signed a letter urging management to be more open to flexible work arrangements. It was a rare show of dissent from the company’s rank-and-file, who historically have been less willing to openly challenge executives on workplace matters.

But as tech companies grapple with offering employees greater work flexibility, the firms are also scaling back some office perks.

cutting back or eliminating free services like laundry and dry cleaning. Google, like some other companies, has said it approved requests from thousands of employees to work remotely or transfer to a different office. But if employees move to a less expensive location, Google is cutting pay, arguing that it has always factored in where a person was hired in setting compensation.

Clio, a legal software company in Burnaby, British Columbia, won’t force its employees back to the office. But last week, it gave a party at its offices.

There was upbeat music. There was an asymmetrical balloon sculpture in Clio’s signature bright blue, dark blue, coral and white — perfect for selfies. One of Clio’s best-known workers donned a safari costume to give tours of the facility. At 2 p.m., the company held a cupcake social.

To make its work spaces feel more like home, the company moved desks to the perimeter, allowing Clions — what the company calls its employees — to gaze out at the office complex’s cherry blossoms while banging out emails. A foosball table was upgraded to a workstation with chairs on either end, “so you could have a meeting while playing foosball with your laptop on it,” said Natalie Archibald, Clio’s vice president of people.

Clio’s Burnaby office, which employs 350, is open at only half capacity. Spaced-out desks must be reserved, and employees got red, yellow and green lanyards to convey their comfort levels with handshakes.

Only around 60 people came in that Monday. “To be able to have an IRL laugh rather than an emoji response,” Ms. Archibald said. “People are just excited for that.”

Karen Weise contributed reporting.

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Amid Sanctions, Putin Reminds the World of His Own Economic Weapons

LONDON — In the five weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and their allies began an economic counteroffensive that has cut off Russia’s access to hundreds of billions of dollars of its own money and halted a large chunk of its international commerce. More than 1,000 companies, organizations and individuals, including members of President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, have been sanctioned and relegated to a financial limbo.

But Mr. Putin reminded the world this past week that he has economic weapons of his own that he could use to inflict some pain or fend off attacks.

Through a series of aggressive measures taken by the Russian government and its central bank, the ruble, which had lost nearly half of its value, clawed its way back to near where it was before the invasion.

And then there was the threat to stop the flow of gas from Russia to Europe — which was set off by Mr. Putin’s demand that 48 “unfriendly countries” violate their own sanctions and pay for natural gas in rubles. It sent leaders in the capitals of Germany, Italy and other allied nations scrambling and showcased in the most visible way since the war began how much they need Russian energy to power their economies.

Russian oil exports normally represent more than one of every 10 barrels the world consumes.

Europe’s ongoing energy purchases send as much as $850 million each day into Russia’s coffers, according to Bruegel, an economics institute in Brussels. That money helps Russia to fund its war efforts and blunts the impact of sanctions. Because of soaring energy prices, gas export revenues from Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, injected $9.3 billion into the country’s economy in March alone, according an estimate by Oxford Economics, a global advisory firm.

Ursula von der Leyen, said as much when she announced the new energy plan last month: “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”

Security concerns aren’t the only development that has undermined Russia’s standing as a long-term energy supplier. What seemed surprising to economists, lawyers and policymakers about Mr. Putin’s demand to be paid in rubles was that it would have violated sacrosanct negotiated contracts and revealed Russia’s willingness to be an unreliable business partner.

As he has tried to wield his energy clout externally, Mr. Putin has taken steps to insulate Russia’s economy from the impact of sanctions and to prop up the ruble. Few things can undermine a country as systemically as an abruptly weakened currency.

When the allies froze the assets of the Russian central bank and sent the ruble into a downward spiral, the bank increased the interest rate to 20 percent, while the government mandated that companies convert 80 percent of the dollars, euros and other foreign currencies they earn into rubles to increase demand and drive up the price.

S&P Global survey of purchasing managers at Russian manufacturing companies showed severe declines in production, employment and new orders in March, as well as sharp price increases.

500 foreign companies have pulled up stakes in Russia, scaled back operations and investment, or pledged to do so.

“Russia does not have the capabilities to replicate domestically the technology that it would otherwise have gained from overseas,” according to an analysis by Capital Economics, a research group based in London. That is not a good sign for increasing productivity, which even before the war, was only 35 to 40 percent of the United States’.

The result is that however the war in Ukraine ends, Russia will be more economically isolated than it has been in decades, diminishing whatever leverage it now has over the global economy as well as its own economic prospects.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Civilians Caught in Escalating Russian Attacks

One of the paradoxical things about Vladimir V. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian rule of Russia was how relatively open society always remained.

For all the state’s control of media, people could read or watch what they wanted, including foreign newscasts like BBC and CNN. The internet was largely unfettered, a portal to the rest of the world. Unlike, say, China, you could criticize the president with some assurance that the police would not knock at the door.

Until now.

As the war in Ukraine grinds on, Mr. Putin has strangled the vestiges of a free press to justify an invasion that has been almost universally condemned — and with that moved closer to the stultifying orthodoxy of the Soviet Union. The result will be to isolate the country, as Mr. Putin has isolated himself, leaving it with a one-sided view of the world no longer subject to debate.

Two of the remaining flagships of the country’s own independent media — Ekho Moskvy, the liberal radio station, and TV Dozhd, or Rain, a digital upstart — went off the air last week, hounded by the authorities for reporting accurately on Ukraine. Access to Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, platforms pulsing with opposition to Mr. Putin’s war, have been blocked, as have other online sites in Russia.

Credit…The New York Times

Many foreign news organizations have withdrawn correspondents or stopped reporting in Russia after Mr. Putin on Friday signed into law a measure to punish anyone spreading “false information” with up to 15 years in prison.

“Just two weeks ago it was not possible to imagine how quickly most of it would get closed,” said Nina L. Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York City. “And yet it is.”

Beyond the immediate impact on Russians’ ability to learn about the war next door, Mr. Putin seems to have crossed a threshold in the country’s history. He is sequestering Russian society to a greater extent than at any time since the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, launched a policy in 1986 called glasnost, which became known as “openness” but more precisely means “the act of giving voice.”

Access to foreign news reporting and independent voices on social media have challenged the Kremlin’s monopoly on state media — as Mr. Gorbachev’s effort broke the Soviet monopoly on truth. Independent outlets have, at great risk to reporters’ personal safety, uncovered abuses during Russia’s war in Chechnya, repression of political and human rights, and the extraordinary wealth of people close to Mr. Putin — all taboo subjects in state media.

The impact of silencing them could be much broader and last much longer than the war, pushing the country from authoritarian rule to something worse.

Credit…The New York Times

“Putin is trying to turn Russia back into a totalitarian dictatorship of the pre-Gorbachev days,” said Michael McFaul, the former American ambassador to Russia who is director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. “He will eventually fail, but he will do great damage to Russian society in trying.”

The Kremlin’s propaganda and restrictions have already disconnected ordinary Russians from the horrific violence ravaging cities across Ukraine — even those with relatives on the ground telling them otherwise. They have covered up the Russian military’s difficulties, as well as the human costs to Ukrainians that Mr. Putin claims to be defending.

Those who watch Russian television instead see the country’s troops taking part in a largely bloodless “special military operation,” to protect Ukrainian civilians from a neo-Nazi government. In this alternate reality, Russian troops are distributing aid to civilians or helping evacuate them to safety; Ukrainians are fabricating reports about Russian military setbacks — or even shelling their own cities.

The result has been to create a blinkered view of the war that few dare pierce. Not a single deputy in the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, voted against the bill criminalizing “fake news.”

“There is less and less access to accurate information from the West amid the relentless pounding from increasingly hysterical state propaganda, which admittedly, is having its effect,” said Sergey Radchenko, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Europe.

Credit… The New York Times

Mr. Putin was a lieutenant colonel in the K.G.B., serving in the former East Germany, when glasnost was introduced. He later said that he, too, recognized the need for the Soviet Union to become more open. Only up to a point, though.

From the start of his presidency in 2000, he understood that the media — especially television — had the power not only to shape his political image but also to help him govern. He moved quickly to regain control of the main television networks from two oligarchs, Vladimir A. Gusinsky and Boris A. Berezovsky, who championed agendas not always in line with the Kremlin.

But printed media faced less direct pressure, and the internet burst with new outlets, making Russian and foreign sources widely accessible. Independent media like Ekho Moskvy were mostly left alone, serving as quasi independent sources of news and debate, at least for the educated elite. The station was itself a child of glasnost, founded in 1990 by frustrated employees of state radio who wanted a platform for genuine political discussion.

Russians attributed the station’s survival to its savvy editor in chief, Aleksei A. Venediktov, and the Kremlin’s need for both a safety valve for liberal debate and a source of information separate from its own propaganda. It was there that opposition figures long barred from state television could give interviews, and anchors could debate the impact of Kremlin policies on regular people.

Credit…The New York Times

Before it closed last week, the outlet promoted voices critical of the war and of Mr. Putin himself. Russia’s prosecutor general accused it of spreading “deliberately false information.”

As in many spheres of Russian life, tolerance for contrary or unorthodox views in the media has been eroding for years. Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University and a fellow at the Center for New American Security in Washington, said there has been a “qualitative change” in Mr. Putin’s government.

She dated it to the protests that shook Mr. Putin’s ally in Belarus in 2020; the poisoning of the Kremlin’s arch critic, Aleksei A. Navalny, and his subsequent imprisonment; and the constitutional changes enacted last year allowing Mr. Putin, now 69, to extend his presidential terms to 2036.

All generated significant opposition in Russia that seeped into the public discourse, despite the Kremlin’s effort. Mr. Navalny became famous for investigations devoted to exposing corruption, including a 143-minute documentary on YouTube after his arrest that accused Mr. Putin of secretly building a palace on the Black Sea coast.

Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

“I always refrained from calling Russia totalitarian, but I think the military situation, the war, has pushed the authorities toward that,” Ms. Snegovaya said from Bulgaria where she was assisting Russians who fled the country in recent days.

A more severe step would be creating an analog to China’s Great Firewall, which restricts access to foreign websites on the outside and strictly controls what is allowed inside. Russia calls its vision for a sovereign cyberspace the RuNet, though it has so far stopped short of imposing total control.

In today’s digitally connected world, Mr. Putin could have a difficult time cutting off Russia entirely. Even in the Soviet Union, information flowed back and forth over borders. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, that allow people to evade internet restrictions by disguising which country they are logging in from, can help spread information the way samizdat, illegal copies of censored books or articles, circulated clandestinely in Soviet times.

“It will be difficult for the Russian government to block all outside information,” Jamie Fly, the chief executive of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the U.S.-financed network founded during the Cold War, said after the announcement that it, too, was ceasing operations inside Russia. “History shows that people will go to great lengths to seek out the truth.”

Credit…The New York Times

Those who do so now will be a small minority. As Mr. Putin’s rule continues, critics fear he will take even stronger measures to maintain the Kremlin’s uncontested grip on power.

“We have a long way to go before we get to 1937,” Mr. Radchenko said, evoking the year of Stalin’s Great Terror, “but for the first time the road is clear. You can see far ahead, like on a cold, crisp winter morning, and there, in the distance, you can just about make out the outlines of the guillotines.”

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Western Sanctions Aim to Isolate Putin by Undermining the Ruble

By targeting Russia’s central bank with sanctions, experts said, American and European leaders have taken aim at what could be one of President Vladimir V. Putin’s greatest weaknesses: the country’s currency.

In Russian cities, anxious customers started lining up on Sunday in front of A.T.M.s, hoping to withdraw the money they had deposited in banks, fearful it would run out. The panic spread on Monday. To try to restore calm, the Bank of Russia posted a notice on its website: “The volume of bank notes ready for loading into A.T.M.s is more than sufficient. All customer funds on bank accounts are fully preserved and available for any transactions.”

Even before the sanctions were announced over the weekend, the ruble had weakened. On Monday it plunged further, with the value of a single ruble dropping to less than 1 cent at one point. As the value of any currency drops, more people will want to get rid of it by exchanging it for one that is not losing value — and that, in turn, causes its value to drop further.

In Russia today, as the purchasing power of the ruble drops sharply, consumers who hold it are finding that they can buy less with their money. In real terms, they become poorer. Such economic instability could stoke popular unhappiness and even unrest.

nuclear forces on a higher level of alert. The United States, the European Commission, Britain and Canada agreed to remove some Russian banks from the international system of payments known as SWIFT and to restrict Russia’s central bank from using its storehouse of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of international reserves to undermine the sanctions.

Kicking banks out of SWIFT has gotten the most public attention, but the measures taken against the central bank are potentially the most devastating. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said it would “freeze its transactions” and “make it impossible for the central bank to liquidate its assets.”

On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department offered more details on how the sanctions would work, saying they would paralyze the Bank of Russia’s assets in the United States and stop Americans from engaging in transactions involving the central bank, Russia’s National Wealth Fund or the Russian Ministry of Finance. As expected, there are exemptions for transactions related to energy exports, on which Europe relies.

British government banned transactions with the Russian central bank, the foreign ministry and the sovereign wealth fund.

But if the allies were to impose a full-fledged freeze of the vast amount of dollars, euros, pounds and yen that are owned by Russia but held in Western banks, it could devastate the Russian economy, causing spiraling inflation and a severe recession.

At the heart of the move to restrict the Bank of Russia are its foreign exchange reserves. These are the vast haul of convertible assets — other nations’ currencies and gold — that Russia has built up, financed in large part through the money it earns selling oil and gas to Europe and other energy importers.

Lenin himself reportedly made more than a century ago, which was repeated by the economist John Maynard Keynes: “There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.”

The Bank of Russia can try to prop up the value of the ruble by using its reserves to buy up rubles that people are selling. But it can do that only as long as it has access to foreign reserves.

dizzying spikes in prices for energy and food and could spook investors. The economic damage from supply disruptions and economic sanctions would be severe in some countries and industries and unnoticed in others.

Yet the central bank has just about $12 billion of cash in hand — an astonishingly small amount, he said. As for the rest of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves, roughly $400 billion is invested in assets held outside the country. Another $84 billion is invested in Chinese bonds, and $139 billion is in gold.

took steps on Monday to restore confidence, and more than doubled interest rates to 20 percent from 9.5 percent in order to offset the rapid depreciation of the ruble. The bank also released an additional $7 billion worth of reserves that had been set aside as collateral for loans and closed down the Moscow stock exchange for the day. Meanwhile, the foreign ministry moved to order companies to sell 80 percent of their foreign currencies, in a bid to gin up demand for rubles and prevent them from stockpiling dollars and euros.

Mr. Bernstam warned that the West’s attack on the Russian ruble needed to be handled with care. “We don’t want to destroy them,” he said. “We don’t want the political system to collapse.”

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Far From the Big City, New Economic Life

Research by Rebecca Diamond, an economist at Stanford University, and Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, explains the attraction. They worked out how costs affect living standards in various parts of the country.

Workers without a four-year college degree earn little in the Cookeville commuting zone — their income puts them among the poorest 10 percent of households in hundreds of commuting zones across the country. After adjusting for the local cost of living, however, their purchasing power rises to the top 10 percent.

They can live more comfortable lives than if they moved to a bigger city, like Nashville or Knoxville. According to Ms. Diamond and Mr. Moretti’s work, which is based on data from 2014, the household income of a typical worker who never finished high school in Cookeville is about $43,000. In New York it is $58,000; in San Francisco, $62,000.

Still, adjusting for the local cost of living, the workers in San Francisco and New York could afford much less — roughly what someone with an income of $37,000 could buy in a city like Cleveland, which ranks in the middle of the national income distribution. The Cookeville workers, by contrast, live as if they were making $46,000 in Cleveland.

Big cities are not that good a deal for even highly educated workers. They do earn much higher wages in New York than in Cookeville — indeed, the college educated reap a bigger pay premium if they work in bigger cities than their less-educated peers. But according to the researchers, all the extra wages are eaten up by higher costs.

It’s mostly about housing. Last November, the typical home in Cookeville cost $217,303, according to Zillow. That’s one-fourth of the median price of a home in Los Angeles and one-sixth of the price in San Francisco. Median rent in Jackson County is $548 per month.

Housing costs are putting a big dent in the case for urban America. “If you are trying to raise people’s standard of living you want to move them away from big cities not towards them,” said Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote a research paper with David Card, his colleague at Berkeley, and Moises Yi of the Census Bureau that pours more cold water on the supposed advantages of America’s megalopolises.

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Elizabeth Holmes Begins Her Defense in Fraud Trial

SAN JOSE, Calif. — For the past 11 weeks, prosecutors revealed emails from desperate investors. They held up falsified documents side by side with the originals. They called dozens of witnesses who lobbed accusations of deceit and evasiveness.

And on Friday, the person whom prosecutors have been making their case against — Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the failed blood testing start-up Theranos — took the stand to defend herself. She faces 11 counts of defrauding investors over Theranos’s technology and business in a case that has been billed as a referendum on Silicon Valley’s start-up culture. She has pleaded not guilty.

tech industry’s hubris and the last decade’s culture of grift — began her testimony by answering a series of questions about Theranos. She delved into her background and how she began the Silicon Valley start-up, which had promised to revolutionize health care by using just a drop of blood from patients to deduce their illnesses.

trial finally began in September, prosecutors called former investors, partners and Theranos employees to testify. Jim Mattis, the retired four-star Marine Corps general and former defense secretary, who was a Theranos director, took the stand, as did a former Theranos lab director who endured six grueling days of questioning. In one surreal moment, a forensics expert recited text messages between Ms. Holmes and Ramesh Balwani, her boyfriend at the time and business partner at Theranos, who is known as Sunny.

This week, Alan Eisenman, an early investor in Theranos, testified that Ms. Holmes cut him off and threatened him when he asked her for more information about the company. Yet even after that treatment, Mr. Eisenman poured more money into the start-up, believing its seemingly fast-growing business would deliver riches to backers like him.

When asked about his understanding of the value of his Theranos stock today, Mr. Eisenman said: “It’s not an understanding, it’s a conclusion. It’s worth zero.”

a series of validation reports that Ms. Holmes sent to potential investors and partners that made it look as though pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and Schering-Plough had endorsed Theranos’s technology. Representatives from each company testified that they had not endorsed Theranos’s blood test and were surprised to see their companies’ logos added to the report.

testified that the start-up faked demonstrations of its machines for potential investors, hid technology failures and threw out abnormal blood test results.

Mr. Mattis testified that he was not aware of any contracts between Theranos and the military to put its machines on medevac helicopters or on the battlefield, as Ms. Holmes had frequently told investors.

testimony from Roger Parloff, the journalist who wrote a magazine cover story about Ms. Holmes, helping propel her to acclaim. Mr. Parloff’s article was sent to numerous investors as part of Ms. Holmes’s pitch.

Yet notably absent from the courtroom were some of the most prominent witnesses on the prosecution’s list. Ms. Holmes’s rise was aided by her association with business titans such as the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, elder statesmen such as Henry Kissinger and Adm. Gary Roughead, and the lawyer David Boies. Theranos was felled, in part, by whistle-blowers such as Tyler Shultz, a grandson of George Shultz, the former secretary of state, who sat on Theranos’s board. None of them testified.

Also absent was Mr. Balwani, who was charged with fraud alongside Ms. Holmes and faces trial next year. His role as a fiery defender of Theranos who went after anyone who questioned the company has been in the background of much of the testimony.

At nearly every turn, Ms. Holmes’s lawyers sought to limit testimony and evidence. They attacked the credibility of investors, using legal disclaimers to show that investors knew they were gambling on a young start-up. The lawyers also poked holes in investors’ limited due diligence on Theranos’s claims. At one point, they directed Erika Cheung, a key whistle-blower who worked in Theranos’s lab, to read the entire organizational chart of the people employed in lab to show she played a small role in the overall operation.

she said in one of the videos. “Anything that happens in this company is my responsibility.”

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