KYIV, Ukraine — The wedding registration center in the heart of Kyiv was a whirlwind of romance and celebration, a reflection of the defiant optimism on display across the Ukrainian capital these days.
Some people were tying the knot on a summer Saturday, after the war delayed their plans. Others, like Larisa, 31, and Roman, 30, raced to wed, mindful of how quickly things can change.
“We decided that no matter what the situation in the future, we will always be together,” said Larisa, who like others interviewed did not give her full name for safety reasons. “Our family is sure that love always wins, and Ukraine will definitely win.”
Across Kyiv — a city where the future is far from clear but many yearn to find pleasure in the present — Ukrainians are trying to reclaim the rhythms and joys of daily life amid the vagaries, uncertainties and sorrows of war.
There may be no better place to feel the pulse of Kyiv in the summer than on the banks of the Dnipro River. Before the war, people kayaked and wake-boarded, music boomed from concerts and raves, crowds sunbathed or played sports. That riotous cacophony has not yet returned. But people are coming back.
Alexander Savchenko, a champion bodybuilder, was swimming on Saturday with his coach and his girlfriend, Valeria Baildalia, 27, all of them visiting from Odesa. Ms. Baildalia’s home is in Berdiansk, deep in the heart of the occupied south. She does not know when she will be able to return.
Valentina Shevchenko, 64, was leading a class in valeology, the science of healthy living through proper exercise and diet. She led a half-dozen devotees in dancing and twisting to a pop song. For several months in the spring, they were unable to meet because of the war. But they have now resumed their routine, with one change: They all wear blue and gold outfits, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Volodomyr, 79, said they end the class with the phrase: “Glory to Ukraine, health to all her people and thank you to our Western allies.”
On an island in the middle of the river, Petro, a 53-year-old former soldier and retired lawyer, stood on the sandy shores dressed in hip waders, a jar of fly larvae tucked into his pocket. He had come to fish for perch and carp, while also searching for peace of mind.
Six months ago, instead of a fishing rod, Petro carried a machine gun and prepared to defend his home as Russian forces bore down on Kyiv in the initial weeks of their invasion. More than four months since the Russians were forced to retreat from the city’s outskirts, Petro returned to his favorite fishing spot.
“It takes away all the tension from the war and all the negative thoughts,” he said, waiting for a bite. “I just want to switch off my mind. And if I catch a fish, I thank god.”
TikTok’s design makes it a breeding ground for misinformation, the researchers found. They wrote that videos could easily be manipulated and republished on the platform and showcased alongside stolen or original content. Pseudonyms are common; parody and comedy videos are easily misinterpreted as fact; popularity affects the visibility of comments; and data about publication time and other details are not clearly displayed on the mobile app.
(The Shorenstein Center researchers noted, however, that TikTok is less vulnerable to so-called brigading, in which groups coordinate to make a post spread widely, than platforms like Twitter or Facebook.)
During the first quarter of 2022, more than 60 percent of videos with harmful misinformation were viewed by users before being removed, TikTok said. Last year, a group of behavioral scientists who had worked with TikTok said that an effort to attach warnings to posts with unsubstantiated content had reduced sharing by 24 percent but had limited views by only 5 percent.
Researchers said that misinformation would continue to thrive on TikTok as long as the platform refused to release data about the origins of its videos or share insight into its algorithms. Last month, TikTok said it would offer some access to a version of its application programming interface, or A.P.I., this year, but it would not say whether it would do so before the midterms.
Filippo Menczer, an informatics and computer science professor and the director of the Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University, said he had proposed research collaborations to TikTok and had been told, “Absolutely not.”
“At least with Facebook and Twitter, there is some level of transparency, but, in the case of TikTok, we have no clue,” he said. “Without resources, without being able to access data, we don’t know who gets suspended, what content gets taken down, whether they act on reports or what the criteria are. It’s completely opaque, and we cannot independently assess anything.”
PITTSTON, Pa. — Once upon a time, when parents were scrambling to occupy their children during pandemic lockdowns, bicycles were hard to find. But today, in a giant warehouse in northeastern Pennsylvania, there are shiny new Huffys and Schwinns available at big discounts.
The same goes for patio furniture, garden hoses and portable pizza ovens. There are home spas, Rachael Ray’s nonstick pans and a backyard firepit, which promises to make “memories every day.”
The warehouse is run by Liquidity Services, a company that collects surplus and returned goods from major retailers like Target and Amazon and resells them, often for cents on the dollar. The facility opened last November and is operating at exceptionally high volumes for this time of year.
last month, some major retailers say shoppers are buying less clothing, gardening equipment and electronics and focusing instead on basics like food and gas.
Adding to that glut are all the things people bought during the pandemic — often online — and then returned. In 2021, shoppers returned an average of 16.6 percent of their purchases, up from 10.6 percent in 2020 and more than double the rate in 2019, according to an analysis by the National Retail Federation, a trade group, and Appriss Retail, a software and analytics firm.
Last year’s returns, which retailers are not always able to resell themselves, totaled $761 billion in lost sales. That, the retail federation noted, is more than the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Defense.
rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:
Consumer confidence. In June, the University of Michigan’s survey of consumer sentiment hit its lowest level in its 70-year history, with nearly half of respondents saying inflation is eroding their standard of living.
The housing market. Demand for real estate has decreased, and construction of new homes is slowing. These trends could continue as interest rates rise, and real estate companies, including Compass and Redfin, have laid off employees in anticipation of a downturn in the housing market.
Copper. A commodity seen by analysts as a measure of sentiment about the global economy — because of its widespread use in buildings, cars and other products — copper is down more than 20 percent since January, hitting a 17-month low on July 1.
Oil. Crude prices are up this year, in part because of supply constraints resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but they have recently started to waver as investors worry about growth.
The bond market. Long-term interest rates in government bonds have fallen below short-term rates, an unusual occurrence that traders call a yield-curve inversion. It suggests that bond investors are expecting an economic slowdown.
“You would think that there would be enough data and enough history to see that a little more clearly,” he added. “But it also suggests that times are changing and they are changing fast and more dramatically.”
Strong consumer spending may have saved the economy from ruin during the pandemic, but it has also led to enormous excess and waste.
Retailers have begun to slash prices on inventory in their stores and online. Last Monday, Walmart issued the industry’s latest warning when it said that its operating profits would drop sharply this year as it cut prices on an oversupply of general merchandise.
above a reclaimed strip mine dating back to when this region was a major coal producer. Today, the local economy is home to dozens of e-commerce warehouses that cover the hilly landscape like giant spaceships, funneling goods to the population centers in and around New York and Philadelphia.
Liquidity Services, a publicly traded company founded in 1999, decided to open its new facility as close as it could to the Scranton area’s major e-commerce warehouses, making it easy for retailers to dispense with their unwanted and returned items.
Even before the inventory glut appeared this spring, returns had been a major problem for retailers. The huge surge in e-commerce sales during the pandemic — increasing more than 40 percent in 2020 from the previous year — has only added to it.
The National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail calculate that more than 10 percent of returns last year involved fraud, including people wearing clothing and then sending it back or stealing goods from stores and returning them with fake receipts. But more fundamentally, industry analysts say the increasing returns reflect consumer expectations that everything can be taken back.
burned in incinerators that generate electricity.
stock price plummeted nearly 25 percent in one day. Other retailers’ share prices have also fallen.
Target’s stumbles have been an opportunity for people like Walter Crowley.
Mr. Crowley regularly rents a U-Haul and drives back and forth to the liquidation warehouse from his home near Binghamton, N.Y.
Understand Inflation and How It Impacts You
Mr. Crowley, who turns 54 next month, focuses mostly on discounted home improvement goods, which he resells to local contractors, like multiple pallets of discontinued garage door openers, tiles and flooring.
But on a sweltering day earlier this month, he stood outside the warehouse in his U-Haul loading up on items from Target.
“I saw its stock got tanked,” said Mr. Crowley, a cigarette dangling from his mouth and sweat pouring down his face. “It’s an ugly situation for them.”
He bought several cribs, a set of sheets for his own house and a pink castle for a girl in his neighborhood who just turned 5.
“I end up giving a lot of it away to my neighbors, to be honest,” he said. “Some people are barely getting by.”
The buyers bid for the goods through online auctions and then drive to the warehouse to pick up their winnings.
It’s a diverse group. There was a science teacher who stocked up on plastic parts for his class, as well as a woman who planned to resell her purchases — neon green Igloo coolers, a table saw, baby pajamas — in the Haitian and Jamaican communities of New York. She ships other items to Trinidad.
The Pennsylvania warehouse, one of eight that Liquidity Service operates around the country, employs about 20 workers, some of whom have been hired on a temporary basis. The starting pay is $17.50 an hour.
Charles Benincasa, 39, is a temporary worker who has had numerous “warehousing” jobs, the most recent at the Chewy pet food distribution center in nearby Wilkes-Barre.
Mr. Benincasa said his friends and family had gotten in the habit of returning many of the goods they buy online. But as he’s watched the boxes pile up in the Liquidity Services warehouse, he worries about the implications for the economy.
“Companies are losing a lot of money,” he said. “There is no free lunch.”
WAYNE, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Home prices across the United States rose in the first six months of the year at an annualized rate of 15.5 percent, according to homegenius Home Price Index (HPI) data released today by homegenius Real Estate LLC, a Radian Group Inc. company (NYSE: RDN). The company believes the homegenius HPI is the most comprehensive and timely measure of U.S. housing market prices and conditions available in the market today.
The homegenius HPI also rose 16.9 percent year-over-year (July 2021 to June 2022), which was slightly higher than the year-over-year increase of 16.3 percent recorded last month. The annualized increase represents the continuation of record-breaking annualized yearly gains in recent months. The homegenius HPI is calculated based on the estimated values of more than 70 million unique addresses each month, covering all single-family property types and geographies.
“The U.S. remains in the throes of a severe housing shortage, which has offset the impact of quickly rising mortgage rates and lower equity markets. While affordability concerns have become even more important over the last six months, the pent-up demand for homes has meant that prices have just continued to go up. While inventory has been starting to rise, last month we saw the lowest level of homes for sale of any June over the last 15 years,” said Steve Gaenzler, SVP of Products, Data and Analytics. “However, some relief for prospective buyers may thankfully be on the horizon. There are signs that open house showings and bidding wars have slowed, returning many markets from frenzy to a more normal, and healthy pace.”
NATIONAL DATA AND TRENDS
Median home price in the U.S. rose to $330,776 in June
Home prices rose an annualized 17.6 percent during the second quarter
Nationally, the median estimated price for single-family and condominium homes rose to $330,776 in June from the $325,684 recorded in May. Across the U.S., home prices rose 17.6 percent in the second quarter, a solid increase over the first-quarter gain of 12.9 percent.
Across the U.S., demand for homes remains healthy considering supply challenges. June 2022 recorded 312,000 real estate closings. That is the lowest level of sales in the month of June since 2014. However, to put this in historical context, the absorption rate (measured as the count of sales as a percentage of the prior month’s active listings) was 34.8 percent in June, the second highest for any June and only lower than the 39.5 percent of June 2021. Homes continue to sell in record time. Nationally, the number of days from listing to closing dropped to 66 days, the fewest days for any June on record and the third consecutive month under 70 days.
REGIONAL DATA AND TRENDS
First-half 2022 results are strongly positive for all regions
Regional appreciation rates slowed from prior quarter
In the first half of 2022, all six regional indices recorded positive home price appreciation rates in excess of 10.0 percent (annualized). The South and Southwest turned in the strongest first half of the year, notching 21.8 and 16.5 percent annualized appreciation, respectively. The other four regions ranged from 10.9 percent (Midwest) to 12.7 percent (MidAtlantic). Compared to the final six months of 2021, all regions except for the South reported slower annualized appreciation. Based on recent appreciation data, the median-priced U.S. home has gained more than $20,000 in equity value thus far in 2022. Even as the most expensive region, with a median estimate of more than $580,000, the West recorded nearly a 12 percent annualized appreciation in the first half of 2022.
In the South, home prices in hot markets for remote work relocation, like the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, have led the region in appreciation rates over the first half of the year. Each of these states finished the first six months with annualized price growth of more than 20 percent.
The median estimated price of a home in Florida, the fastest growing state in the U.S. this year price-wise], was $330,975 as of the end of June, growing by nearly +$80,000 in just the last year. In contrast, Idaho, the once-darling of state house price appreciation, has struggled for the last quarter and finished Q2 with a lower estimated median home price than at the end of Q1, the first state-level negative quarter for home price appreciation since the start of the pandemic.
METROPOLITAN AREA DATA AND TRENDS
Metro areas end quarter on strong note
All largest Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) had better Q2 than Q1
During the first six months of 2022, all the largest metro areas in the U.S recorded price appreciation rates faster than the first quarter. However, in June, only 9 of the largest 20 metro areas recorded higher rates of annual appreciation than the prior month. The remaining 11 recorded slower rates of appreciation month-over-month. Of the 11 metros recording a weaker month in June as compared to May, six of them were MidAtlantic (3) or Southwest (3) metros. The strongest metro in the second quarter was Tampa, FL, although recent month-over-month data suggests that the market there may be softening.
ABOUT THE HOMEGENIUS HPI
homegenius Real Estate LLC, a subsidiary of Radian Group Inc., provides national and regional indices for download at homegenius.com/hpi, along with information on how to access the full library of indices.
Additional content on the housing market can also be found on the homegenius and Radian News and Insights pages.
homegenius offers the HPI data set along with a client access portal for content visualization and data extraction. The engine behind the homegenius HPI has created more than 100,000 unique data series, which are updated on a monthly basis.
The homegenius HPI Portal is a self-service data and visualization platform that contains a library of thousands of high-value indices based on both geographic dimensions as well as by market, or property attributes. The platform provides monthly updated access to nine different geographic dimensions, from the national level down to zip codes. In addition, the homegenius HPI provides unique insights into market changes, conditions and strength across multiple property attributes, including bedroom count and livable square footage. To help enhance customers’ understanding of granular real estate markets, the library is expanded regularly to include more insightful indices.
homegenius Inc., a subsidiary of Radian Group Inc. (NYSE: RDN), and its family of companies combine an array of title, real estate and technology products and services into a full-service ecosystem. homegenius offers innovative experiences from search to close, enabling mortgage lenders, mortgage and real estate investors, consumers, GSEs, and real estate brokers and agents to benefit from integrated and personalized solutions leveraging advanced technology and the latest advancements in data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. geniusprice is provided by homegenius Real Estate LLC, doing business as Red Bell Real Estate, LLC in some states where name change approvals are pending. For additional information on the homegenius family of companies, please visit homegenius.com.
SAN FRANCISCO — Last year, Bolt Financial, a payments start-up, began a new program for its employees. They owned stock options in the company, some worth millions of dollars on paper, but couldn’t touch that money until Bolt sold or went public. So Bolt began providing them with loans — some reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars — against the value of their stock.
In May, Bolt laid off 200 workers. That set off a 90-day period for those who had taken out the loans to pay the money back. The company tried to help them figure out options for repayment, said a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke anonymously because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
Bolt’s program was the most extreme example of a burgeoning ecosystem of loans for workers at privately held tech start-ups. In recent years, companies such as Quid and Secfi have sprung up to offer loans or other forms of financing to start-up employees, using the value of their private company shares as a sort of collateral. These providers estimate that start-up employees around the world hold at least $1 trillion in equity to lend against.
start-up economy now deflates, buffeted by economic uncertainty, soaring inflation and rising interest rates, Bolt’s situation serves as a warning about the precariousness of these loans. While most of them are structured to be forgiven if a start-up fails, employees could still face a tax bill because the loan forgiveness is treated as taxable income. And in situations like Bolt’s, the loans may be difficult to repay on short notice.
badly burned by loans related to their stock options.
Ted Wang, a former start-up lawyer and an investor at Cowboy Ventures, was so alarmed by the loans that he published a blog post in 2014, “Playing With Fire,” advising against them for most people. Mr. Wang said he got a fresh round of calls about the loans anytime the market overheated and always felt obligated to explain the risks.
“I’ve seen this go wrong, bad wrong,” he wrote in his blog post.
Start-up loans stem from the way workers are typically paid. As part of their compensation, most employees at privately held tech companies receive stock options. The options must eventually be exercised, or bought at a set price, to own the stock. Once someone owns the shares, he or she cannot usually cash them out until the start-up goes public or sells.
Uber and Airbnb put off initial public offerings of stock as long as they could, hitting private market valuations in the tens of billions of dollars.
That meant many of their workers were bound by “golden handcuffs,” unable to leave their jobs because their stock options had become so valuable that they could not afford to pay the taxes, based on the current market value, on exercising them. Others became tired of sitting on the options while they waited for their companies to go public.
The loans have given start-up employees cash to use in the meantime, including money to cover the costs of buying their stock options. Even so, many tech workers do not always understand the intricacies of equity compensation.
“We work with supersmart Stanford computer science A.I. graduates, but no one explains it to them,” said Oren Barzilai, chief executive ofEquitybee, a site that helps start-up workers find investors for their stock.
Secfi, a provider of financing and other services, has now issued $700 million of cash financing to start-up workers since it opened in 2017. Quid has issued hundreds of millions’ worth of loans and other financing to hundreds of people since 2016. Its latest $320 million fund is backed by institutions, including Oaktree Capital Management, and it charges those who take out loans the origination fees and interest.
So far, less than 2 percent of Quid’s loans have been underwater, meaning the market value of the stock has fallen below that of the loan, said Josh Berman, a founder of the company. Secfi said that 35 percent of its loans and financing had been fully paid back, and that its loss rate was 2 to 3 percent.
congratulatory flourish on Twitter in February, writing that it showed “we simply CARE more about our employees than most.”
The company’s program was meant to help employees afford exercising their shares and cut down on taxes, he said.
Bolt declined to comment on how many laid-off employees had been affected by the loan paybacks. It offered employees the choice of giving their start-up shares back to the company to repay their loans. Business Insider reported earlier on the offer.
Mr. Breslow, who stepped down as Bolt’s chief executive in February, did not respond to a request for comment on the layoffs and loans.
In recent months, he has helped found Prysm, a provider of nonrecourse loans for start-up equity. In pitch materials sent to investors that were viewed by The New York Times, Prysm, which did not respond to a request for comment, advertised Mr. Breslow as its first customer. Borrowing against the value of his stock in Bolt, the presentation said, Mr. Breslow took a loan for $100 million.
Chinese artists have staged performances to highlight the ubiquity of surveillance cameras. Privacy activists have filed lawsuits against the collection of facial recognition data. Ordinary citizens and establishment intellectuals alike have pushed back against the abuse of Covid tracking apps by the authorities to curb protests. Internet users have shared tips on how to evade digital monitoring.
As China builds up its vast surveillance and security apparatus, it is running up against growing public unease about the lack of safeguards to prevent the theft or misuse of personal data. The ruling Communist Party is keenly aware of the cost to its credibility of any major security lapses: Last week, it moved systematically to squelch news about what was probably the largest known breach of a Chinese government computer system, involving the personal information of as many as one billion citizens.
The breach dealt a blow to Beijing, exposing the risks of its expansive efforts to vacuum up enormous amounts of digital and biological information on the daily activities and social connections of its people from social media posts, biometric data, phone records and surveillance videos. The government says these efforts are necessary for public safety: to limit the spread of Covid, for instance, or to catch criminals. But its failure to protect the data exposes citizens to problems like fraud and extortion, and threatens to erode people’s willingness to comply with surveillance.
for mishandling data. But the authorities rarely point fingers at the country’s other top collector of personal information: the government itself.
Security researchers say the leaked database, apparently used by the police in Shanghai, had been left online and unsecured for months. It was exposed after an anonymous user posted in an online forum offering to sell the vast trove of data for 10 Bitcoin, or about $200,000. The New York Times confirmed parts of a sample of the database released by the anonymous user, who posted under the name ChinaDan.
In addition to basic information like names, addresses and ID numbers, the sample featured details that appeared to be drawn from external databases, like instructions for couriers on where to drop off deliveries, raising questions about how much information private companies share with the authorities. Of particular concern for many, it also contained intensely personal information, such as police reports that included the names of people accused of rape and domestic violence, as well as private information about political dissidents.
leaked databases used by the police in China that were left online with little to no protection; some contained facial recognition records and ID scans of people in a Muslim ethnic minority region.
Now, there are signs that people are growing wary of the government and public institutions, too, as they see how their own data is being used against them. Last month, a nationwide outcry erupted over the apparent abuse of Covid-19 tracking technology by local authorities.
The Latest on China: Key Things to Know
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China’s economy stumbles. Hurt by lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of Covid, China’s economic engine has shuddered in recent months, as housing sales sagged, shops and restaurants shuttered and youth unemployment climbed. The slowdown has kindled doubts about the viability of the country’s stringent strategy of eliminating virtually all Covid-19 infections.
A financial scandal. Depositors from across the country descended on the city of Zhengzhou for a rare mass demonstration after the money they placed in rural banks using online, third-party platforms was frozen as investigators examined allegations of widespread fraud. The authorities responded with violence.
Forced labor. Mining companies in China’s western Xinjiang region are assuming a larger role in the supply chain behind the batteries that power electric vehicles and store renewable energy. But their ties to forced labor practices could portend trouble for industries that depend on materials from China.
Protesters fighting to recover their savings from four rural banks in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou found that the mobile apps used to identify and isolate people who might be spreading Covid had turned from green — meaning safe — to red, a designation that would prevent them from moving freely.
“There is no privacy in China,” said Silvia Si, 30, a protester whose health code had turned red. The authorities in Zhengzhou, under pressure to account for the episode, later punished five officials for changing the codes of more than 1,300 customers.
posted on Weibo that he was refusing to wear an electronic bracelet to track his movements while in isolation, saying the device was an “electronic shackle” and an infringement on his privacy. The post was liked around 60,000 times, and users flooded it with responses. Many said the bracelet reminded them of the treatment of criminals; others called it a ploy to surreptitiously collect personal information. The post was later taken down by censors, the blogger said.
researcher on technology policy at Yale Law School and New America. “People are far more trusting overall in how government entities handle their personal information and far more suspicious about the corporate sector.”
Legal analysts said any disciplinary actions resulting from the Shanghai police database breach were unlikely to be publicized. There are few mechanisms in place to hold Chinese government agencies responsible for their own data leaks. For many citizens, that lack of recourse has contributed to a sense of resignation.
Occasionally, though, they notch small victories, as Xu Peilin did when she took on her neighborhood committee last year. She had returned to her apartment building in Beijing one day to find that the compound wanted residents to submit to a facial recognition scanner to enter.
“It was insane,” said Ms. Xu, 37, a project manager at a start-up company. She said it reminded her of one of her favorite television shows, the British science fiction series “Black Mirror.”
Ms. Xu badgered her neighborhood committee by telephone and text message until it relented. For now, Ms. Xu said, she can still enter her compound using her key card, though she believed it was only a matter of time until the facial recognition devices became mandatory again.
“All I can do for now,” she said, “is continue to resist on a small scale.”
LOS ANGELES, July 6 (Reuters) – Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) said on Wednesday it is developing a spin-off of science fiction series “Stranger Things” as the streaming service works to build its biggest English-language hit into a broad entertainment franchise.
The new series will be based on an original idea from Matt and Ross Duffer, the twins who created “Stranger Things,” Netflix said in a statement. No details on the story or characters were provided.
Netflix also announced a stage play set in the world of “Stranger Things.”
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The supernatural thriller starring Winona Ryder and David Harbour has set viewing records for Netflix, surpassing the Regency-era drama “Bridgerton” as the company’s most-watched English-language show.
“Stranger Things” reverberated through the cultural zeitgeist when it debuted in 2016 and turned then-12-year-old Millie Bobby Brown into a global star. The most recent season propelled Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” to the top of the iTunes and Spotify charts 37 years after its original release.
The fourth season concluded with the final two episodes last week, briefly crashing the Netflix app as fans rushed to view it. The series has logged 1.15 billion hours in viewing time on Netflix, behind only South Korean drama “Squid Game.”
Show creators Matt and Ross Duffer pose with cast members Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Sadie Sink, Maya Hawke, Noah Schnapp, Priah Ferguson and Brett Gelman at a special event for the television series “Stranger Things” at Raleigh Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
“One of the reasons why ‘Stranger Things’ has really broken out in the way that it has is that there’s a universality at the center of it,” said Matthew Thunell, the Netflix vice president who first read the script and advocated for the series. “It really is about the strength of friendship, how friendship triumphs over evil.”
The series is the first that Netflix has sought to develop as a traditional entertainment franchise, whose characters and stories traverse film, television, games and consumer products. Its popularity took Netflix by surprise – “candidly we could never have predicted what ‘Stranger Things’ has become,” said Thunell.
As the show’s audience expanded beyond so-called genre nerds, or science-fiction fans, to include adults captivated by its 1980s pop culture references, Netflix began contemplating ways to extend the story through spin-offs and merchandise.
That resulted in a range of “Stranger Things” tie-ins that include a Surfer Boy pineapple and jalapeno frozen pizza at Walmart and a Magic 8 ball toy from Hasbro. Fans also have been able to participate in mock sleep studies at a Hawkins National Laboratory attraction in New York, San Francisco and London.
“We’re starting from scratch and so it gives us a lot of freedom to be innovative and try new things,” said Josh Simon, Netflix’s vice president of consumer products.
The new series is part of a production deal with the Duffers, who will also develop a live-action TV adaptation of Japanese manga and anime series “Death Note,” among other projects.
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Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski;
Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Richard Chang
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
SAN FRANCISCO — No one wanted to miss out on the cryptocurrency mania.
Over the last two years, as the prices of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies surged, crypto start-ups proliferated. Companies that market digital coins to investors flooded the airwaves with TV commercials, newfangled lending operations offered sky-high interest rates on crypto deposits and exchanges like Coinbase that allow investors to trade digital assets went on hiring sprees.
A global industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars rose up practically overnight. Now it is crashing down.
After weeks of plummeting cryptocurrency prices, Coinbase said on Tuesday that it was cutting 18 percent of its employees, after layoffs at other crypto companies like Gemini, BlockFi and Crypto.com. High-profile start-ups like Terraform Labs have imploded, wiping away years of investments. On Sunday, an experimental crypto bank, Celsius, abruptly halted withdrawals.
dropped by about 65 percent since autumn, and analysts predict the sell-off will continue. Stock prices of crypto companies have cratered, retail traders are fleeing and industry executives are predicting a prolonged slump that could put more companies in jeopardy.
stocks crashing, interest rates soaring and inflation high, cryptocurrency prices are also collapsing, showing they have become tied to the overall market. And as people pull back from crypto investments, the outflow is exposing the unstable foundations of many of the industry’s most popular companies.
OpenSea, the largest marketplace for the unique digital images known as nonfungible tokens, reached a staggering $13 billion valuation. And Wall Street banks such as JPMorgan Chase, which previously shunned crypto assets, and Fortune 500 companies like PayPal rolled out crypto offerings.
confidence evaporated in the early 2000s, many of the dot-coms went bust, leaving just the biggest — such as eBay, Amazon and Yahoo — standing.
Read More on the World of Cryptocurrencies
This time, investors predict there will be more survivors. “You certainly have some overhyped companies that don’t have the fundamentals,” said Mike Jones, an investor at the venture firm Science Inc. “But you also have some really strong companies that are trading way below where they should.”
There have been warning signs that some crypto companies were not sustainable. Skeptics have pointed out that many of the most popular firms offered products underpinned by risky financial engineering.
Terraform Labs, for example, offered TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin with a fixed value linked to the U.S. dollar. The coin was hyped by its founder, Do Kwon, who raised more than $200 million from major investment firms such as Lightspeed Venture Partners and Galaxy Digital, even as critics warned that the project was unstable.
The coin’s price was algorithmically linked to a sister cryptocurrency, Luna. When the price of Luna plummeted in May, TerraUSD fell in tandem — a “death spiral” that destabilized the broader market and plunged some investors into financial ruin.
drew scrutiny from several state regulators. In the end, a drop in crypto prices appeared to put the company under more pressure than it could withstand.
With the price of Bitcoin tumbling, Celsius announced on Sunday that it was freezing withdrawals “due to extreme market conditions.” The company did not respond to a request for comment.
The market instability has also triggered a crisis at Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange. Between the end of 2021 and late March, Coinbase lost 2.2 million active customers, or 19 percent of its total, as crypto prices dropped. The company’s net revenue in the first three months of the year shrank 27 percent from a year earlier, to $1.2 billion. Its stock price has plunged 84 percent since it went public last year.
This month, Coinbase said it would rescind job offers and extend a hiring freeze to battle the economic downturn. On Tuesday, it said it would cut about 1,100 workers.
Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s chief executive, informed employees of the layoffs in a note on Tuesday morning, saying the company “grew too quickly” as crypto products became popular.
Expand Your Cryptocurrency Vocabulary
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Bitcoin. A Bitcoin is a digital token that can be sent electronically from one user to another, anywhere in the world. Bitcoin is also the name of the payment network on which this form of digital currency is stored and moved.
Blockchain. A blockchain is a database maintained communally and that reliably stores digital information. The original blockchain was the database on which all Bitcoin transactions were stored, but non-currency-based companies and governments are also trying to use blockchain technology to store their data.
Coinbase. The first major cryptocurrency company to list its shares on a U.S. stock exchange, Coinbase is a platform that allows people and companies to buy and sell various digital currencies, including Bitcoin, for a transaction fee.
Web3. The name “web3” is what some technologists call the idea of a new kind of internet service that is built using blockchain-based tokens, replacing centralized, corporate platforms with open protocols and decentralized, community-run networks.
DAOs. A decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, is an organizational structure built with blockchain technology that is often described as a crypto co-op. DAOs form for a common purpose, like investing in start-ups, managing a stablecoin or buying NFTs.
“It is now clear to me that we over-hired,” he wrote. A Coinbase spokesman declined to comment.
“It had been growth at all costs over the last several years,” said Ryan Coyne, who covers crypto companies and financial technology at the Mizuho Group. “It’s now turned to profitable growth.”
memo to staff, the Winklevoss twins said the industry had entered a “crypto winter.”
commercial starring the actor Matt Damon, who declared that “fortune favors the brave” as he encouraged investors to put their money in the crypto market. Last week, Crypto.com’s chief executive announced that he was laying off 5 percent of the staff, or 260 people. On Monday, BlockFi, a crypto lending operation, said it was reducing its staff by roughly 20 percent.
Gemini and BlockFi declined to comment. A Crypto.com spokesman said the company remains focused on “investing resources into product and engineering capabilities to develop world-class products.”
Cryptocurrencies have long been volatile and prone to boom-and-bust cycles. In 2013, a Chinese ban on Bitcoin sent its price tumbling. In 2017, a proliferation of companies creating and selling their own tokens led to a run-up in crypto prices, which crashed after regulators cracked down on so-called initial coin offerings.
These bubbles are built into the ecosystem, crypto enthusiasts said. They attract talented people to the industry, who go on to build valuable projects. Many of the most vocal cheerleaders encourage investors to “buy the dip,” or invest more when prices are low.
“We have been in these downward spirals before and recovered,” Mr. Jones, the Science Inc. investor, said. “We all believe in the fundamentals.”
Some of the companies have also remained defiant. During Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals on Monday night, Coinbase aired a commercial that alluded to past boom-and-bust cycles.
“Crypto is dead,” it declared. “Long live crypto.”
MOGADISHU, Somalia — In a fortified tent guarded by peacekeeping forces, hundreds of lawmakers elected a new president in Somalia on Sunday, capping a violent election season that threatened to push the Horn of Africa nation toward a breakdown.
The selection of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former president, in Mogadishu ended a bitter election period marred by corruption, a president’s attempt to cling to power and heavy fighting in the streets. Mr. Mohamud defeated three dozen candidates after three rounds of voting, including President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who drew condemnation after extending his term last year.
The vote, which had been delayed for nearly two years, came amid soaring inflation and a deadly drought that has left almost 40 percent of the country hungry. The streets in Mogadishu, the capital, were closed on Sunday, and the police announced a curfew through Monday morning.
a former U.S. citizen and bureaucrat,who led the country for five years. Mr. Mohamed has been accused of cracking down on the opposition and on journalists, fomenting a rift with neighboring Kenya and undercutting the power-sharing model that buttressed the country’s federal system.
The Shabab, who are linked to Al Qaeda, have exploited the political instability and the bitter divisions between security forces to expand and gain strength, experts said. After more than 16 years, the group now has wide powers: extorting taxes, judging court cases, forcing minors into its ranks and carrying out suicide bombings.
signed a law extending his tenure by two years, fighting broke out in the capital’s streets, forcing him to change course.
Observers said the election of lawmakers last year was rife with corruption.
February and March on Somali officials and others accused of undermining the parliamentary elections, which eventually concluded in late April.
Because of the indirect nature of the presidential vote, candidates did not campaign in the streets. Instead, they met with lawmakers and clan elders in luxury hotels and compounds guarded by soldiers and blast walls. Some aspirants put up election billboards, promising good governance, justice and peace.
But few in this seaside city believe politicians will make good on their pledges.
“Everyone wears a suit, carries a briefcase and promises to be as sweet as honey,” said Jamila Adan, a political science student at City University. “But we don’t believe them.”
government’s infighting and paralysis, many Somalis are asking whether a new administration will make a difference.
Some Somalis have turned to the Shabab for services that would ideally be delivered by a functioning state. Many in Mogadishu regularly travel to areas dozens of miles north of the city to get their cases heard at Shabab-operated mobile courts.
One of them is Ali Ahmed, a businessman from a minority tribe whose family home in Mogadishu was occupied for years by members of a powerful tribe. Mr. Ahmed said the Shabab-run court ruled that the occupiers should vacate his house — and they did.
“It’s sad, but no one goes to the government to get justice,” he said. “Even government judges will secretly advise you to go to Al Shabab.”
according to the World Food Program, with nearly 760,000 people displaced.
according to the United Nations. Aid organizations are not able to reach them there, crops are failing and the Shabab demand taxes on livestock, according to interviews with officials and displaced people.
To find food and water, families travel hundreds of miles, sometimes on foot, to cities and towns like Mogadishu and Doolow in the southern Gedo region. Some parents said they buried their children on the way, while others left weak children behind to save others who were hardier.
Dealing with the Shabab will be among the first challenges facing Somalia’s next government, said Afyare Abdi Elmi, executive director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu.
But the new leader, he said, needs also to deliver a new Constitution, reform the economy, deal with climate change, open dialogue with the breakaway region of Somaliland and unite a polarized nation.
“Governance in Somalia became too confrontational over the past few years,” Mr. Elmi said. “It was like pulling teeth. People are now ready for a new dawn.”
When Barbara Schwartz looks back at her younger days working as a Broadway stagehand, she remembers the electricity of it: the harried dancers slipping into their costumes backstage, the props people shoving past with flashlights between their teeth.
She was able to throw herself into that high-pressure career, she said, because of a choice she made in 1976. She got an abortion at a clinic she found in the Yellow Pages. It was three years after the Roe v. Wade ruling established the constitutional right to an abortion; to Ms. Schwartz, the world seemed full of new professional opportunities for women. She got a credit card in her own name, became one of the first women to make it into the local stagehand union and joined the throngs backstage at shows including “Cats” and “Miss Saigon.”
Ms. Schwartz, 69, is now retired. She is spending her retirement years escorting women to the doors of an abortion clinic on the border of Virginia and Tennessee. She was drawn to this volunteer work, she said, because to her, the promise from her 20s has dimmed — the result of laws that have chipped away at abortion access, with a leaked draft Supreme Court ruling this past week revealing that Roe is likely to be overturned.
“This is my giant pay it forward,” Ms. Schwartz said.
That is how Ginny Jelatis, 67, thinks about it too. She was of high school senior age the year Roe v. Wade was decided; she began serving as a clinic escort after retiring from her work as a history professor in 2016.
43 percent in 1970 to 57.4 percent in 2019. Many different factors drove women into the work force in greater numbers in those years, but scholars argue that abortion access was an important one.
poll in 2021 found that 59 percent of Americans said they believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 39 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Recent Pew data indicates that women are slightly more likely than men to say abortion should be legal in all cases, and younger people, between the ages of 18 and 29, are far more likely than older adults to say abortion should be legal in some or all cases.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun, a modest Midwestern Republican and a defender of the right to abortion, wrote the majority opinion.
What was the case about? The ruling struck down laws in many states that had barred abortion, declaring that they could not ban the procedure before the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. That point, known as fetal viability, was around 28 weeks when Roe was decided. Today, most experts estimate it to be about 23 or 24 weeks.
What else did the case do? Roe v. Wade created a framework to govern abortion regulation based on the trimesters of pregnancy. In the first trimester, it allowed almost no regulations. In the second, it allowed regulations to protect women’s health. In the third, it allowed states to ban abortions so long as exceptions were made to protect the life and health of the mother. In 1992, the court tossed that framework, while affirming Roe’s essential holding.
Recent research has tried to understand the role abortion access plays in women’s employment. Most notable is the Turnaway Study, conducted at the University of California, San Francisco. Researchers followed two groups of women — a group that wanted and got abortions, and another that wanted abortions and were unable to obtain them — for five years and found that those unable to get abortions had worse economic outcomes. Almost two-thirds of those who did not have an abortion they had sought out were living in poverty six months later, compared with 45 percent of those who got the procedure.
patchwork of state laws on abortion access, with 13 states set to ban abortion immediately or very quickly after the court’s ruling. There is likely a correlation between the regions of the country where it is most difficult to get an abortion, and those with the fewest child care and parental leave options, according to an analysis of research findings from the financial site WalletHub.
For older women who felt they were able to attain financial stability because of the decision to have an abortion, there is resonance in sharing their stories with the younger women they meet at clinics today.
“The older folks I work with can remember that dread of, ‘My God, what if it happens to me?’” said Ms. Deiermann, who spent most of her career working in reproductive health advocacy.
Many clinic volunteers, like Ms. Deiermann, remember when their classmates and friends got illegal abortions. Telling those stories feels more urgent than ever.
Karen Kelley, 67, a retired labor and delivery nurse in Idaho, who volunteers at an abortion clinic there, spent her childhood aligned with her Roman Catholic family’s anti-abortion views. Then she found herself pregnant in her early 20s, without an income to support a baby. Realizing that motherhood could “derail all her hopes,” she chose to terminate that pregnancy, about six years after Roe.
That’s a memory Ms. Kelley conveys to the women she escorts to the clinic’s steps. “If I’m asked, I’m always honest that I understand how they’re feeling because I had an abortion and they have every right to make the decision,” she said.
And some older women said that the position they’re in now — retired, with savings and stability — is something they trace back to Roe.
“It gave us a chance to decide to marry and have a family later,” said Eileen Ehlers, 74, a retired high school English teacher and a mother.
What Roe gave her, she said, is something she can now pour back into volunteering: “We have time.”