar to what they experienced while serving in uniform.”

The support within Vylla Home for the Military to Real Estate Career Professional Program was already in place, as the drive to develop the initiative came from agents across the country who were committed to serving the Veteran community. Vylla Home agents’ determination and enthusiasm helped the new program quickly get up and running, which is a natural complement to the Veteran-focused culture and leadership of The Carrington Companies. The organization’s ecosystem is well-suited for military Veterans, as it is positioned to offer the needed all-encompassing foundational support, training opportunities, customized mentorships and compensation plans for former service members who have chosen a career in real estate.

“The best real estate agents are those who have a service mindset,” says Chad Ruggles, SVP for Vylla Home. “They’re not just there to help facilitate transactions. They’re providing a service that helps a person sell a house, buy another house and coordinate that service. A lot of Veterans who are service-minded become great agents, because the best agents aren’t thinking about themselves. They’re thinking about the client; and that mindset is a natural fit for us.”

More information about the Vylla’s Military to Real Estate Career Professional program is available at vyllahome.com/veterans. Veterans who are interested in the program can send an email to veteranprograms@vylla.com.

For more information on Vylla Home services, please visit vyllahome.com, or call (877) 331-2773.

The Carrington Companies

Carrington is a holding company whose primary business of asset management includes single-family mortgages and real estate transactions. Collectively, the businesses are vertically and horizontally integrated, and provide a broad range of real estate services encompassing nearly all aspects of single family residential real estate transactions in the United States. To read more visit: www.carringtonhc.com.

Through its collective associates made up of Carrington leaders and employees, the company’s nonprofit organization, Carrington Charitable Foundation, contributes to the community through causes that reflect the interests of Carrington Associates. For more information about Carrington Charitable Foundation, and the organizations and programs it supports through specific fundraising efforts, please visit: carringtoncf.org.

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White House Struggles to Talk About Inflation, the ‘Problem From Hell’

WASHINGTON — President Biden was at a private meeting discussing student debt forgiveness this year when, as happens uncomfortably often these days, the conversation came back to inflation.

“He said with everything he does, Republicans are going to attack him and use the word ‘inflation,’” said Representative Tony Cárdenas, Democrat of California, referring to Mr. Biden’s meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in April. Mr. Cárdenas said Mr. Biden was aware he would be attacked over rising prices “no matter what issue we’re talking about.”

The comment underscored how today’s rapid price increases, the fastest since the 1980s, pose a glaring political liability that looms over every major policy decision the White House makes — leaving Mr. Biden and his colleagues on the defensive as officials discover that there is no good way to talk to voters about inflation.

The administration has at times splintered internally over how to discuss price increases and has revised its inflation-related message several times as talking points fail to resonate and new data comes in. Some Democrats in Congress have urged the White House to strike a different — and more proactive — tone ahead of the November midterm elections.

increased by 8.3 percent in the year through April, and data this week is expected to show inflation at 8.2 percent in May. Inflation averaged 1.6 percent annual gains in the five years leading up to the pandemic, making today’s pace of increase painfully high by comparison. A gallon of gas, one of the most tangible household costs, hit an average of $4.92 this week. Consumer confidence has plummeted as families pay more for everyday purchases and as the Fed raises interest rates to cool the economy, which increases the risk of a recession.

a series of confidential memos sent to Mr. Biden last year by one of his lead pollsters, John Anzalone. Inflation has only continued to fuel frustration among voters, according to a separate memo compiled by Mr. Anzalone’s team last month, which showed the president’s low approval rating on the economy rivaling only his approach to immigration.

wrote in a tweet that went viral this weekend.

The White House knows it is in a tricky position, and the administration’s approach to explaining inflation has evolved over time. Officials spent the early stages of the current price burst largely describing price pressures as temporary.

When it became clear that rising costs were lasting, administration officials began to diverge internally on how to frame that phenomenon. While it was clear that much of the upward pressure on prices came from supply chain shortages exacerbated by continued waves of the coronavirus, some of it also tied back to strong consumer demand. That big spending had been enabled, in part, by the government’s stimulus packages, including direct checks to households, expanded unemployment insurance and other benefits.

Some economists in the White House have begun to emphasize that inflation was a trade-off: To the extent that Mr. Biden’s stimulus spending spurred more inflation, it also aided economic growth and a faster recovery.

have claimed credit for strong economic growth.

“Some have a curious obsession with exaggerating impact of the Rescue Plan while ignoring the degree high inflation is global,” Gene Sperling, a senior White House adviser overseeing the implementation of the stimulus package, wrote on Twitter last week, adding that the law “has had very marginal impact on inflation.”

Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, acknowledged in an interview last week that there were some disagreements among White House economic officials when it came to how to talk about and respond to inflation, but he portrayed that as a positive — and as something that is not leading to any kind of dysfunction.

“If there wasn’t healthy disagreement, debate and people feeling comfortable bringing issues and ideas to the table, then I think we would be not serving the president and the public interest well,” he said.

He also pushed back on the idea that the administration was deeply divided on the March 2021 package’s aftereffects, saying in a separate emailed comment that “there is agreement across the administration that many factors contributed to inflation, and that inflation has been driven by elevated demand and constrained supply across the globe.”

How to portray the Biden administration’s stimulus spending is far from the only challenge the White House faces. As price increases last, Democrats have grappled with how to discuss their plans to combat them.

deficit reduction as a way to lower inflation and arguing that Republicans have a bad plan to deal with rising costs. Mr. Biden regularly acknowledges the pain that higher prices are causing and has emphasized that the problem of taming inflation rests largely with the Fed, an independent entity whose work he has promised not to interfere with.

The administration has also highlighted that inflation is widespread globally, and that the United States is better off than many other nations.

The renewed messaging comes as Mr. Biden and his top aides have grown increasingly concerned about the public’s negative views of the economy, according to an administration official. Economists within the administration are more sidelined when it comes to setting the tone on issues like inflation than in previous White Houses, another person familiar with the discussions said.

So far, the talking points have done little to change public perception or to mollify concerns on Capitol Hill, where some Democrats are pushing for the White House to find a more compelling story.

“There has to be more of a laser focus on the economy, a bolder message, a clearer story,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who wrote a New York Times opinion piece last week saying that Democrats need a more ambitious plan for fighting inflation. He added that “rhetoric about ‘Well, we’re doing really well’ does not capture the profound sense of anxiety that Americans feel.”

Part of the difficulty is that there is only so much politicians can do to fight price increases.

suspended a ban on summertime sales of higher-ethanol gasoline blends to try to temper price increases at the pump, spurring frustration among climate activists still angry over the collapse of the president’s climate and social-spending package.

Talks over whether to roll back Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods have also gotten caught in the inflation maw. Ms. Yellen has said she supports relaxing tariffs to help ease prices, but other Democrats are wary that removing them would make Mr. Biden look weak on China.

Inflation is also influencing conversations about whether to forgive student loan debt, one of Mr. Biden’s key campaign promises. Economists in the administration think that loan forgiveness would, at most, push inflation up a little bit by giving people with outstanding student debt more financial wiggle room. But some economists in the administration’s orbit have expressed concern about the possibility of doing something that could stimulate demand — even slightly — at a moment when it is already hot.

To help mute the inflationary effect, forgiveness would most likely be accompanied by a resumption of interest payments on all student loans that have been paused since the pandemic.

For now, the administration is considering forgiving at least $10,000 for borrowers in a certain income range, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Cárdenas said that Mr. Biden knew he would be attacked over inflation but that he did not think the issue would prevent the president from canceling at least $10,000 worth of debt.

“Will it affect him going beyond that? It may,” he said.

Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

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Illegal Immigration Is Down, Changing the Face of California Farms

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GONZALES, Calif. — It looks like a century-old picture of farming in California: a few dozen Mexican men on their knees, plucking radishes from the ground, tying them into bundles. But the crews on Sabor Farms radish patch, about a mile south of the Salinas River, represent the cutting edge of change, a revolution in how America pulls food from the land.

For starters, the young men on their knees are working alongside technology unseen even 10 years ago. Crouched behind what looks like a tractor retrofitted with a packing plant, they place bunches of radishes on a conveyor belt within arm’s reach, which carries them through a cold wash and delivers them to be packed into crates and delivered for distribution in a refrigerated truck.

The other change is more subtle, but no less revolutionary. None of the workers are in the United States illegally.

are not coming in the numbers they once did.

There are a variety of reasons: The aging of Mexico’s population slimmed the cohort of potential migrants. Mexico’s relative stability after the financial crises of the 1980s and 1990s reduced the pressures for them to leave, while the collapse of the housing bubble in the United States slashed demand for their work north of the border. Stricter border enforcement by the United States, notably during the Trump administration, has further dented the flow.

the economists Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh wrote.

As a consequence, the total population of unauthorized immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 and has declined slightly since then. California felt it first. From 2010 to 2018, the unauthorized immigrant population in the state declined by some 10 percent, to 2.6 million. And the dwindling flow sharply reduced the supply of young workers to till fields and harvest crops on the cheap.

The state reports that from 2010 to 2020, the average number of workers on California farms declined to 150,000 from 170,000. The number of undocumented immigrant workers declined even faster. The Labor Department’s most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey reports that in 2017 and 2018, unauthorized immigrants accounted for only 36 percent of crop workers hired by California farms. That was down from 66 percent, according to the surveys performed 10 years earlier.

The immigrant work force has also aged. In 2017 and 2018, the average crop worker hired locally on a California farm was 43, according to the survey, eight years older than in the surveys performed from 2007 to 2009. The share of workers under the age of 25 dropped to 7 percent from a quarter.

hire the younger immigrants who kept on coming illegally across the border. (Employers must demand documents proving workers’ eligibility to work, but these are fairly easy to fake.)

That is no longer the case. There are some 35,000 workers on H-2A visas across California, 14 times as many as in 2007. During the harvest they crowd the low-end motels dotting California’s farm towns. A 1,200-bed housing facility exclusive to H-2A workers just opened in Salinas. In King City, some 50 miles south, a former tomato processing shed was retrofitted to house them.

“In the United States we have an aging and settled illegal work force,” said Philip Martin, an expert on farm labor and migration at the University of California, Davis. “The fresh blood are the H-2As.”

Immigrant guest workers are unlikely to fill the labor hole on America’s farms, though. For starters, they are costlier than the largely unauthorized workers they are replacing. The adverse effect wage rate in California this year is $17.51, well above the $15 minimum wage that farmers must pay workers hired locally.

So farmers are also looking elsewhere. “We are living on borrowed time,” said Dave Puglia, president and chief executive of Western Growers, the lobby group for farmers in the West. “I want half the produce harvest mechanized in 10 years. There’s no other solution.”

Produce that is hardy or doesn’t need to look pretty is largely harvested mechanically already, from processed tomatoes and wine grapes to mixed salad greens and tree nuts. Sabor Farms has been using machines to harvest salad mix for decades.

survey by the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology found that about two-thirds of growers of specialty crops like fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts have invested in automation over the last three years. Still, they expect that only about 20 percent of the lettuce, apple and broccoli harvest — and none of the strawberry harvest — will be automated by 2025.

Some crops are unlikely to survive. Acreage devoted to crops like bell peppers, broccoli and fresh tomatoes is declining. And foreign suppliers are picking up much of the slack. Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable imports almost doubled over the last five years, to $31 billion in 2021.

Consider asparagus, a particularly labor-intensive crop. Only 4,000 acres of it were harvested across the state in 2020, down from 37,000 two decades earlier. The state minimum wage of $15, added to the new requirement to pay overtime after 40 hours a week, is squeezing it further after growers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa — where workers make some $330 a month — increased the asparagus acreage almost threefold over 15 years, to 47,000 acres in 2020.

H-2A workers won’t help fend off the cheaper Mexican asparagus. They are even more expensive than local workers, about half of whom are immigrants from earlier waves that gained legal status; about a third are undocumented. And capital is not rushing in to automate the crop.

“There are no unicorns there,” said Neill Callis, who manages the asparagus packing shed at the Turlock Fruit Company, which grows some 300 acres of asparagus in the San Joaquin Valley east of Salinas. “You can’t seduce a V.C. with the opportunity to solve a $2-per-carton problem for 50 million cartons,” he said.

While Turlock has automated where it can, introducing a German machine to sort, trim and bunch spears in the packing shed, the harvest is still done by hand — hunched workers walk up the rows stabbing at the spears with an 18-inch-long knife.

These days, Mr. Callis said, Turlock is hanging on to the asparagus crop mainly to ensure its labor supply. Providing jobs during the asparagus harvest from February to May helps the farm hang on to its regular workers — 240 in the field and about 180 in the shed it co-owns with another farm — for the critical summer harvest of 3,500 acres of melons.

Losing its source of cheap illegal immigrant workers will change California. Other employers heavily reliant on cheap labor — like builders, landscapers, restaurants and hotels — will have to adjust.

Paradoxically, the changes raking across California’s fields seem to threaten the undocumented local work force farmers once relied on. Ancelmo Zamudio from Chilapa, in Mexico’s state of Guerrero, and José Luis Hernández from Ejutla in Oaxaca crossed into the United States when they were barely in their teens, over 15 years ago. Now they live in Stockton, working mostly on the vineyards in Lodi and Napa.

They were building a life in the United States. They brought their wives with them; had children; hoped that they might be able to legalize their status somehow, perhaps through another shot at immigration reform like the one of 1986.

Things to them look decidedly cloudier. “We used to prune the leaves on the vine with our hands, but they brought in the robots last year,” Mr. Zamudio complained. “They said it was because there were no people.”

Mr. Hernández grumbles about H-2A workers, who earn more even if they have less experience, and don’t have to pay rent or support a family. He worries about rising rents — pushed higher by new arrivals from the Bay Area. The rule compelling farmers to pay overtime after 40 hours of work per week is costing him money, he complains, because farmers slashed overtime and cut his workweek from six days to five.

He worries about the future. “It scares me that they are coming with H-2As and also with robots,” he said. “That’s going to take us down.”

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Ukraine Live Updates: As Victory Day Looms in Russia, Guesswork Grows Over Putin’s War Goals

With the Russian military still struggling, Western officials and Ukraine’s traumatized residents are looking with increased alarm to Russia’s Victory Day holiday on May 9 — a celebration of the Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany — fearing that President Vladimir V. Putin may exploit it as a grandiose stage to intensify attacks and mobilize his citizenry for all-out war.

While Russia has inflicted death and destruction across Ukraine and made some progress in the east and the south over the past 10 weeks, stiff Ukrainian resistance, heavy weapons supplied by the West and Russian military incompetence have denied Mr. Putin the swift victory he originally appeared to have anticipated, including the initial goal of decapitating the government in Kyiv.

Now, however, with Russia about to be smacked with a European Union oil embargo, and with Victory Day just five days away, Mr. Putin may see the need to jolt the West with a new escalation. Anxiety is growing that Mr. Putin will use the event, when he traditionally presides over a parade and gives a militaristic speech, to lash out at Russia’s perceived enemies and expand the scope of the conflict.

In a sign of those concerns, Ben Wallace, the British defense secretary, predicted last week that Mr. Putin would use the occasion to redefine what the Russian leader has called a “special military operation” into a war, calling for a mass mobilization of the Russian people.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Such a declaration would present a new challenge to war-battered Ukraine, as well as to Washington and its NATO allies as they try to counter Russian aggression without entangling themselves directly in the conflict. However, the Kremlin on Wednesday denied that Mr. Putin would declare war on May 9, calling it “nonsense,” and Russia analysts noted that announcing a military draft could provoke a domestic backlash.

Still, Russia’s hierarchy also denied for months that it had intended to invade Ukraine, only to do exactly that on Feb. 24. So the conjecture over Mr. Putin’s intent on Victory Day is only growing more acute.

“This is a question that everybody is asking,” Valery Dzutsati, a visiting assistant professor at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Kansas, said on Wednesday, adding that the “short answer is nobody knows what is going to happen on May 9.”

Professor Dzutsati said that declaring a mass mobilization or an all-out war could prove deeply unpopular among Russians. He predicted that Mr. Putin would take “the safest possible option” and point to the territory Russia has already seized in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine to declare a “preliminary victory.”

Preparations for May 9 are well underway in Russia, as the country gets set to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Army’s victory over the Nazis while it fights another war against what Mr. Putin claims, falsely, are modern-day Nazis running Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russian state media reported that warplanes and helicopters practiced flying in formations over Moscow’s Red Square — a show of military might that included eight MiG-29 jets flying in the shape of the letter “Z,” which has become a ubiquitous symbol of Russian nationalism and support for the war.

Credit…Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Other warplanes streaked over Moscow while releasing trails of white, blue and red — the colors of the Russian flag.

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, said on Wednesday that military parades on May 9 would take place in 28 Russian cities and involve about 65,000 personnel and more than 460 aircraft.

Ukraine warned that Russia was also planning to hold May 9 events in occupied Ukrainian cities, including the devastated southern port of Mariupol, where Ukrainian officials say more than 20,000 civilians have been killed and those who remain have been struggling to survive without adequate food, heat and water.

Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency said that Russians were cleaning Mariupol’s central streets of corpses and debris in an effort to make the city presentable as “the center of celebrations.”

Ukrainian civilians who have been hammered by weeks of Russian strikes are increasingly fearful that Russia could use Victory Day to subject them to even more deadly attacks.

In the western city of Lviv, which lost electricity on Wednesday after Russian missiles struck power stations, Yurji Horal, 43, a government office manager, said that he was planning to go with his wife and young children to stay with relatives in a village about 40 miles away to escape what he feared could be an expansion of the war on May 9.

“I’m worried about them — and about myself,” he said. “A lot of people I know are talking about it.”

In years past, Mr. Putin has used May 9 — a near-sacred holiday for Russians, since 27 million Soviets died in World War II — to mobilize the nation for the possibility of a new battle ahead.

Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

When he addressed the nation from his rostrum at Red Square on May 9 of last year, he warned that Russia’s enemies were once again deploying “much of the ideology of the Nazis.”

Now, with Russian state media portraying the fight in Ukraine as the unfinished business of World War II, it seems almost certain that Mr. Putin will use his May 9 speech to evoke the heroism of Soviet soldiers to try to inspire Russians to make new sacrifices.

But a mass mobilization — potentially involving a military draft and a ban on Russian men of military age leaving the country — could bring the reality of war home to a much greater swath of Russian society, provoking unrest.

For many Russians, the “special military operation” in Ukraine still feels like a faraway conflict. The independent pollster Levada found last month that 39 percent of Russians were paying little to no attention to it.

“When you’re watching it on TV, it’s one thing,” Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government, said in a phone interview from Moscow. “When you’re getting a notice from the enlistment office, it’s another. There would probably be certain difficulties for the leadership in making such a decision.”

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Kortunov predicted that the fighting in eastern Ukraine would eventually grind to a standstill, at which point Russia and Ukraine could negotiate a deal — or rearm and regroup for a new stage of the war.

He noted that while some senior Russian officials and state television commentators have been calling for the destruction of Ukraine, Mr. Putin has been more vague recently in his war aims, at least in public comments.

Mr. Kortunov said Mr. Putin could still declare the mission accomplished once Russia captured most of the Donbas region. Russia has expanded its control of that region significantly since the start of the war, but Ukraine still holds several key cities and towns.

“If everything ends with the Donbas, there would probably be a way to explain that this was always the plan,” Mr. Kortunov said. “Putin has left that option open for himself.”

With no resolution to the conflict in sight, the European Union on Wednesday took a major step intended to weaken Mr. Putin’s ability to finance the war, proposing a total embargo on Russian oil. The measure, expected to win final approval in a few days, would ban Russian crude oil imports to nearly all of the European Union in the next six months, and prohibit refined oil products by year’s end.

“Let us be clear, it will not be easy,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, where the announcement was greeted with applause. “Some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil. But we simply have to work on it.”

The European Union also promised on Wednesday to provide additional military support for Moldova, a former Soviet republic on Ukraine’s southwest border that Western officials say could be used by Russia as a launchpad for further attacks.

Security fears in Moldova swelled last week as mysterious explosions rocked Transnistria, a Kremlin-backed separatist region of the country where Russia has maintained soldiers since 1992.

Although European officials said they would “significantly increase” military support for Moldova, delivering additional military equipment, as well as instruments to counter disinformation and cyberattacks, they did not provide details.

Reporting was contributed by Jane Arraf, Neil MacFarquhar, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Russian Offensive in East Has Started, Ukraine Says

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine said Monday that Russian forces had launched a ground assault along a nearly 300-mile front in the east after hitting the country with one of the most intense missile barrages in weeks, including the first lethal strike on Lviv, the western city that has been a refuge for tens of thousands of fleeing civilians.

The missile strikes, which killed at least seven people in Lviv alone, punctured any illusions that the picturesque city of cobbled streets and graceful squares near Poland’s border was still a sanctuary from the horrors Russia has inflicted elsewhere in Ukraine over the past two months.

Credit…Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Lviv attack followed 300 missile and artillery strikes that Russia claimed to have carried out, mainly in the east, in what appeared to be a campaign to terrorize the population and intimidate Ukraine’s military before the new ground offensive had begun in the part of the country known as the Donbas.

The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said on national television that the Russian ground assault, which had been anticipated for weeks, stretched along nearly the entire front line, from the northern Kharkiv region south to the besieged port of Mariupol.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said, “A very significant part of the Russian army is now concentrated for that offensive,” adding, “No matter how many servicemen get thrown there, we will fight, we will defend ourselves.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

The overnight missile barrage targeted fuel depots, warehouses, and other infrastructure, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. Russian forces also appeared to be finally seizing the entire port of Mariupol, where outnumbered Ukrainian fighters defied demands to lay down their weapons at a vast steel plant that has become a kind of industrial Alamo.

Mariupol, a once-vibrant city in southeast Ukraine, is the last obstacle to Russia’s drive to secure a “land bridge” to Crimea, the southern Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russian forces eight years ago.

The intensified attacks came amid signs that international sanctions were beginning to choke Russia’s economy — and in the process, opening fissures between the country’s leaders. President Vladimir V. Putin insisted that “the strategy of an economic blitzkrieg has failed.” But Moscow’s mayor warned that 200,000 people risked losing their jobs in the capital alone, while the head of the central bank warned that the effect of Russia’s isolation was just starting to be felt.

While Ukraine’s east remained the focus of Russia’s recalibrated military ambitions, the strike on Lviv was a lethal reminder that no Ukrainian city, even one scarcely 50 miles from the Polish border, lies outside the range of Moscow’s rockets.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Gray smoke billowed from what remained of the red roof of a long concrete garage on the city’s western outskirts, a sign outside advertising “carwash” and “tire replacement.” A hole in the roof indicated that the building had taken a direct hit from a missile. Air raid sirens wailed continuously as firefighters struggled to extinguish the flames and ambulances ferried away the wounded.

While the garage burned, a train rumbled by toward Lviv’s nearby railway station, carrying passengers fleeing the fighting in the eastern city of Dnipro. It stopped briefly and the train’s conductors and other workers tried to reassure anxious passengers as they started hearing about the airstrikes by phone.

“It was panic,” said Anna Khrystiuk, a volunteer who was handing out information to displaced people, several of whom ran to a shelter in the station when the missiles hit. “Many people were from Kharkiv and other places and they were so afraid of rockets already. They thought that it was safe to stay here.”

In Kharkiv, a northeastern city shelled relentlessly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a fresh artillery strike killed at least one person in a residential area. The victim was standing a few yards from an apartment building that was struck. It came after a concerted missile barrage on Sunday killed at least five people in the city’s center.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“It was the first time this neighborhood was hit,” said Lubov Ustymenko, 72, who wore a winter coat and stood a few yards from a discarded umbrella and a puddle filled with a mix of blood and the morning’s light rain. “Our life is decided in one second — you go outside, and then you’re gone.”

Russia’s ground onslaught — a push to seize more of the Donbas — got underway after weeks of setbacks, including Russia’s retreat from areas surrounding the capital, Kyiv, and the sinking of a major Russian warship in the Black Sea.

Having failed in the early weeks of the war to destroy the Ukrainian military’s network of fuel and ammunition depots — perhaps under the erroneous assumption that Ukrainian forces would surrender wholesale — Russia has intensified its attacks against those facilities, as well as against transportation infrastructure.

But Russia’s puzzling failure to do so earlier has left its forces with costly unfinished business, and given Ukrainian troops an unexpected advantage. Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst, said that while Russia has hit railway facilities, so far it has avoided aiming missiles at bridges over big rivers.

“If Russia plans to expand its presence on Ukraine’s territory — and the end goal since 2014 has been the destruction of Ukrainian statehood as such — it would need the railway too,” Mr. Luzin said.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Besides targeting Kharkiv, Russian forces have unleashed further destruction on eastern cities like Mykolaiv, which lies in Russia’s pathway to the Black Sea port of Odesa. Those attacks have tied up Ukrainian forces and prevented them from joining the fight farther east, while sowing terror among civilians after Russia failed to conquer these cities early in the war.

In Mariupol, devastated by weeks of siege warfare, a band of Ukrainian fighters remained ensconced in the Azovstal steel plant after having rejected Russian demands to surrender. Russia intensified its bombing of the factory, and it was unclear and how long the Ukrainians could endure in the plant’s labyrinthine underground tunnels. Officials on both sides said Russia could control the city soon.

Even with much of Mariupol now a wasteland, the city’s capture would represent a key strategic prize for Russia and would free up forces for its Donbas offensive.

Credit…Pavel Klimov/Reuters

Still, British defense intelligence officials said the grinding battle for the city has become a source of anxiety for Russian commanders.

“Concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and matériel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere,” said Mick Smeath, a British defense attaché. He likened Russia’s treatment of Mariupol to its brutal tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016.

After two months of fighting, pro-war commentators in Russia are pushing the army for tangible military victories that would cover up some of the embarrassments Moscow has suffered, including the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet, and the retreat from around Kyiv. So far, Russia has been able to claim only the capture of Kherson, a regional capital, as a significant battlefield achievement.

Credit…Maxar Technologies

On Russia’s state-run television, commentators have enthusiastically promoted the Donbas offensive as a decisive battle that could be a turning point in the war. Many point toward May 9, the commemoration of Russia’s 1945 victory over Nazi Germany, as the date when Mr. Putin could claim a semblance of victory in Ukraine.

“The big battle for the Donbas has already started,” said Yuri Podolyaka, a pro-Russia analyst who publishes military reports on his popular channel on Telegram. “The activity of the Russian artillery and air forces has intensified again.”

On Monday, the head of the regional administration in Luhansk, which is part of the Donbas, said that Russian forces had gained control of the town of Kreminna, adding to territory in the region held by Moscow.

Still, those scattered Russian advances carry less psychological punch than lethal strikes on Lviv, a city that has become a critical gateway to safety for the millions of Ukrainians who have fled westward, trying to escape the worst of the fighting. In late February, it was quickly repurposed from a charming tourist destination into a base of operations for a vast relief effort, serving as a channel for humanitarian supplies, aid workers, foreign fighters making their way to frontline cities, and many foreign journalists.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have passed through the city’s train and bus stations. For many others, it is a new — if fleeting — home. Lviv, which had about 720,000 residents before the war began, has since welcomed at least 350,000 people displaced from other parts of the country.

Until Monday, the only direct targets that had been hit in Lviv were a fuel storage site and tank facility in the city’s northeast, hit by several missile strikes about three weeks earlier. Before that, a pair of attacks targeted an airport facility and a military base near Lviv, killing at least 35 people.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In Monday’s strike, three missiles hit empty military warehouses while a fourth hit the garage, according to the head of Lviv’s military administration, Maksym Koztyskyy. He did not say whether all the casualties were from the strike on the garage. Besides the seven killed, he said 11 people were injured — a toll that could rise as rescue workers cleared rubble from the site. The missiles, Mr. Koztyskyy said, had been launched by warplanes from the direction of the Caspian Sea.

Orest Maznin, a police officer, said he had been driving to work past the garage when the missiles struck, and he narrowly escaped shrapnel. The windshield of his car had a large hole from the impact of a piece of metal.

“It happened too quickly for me to be afraid,” Mr. Maznin said.

Jane Arraf reported from Lviv, Ukraine, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Mark Landler from London. Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Michael Schwirtz from Kyiv, and Anton Troianovski and Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul.

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Discovery Closes In on Acquisition of WarnerMedia

“I am sure you aren’t surprised that it came with a fair amount of anxiety, disappointment and concern relative to the changes it would trigger,” he wrote. “All considered, I remain confident we have set the right path.”

The creation of Warner Bros. Discovery could prompt changes among existing media companies, forcing smaller companies like Paramount to find a way to get bigger.

“There’s Disney, HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon and Apple — that’s five,” said Michael Nathanson, a media analyst, pointing to the leading streaming services. “You don’t want to be in position six, seven or eight. At some point, they’ll say, ‘We have to find a dance partner.’”

The biggest question will be what happens to HBO Max and Discovery+, the merging companies’ streaming services. Initially, the two could be sold as a bundle, but over time they will be brought together into one giant streaming service, Mr. Zaslav told staff on Friday.

HBO and HBO Max, which consists of new television series and movies, as well as an impressive lineup from the Warner Bros. library, have more than 70 million subscribers; Discovery+ has more than 20 million.

Even brought together, that pales next to Netflix, which has more than 220 million paying subscribers, most of them outside the United States. HBO Max has only recently expanded into foreign territory, though Discovery has built a robust international business.

“A new giant is born when they prove they have international scale,” Mr. Nathanson said of Warner Bros. Discovery. “I don’t think Discovery content on HBO Max in the U.S. is a needle mover. But because international is such uncontested territory, they can have more impact outside the U.S.”

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How You’re Still Being Tracked on the Internet

While Meta adjusts, some small businesses have begun seeking other avenues for ads. Shawn Baker, the owner of Baker SoftWash, an exterior cleaning company in Mooresville, N.C., said it previously took about $6 of Facebook ads to identify a new customer. Now it costs $27 because the ads do not find the right people, he said.

Mr. Baker has started spending $200 a month to advertise through Google’s marketing program for local businesses, which surfaces his website when people who live in the area search for cleaners. To compensate for those higher marketing costs, he has raised his prices 7 percent.

“You’re spending more money now than what you had to spend before to do the same things,” he said.

Other tech giants with first-party information are capitalizing on the change. Amazon, for example, has reams of data on its customers, including what they buy, where they reside, and what movies or TV shows they stream.

In February, Amazon disclosed the size of its advertising business — $31.2 billion in revenue in 2021 — for the first time. That makes advertising its third-largest source of sales after e-commerce and cloud computing. Amazon declined to comment.

Amber Murray, the owner of See Your Strength in St. George, Utah, which sells stickers online for people with anxiety, started experimenting with ads on Amazon after the performance of Facebook ads deteriorated. The results were remarkable, she said.

In February, she paid about $200 for Amazon to feature her products near the top of search results when customers looked up textured stickers. Sales totaled $250 a day and continued to grow, she said. When she spent $85 on a Facebook ad campaign in January, it yielded just $37.50 in sales, she said.

“I think the golden days of Facebook advertising are over,” Ms. Murray said. “On Amazon, people are looking for you, instead of you telling people what they should want.”

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With Remote Work, Women Decide Who Knows They’re Pregnant

For the past nine months, I have been pregnant. But I have not — for the most part — been pregnant at work.

In the beginning, when I felt nauseous, I threw up in my own bathroom. Saltine crackers became a constant companion but remained out of view of my Zoom camera. A couple of months later, I switched from jeans to leggings without any comment from my co-workers.

And as my baby grew from the size of a lemon to a grapefruit to a cantaloupe, the box through which my colleagues see me on video calls cropped out my basketball-sized gut.

Outside the virtual office, an airport security screener scolded me for trying to pick up a suitcase, cashiers became extra nice and strangers informed me of how big or small or wide or high my belly was.

Bureau of Labor Statistics.

commonplace.

And research suggests that pregnant women tend to be seen as less competent, more needing of accommodation, and less committed to work as compared with women who don’t have children, said Eden King, a professor of psychology at Rice University who studies how pregnancy affects women in the workplace.

Similar stereotypes affect mothers — 63 percent of whom are working while their youngest child is under three, according to the Labor Department — but pregnancy is a more visible identity, said Ms. King. “It can be a very physical characteristic in a way that motherhood isn’t,” she said. “So some of those experiences and expectations may be exacerbated.”

In interviews with 10 pregnant or recently pregnant remote workers for this article, several women said that being visibly pregnant in real life but not on a work Zoom screen helped them feel more confident and less apprehensive about what parenthood might mean for their career. Christine Glandorf, who works in education technology and is due with her first child this month, said that like many professionals on the brink of parenthood, she worried that people’s expectations of her in the workplace could change. Remote work solves part of that equation.

“It’s nice that it’s literally not in people’s face in any way, shape or form unless I choose for it to be a part of the conversation,” she said.

a study published in the journal Personnel Psychology in 2020, Ms. King and her colleagues asked more than 100 pregnant women in a variety of industries to track how much their supervisors, without having been asked for help, did things like assign them less work so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed or protect them from unpleasant news.

Women who received more unwanted help reported feeling less capable at work, and they were more likely to want to quit nine months postpartum.

“The more you experienced those seemingly positive but actually benevolently sexist behaviors, the less you believed in yourself,” Ms. King said.

Journal of Applied Psychology in 2019, examined this apparent shift in treatment.

believe women and men should be treated equally at work and at home, mothers in opposite-sex relationships still handle a majority of the housework and child care. The same pattern holds for parental leave. While almost half of men support the idea of paid paternity leave, fewer than five percent take more than two weeks.

In 2004, California began a paid family leave program that provides a portion of a new parent’s salary for up to eight weeks. Though the program offers the same benefit to both new fathers and new mothers, a 2016 study found that it increased the leave women took by almost five weeks and the leave that men took by two to three days.

That was the disparity when new fathers actually had an option to take paid paternity leave. Most don’t. Paid leave is still uncommon for both men and women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, 23 percent of all private industry workers had access to parental leave, up from 11 percent 10 years earlier. Although the Department of Labor stopped differentiating between maternity and paternity leave in its data more than 25 years ago, other surveys suggest that paid leave is far more uncommon for fathers.

These inequalities are one reason the gender pay gap, even between spouses, widens after women have children.

The virtual office may be relatively new, but women have long thought about how to shape their colleagues’ perception of their pregnancies. In a 2015 study conducted by Ms. Little, researchers interviewed 35 women about their experience being pregnant at work.

companies summon people back to the office, fewer people will have that choice. But there is part of the remote work pregnancy experience that can be replicated offline, Ms. King said.

“Some women do need help, and some women do want accommodations,” she said. But “you have to ask women what they want and what they need and not assume that we know.”

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