previously reported that they were involved in some of the early talks with Mr. Orlando.

Mr. Moss and Mr. Litinsky, who at one time were senior executives with Trump Media, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Litinsky no longer works for Trump Media; Mr. Moss’s job status is unclear.

Securities regulators also have asked for information from Digital World about the role played by the SPAC’s financial adviser, Shanghai-based ARC Group, according to regulatory filings. Federal regulators previously have reprimanded ARC. In 2017, the S.E.C. stopped ARC’s executives from listing shares of three companies, citing “material misstatements” in their securities filings and a lack of cooperation from the executives.

Ben Protess contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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G20 finance chiefs make few policy breakthroughs at Indonesia meeting

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NUSA DUA, Indonesia, July 16 (Reuters) – The Group of 20 major economies’ finance chiefs on Saturday pledged to address global food insecurity and rising debt, but made few policy breakthroughs amid divisions over Russia’s war in Ukraine at a two-day meeting in Indonesia.

With questions growing about the effectiveness of the G20 in tackling the world’s major problems, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the differences had prevented the finance ministers and central bankers from issuing a formal communique but that the group had “strong consensus” on the need to address a worsening food security crisis.

Host Indonesia will issue a chair’s statement instead. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said most topics were agreed by all members except for particular statements about the war in Ukraine. She described it as the “best result” the group could have achieved at this meeting.

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Western countries have enforced strict sanctions against Russia, which says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Other G20 nations, including China, India and South Africa, have been more muted in their response.

“This is a challenging time because Russia is part of the G20 and doesn’t agree with the rest of us on how to characterize the war,” Yellen said, but stressed the disagreement should not prevent progress on pressing global issues.

Russia’s finance minister attended the meeting virtually while his deputy attended in person. Ukraine’s finance minister addressed the session virtually where he called for “more severe targeted sanctions”.

Indonesia’s Sri Mulyani said while chairing a fractured G20 has been “quite overwhelming” due to the war in Ukraine, all members agreed that food insecurity requires special attention and she called for removal of trade protections that prevented flow of food supplies.

The G20 will set up a joint forum between finance and agriculture ministers to address food and fertilize supply issue. A similar forum has been set up for finance and health ministers for pandemic preparedness.

Analysts said the failure to agree on a communique reflected the weakness of the once-mighty economic grouping.

“We are in a rudderless moment in the world economy with the G20 paralysed by Putin’s war and the G7 unable to lead on global public goods,” said Kevin Gallagher, who heads the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University.

G20 members pulled together at the start of the pandemic, but initiatives to cushion the shock for heavily indebted poor countries failed to produce significant results.

Western countries, concerned about the lack of transparency in China’s lending, were pressuring Beijing to restructure debt contracts and transform its role to “one that (contributes) to the country rather than to one of indebtedness and servitude,” said U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel. But they were frustrated that Chinese officials did not attend the meetings in person, making sideline discussions impossible.

Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund, warned more than 30% of emerging and developing countries – and a staggering 60% of low-income countries – were in or near debt distress. read more

“The debt situation is deteriorating fast and a well-functioning mechanism for debt resolution should be in place,” she said.

Sri Mulyani said G20 also encouraged further progress on the implementation of the Common Framework for Debt Treatment beyond the debt service suspension initiative in a timely, orderly, and coordinated manner.

She said there were discussions on how to make the framework more effective for countries in need.

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Additional reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman in Nusa Dua and Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by William Mallard, Kanupriya Kapoor, Tom Hogue and William Mallard

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How Republican-led states are targeting Wall Street with ‘anti-woke’ laws

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WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) – Republican-led states have unleashed a policy push to punish Wall Street for taking stances on gun control, climate change, diversity and other social issues, in a warning for companies that have waded in to fractious social debates.

Abortion rights are poised to be the next frontier.

This year there are at least 44 bills or new laws in 17 conservative-led states penalizing such company policies, compared with roughly a dozen such measures in 2021, according to a Reuters analysis of state legislative agendas, public documents and statements.

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While some of the individual moves have been reported, the scale and speed at which such “anti-woke” state laws and policies are ballooning and the challenges they are creating for Wall Street companies is detailed here for the first time.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “woke” as being aware of and actively attentive to issues of racial and social justice, but it is often used by conservatives to disparage progressive policies. The term has gained traction as America has become more politically polarized over issues from racial justice and LGBTQ rights to the environment and COVID-19 vaccines.

Reuters counted bills considered and state laws passed in 2021 and 2022, although some state officials are also using executive powers to punish Wall Street.

The growing restrictions show how America’s culture wars are creating new risks for some of the most high-profile U.S. companies, forcing them to balance pressure from workers and investors to take stances on hot-button issues with potential backlash from conservative policymakers.

West Virginia and Arkansas this year, for example, stopped using BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) for certain services, due to its climate stance, according to West Virginia’s Republican treasurer Riley Moore and Arkansas media reports.

In Texas, JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Bank of America (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) have been sidelined from the municipal bond market due to laws passed last year barring firms that “boycott” energy companies or “discriminate” against the firearms industry from doing new business with the state.

In many cases, the measures target a range of companies, restricting their ability to conduct state business. But financial institutions have been primary targets due to the pivotal roles they play in the economy and the early stances many took on such issues as fossil fuel and firearms financing.

Republicans say the policies of such companies deprive legitimate businesses of capital.

“They’re using the power of their capital to push their ideas and ideology down onto the rest of us,” said Moore. He spearheaded a law, passed in March, refusing business to banks that “boycott” fossil fuel companies and has rallied officials from 16 other states to promise to adopt similar policies. read more

With several major financial companies stepping in to cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions after the Supreme Court last month reversed federal abortion rights, the Republican push to sanction Wall Street for “woke” stances is likely to grow. read more

Republican Texas lawmaker Briscoe Cain said he plans legislation to outlaw such coverage and prohibit companies that provide it from receiving any Texas state business or contracts.

“No corporation doing business in Texas will be allowed to subsidize abortions or abortion travel in any manner,” Cain told Reuters in an email.

NO BOYCOTTS

The new curbs will make it harder for financial firms to do a range of state business, from bond underwriting to managing state funds, depository accounts and government credit cards, according to interviews with more than a dozen industry sources, bank lobbyists and lawyers.

Such contracts can be worth several million dollars each, public procurement data shows.

JPMorgan, for example, underwrote $3.2 billion worth of Texas muni bonds last year, compared with $210 million so far this year, Refinitiv data shows. Bank of America, which underwrote $3.7 billion in Texas muni bonds last year, has done none this year.

Some smaller firms, including Ramirez & Co Inc and Loop Capital Markets, meanwhile, have jumped more than 10 places so far this year in the Texas muni bond market bookrunner rankings, based on deal values.

To be sure, some Democratic-led states are also looking to tilt the scales. Washington state floated a “climate resiliency fee” for institutions that fund fossil fuel projects. California is considering a bill that would stop its pension plans, the country’s largest, from investing in fossil fuel companies.

But states led by Democrats are not pursuing as many punitive measures, according to the review and sources.

“We’re going to see a lot more of these statutes on one side of the coin or the other,” said John Crossley, a partner at K&L Gates who focuses on energy. “It’s going to make it more and more difficult for people to operate in these markets.”

Spokespeople for the above financial firms declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Financial firms say they aim to provide comprehensive healthcare benefits. They also argue government restrictions will drive up costs for Americans, and they dispute the characterization of their policies as boycotts.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager and a frequent target of Republican attacks, for example, has told Texas officials that while it has joined various efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it supports fossil fuel companies. read more

“The economy and financial system are best served when banks of all sizes can make their own banking and lending decisions about how to meet the needs of their communities based on their business model and risk tolerance,” said Joseph Pigg, senior vice president at the American Bankers Association.

ANTI-WOKE PUSH

The review shows “anti-woke” measures are gaining ground not only in traditional conservative strongholds such as Texas and Kentucky but also in so-called purple states – whose voters swing Democratic or Republican – such as Arizona and Ohio.

The issues such measures target are also mushrooming.

Guns and energy were the focus of the roughly dozen state laws and bills last year andof at least 30 legislative measures this year.

But this year there were also more than a dozen bills relating to social and other issues, including “divisive concepts” like critical race theory – an academic theory that racial bias is baked in to U.S. laws and institutions – mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, or the use of “social credit scores,” the Reuters analysis shows.

The latter is a theory that companies may take into account an individual’s political leanings when providing and pricing services.

In April, for example, Florida made it illegal for companies to require training that might make staff feel “guilt” or “anguish” because of past actions by members of the same race. Unveiling the bill, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis flagged Bank of America as one company conducting such “woke” training.

A bank spokesman said the materials were offered to hundreds of companies by a nonprofit and were not part of the bank’s training materials.

While the measures reviewed do not target corporate abortion policies, Cain said he expected other Republican-led states to pursue business restrictions on companies with such policies.

WALL STREET DIVISIONS

The financial industry is struggling to repel the onslaught, the sources said. Its trade groups are mainly registered to lobby the federal government, while state-based groups are not always aligned with Wall Street companies’ priorities.

Moore, for example, said West Virginia’s community banks supported his measures. The West Virginia Bankers Association declined to comment. The Texas Bankers Association said the group had not opposed the Texas curbs because its members were not in “consensus.”

Wall Street’s adversaries, on the other hand, are united.

Galvanized by what they say are efforts by Democrats in the federal government to push “woke” policies, oil and gas, firearms and conservative groups, including the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), are successfully pushing such curbs, according to industry sources and advocates. read more

“Banks should stay out of making policy choices,” said Lawrence Keane, general counsel at the NSSF, which advocated for the Texas law targeting lenders’ firearms policies.

The American Petroleum Institute, a major energy group, said it opposes discriminatory policies toward the industry.

Jason Isaac, a former Texas lawmaker who leads energy advocacy for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and helped craft the Texas fossil-fuel law, said he was discussing similar laws with other states, adding: “This woke political ideology will continue unless we get it in check.”

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Reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington
Additional reporting by Chris Prentice in Washington and Ross Kerber in Boston
Editing by Michelle Price, Paritosh Bansal and Matthew Lewis

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3-D Printing Grows Beyond Its Novelty Roots

DEVENS, Mass. — The machines stand 20 feet high, weigh 60,000 pounds and represent the technological frontier of 3-D printing.

Each machine deploys 150 laser beams, projected from a gantry and moving quickly back and forth, making high-tech parts for corporate customers in fields including aerospace, semiconductors, defense and medical implants.

The parts of titanium and other materials are created layer by layer, each about as thin as a human hair, up to 20,000 layers, depending on a part’s design. The machines are hermetically sealed. Inside, the atmosphere is mainly argon, the least reactive of gases, reducing the chance of impurities that cause defects in a part.

“The Mainstreaming of Additive Manufacturing.”

a report by Hubs, a marketplace for manufacturing services.

The Biden administration is looking to 3-D printing to help lead a resurgence of American manufacturing. Additive technology will be one of “the foundations of modern manufacturing in the 21st century,” along with robotics and artificial intelligence, said Elisabeth Reynolds, special assistant to the president for manufacturing and economic development.

Additive Manufacturing Forward, an initiative coordinated by the White House in collaboration with major manufacturers. The five initial corporate members — GE Aviation, Honeywell, Siemens Energy, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — are increasing their use of additive manufacturing and pledged to help their small and medium-size American suppliers adopt the technology.

VulcanForms was founded in 2015 by Dr. Hart and one of his graduate students, Martin Feldmann. They pursued a fresh approach for 3-D printing that uses an array of many more laser beams than existing systems. It would require innovations in laser optics, sensors and software to choreograph the intricate dance of laser beams.

By 2017, they had made enough progress to think they could build a machine, but would need money to do it. The pair, joined by Anupam Ghildyal, a serial start-up veteran who had become part of the VulcanForms team, went to Silicon Valley. They secured a seed round of $2 million from Eclipse Ventures.

The VulcanForms technology, recalled Greg Reichow, a partner at Eclipse, was trying to address the three shortcomings of 3-D printing: too slow, too expensive and too ridden with defects.

Arwood Machine this year.

Arwood is a modern machine shop that mostly does work for the Pentagon, making parts for fighter jets, underwater drones and missiles. Under VulcanForms, the plan over the next few years is for Arwood to triple its investment and work force, currently 90 people.

VulcanForms, a private company, does not disclose its revenue. But it said sales were climbing rapidly, while orders were rising tenfold quarter by quarter.

Cerebras, which makes specialized semiconductor systems for artificial intelligence applications. Cerebras sought out VulcanForms last year for help making a complex part for water-cooling its powerful computer processors.

The semiconductor company sent VulcanForms a computer-design drawing of the concept, an intricate web of tiny titanium tubes. Within 48 hours VulcanForms had come back with a part, recalled Andrew Feldman, chief executive of Cerebras. Engineers for both companies worked on further refinements, and the cooling system is now in use.

Accelerating the pace of experimentation and innovation is one promise of additive manufacturing. But modern 3-D printing, Mr. Feldman said, also allows engineers to make new, complex designs that improve performance. “We couldn’t have made that water-cooling part any other way,” Mr. Feldman said.

“Additive manufacturing lets us rethink how we build things,” he said. “That’s where we are now, and that’s a big change.”

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Retail Workers Increasingly Fear for Their Safety

Assaults at stores have been increasing at a faster pace than the national average. Some workers are tired of fearing for their safety.


There was the customer who stomped on the face of a private security guard. Then the one who lit herself on fire inside a store. The person who drank gasoline and the one who brandished an ax. An intoxicated shopper who pelted a worker with soup cans. A shoplifter who punched a night manager twice in the head and then shot him in the chest.

And there was the shooting that killed 10 people, including three workers, at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colo., in March 2021. Another shooting left 10 more people dead at a Buffalo grocery store last month.

In her 37 years in the grocery industry, said Kim Cordova, a union president in Colorado, she had never experienced the level of violence that her members face today.

F.B.I. said, more than half the so-called active shooter attacks — in which an individual with a gun is killing or trying to kill people in a busy area — occurred in places of commerce, including stores.

“Violence in and around retail settings is definitely increasing, and it is a concern,” said Jason Straczewski, a vice president of government relations and political affairs at the National Retail Federation.

Tracking retail theft is more difficult because many prosecutors and retailers rarely press charges. Still, some politicians have seized on viral videos of brazen shoplifting to portray left-leaning city leaders as soft on crime. Others have accused the industry of grossly exaggerating losses and warned that the thefts were being used as a pretext to roll back criminal justice reforms.

“These crimes deserve to be taken seriously, but they are also being weaponized ahead of the midterm elections,” said Jonathan Simon, a professor of criminal justice at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School.

While the political debate swirls about the extent of the crime and its causes, many of the people staffing the stores say retailers have been too permissive of crime, particularly theft. Some employees want more armed security guards who can take an active role in stopping theft, and they want more stores to permanently bar rowdy or violent customers, just as airlines have been taking a hard line with unruly passengers.

Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Some unions are demanding that retailers make official accommodations for employees who experience anxiety working with the public by finding them store roles where they don’t regularly interact with customers.

it was revealed that the retailers were hounding falsely accused customers.

The industry says it is putting much of its focus on stopping organized rings of thieves who resell stolen items online or on the street. They point to big cases like the recent indictment of dozens of people who are accused of stealing millions of dollars in merchandise from stores like Sephora, Bloomingdale’s and CVS.

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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Western businesses cut some Russia ties over Ukraine invasion, article with image

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The logo of Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot is seen on an Airbus A320-200 in Colomiers near Toulouse, France, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Feb 25 (Reuters) – Some Western companies severed their ties with Russia on Friday, and others studied whether and how to do so, as President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine triggered sanctions and pressure to abandon some business dealings. read more

European sports and entertainment businesses were among the first to announce such moves.

Premier League club Manchester United (MANU.N) withdrew the sponsorship rights of Russian airline Aeroflot (AFLT.MM), Formula One canceled the 2022 Russian Grand Prix, and organizers of the Eurovision song contest said Russia would not be allowed to participate in this year’s final. read more

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The “inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s (Eurovision) contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said in a statement.

Gadget maker Dell Technologies Inc (DELL.N) said it suspended sales in Ukraine and Russia and would closely monitor the situation to determine next steps. New U.S. rules on exports to Russia announced on Thursday covered computers, and Dell accounted for about 6% of computer shipments to Russia last quarter, according to researcher IDC.

U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) said, without providing a reason, that it had suspended its codesharing service with Aeroflot.

Alexandria, Virginia, marketing consultant Dan Sondhelm said companies were trying to balance the reputational risk of continuing to deal with Moscow with their economic interests and concerns about upsetting some of their investors.

“It will take some time for companies to make their decisions to act or do nothing,” Sondhelm said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Russia that targeted five major Russian banks, including state-backed Sberbank and VTB, the country’s two largest lenders, as well as wealthy individuals, and announced new export control measures. read more

On Friday, European Union member states agreed to freeze European assets of Putin and his foreign minister, among other measures. read more

Some experts and attorneys said Western executives would seek to end commercial arrangements, even if they were not obliged to do so, to avoid public relations problems or the bureaucracy of trying to navigate sanctions in areas such as technology exports. read more

“What a lot of them will do is just drop any Russian customers. They will just say ‘we’re not going to deal with that,'” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former U.S. Commerce Department export official.

David Smith, partner at insurance broker McGill and Partners in London, said that even before the invasion and sanctions, two underwriters had told him they did not want to insure a shipping company operating in Russian waters on the grounds they did not want to facilitate business with Russia.

“People should be thinking more and more about the moral issue, it’s not just a box-ticking exercise,” Smith said.

Western consumer brands operating in the region could face backlash. For instance, several posters on Facebook responded with outrage after a verified account for McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) posted that it closed restaurants in Ukraine, but did not address its Russia locations.

“The Russian occupiers, the military, and their children will continue to enjoy a variety of burgers. And my child is sitting in a bomb shelter with tears in his eyes,” one of the posters, identifying himself as Vitaliy Skalsky, told Reuters in Ukrainian in a Facebook message.

McDonald’s representatives in the United States and Ukraine did not respond to requests for comment.

‘FALLEN FOUL’ OF CORPORATE STANDARDS

Western banks and financial firms have been studying the practical implications of new sanctions, said several sources in the heavily regulated industries.

The rules prohibit direct dealings with sanctioned entities and “correspondent” banking relationships that enable Russian banks to make international payments via U.S. banks. But they are less clear on areas such as buying and selling Russian sovereign debt in secondary markets, said a senior source at a large European bank with U.S. operations.

Many details on how the sanctions will work need to be confirmed by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other international regulators, this source said. OFAC did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The chief investment officer of one European asset manager said on condition of anonymity it was considering whether to sell sovereign and corporate debt it holds in Russia, much as it might sell the bonds of a company that failed to take action on an issue like climate change.

“Russian actions have fallen foul of the standard you would have at the corporate level,” the executive said.

But client interests might argue for a different approach, this person said. “At the other side of the transaction is our client, who might be losing if you’re selling it in a fire sale,” the executive said.

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Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston
Additional reporting by Caroyln Cohn in London; Matt Scuffham, Hilary Russ, Danielle Kaye and David French in New York; Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Calif., and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.
Eidting by Greg Roumeliotis and Matthew Lewis

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Despite Labor Shortages, Workers See Few Gains in Economic Security

“Companies are doing all they can not to bake in any gains that are difficult to claw back,” Dr. Schneider said. “Workers’ labor market power is so far not yielding durable dividends.”

The changes that make work lower paying, less stable and generally more precarious date back to the 1960s and ’70s, when the labor market evolved in two key ways. First, companies began pushing more work outside the firm — relying increasingly on contractors, temps and franchisees, a practice known as “fissuring.”

Second, many businesses that continued to employ workers directly began hiring them to part-time positions, rather than full-time roles, particularly in the retail and hospitality industries.

According to the scholars Chris Tilly of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Françoise Carré of the University of Massachusetts Boston, the initial impetus for the shift to part-time work was the mass entry of women into the work force, including many who preferred part-time positions so they could be home when children returned from school.

Before long, however, employers saw an advantage in hiring part-timers and deliberately added more. “A light bulb went on one day,” Dr. Tilly said. “‘If we’re expanding part-time schedules, we don’t have to offer benefits, we can offer a lower wage rate.’”

By the late 1980s, employers had begun using scheduling software to forecast customer demand and staffed accordingly. Having a large portion of part-time workers, who could be given more hours when stores got busy and fewer hours when business slowed, helped enable this practice, known as just-in-time scheduling.

But the arrangement subjected workers to fluctuating schedules and unreliable hours, disrupting their personal lives, their sleep, even their children’s brain development.

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