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China’s Camps Have Forced Labor And Growing US Market


This is Part 4 of a BuzzFeed News investigation. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.

This project was supported by the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, the Pulitzer Center, and the Open Technology Fund.

ALMATY — China has built more than 100 new facilities in Xinjiang where it can not only lock people up, but also force them to work in dedicated factory buildings right on site, BuzzFeed News can reveal based on government records, interviews, and hundreds of satellite images.

In August, BuzzFeed News uncovered hundreds of compounds in Xinjiang bearing the hallmarks of prisons or detention camps, many built during the last three years in a rapid escalation of China’s campaign against Muslim minorities including Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others. A new analysis shows that at least 135 of these compounds also hold factory buildings. Forced labor on a vast scale is almost certainly taking place inside facilities like these, according to researchers and interviews with former detainees.

Factories across Xinjiang — both inside and outside the camps — tend to share similar characteristics. They are typically long and rectangular, and their metal roofs are usually brightly colored — often blue, sometimes red. In contrast to the masonry and concrete of typical detention buildings, the factories have steel frames, which can be erected within as little as a month. The steel frame is sturdy enough to hold the roof without interior columns, leaving more space inside for large machinery or assembly lines. Some of the biggest factory buildings have strips of skylights to let light in.

Collectively, the factory facilities identified by BuzzFeed News cover more than 21 million square feet — nearly four times the size of the Mall of America. (Ford’s historic River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, once the largest industrial complex in the world, is 16 million square feet.)

And they are growing in a way that mirrors the rapid expansion of the mass detention campaign, which has ensnared more than 1 million people since it began in 2016. Fourteen million square feet of new factories were built in 2018 alone.

Two former detainees told BuzzFeed News they had worked in factories while they were detained. One of them, Gulzira Auelhan, said she and other women traveled by bus to a factory where they would sew gloves. Asked if she was paid, she simply laughed.

“They created this evil place and they destroyed my life,” she said.

The former detainees said they were never given a choice about working, and that they earned a pittance or no pay at all. “I felt like I was in hell,” Dina Nurdybai, who was detained in 2017 and 2018, told BuzzFeed News. Before her confinement, Nurdybai ran a small garment business. At a factory inside the internment camp where she was held, she said she worked in a cubicle that was locked from the outside, sewing pockets onto school uniforms. “They created this evil place and they destroyed my life,” she said.

In response to questions about this article, the Chinese consulate in New York quoted a worker from Xinjiang’s Karakax County who called allegations of forced labor in the region “slander” while speaking at a government press conference, saying villagers in the region are earning higher salaries and learning new skills. “We hope everyone can distinguish right from wrong, respect the facts and do not be deceived by rumors,” the consulate added.

Xinjiang’s industry is booming, and the region has one of the fastest GDP growth rates in China. Xinjiang exports a range of products, from clothing to machinery, and the US is one of the region’s fastest-growing markets. Xinjiang’s factories produce many goods that eventually make their way to US consumers. Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola, among others, lobbied Congress this year to water down a bill that would ban the import of products made with forced labor there. (Apple has said it did not try to weaken the measure, and Nike has said it “did not lobby against” it.) The bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in September, but the Senate has yet to debate it.

“Corporations should stop producing in, and sourcing from, Xinjiang,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium. “There is no way to produce responsibly in the region until the forced labor and broader repression ends.”

Nova and other labor rights advocates, as well as experts who have examined the abuses in Xinjiang, argue that forced labor is so widespread in the region that no company that manufactures there could conclude that its supply chain is free from it. That would mean that US consumers have no real way of knowing whether the goods they purchase from Xinjiang are tainted.


Greg Baker / Getty Images

This photo taken on June 4, 2019, shows people walking past a screen showing images of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government in Xinjiang surveils people so thoroughly and monitors interviews so closely that it is nearly impossible to independently assess if any one factory relies on forced labor. This is especially true given that economic programs, designed to move people out of poverty by moving rural farmworkers into factory jobs, effectively give cover for the government to conceal why a person might be working far from their home. But when factories are located inside internment compounds — cut off from the world by high walls and barbed wire — it beggars belief to claim workers are there willingly.

Detention camp factories are woven deeply into Xinjiang’s economy. The Washington, DC–based nonprofit research institute C4ADS compared the locations of the factories identified by BuzzFeed News to a database that compiles address information from China’s government registry for businesses. C4ADS identified 1,500 Chinese companies located at or right by the factories. Of those, 92 listed “import/export” as part of the scope of their business. BuzzFeed News found further information about these companies in corporate documents, state media reports, and other public data. According to trade data dating back to 2016, some of these companies have exported goods all over the world, including Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, and France. One company sent pants to California.

One of these firms is Xinjiang Jihua Seven-Five-Five-Five Occupational Wear, which makes military uniforms. It has counted the People’s Liberation Army, the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, and China’s Public Security bureau among its customers, producing hundreds of thousands of pieces of clothing each year.

In its parent company’s 2019 annual report, the company is explicit about its participation in labor transfer programs. The company transferred at least 45 ethnic minorities “who do not speak Chinese” from southern Xinjiang to work, the report says. They stayed in shared rooms holding three or four people, according to the report, and they received a monthly food stipend of 360 yuan (about $55).

An article in the state-controlled China News Service said the company’s workers at its Hejing branch were laboring overtime to fulfill a clothing order for protective coveralls, having already skipped a vacation that the factory manager said was offered last year. The workers also attend “bilingual night school” to learn Chinese. Every Monday, they hold a flag-raising ceremony and sing the praises of the Communist Party’s policies as well as “socialist thought with Chinese characteristics in the Xi Jinping new era.”

The way these workers were treated tracks with China’s known behavior in the region. The government’s anti-poverty campaign moves impoverished ethnic minorities referred to as “surplus labor” to jobs ranging from picking cotton to sewing clothing. Local policy documents refer to these workers as having “lazy thinking” and praise the government for “creating an atmosphere that labor is glorious and laziness is shameful,” according to recent research on Xinjiang from the German scholar Adrian Zenz.

Zenz and other researchers say these “labor transfers” can be a front for forced labor, especially in an environment where Muslim minorities live in fear of being arbitrarily locked up. As part of its campaign targeting ethnic minorities in the region, the government has also crushed education in minority languages. Dozens of ex-detainees told BuzzFeed News they were forced to study Chinese in internment camps and regularly praise the ruling Communist Party.

One of Xinjiang Jihua’s registered addresses matches the location of a large complex of internment facilities, which together can hold 11,700 people. This sprawling installation lies just over 3.5 miles from the center of Hejing county, in an isolated area bounded by empty plots of land and an industrial estate to the north and farmland to the south. Six blue-roofed factory buildings sit in their own compound right in the middle of the complex. They appear to be linked directly to adjacent detention buildings via a gate in the wall.


Planet Labs

A camp in Hejing county with six factories.

Xinjiang Jihua did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Another company, Hetian Yudu Handicrafts, is registered inside a compound in Lop County in southern Xinjiang; satellite photos show it bears the telltale signs of an internment camp. A state media article about labor transfer programs in the area quotes a Uighur woman, who went to work there weaving carpets, promising to earn a “surplus” for the company. Hetian Yudu did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Labor transfer for Uighurs, Kazakhs, and Xinjiang’s other minority groups extend beyond the region to other parts of China. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a Canberra-based think tank that has published research documenting human rights abuses in Xinjiang, in March identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces using Uighur and Kazakh workers from Xinjiang under a government labor transfer program. Refusing these work assignments is “extremely difficult,” the institute found, because they “are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination.”

In many cases, Chinese language state media articles show photos of migrant workers who appear to be ethnic minorities boarding buses or working on assembly lines. The articles say that they’re participating in a poverty alleviation program. But they’re subject to strict controls and constant surveillance, and live in fear of being sent to camps or otherwise punished if they don’t comply. After work, they must participate in “patriotic education,” according to former detainees and Chinese language news articles about the programs.

A white paper published by the Chinese government in September offers clues into the scale of the program, saying the average “relocation of surplus labor” per year topped 2.76 million people.

According to state media reports, efforts to alleviate poverty in Xinjiang comprise a wide range of industries ranging from textile factories and food processing to livestock slaughter and cotton farming. It’s unclear what portion of workers in these programs are being forced to work, underpaid, or otherwise mistreated. But experts say the number is large and growing.

“Research suggests that some of those transferred to work are not willing and are severely underpaid, raising concerns about forced labor, potentially at a significant scale,” the Washington, DC–based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies found. The US Department of Labor estimated that 100,000 Uighurs and other ethnic minorities are working in forced labor.

The Better Cotton Initiative, an industry group that promotes ethical standards for cotton producers, told the BBC this month that it had stopped auditing and certifying farms in Xinjiang in part because the poverty alleviation schemes cast the shadow of forced labor over the entire industry there.

The abuses in Xinjiang may affect the supply chains of some of the world’s most recognizable brands. In its March report, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute also identified 82 multinational companies with suppliers that used Uighur workers outside Xinjiang as part of a labor transfer program, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Dell, Apple, Amazon, H&M, Nike, Nintendo, General Motors, and others.

Some brands said they stopped working with those suppliers this year, according to the Institute’s report. Others said they had no contractual relationships with suppliers involved in labor transfer programs, “but no brands were able to rule out a link further down their supply chain,” the report says. Apple said in July that it had found no evidence of forced labor on its production lines.


Ekaterina Anchevskaya for BuzzFeed News

Dina Nurdybai in her sewing workshop at her home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on February 25, 2020.

Nurdybai turned 28 this year. She’s a busy woman, with a toddler she dotes on and a fledgling garment business she’s started in her new home in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In person she is fresh-faced, with perfectly microbladed eyebrows and wisps of bright green shadow brushed across her eyelids.

Her ordeal started in 2017. At the time, she was running a tailoring shop and a second thriving business selling traditional Kazakh-made clothing in China, called Kunikai Clothing. The company employed about 30 people and specialized in the intricate embroidery found on traditional Kazakh clothing, even offering training and consulting on the complex designs, according to public records. A photo that year shows her posing at a trade expo in the regional capital of Ürümqi, wearing a sleek black sheath dress and big dark sunglasses. She was hands-on in her factory — another old photo shows her explaining to workers how to cut fabric, the cuts marked with a chalked-on dotted line.


Courtesy Nurdybai via RFA

Nurdybai (left) demonstrates how to cut fabric to workers at a trade expo.

One night in October 2017, she returned from work so burned out that she immediately turned her phone off and collapsed into bed. She later found out that the police were looking for her that night and had phoned several of her relatives to try and reach her. The next morning, they called again, and then came to her door.

She was taken to a camp not far from where she lived in the county of Nilka, located in northeast Xinjiang, near the border with Kazakhstan. Located in the Kashgar River Valley, Nilka is small and remote, and manual labor is embedded in its history — one of its few tourist sites are the ruins of an ancient copper mine.

The camp was growing quickly. It seemed to Nurdybai that dozens of people were coming in each day, often wearing hoods so they could not see. “You could hear the clinking of their shackles as they came in,” she said.

There was no heating, and she shivered all the time in her thin uniform. There were 16 women in her dorm room. Inside, she was given a book of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speeches. Instead of running her tailoring shop or fulfilling clothing orders, she would now spend three and a half hours each day studying Xi’s speeches. She couldn’t understand why. Soon enough her days would be filled with labor.

BuzzFeed News; Source: Alison Killing

Forced labor has a long history in Xinjiang that predates the detention campaign. Some lower-security prisons were linked to farms, while many high-security prisons contained heavy industrial facilities, such as a smelting plant for lead and zinc, fertilizer plants, and coal and uranium mines. A few contained buildings for light manufacturing.

Factories started appearing in the makeshift camps of the early detention campaign in spring 2017. Often they appeared as a single factory wedged onto the site wherever there was room, squashed between the existing buildings, or built on the sports field of a former school. At the same time, new and expanding high-security facilities also added factories, typically in larger numbers.

With the explosion of factory-building in 2018, new patterns emerged. The piecemeal addition of factory buildings on cramped existing sites continued. But the detention compounds on the edge of cities, which had more room, expanded to accommodate new factories that were typically arranged in a neat grid and often separated from the main compound — by a fence, or even a road with barbed wire walkways connecting the two. The factory area often had a separate entrance from the surrounding roads, allowing raw materials to be delivered and finished goods to be picked up without disturbing the wider camp.

While some of the new factories have been built in higher-security facilities, they are more often found in lower-security compounds, and they appear to be for light industry — manufacturing clothes rather than smelting zinc or mining. Much of the construction since 2017 has been concentrated in Xinjiang’s south and west: the regions with the highest numbers of Uighur and Kazakh people.

Hotan prefecture, for instance, contains nearly a third of the factories built between the start of 2017 and the end of 2020. Two counties within it — Hotan and Lop — saw 1.9 million square feet and 1.8 million square feet of factories built there respectively during that time period.


BuzzFeed News; Source: Alison Killing

Camps with factories in Hotan Prefecture.

Forced labor in Xinjiang ramped up in 2018, according to researchers and news reports. One ethnic Kazakh factory owner from northern Xinjiang, who asked that her name and company be withheld out of fear of retaliation, described the government’s relentless efforts to round up workers that year. BuzzFeed News was able to verify details about her company’s registration. “I was an entrepreneur. I had a small garment factory,” she said. “I had to go through a lot of bureaucracy, but I did it.”

In 2018, police officers visited her factory five times, asking her to recommend workers to be “reeducated” in order to meet a quota. They told her to look for behavioral slights — using a ceramic bowl with Uyghur-language writing on the bottom, for instance, or repeatedly wearing a headscarf for women.

“We had heard that mass detention had occurred, that people were disappearing into these schools. We didn’t know much but we knew that it wasn’t a good place.”

All five times, she managed to fob them off, offering bribes and excuses.

The business owner had heard rumors that the internment camps were not for education, as the government claimed, but mass detention. “We had heard that mass detention had occurred, that people were disappearing into these schools. We didn’t know much but we knew that it wasn’t a good place,” she said. She was afraid of being sent to a camp herself, but she could not bear to hand over the names of her workers either. “I never sent a single person to the camp,” she said, a note of pride creeping into her voice.

Government officials also told the entrepreneur about poverty alleviation programs, saying that people could get jobs in other parts of the country, which ethnic Kazakhs sometimes call “inner China.” A group of people from her village departed for one of these programs, she said. They returned in six months and told her they had been paid much less than they were originally promised, she said.


BuzzFeed News; Google Earth

The camp at Nilka on June 27, 2019.

By May 2018, Nurdybai was moved to another camp in Nilka County — one of several in which she’d been held. That summer, the camp contained two residential buildings and several blue-roofed factories, with two more under construction, satellite images show. The first buildings in the compound — two five-story residential buildings and 11 factories — had likely been built by late 2015. By the time Nurdybai arrived, an additional 15 factories had been added, covering the grassy field at the northern end of the site.

Much later, after she had moved to Kazakhstan, Nurdybai found the location of the camp herself on Google Earth. It looked strangely familiar. Yet, by then, it had grown even more.

In October 2019, construction started on four more factories, but the workers only finished building the steel frame before the first snow arrived in the second week of November and they had to stop work. They finished by May of this year, and three further factories were added this fall. There are now 33 factory buildings in the compound. Together, they cover 428,705 square feet, an area larger than seven football fields.

Nurdybai stayed at the camp for a couple of months before she was ordered to work in one of the factories in the camp. When officials realized she had worked in the garment industry in the past, she was told to teach other women how to sew clothes — school uniforms, she remembered. She taught them how to sew square pockets on the tops of the tunics and how to sew a collar straight.

“It was a huge place. There were so many women in there. They were all like me — prisoners,” she said.

She said she was paid a salary of 9 yuan — about $1.38 — in a month, far less than prevailing wages outside the walls of the detention camp.

It was a short walk to work — the distance from the residential buildings to the nearest factory was only 25 yards or so, while the farthest, on the opposite side of the site, was still just five minutes away. The women would work from 8 a.m. to noon, she said, and after lunch, again from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. After the nine-hour day, they were required to take classes back in the building where they stayed, memorizing and repeating Chinese Communist Party propaganda and studying Mandarin Chinese.

The factory was equipped with new sewing machines, Nurdybai remembered. In fact, all the equipment inside looked new. But there were clues that those who worked there were not doing it by choice. Pairs of scissors were chained to each work table to prevent the women from taking them to the dorms, where they could, in theory, use them to harm themselves or stab the camp’s guards. And there were cameras everywhere, Nurdybai said, even in the bathrooms.

Inside the factory building, the floor was divided up, grid style, Nurdybai said. It was not like the factories that she had seen while running her own business. “There were cubicles at about chin height so you couldn’t see or talk to others. Each had a door, which locked,” she said, from the outside. Each cubicle had between 25 and 30 people, she said.

On one occasion, one of the camp staff justified the locked cubicles by saying, “These people are criminals, they can seriously harm you.” Police patrolled the floor of the factory.

Nurdybai ate with the other workers and slept in the same quarters as them. But, she said, her position as a trainer gave her one special privilege: She had a key fob with which she could open the doors to the bathroom. Others had to ask for permission to go.


Ekaterina Anchevskaya For Buzzfeed News

Dina Nurdybai working in her sewing workshop at her home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Feb. 25, 2020.

Near the end of Nurdybai’s time in internment camps in September 2018, police officers finally told her what she was said to have done wrong: She had downloaded an illegal app called WhatsApp. She was later released and told her “education” was over. Her boyfriend at the time brought her a bouquet of flowers, as if she had just come home from a long trip.

But in the time she spent in the camps, her life had fallen apart. She owed a bank 70,000 yuan, or about $10,700, in business loans, on which she had been unable to make payments while she was detained.

Her clothing orders, too, had sat unfulfilled. “They took everything from my factory — expensive materials — they took it,” she said. “My customers, I had to pay them back.” She began selling off her possessions, even her car, to try and pay down the loan.

“I’ve learned to cherish my freedom.”

Eventually, she saved up enough money to leave China and immigrate to Kazakhstan. She is still paying back her loans in China, though she managed to negotiate them down with the bank. Mostly she tries to take things one day at a time. “I’ve learned to cherish my freedom,” she said. “Before all this, I was successful. I had money. But now I understand that money is nothing without freedom.”

She started a small garment business again. She had a baby. And she began speaking out about what had happened to her, telling the story of how she lost everything she had worked for.

She went to the offices of Atajurt, a small human rights NGO located in a worn-down building in central Almaty. It didn’t have much in the way of resources — on a visit this year, a conference room door was broken and had to be held shut by a strip of red ribbon. But it had quickly become a hub for ex-detainees from Xinjiang’s camps, who often came to record their stories for YouTube, and to speak to journalists and university professors visiting the city.

Nurdybai’s workshop is in a small two-floor building tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Almaty, lined with houses and a neighborhood school. Inside, there’s just one window, with a narrow staircase whose railing is painted white. On the first floor, her workshop was strewn with scraps of fabric in purple and red, with two sewing machines set on tables.

She was a healthy woman before her internment. But after she was detained she developed a hernia, which still causes stabbing pains in her abdomen — she suspected she got it from being forced to sit for long hours while studying Chinese. Worse, she began to get migraines, which started with searing pain that moved up the back of her neck. She wondered if the ice-cold showers she had been forced to take could be to blame.

“I worked hard for 10 years to succeed,” she said. “I lost everything, including my health.” ●

Ekaterina Anchevskaya contributed reporting.



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Politics

Trump Brags About The Stock Market For 51 Seconds Then Runs Away


Trump showed up in the White House briefing room for about 51 seconds to brag about the stock market as he ran off and took no questions.

Video:

Trump said:

The Dow Jones industrial average — I’m very thrilled with what has happened on the vaccine front. That has been absolutely incredible. Nothing like that has ever happened, medically. I think people are acknowledging that, and it’s having a big effect. As the stock market has just broken 30,000, never been broken, that number. That is a sacred number, 30,000. Nobody thought they’d ever see it. It’s the ninth time since the beginning of 2020, and it is the 48th time that have broken records during the trump administration.

I just want to congratulate all the people within the administration that worked so hard. Most importantly, I want to congratulate the people of our country, because there are no people like you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

Trump’s new strategy is to ignore that he is leaving office soon, run away from questions, and only pop his head out to take credit for things that he had nothing to do with.

It is sad and pathetic that Trump is trying to stay relevant while avoiding accountability for the fact that he is the biggest incumbent presidential election loser since 1932.

Donald Trump really thinks that he has a political future, but each display of his inability to function in reality is a reminder that he will never be in the White House again.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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China tech giants lost more than $280 billion in market value amid potential regulations


Jack Ma, CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, speaks during his visit at the Vivatech startups and innovation fair, in Paris on May 16, 2019.

Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Shares of China’s top technology giants were battered on Wednesday as regulatory concerns continue to mount.

By the Wednesday market close in Hong Kong shares of Alibaba listed in the city plunged 9.8% while Tencent dropped 7.39%. Smartphone maker Xiaomi also declined 8.18% and China’s biggest on-demand delivery services firm Meituan Dianping fell 9.67%. E-commerce giant JD.com also saw its stocks plummet 9.2%.

The broader Hang Seng Tech index was also hammered and fell 6.23% on the day to 7,465.44.

The combined losses of the five tech heavyweights since their Monday’s close has contributed to more than $280 billion being wiped off in terms of market cap at the close of the trading day in Hong Kong, based on CNBC’s calculations.

Chinese regulator — the State Administration for Market Regulation — on Tuesday announced a set of draft rules aimed at curbing monopolistic behavior on internet platforms.

The moves were possibly further exacerbated by a global rotation out of tech stocks seen globally in recent days. A positive development on the coronavirus vaccine front has spurred hopes of recovery in areas such as travel, and investors are selling down tech and switching to stocks in energy and industrial sectors instead.

Regulatory concerns

Andrew Collier, managing director at Orient Capital Research, told CNBC that the sudden decision to suspend Ant’s public listing was a “disaster.”

“You don’t yank a $35 billion IPO two days before it’s going to be launched internationally, it makes the regulatory system look completely arbitrary and also confused,” Collier told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday. Ant Group was looking to raise just under $34.5 billion in what would have been the world’s biggest IPO.

“It suggests deep politics within China … that’s bubbled to the surface and they couldn’t resolve (it) ahead of time,” Collier said. “Regulation can be positive but this particular move was a disaster.”

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.



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Stock market rout continues for a second day as Dow falls 500 points, Nasdaq drops 5%


Stocks fell once again on Friday as a sell-off in tech, the best-performing market sector in 2020, continued for a second day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 521 points, or 1.9%. Earlier in the day, the Dow was up more than 200 points. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 5% and the S&P 500 slid 2.9%. Over the past two days, the Nasdaq has fallen by more than 8%.

Apple shares dropped 8% and Facebook slid 6.6%. Amazon and Netflix slid 7.4% and 7%, respectively. Alphabet and Microsoft were both down 5%.

Wall Street was coming off a massive sell-off that was sparked by a plunge in tech stocks. On Thursday, the S&P 500 tech sector suffered its biggest one-day drop since March. Tech’s sell-off after the space drove the lion’s share of the broader market’s comeback off the coronavirus sell-off lows. Since March 23, the S&P 500 tech sector is up about 70%. For the year, tech has rallied more than 30%.

“We’ve had excessive valuations in the markets lately — particularly in the tech sector — and that needed to be corrected to some degree,” said Scott Knapp, chief market strategist at CUNA Mutual Group. “One needs to look no further than the recent irrational run-up in Tesla and Apple share prices after both companies announced a stock split to see overexuberance, especially among retail investors.”

Both Tesla and Apple rallied recently after announcing stock splits.

To be sure, more beaten-down parts of the market rebounded Thursday and added to those gains Friday. Cruise operator Carnival advanced 2.6% on Friday. United Airlines rose about 1%.

“We might finally see some rotations that could lead to new market leadership,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities. “That’s something we’ve been lacking for a long time.”

U.S. unemployment falls

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.4% last month from 10.2% in July, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected the rate to decline to 9.8%. As for overall jobs creation, employment in the U.S. grew by 1.37 million in August, topping an estimate of 1.32 million. 

“The jobs data today were solid,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group. “However, now the real work begins.”

“The next 2-3% of employment gains are going to be very tough because there is no total re-opening in sight. PPP funds are running dry and the impasse in Congress to reauthorize another round for struggling small businesses most affected by the pandemic are recipes for a wave of small business closures,” Cox said.

Bank stocks rose following the data release as Treasury yields climbed. Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase were all up at least 1.4%. Wells Fargo climbed 1%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield rose to 0.66%. The 30-year bond rate advanced to 1.4%.

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Politics

Backed by Federal Funds, New Virus Tests Are Hitting the Market


WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic remained a distant threat to many Americans on Jan. 24 when Douglas C. Bryant, the president and chief executive officer of Quidel Corporation, got a call from an official at the Food and Drug Administration.

If the government helped, the official asked, would Quidel make tests to detect coronavirus infections?

Mr. Bryant decided to go for it, even though some experts at the time were predicting the United States would quickly tame any outbreak.

The gamble has paid off. Quidel, a San Diego-based maker of diagnostic tests, developed a swab-based coronavirus test that produced results from an analyzer in 15 minutes. It sold 1.2 million of them for less than $20 apiece to the federal government for use at nursing homes. A grant from the National Institutes of Health is enabling Quidel to expand its production by about 140 million tests a year, company officials said.

With the pandemic still raging as fall approaches, the government’s efforts to support development and deployment of a variety of testing methods are a rare if belated bright spot amid widespread failures to contain the virus.

In the latest round of government backing, the N.I.H. said on Wednesday that it was providing nine more companies with $123.3 million from a $2.5 billion pot of money allocated last spring by the stimulus bill to support testing. That will bring the total amount disbursed so far by the N.I.H. to $372 million across 16 companies.

The goal is to support production of a broad spectrum of tests, making them more widely available and perhaps ultimately as easy to use as a home pregnancy test. Tests must show that they meet the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for safety and accuracy before they can be sold.

“It’s going to be a wonderful competition,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, the N.I.H. director, said in an interview on Tuesday evening.

Yet even as the government helps rush new tests to market, the administration continues to issue conflicting — and sometimes flatly contradictory — messages about how many and what types of tests are needed, when they should be administered and to whom.

President Trump has long derided testing, complaining that it drives up the number of confirmed cases. The lack of a clear national strategy has confused the public, deeply frustrated public health officials and befuddled pharmaceutical executives.

But as testing options have multiplied, easing some of the shortages and laboratory bottlenecks that hampered the early response to the pandemic, universities, employers, state and local governments and other institutions have been increasingly filling in some of the vacuum left by the administration with their own testing plans.

A growing number of businesses — ranging from Soupergirl, a small company in Washington, D.C., with 30 employees that makes vegan soups, to Amazon, the world’s biggest retailer — are testing their workers.

The National Basketball Association allowed Yale University scientists access to its players for its research identifying the coronavirus in saliva samples. The Food and Drug Administration last month granted emergency use authorization for Yale’s testing method, which aimed to keep the cost to less than $10 per test. Anne Wyllie, an associate research scientist working on the project, said more than 200 laboratories had contacted Yale about it.

Among those interested is Indiana University, which is putting in place a testing program for its 120,000 students, faculty and staff. Arriving students were greeted last month with rapid-result, nasal swab tests before they could move into their dorms. Those who tested positive were either sent home or housed in an isolation dorm.

Students living off campus submitted their own saliva samples, which were then shipped to laboratories. The university is continuing to test on a targeted basis, aiming for broader screening soon, using its own laboratories. The cost is $10 million and counting.

“We figured this out ourselves,” said Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, an associate dean at the university’s medical school, who helped devise the program. Federal guidelines were of little use, he said.

Trump administration officials like Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the testing czar and an assistant secretary of health, say they want states and localities to create their own testing plans that fit their specific needs rather than to be forced to follow federal dictates. But many experts complain that the lack of federal decision-making — including how many tests a day the United States should aim for — is an impediment in the nation’s battle against the virus, which so far has killed more than 184,000 people and infected more than six million.

“Let’s not just say we are ramping up and hope we get there. Let’s have a goal in mind,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, the director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under former President George W. Bush. “It’s not just a matter of getting the tests to market.”

In a recent interview, Dr. Bruce J. Tromberg, who directs the N.I.H.’s test development program, estimated that the United States needed to test about six million people a day, citing reports by experts at the Rockefeller Foundation and other organizations. Without federal assistance, he said, companies would at best produce only half that number by the end of the year.

The government’s purchases of hundreds of millions of tests for nursing homes and other hot spots have helped spur development and manufacturing. The N.I.H. is trying to encourage even more production, Dr. Tromberg said, with grants that have allowed companies to build laboratories and open new manufacturing lines.

Six million daily tests “is what we are on the trajectory for,” he said.

But in a briefing last month with reporters, Admiral Giroir appeared to contradict that. “I am really tired of hearing from people who are not involved in the system that we need millions of tests every day,” he said. “We are doing the appropriate amount of testing now.”

Then, in an interview on Friday, Admiral Giroir suggested that he had misspoken. “Since Day 1, we’ve been trying to increase the number of tests,” he said.

Admiral Giroir has laid out broad principles for a national strategy: People with symptoms should be tested, and some level of surveillance — testing of large swaths of the population, regardless of symptoms — should be conducted to pinpoint outbreaks. Those can then be controlled by surges of tests, he has said.

But beyond that broad outline lies much uncertainty. To the dismay of many public health officials, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has publicly wavered about whether people who have been in close contact with an infected person but who have no symptoms should be tested.

The government’s $2.5 billion pot of money to develop new tests is split between the N.I.H.’s program, called Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, or RADx, and an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the new tests, made by the Maryland-based company Maxim Biomedical, is what Dr. Tromberg calls a “dipstick” antigen test that relies on a nasal swab and can deliver results in 15 minutes without any additional instruments. The test has yet to receive an F.D.A. greenlight, Dr. Tromberg said, but “we’re excited.”

So far, the new tests fall short of what some experts argue is most needed: a method that is cheap and simple enough to be widely used at home, twice a week or more, regardless of symptoms. Dr. Collins said the technology for such tests, which might resemble a pregnancy test, is close at hand, but regulatory obstacles remain. No test has been authorized that can be bought over the counter and conducted entirely at home.

Some of the most attention-grabbing developments have taken place without federal grants, although the government remains a large purchaser. Abbott, a major health care company, last month won emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for an antigen test that is the size of a credit card, costs about $5, delivers results in 15 minutes and is intended to be given in health care settings to patients who are within a week of the onset of symptoms.

Unlike standard lab-based tests, antigen tests hunt for coronavirus proteins and can run from start to finish in settings such as a doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or pharmacy. So far, the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency approval to about 180 lab-based tests, but fewer than 10 that can be done outside the lab.

Abbott has said it will produce 50 million tests a month by October. The federal government has agreed to buy 150 million of them, at a cost of $750 million, and will ship them to assisted living centers, nursing homes and other locations.

Together with such advances, federal officials say the government’s effort is helping to create a kind of testing smorgasbord for consumers.

One recipient of a grant from the N.I.H., a company called Fluidigm, is developing a test that collects saliva samples to be processed in laboratories. Fluidigm’s test received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration last week; with the government’s funding, the company plans to expand its manufacturing capacity to more than one million tests a day by the end of March.

A Massachusetts-based firm called Ginkgo Bioworks is pioneering the use of genome sequencing to detect the coronavirus. Ginkgo used the more than $40 million it received from the N.I.H. to help construct a new laboratory that will run about 250,000 coronavirus tests a day, according to Barry Canton, a co-founder of the company. Customers will be able to purchase the test for about $25, ship their samples to Ginkgo and receive results within about 48 hours.

Some experts question whether the government’s umbrella is wide enough. Ten of the 16 N.I.H. grant recipients require test samples to be processed in a lab. Five others, while simpler and faster, still rely on expensive or cumbersome machines to yield results, making them poor candidates for widespread use.

What the N.I.H. is doing, said Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist in New York, “is a subset of what we’re looking for.”

Sharon LaFraniere reported from Washington and Katherine J. Wu from Boston. Kitty Bennett contributed research.



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Dining News

Candy Companies Market Halloween Early to Bolster Pandemic Sales


Halloween is coming early this year, with candy displays already up in some stores

With full knowledge that Halloween — and, more importantly, trick-or-treating — is going to look different in a pandemic, some candy brands are taking extra precautions in an effort to bolster sales during what is usually their best season.

For example, Hershey got a head start by asking retailers to set up their Halloween displays earlier than the typical mid-August or early September timeline, CNN reports. Hershey is also keeping more of its candy in the normal packaging, rather than the seasonal Halloween wrappers, boxes, and bags.

Mondelez, the company behind Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, and other sweets and snacks, told CNN that it will focus on family-size packs of its bestselling products, predicting that more families will have smaller gatherings rather than let their children go out for trick-or-treating.

Mars Wrigley, which makes Skittles, Snickers, and other well-known candy brands, is going to devote more resources to stocking up product for e-commerce, Ad Age reports.

But overall, Halloween candy sales might not actually suffer that much, given Americans’ quarantine eating patterns the past few months. Consumers have reportedly turned to more snacking and familiar foods during the COVID-19 crisis, apparently seeking comfort in a strange and stressful time. In fact, this year more than ever, you would have a good excuse to demolish an entire family-size pack of Twix on your own in one Halloween sitting.

And in other news…

  • A bipartisan group of senators have urged the U.S. to remove last fall’s 25 percent tariffs on European food, wine, and spirits, in an effort to offer some economic relief to hard-hit restaurants, retailers, importers, and distributors. [CNBC]
  • American Airlines will resume its hot-food service in airport lounges once again. The menu will be limited, and instead of self-serve buffet-style, the food will be doled out by employees. [Delish]
  • Zomato, one of India’s biggest food delivery companies, is giving all women and trans employees 10 days of “period leave” a year. [CNN]
  • Chipotle’s new “Tony Hawk burrito” is apparently just a regular chicken burrito, albeit one that comes with access to a demo for Hawk’s Pro Skater video game. Radical! [Thrillist]
  • Never a good sign when your Dear Prudie advice letter complaining about other parents contains the phrase: “I couldn’t believe that they served my son spicy curries without even calling to ask us if that would be OK!” [Slate]

• All AM Intel Coverage [E]



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Politics

Senate Report: Opaque Art Market Helped Oligarchs Evade Sanctions


Companies linked to two Russian oligarchs exploited the opaqueness of the art world to buy high-value art, bypassing U.S. sanctions, according to a report by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that was published on Wednesday.

American companies are barred from doing business with sanctioned individuals. But the report said the oligarchs, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two brothers who are close to President Vladimir P. Putin of Russia, were able to hide behind an intermediary who made the purchases on behalf of companies owned or funded by the Rotenbergs.

The purchases of works at auction houses and through private art dealers in New York totaled $18.4 million in value and were made after the Rotenbergs came under United States sanctions in 2014.

The report said the financial transactions were enabled by the secrecy and anonymity with which the art market operates and it called for tighter rules to force greater transparency. The investigators concluded that the auction houses — including Christie’s and Sotheby’s — and private sellers never knew the true identity of the oligarchs who were buying the art, but they said that was a loophole that needs to be closed for a sanctions policy to be truly effective.

“It is shocking that U.S. banking regulations don’t currently apply to multimillion-dollar art transactions, and we cannot let that continue,” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, who is chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement. “The art industry currently operates under a veil of secrecy allowing art advisers to represent both sellers and buyers masking the identities of both parties, and as we found, the source of the funds. This creates an environment ripe for laundering money and evading sanctions.”

None of the auction houses or dealers were accused of any wrongdoing. The report said they stopped doing business with the intermediary as soon as they learned of the Senate investigators’ concerns.

In a statement, Christie’s said it welcomed “the opportunity to work with U.S. legislators on appropriate and enforceable A.M.L. guidelines for all tiers of the art trade here.” Sotheby’s said in a statement that it “takes Anti-Money Laundering and United States sanctions policies extremely seriously and voluntarily participated in the Senate Subcommittee’s investigation.”

The Rotenberg brothers were the subject of sanctions in March 2014, in an expansion of sanctions to wealthy businessmen with close ties to President Putin that came in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The Rotenbergs had amassed fortunes through their ties to the government, the administration said. They were awarded an estimated $7 billion in contracts for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. President Putin later entrusted the construction of a bridge to Crimea to Arkady Rotenberg, a longtime friend and judo partner.

Despite the prohibition against U.S. entities doing business with the oligarchs, the Senate investigators traced numerous art transactions in a period of just a few months following the imposition of the sanctions back to anonymous shell companies that they said were linked to the Rotenbergs

The report identifies a Moscow-based art adviser named Gregory Baltser, whom it described as a naturalized U.S. citizen, as an intermediary who bought art for companies it said were linked to the Rotenbergs. Mr. Baltser typically operated through his company, Baltzer, a private art agency and club, that he established in 2013, the report said.

In one case, in May 2014, Baltzer bought multiple works at a Sotheby’s sale in New York for $6.8 million, including works by Henry Moore, Marc Chagall and Georges Braque. A Belize company called Steamort, which the report links to the Rotenbergs, wired funds from an Estonian bank account to Baltzer’s London account and from there to Sotheby’s bank in New York.

In another case, in June 2014, a company called Highland Ventures bought a painting, René Magritte’s “La Poitrine,” for $7.5 million via a private New York art dealer, with funds it traced to a company owned by Arkady Rotenberg.

Just a few months later, in November, Baltzer bought a painting, “Un port sous la lune,” by the artist Tamara De Lempicka, at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Day Sale in New York, for $665,000 using funds wired by Highland Ventures and Steamort.

In a statement, a lawyer representing Mr. Baltser, David A. Vicinanzo, said Baltzer “maintains a strict compliance program, and has never conducted any transaction prohibited by any sanctions list.”

“Baltzer can confirm that neither it nor Gregory Baltser has ever, at any time, represented or transacted in any way with Boris or Arkady Rotenberg.” the statement said.

It also said that Baltzer had relied on a list of sanctioned entities compiled by the U.S. Treasury Department and noted that the companies cited by the Senate investigators as being tied to the Rotenbergs were not included on that list.

“Baltzer had urged the Subcommittee not to make unfair and untrustworthy allegations on the basis of information from unconfirmed sources,” the statement said, “and is deeply disappointed that the Subcommittee has chosen to do just that.”

Investigators said Mr. Baltser had refused multiple requests to be interviewed by the subcommittee when he could have laid out his position.

A representative for the Rotenbergs said in a statement that they had never circumvented sanctions.

“Any statement asserting that any member of the Rotenberg family ever contemplated using art as a money movement tool is totally absurd,” the representative said. “All transactions with works of art made by Rotenberg family members or on their behalf were made openly, strictly with lawful personal purposes and always on market terms.”

The art market lacks the formal regulatory requirements that the Bank Secrecy Act imposes on financial institutions. Instead, the industry relies on voluntary money-laundering policies to identify counterparties in transactions, but the report said in the case of the Rotenberg transactions, these were easily circumvented.

Any due diligence carried out was only done on Mr. Baltser, the report found, satisfying the voluntary auction houses’ anti-money-laundering and sanctions policies, but failing to determine who was really behind the acquisitions.

“Despite having voluntary A.M.L. and sanctions policies, auction houses failed to ask basic questions of Mr. Baltser, including for whom he purchased art,” the report concluded. “This allowed Mr. Baltser to continue to purchase art despite the imposition of sanctions by the United States on the Rotenbergs, completely undermining any action taken by the auction houses to block transactions by sanctioned individuals.”

To force greater transparency on the art industry, the report called for Congress to amend the Bank Secrecy Act to add businesses handling transactions involving high-value art. This would bring the United States, and the New York art industry, more in line with recent European Union changes, it said, requiring the verification of the identity of art sellers, buyers and ultimately who owns the art or benefits from its sale.

“There are reforms that we know can be put in place to ensure that wealthy bad actors cannot use valuable works of art to evade U.S. sanctions,” said Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware and the ranking member on the committee.

The report’s authors said the activities the investigation was able to trace were likely only the “tip of the iceberg” of illicit activities in the art market.

The investigation was started after the ineffectiveness of the sanctions became apparent, since Russia has not withdrawn from Ukraine, and the report’s authors said the activities they had uncovered raised questions about the effectiveness of sanctions policy.

“If wealthy Russian oligarchs can purchase millions in art for personal investment or enjoyment while under sanction, it follows that their businesses or hidden resources could also continue accessing the U.S. financial system,” the report said.



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Dining News

Chef Curtis Duffy chats about Ever’s menu in Fulton Market


Chef Curtis Duffy has struggled sourcing fennel. And it’s not just fennel — the pandemic has made it difficult to source all kinds of vegetables, he says, with some vendors closed and others not picking up their phones. The longer wait times have complicated Duffy’s creative process as he prepares for his long-awaited return to Chicago’s restaurant scene. To fully conceptualize a dish, he needs to have the item, say, a carrot, in hand before he can start to see it in a different, creative way that lends itself to his fine dining style.

Despite the logistical hiccups and tweaks brought about by the novel coronavirus, Duffy maintains a laser-like focus on his new restaurant. Ever follows Grace, the three Michelin-starred restaurant he commanded until its sudden closure in 2017. That page turns Tuesday with the debut of Ever, his stunning new West Loop restaurant where he and business partner and GM Michael Muser always have the final say.

Osetra caviar, crab, cucumber, citrus lace
Ever/Michael Muser

“It’s unfortunate about the position that we’re in, but it doesn’t change the way I cook or see ingredients,” Duffy says. “I’m excited as hell. I’ve got that fire and intensity, the passion — there’s nothing we can’t do.”

Ever will open with an eight to 10-course tasting menu ($285 per person) that features meat and seafood, with three to four courses emphasizing seasonal vegetables with accompanying fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains. Duffy describes his menu as “light, green, herbaceous, [and] fun.” The tasting menu features squab with guajillo, raspberry, and sorrel, and an earthy-looking wagyu beef with sunchoke, orange, and tat soi.

Those familiar with Duffy’s work will recognize his delicate touch and whimsical plating. Education is part and parcel with Ever’s mission, and Duffy plans to introduce patrons to ingredients they may not have previously encountered — hoja santa, (also known as “root beer leaf”) for example — and combinations diners haven’t seen before. But even seemingly pedestrian items like butter become art at Ever. Take the verdant quenelle of seven-herb butter topped with fleur de sel sits beneath a satiny ribbon of white butter cultivated with black cypress salt that seems frozen mid-flutter.

A green quenelle of butter sits under a white ribbon of butter

Seven-herb butter with fleur de sel, white butter cultivated with black cypress salt.
Ever/Michael Muser

Known for his thoughtful treatment of vegetables in particular, Grace was a haven for vegetarians, as Duffy offered a second tasting menu that was meat free. For now, Ever will only offer one menu (Duffy says he’ll be able to substitute items for vegetarians). The pandemic convinced Duffy to scale down from allowed diners a choice between vegetarian or meat-and-seafood tasting menus of 12 to 15 courses. Duffy says the change is about safety, minimizing the number of products in the kitchen and scaling down the number of staff needed to handle those items. Fewer staff means a safer space for diners, Duffy says. He plans to move forward with the vegetarian menu eventually, but didn’t say when.

A white plate with artfully arranged Wagyu beef, sunchoke, orange, and tat soi

Wagyu beef, sunchoke, orange, tat soi
Ever/Michael Muser

Duffy and Muser have made much of an airy room between Ever’s entrance and its dining room, a brightly-lit space that serves as a hanging garden of dehydrated delights like paper-thin bisections of watermelon, pineapple, and more. The dangle from small chains affixed to the ceiling, represent “a glimpse of what you’ll be consuming,” on the tasting menu, Duffy says.

Initially, they planned to let diners snag and consume the suspended items, preparing their palettes and minds for the tasting menu. The pandemic has rendered the space more museum than eating area as the items have been rendered as simple decorations. Diners will pass through the space, pausing for a bite or sip, on their ways to the dining room. The Willy Wonka-like free-for-all won’t unfold like Duffy and Muser hoped.

A few of the ingredients that will hang from Ever’s ceiling.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Chef Curtis Duffy underneath the hanging garden.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

It may not be the perfect opening he imagined, but Duffy knows that his goal of greatness was never going to come easily. He sees himself and Ever as objects in perpetual motion, drawing on the power of memory to lay a foundation for his vision, yet refusing to wallow in nostalgia or misgivings about the past. For Duffy, each seemingly minute tweak or edit to a dish builds toward the ultimate objective — a more perfect restaurant.

“It’s too easy to do the same thing over and over,” he says. “I don’t want to be a chef with a signature dish… We don’t need to change just to change, but we’ve got to be moving forward constantly.”

A white plate with a salad of chamomile, pine nut, black raspberry, and oxalis

Chamomile, pine nut, black raspberry, oxalis
Ever/Michael Muser



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Breaking New

Nevada still has the highest unemployment in the US, even as overall market improves



Nevada is big in both of those industries, and it still has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, even though it fell to a seasonally adjusted 25.3% in May from 30.1% in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

Nebraska is leading the country with the lowest May unemployment rate, at 5.2%.

Tourism-reliant Hawaii and Michigan have the second and third highest unemployment rates in the country at 22.6% and 21.1%, respectively. In both states, the jobless rates declined some in May.

Hawaii, along with the District of Columbia, was also the only state that recorded further job losses in May.

It’s hard to see when things will improve for the tourism-dependent Hawaii, which has implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers. That makes a trip much less appealing.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 infection rates are increasing in pockets around the country.

“As such, dependence on tourism may be a more important driver for joblessness in this rebound period than the time of re-openings,” said Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics, in emailed comments.

Economists hoping for a clear link between an earlier reopening of states and a lower unemployment rate didn’t get that clarity. The connection held in only a handful of states, like Georgia, where the jobless rate dropped to 9.7% from 12.6% in April.

Still, on the whole, unemployment rates declined in most states — only Minnesota, Connecticut and Florida registered small increases — and that’s undeniably a positive.

Florida actually also recorded one of the biggest increases in new jobs. While that might seem contradictory, the size of Florida’s labor force simply increased in May.

In total, 46 states added new jobs, with Texas and Pennsylvania topping that list.

Long road to recovery

Even though the labor market is showing sure signs of improvement, it is clear that this crisis is far from over.

More than 20 million US jobs vanished in April as the country went on lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and the unemployment rate rose to an all-time high in 43 states in response.

It will be a long road to recovery from this shock.

Millions are still reliant on unemployment benefits to make ends meet. Washington’s CARES Act increased jobless aid by $600 per week and made benefits available to groups that would not usually get them, including the self-employed.

But that lifeline of additional weekly cash is slated to roll off at the end of July. Many economists are now calling for Congress to act and extend the benefits.

The issue is complex: On the one hand, the US economy needs consumers to spend money to grow. With less cash in the country’s wallets, the recovery could be held back.

At the same time, however, there are concerns that larger than usual unemployment benefits will keep people from returning to work.

The government has to find a way to strike a balance. But given how high unemployment remains across the country, it is unlikely that enhanced benefit will just lapse entirely, Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

Earlier this week, more than 100 economists, including former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and Chairman Ben Bernanke, urged the government to deploy more stimulus.



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Breaking New

Federal agents arrest man for taking part in fire set at Fayetteville Market House



FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A man was arrested Friday for taking part in the fire set at Fayetteville’s historic Market House, the United States Department of Justice said.

Charles Anthony Pittman, of Fayetteville, was arrested by special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. He is charged with maliciously damaging property owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance, a news release said.

An otherwise peaceful protest on May 30 turned violent when several people broke into the Market House and set fire to it. A news crew caught Pittman on camera showing a red gasoline container to the crowd below before he poured its contents on the flood of the second story.

Special coverage: George Floyd protests

Pittman then ran out of the Market House as the floor caught fire with other people, including an employee, still inside. The Market House “sustained charring and mass wood loss to the second story floor,” the news release said.

Pittman broadcasted on Facebook Live earlier in the day while he drove around the traffic circle outside the Market House. He claimed to be scoping out the scene and was discussing whether it “should come down,” the release said.

He noted the inaction of the protesters, saying they would just “barbeque and mildew,” Pittman promised on the Facebook Live that he would be back. He was later seen wearing the same shirt in the Facebook Live video as he was when he was on video setting the fire, the release said.

Protesters also burned a United States flag in front of the Market House and broke several windows during the riot.

More headlines from CBS17.com:



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