Brexit Is Causing Havoc For The UK’s Legion of Dropshippers

Screenshot_2021-03-26 Brexit Is Causing Havoc For The UK’s Legion of Dropshippers

Channi Dorset’s online shop, Cr8tive Wallflower, is looking bare. Last year, shoppers could buy the 26-year-old’s artwork emblazoned on more than 170 different product lines, including clothes and mugs. Visit the site today and you’ll see just 15 items on sale. The reason? Brexit.

Dorset uses dropshipping, a method of fulfilling orders that means sellers don’t have to keep the products they list in stock. Instead, they rely on a third-party producer to manufacture the item on-demand and ship it directly to the customer. “It’s an easier way of not having to hold all that stock but being able to access a lot of different [customers worldwide],” Dorset says. “It wasn’t the most efficient way of getting the best profit, but it was working.” Or at least it was, until it stopped working altogether.

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, dropshippers have been hit by a series of changes that have materially affected their businesses – right at the time when the pandemic’s impact on employment makes secondary income more important than ever. There are at least 140,000 dropshippers in the UK, according to Shopify, one of the largest providers of dropshipping technology in the world. The UK makes up eight per cent of Shopify’s 1.75 million merchants, generating the company $3 billion in global revenue in 2020.

For the biggest dropshippers, there’s the opportunity to make huge sums without ever having to buy stock or inventory. Others use it as a supplementary income to top up their salaries. Sometimes, it goes further: one high-ranking dropshipper claims to have brought in £310,000 within his first six months of trading. Neither matches the $1.5 million Bali-based dropshippers have been able to make from their businesses.

“Because of Brexit, shipping prices from China to the UK are ten times higher [than before] and there are a lot of delays at customs,” says Zain Shah, who sells products on eBay, Amazon and Shopify. “It is not easy and smooth as it used to be when it comes to shipping items from the UK to the EU.” One UK-based fashion dropshipper, who earns around £70,000 a year, was more blunt. He said he would cease trading “because my profit margin will go to shit”.

“Dropshippers’ overheads are so high that for them to pay the VAT will kill their margins,” says Philip Karageorgis, who runs Honest FulPhilment, a logistics company that brokers arrangements with Chinese suppliers on behalf of dropshippers. “It will affect the average dropshipper a lot. If you increase your prices 20 per cent, for most there’ll be a big dropoff.”

In the aftermath of Brexit, Aliexpress, one of the main sites that connects dropshippers with China-based manufacturers, slapped a 20 per cent price hike on every product sold through its platform. The policy was introduced to cover a change to UK tax law that shifts the requirement for levying VAT on items brought into the UK from the customer at the point of receipt of the goods to the company selling them, at the point of sale. Previously, smaller items that were sent to the UK, costing under £15 each, weren’t checked and taxed because they were assumed to be gifts.

The change meant that overnight, the price of items increased by a fifth for dropshippers, who were forced to pass on those costs to their customers. “If their margin was under 20 per cent, they’re making a loss at the point of import,” says Ethar Alali of Axelisys, which provides APIs and frontend tech support to dropshippers. “Not only are they seeing their margins affected, but small volume-based businesses could be turned into loss-making businesses.”

That includes Dorset’s business. “The way the delivery services have changed and having to pay extra customs charges, it was turning out I was going to be at a loss rather than a profit,” she says. She’s investigating other options, including sourcing her items from closer to home, rather than China. “It’s opened my eyes to the impact of Brexit,” she says. “You wouldn’t think dropshipping is something that would be impacted. But for someone like me who’s an illustrator and creative, it’s a major thing.”

Changes started happening the summer of last year, Dorset says, when the fulfilment company she works with started to discontinue some of the products that were most popular with her customers. The prices for other products from outside the European Union started to increase.

She says she “didn’t mind paying a couple of quid” if it was going to benefit her business to have a broader range of products. But prices increased further, and popular product lines disappeared. “I had to start withdrawing certain products because there was no way of obtaining things, and I didn’t want to disappoint customers.”

Christmas orders for some of her most popular lines, including bucket hats and baseball caps, had to be cancelled because the supply of the raw items to make the finished products dried up. That could be because the manufacturers didn’t want to take the risk of being charged to supply Dorset’s business under new tax and import rules post-Brexit.

The supply of stock for dropshippers disappeared overnight. Suppliers couldn’t be bothered to deal with the additional paperwork, tearing up supply chains and leaving once-economical businesses broken. “A lot of EU suppliers will have said no – and that will have left a lot of dropshipping clients with a lot of problems,” says Alali. Suddenly they can sell an item that won’t be manufactured, he says.

It’s also a worry for customers. Post-Brexit, the default rules have changed so that any European end customer who buys something from a UK shop and receives the finished item is responsible for paying any import VAT or orders at their door.

UK-based dropshippers handling items like plastic car parts have reported packages being refused entry by customs, losing £25 on shipping and £160 in sales to refunds on a single shipment. Other dropshippers say they’ve had packages go missing – likely stuck in the system if a customer refuses to pay what can often be hefty additional import VAT fees.

“One option for them would be to bulk import,” says Karageorgis. “They could bulk ship from China to the UK, then distribute from there. But then that isn’t dropshipping anymore.” And it’s a gamble that few are willing to make.

“For some people this is fatal,” says Alali. “Fundamentally, dropshipping will have to change. The reality is the timelines involved means customers will start to find themselves ordering from Amazon or eBay. Unless dropshippers take on the burden of speculatively placing goods somewhere close to the UK or within the UK itself, which means they need to be sure they can sell it, that part of the industry is going to struggle.”

Source: Brexit is causing havoc for the UK’s legion of dropshippers | WIRED UK

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With Russia’s Help, China Becomes Plastics Making Power In Pandemic

After giving up on recycling — American recycling that is — China is still in love with the plastics biz. In fact. their companies are becoming dominant in all things plastic, one of the most important supply chains in the world.

In other words, it will be yet another segment in global business that the world will need Chinese companies to get supply.

The pandemic has helped the petrochemicals industry make up for losses in oil and gas demand. Plastics are tied to the fossil fuels industry. Stay-at-home orders throughout the U.S. and Europe has led to more take-out food orders and a lot of that is being placed in plastic containers.

I’d like to highlight one thing though: China’s Sinopec is the behemoth in this space, and although you can buy into Sinopec on the U.S. stock market, if the incoming Biden Administration makes good on a Trump order to delist Chinese companies that are not compliant with the financial audit rules under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, then Sinopec will probably leave the NYSE.

According to industry consultant Wood Mackenzie, petrochemicals will account for more than a third of global oil demand growth to 2030 and nearly half through 2050.

The growth in both plastics consumption and production is mostly coming from Asia where economies are catching up with the western levels of plastics consumption, and becoming a source for plastics exports to the U.S. and Europe.

Within Asia of course, China is the powerhouse. Last year Exxon Mobil XOM -4.8% began constructing its $10 billion petrochemical complex in Huizhou, China.

Russia Joins China, Wants To Be ‘Indispensible’

Russia’s petrochemical giant Sibur is also locked into China, mainly through a Sinopec partnership. The two companies began work on one of the world’s largest polymer plants for plastics making last August, spending $11 billion on the Amur Gas Chemical Complex in Russia.

The two sides are intimately connected in the global plastics biz.

“Amur is a milestone in the cooperation between Sinopec and Sibur,” Zhang Yuzhuo, chairman of Sinopec, says in a press statement, calling it a “model for Sino-Russian energy cooperation.”

The entire industry, while not exactly the sexy and green industry the Davos crowd is promoting heavily in the Western world, is seen by China and still-emerging markets like Russia — as a development tool for regions far away from the big city hubs of Moscow or Shanghai. This is as much about job creation as it is pumping out plastic molds and the ethylene needed to make it.

Russia recently introduced negative excise tax on LPG and ethane used in petrochemicals which was a meaty financial bone thrown to Sinopec and Sibur’s Amur project, among others in the Russian far east. 

The Sibur Russia angle has gained momentum recently due to the ramp up in production from the new ZapSib Siberian facility last year. They make polyethylene and 500 thousand tons of polypropylene there; all must-have ingredients for plastics manufacturers.

Their relationship with Chinese investors, buyers and counterparties was one of the main reasons to even build that manufacturing plant in the first place, and is something the Moscow market likes to give as one of the best reasons to be bullish about a rumored initial public offering for Sibur.

Sibur has said in press statements that they expect “another jump in scale” of plastics chemicals output with the addition of the Sinopec project, Amur.

“Sibur has long built relationships with Chinese clients, partners, and investors and Sinopec has been our strategic partner since 2013,” says Dmitry Konov, Chairman of the Management Board for Sibur. Konov told Reuters recently that there was no timeline for any IPO in the Moscow Exchange. Moscow was home to one of the top four largest IPOs last year, shipping firm Sovcomflot.

Konov said their logistical advantages in the far east, near China, and competitive pricing for its polymers means they will “scale up these relationships to further expand the delivery of high-quality petrochemicals from Siberia to China.”

VTB Capital, a Russian investment bank, says those projects would allow Russia to become one of the world’s top four producers of ethylene by 2030. Russia wants to position itself as the indispensable partner to China in this space, much in the way that China has positioned itself as the key source for numerous key inputs, whether its cobalt used in electric vehicle car batteries, or solar panels now expected to criss-cross the U.S. in the Biden Administration.

Due to the pandemic, China has been focused on industries of the future alongside those needed to get itself, and its trading partners, out of the pandemic rut — those polypropylene Olive Garden to go containers might not come from China, but the plastics that made it sure might.

China remains the place for growth in this space, too. Plastics-use patterns and penetration are rising. Figure the Asians are a good 10 to 20 years behind the U.S. in terms of plastics use. They’re gaining fast.

China As Plastics Demand Driver

Plastics aren’t made from tree bark, that’s for sure. It comes from fossil fuels and non-organic chemical compounds that make the stuff designed to last hundreds of years.

And China now accounts for roughly 40% of the demand for the chemicals used in making it, an increase of just 20% in 2005. 

China’s ethylene demand grew by 8.6% between 2014-17 while global demand grew by only half that. 

Looking out five years, Deutsche Bank industry analysts said in a November 25 report that China will account for over half of global consumption growth for ethylene (to which Sibur and Russia are happy as their go-to for now). 

China has 50% self-sufficiency in ethylene and derivative products – the domestic desire to expand capacities and increase self-sufficiency remains high. Russia is a solution. But Sinopec will invest domestically, as will the big Western multinationals who are frowned upon doing similar work back home. Exxon is case in point.

China was a relatively late entrant to the global petrochemical industry, but that does not mean much. They ramp up, and rev up fast due to state subsidies and state-owned companies’ ability to obtain raw materials and pass them along downstream for pennies on the dollar. These are loss leaders, but China doesn’t care about that stuff. They are looking to produce plastics for the locals, and for the export markets, especially U.S. and Europe, which are increasingly disinterested in anything fossil fuels related, at least on paper. 

In the 1990s, the Chinese petrochemical industry was significantly smaller than the U.S. In 1995, China’s ethylene capacity totaled 3% of global capacity. In comparison, Japan had 9% of global ethylene capacity and Korea had 5% of global capacity. Ethylene is naturally occurring.

During the 2000s, China’s petrochemical industry grew substantially driven by government support and strong demand from government-directed infrastructure spending, a burgeoning middle class with rising disposable incomes, expanding residential construction and exports of course.

Between 2004 and 2012, China’s ethylene capacity — the flammable gas used to make ethanol for cars, fruit ripeners, and — more importantly, plastics — doubled to 11 million tons per year. Within 25 years, China’s capacity has moved from 3% of global to 16% of global. Who thinks they’re going to slow that down? Need plastic? China will have it. For now, Russia has the chemicals. China might just gain on that next. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

Kenneth Rapoza

Kenneth Rapoza

I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.

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COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Are Spreading Rapidly—and They’re a Public Health Risk All Their Own

Public health crises have spawned conspiracy theories as far back as when the Black Death ravaged Europe in the 1300s, as people desperately try to make sense of the chaotic forces disrupting their lives. While modern science offers a better understanding of how diseases infect people and how to contain them, COVID-19 conspiracy theories are spreading rapidly via social media, unreliable news outlets . The result: many Americans now believe pandemic-related conspiracy theories—and, alarmingly, those same people are less likely to take steps to prevent the virus from spreading.

In a University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center study published Monday in Social Science & Medicine, researchers surveyed a group of 840 U.S. adults—first in late March, and then again in mid-July—to determine how Americans’ beliefs and actions regarding the pandemic changed over time. Overall, they found that COVID-19 conspiracy theories are not only commonplace, they’re gaining traction.

Back in March, 28% of people believed a debunked rumor that the Chinese government created the coronavirus as a bioweapon; that number rose to 37% by July. About 24% believed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exaggerated the virus’ danger to hurt Trump politically despite a lack of evidence; by July, that figure rose to 32%. And in March, about 15% of respondents said they believed that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus to boost drug and vaccine sales—another unfounded theory—compared to 17% in July.

Whether or not someone thinks NASA hired Stanley Kubrick to fake the moon landing has little bearing on the world beyond that person. But in the case of a pandemic—which requires people to follow public health guidance in order to keep one another safe—conspiratorial thinking can have disturbing consequences.

Indeed, the Annenberg study found that only 62% of people who were most likely to believe the coronavirus conspiracies said they wear a mask every day when they’re around other people away from home, compared to 95% of non-believers. Furthermore, people who believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories were 2.2 times less likely to say they wanted to receive a vaccine in March; by July, they were 3.5 times less likely to want to be vaccinated.

“Belief in pandemic conspiracy theories appears to be an obstacle to minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dan Romer, Annenberg Public Policy Center research director and a study co-author, in a statement.

Where are people picking up COVID-19 conspiracy theories? Believers were more likely to be heavy users of social media and viewers of conservative media like Fox News, the study found. Meanwhile, people who watch other television news channels were more likely to follow public health guidance and to desire vaccination.

While the researchers say they understand how pandemic conspiracy theories are spreading, they say it’s still a challenge to get believers to reconsider once they’re sucked in. Other research suggests that simply correcting false information doesn’t usually work—and can even cause some people to believe conspiracies even more deeply.

“Conspiracy theories are difficult to displace because they provide explanations for events that are not fully understood, such as the current pandemic, play on people’s distrust of government and other powerful actors, and involve accusations that cannot be easily fact-checked,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg Public Policy Center director and study co-author, in a statement.

By Tara Law

From a secret plan to stop Brexit, to a virus engineered to control population, the conspiracies surrounding the coronavirus have been spreading fast on social media.

Subscribe to our channel here: https://goo.gl/31Q53F Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube have all seen a host of misinformation being spread on their platform, with fake news sources amassing over 50 million engagements.

Facebook, which has over 2 billion accounts worldwide, has announced that it’s busy removing false claims from its site and will promote the guidance of the World Health organisation. Despite this push from FB, online analytics show that in the UK the NHS website is still seeing fewer engagements than fake news sources from the US. Katie Razzall is joined by Anna-Sophie Harling from NewsGuard, an online browser extension that reports on digital misinformation, and Victoria Baine a former Facebook Trust and Safety Manager to discuss what needs to be done to protect ourselves from digital misinformation.

Coronavirus Budget: How will the government respond? https://bbc.in/2TxFiul Inside the lab trying to understand Coronavirus – https://bbc.in/2VVUV0h Coronavirus: Countries need to ‘help each other’ – https://bbc.in/2TQyGX2 Coronavirus and fake news – what to believe? – https://bbc.in/2W8au5l Coronavirus cases pass 50 as UK publishes its plan – https://bbc.in/2VXJmpy Coronavirus cases in the UK increase – https://bbc.in/38yZIrk Coronavirus: Stock market suffers worst week since 2008 crash – https://bbc.in/2wYvAbv Coronavirus: How prepared is the NHS for an outbreak? – https://bbc.in/2TvKE8f Coronavirus: How is it affecting the economy? – https://bbc.in/39eSt8U Coronavirus: How should China’s handling of the crisis inform our response? – https://bbc.in/2TqEkyQ Coronavirus: Is the UK’s response to China virus proportionate? – https://bbc.in/2Ii3p9P Coronavirus: How could it be stopped? – https://bbc.in/32Gw7us Coronavirus: What is it and should we be worried? – https://bbc.in/2vnVDc1#Coronavirus#Covid19#CoronaOutbreak#2019nCov Newsnight is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs TV programme – with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews. Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBCNewsnight Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnewsnight

Oracle Reportedly Wins Race To Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Operations

The Journal did not have details about the deal, including its price.

Microsoft on Sunday evening said it was out of the running for TikTok and that its bid had been rejected by ByteDance.

Oracle emerged as frontrunner in the race to acquire TikTok last month. The software giant’s bid was being backed by venture capital firms General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, both of whom are major investors in TikTok’s Beijing-based parent ByteDance.

One of Sequoia’s partners, Doug Leone—a major Trump donor—and Bill Ford, CEO of General Atlantic, had reportedly been working with the White House to help secure the deal for Oracle’s consortium.

Oracle’s bid beats out a competing joint offer by Microsoft and retail giant Walmart, which had publicly entered the fray on Thursday, telling CNBC that it would use TikTok to grow its e-commerce and advertising business.

Last month, Trump had endorsed Oracle’s bid calling it “a great company” while expressing support for the company’s billionaire co-founder Larry Ellison, who is also a donor to the President’s reelection campaign.

Key Background

Last month, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer announced his exit from the company, just months after taking charge. According to a Financial Times report, Mayer had not anticipated the extent to which TikTok would become involved in tensions between China and the U.S. when he took over in June. A TikTok spokesperson had told CNN Business that they respected his decision since the “political dynamics of the last few months” had significantly changed the scope of Mayer’s role. 

Last week, TikTok had filed a legal challenge against the president’s executive order banning U.S. transactions with the video-sharing platform and its owner ByteDance. It is unclear how TikTok’s lawsuit against the Trump administration will be impacted by the sale. TikTok is also facing a class-action suit in Illinois filed by the parents of dozens of minors which alleges that the app collects facial recognition data, location data and data on close contacts from minors, and discreetly sends it to servers in China.

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Siladitya Ray

Siladitya Ray

I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018. Have a news tip? DMs are open on Twitter @SiladityaRay or drop me an email at siladitya@protonmail.com.

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New China Export Rule Could Jeopardize TikTok U.S. Sale

The Chinese government has added artificial intelligence technologies including ‘personalized content recommendation’ tools to its export control list, a move that could potentially jeopardize the pending sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations, Nikkei Asian Review reported first.

China’s Ministry of Commerce, on Friday, released an updated export control list that included “personalized content recommendations based on data analysis” and a number of other technologies, restricting exports both for military and civilian purposes.

While Beijing’s order does not explicitly mention TikTok, one of the app’s key features— recommending personalized videos— is based on an algorithm that might fall under the restricted category.

It is unclear when the new restrictions will go into effect but TikTok’s Beijing-based parent ByteDance is reportedly trying to finalize its sale in the U.S. as early as this weekend.

While President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that according to his August 6 order ByteDance has till September 15th to sell TikTok, a second executive order issued by Trump on August 14 gives TikTok and ByteDance 90 days from the signing of the order to divest its U.S. operations, pushing the deadline beyond the U.S. presidential elections.

TikTok presently shares technical resources including its user interface and some software code with Douyin, an identical Chinese variant of the app that is walled off from the rest of the world, and the new Chinese order may add additional complications to their separation.

China’s actions follow several trade-related sanctions issued by the Trump administration against Chinese tech firms including Huawei, which severely limits their access to chips made using U.S. technology.

Key Background

Oracle is competing with a joint bid from Microsoft and Walmart to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations after the White House threatened to ban the app for allegedly sharing sensitive user data with Chinese authorities. Earlier this week, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer announced his exit from the company, just months after taking charge. According to a report by the Financial Times, Mayer had not anticipated the extent to which TikTok would become involved in tensions between China and the U.S. when he took over in June.

A TikTok spokesperson told CNN Business that they respected his decision since the “political dynamics of the last few months” had significantly changed the scope of Mayer’s role. On Monday, TikTok had filed a legal challenge against the president’s executive order banning U.S. transactions with the video-sharing platform and its owner ByteDance.

While the official communication from the Chinese government on Trump’s threat to ban TikTok has been limited, China’s state-controlled media has been vocal about its displeasure on the issue. Earlier this month, a strongly-worded editorial on China Daily noted “China will by no means accept the ‘theft’ of a Chinese technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab.”

Siladitya Ray

 Siladitya Ray

I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018. Have a news tip? DMs are open on Twitter @SiladityaRay or drop me an email at siladitya@protonmail.com.

Inside Kanye West’s “Almost Daily” Chats With Jared Kushner And Whether The White House Exploits His Mental State

1

s Kanye West’s bizarre presidential campaign has moved from Twitter sideshow to potential spoiler—the billionaire rapper this week released a website and campaign platform as he moves to get on the ballot in pivotal states—those around him increasingly worry about his mental health issues. And specifically whether one consigliere is trying to exploit them. According to multiple sources, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner has been speaking with West regularly since his July 4 tweet declaring that he was running for president.

While Republican operatives rush to try get him on ballots across the country, the New York Times reported earlier today that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, met with West last weekend in Telluride, Colorado. The connection goes much further. West has been telling associates that he and Kushner speak “almost daily.” Forbes spoke with four people who have direct access to either West or Kushner, including two with direct knowledge of their conversations.

One thing that particularly upsets those close to the Yeezy sneaker mogul, who is openly bipolar, is his apparent delusion about his chances of winning: When I pointed out to West last week during an interview that he won’t be on enough ballots to win, and thus seemed intent on running a spoiler campaign designed to hurt presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, he responded, “I’m not going to argue with you.” But a few hours after the story appeared, West responded with a change of heart: “THE GOAL IS TO WIN,” he blared in a tweet that was liked more than 260,000 times.

And that seems to be the message that Kushner has been feeding him: “Jared’s scared and doesn’t want me to run because he knows that I can win,” West has told numerous associates after his conversations with the president’s son-in-law, who also serves as de facto chief of Trump’s reelection campaign. That message, the sources close to West acknowledge, is the exact one that will embolden West to stay in the race. “If you know him for more than 20 minutes, you know that will work,” says one West confidant. Adds another: “He’s just like a kid. The more you tell him he can’t do a thing, the more he’ll do it. . . . he has a tremendous drive to prove people wrong.”

Kushner seems to have an outsize influence over West. Their relationship helped bring West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, to the White House for an instantly famous Oval Office meeting, and they collaborated on ideas for sentencing reform.


He’s mentally ill. When you have people around him who see him as an opportunity, they create a very, very bad scenario.


When I interviewed West on July 7, three days after telling the world he was running, he spent the first hour musing about whether he would actually follow through. The first person he told me he would consult: Kushner. At that time, West also renounced his support for Trump. “I am taking the red hat off, with this interview.” However, he curiously held back on criticizing the president, past a dig about Trump hiding in the bunker during the Lafayette Park protests. “I was just talking to Jared,” he subsequently told me. “It makes it seem like I’m attacking them. Trump’s not attacking me, and I’m not attacking him, even in this. I think it’s really nice to have a civil [competition], where people’s friends go up and play ball, play basketball without someone going to the hospital afterwards, you know?” Biden apparently wasn’t invited to the game: West needed no prompting to go after the former vice president, whom he derided as “not special.”

During that interview, West relayed the details of a previous conversation that he’d had with Kushner. “One time I talked to Jared Kushner, who was saying, ‘We don’t have Black leaders—we just have hustlers.’ Why? Because they killed all the Black leaders.” When we reached out later that day, before publication, to fact-check the article, West petitioned, unsuccessfully, to have the anecdote removed. “I love Jared,” West said. “I was just . . . that’s my boy, you know? That’s really my boy. So I prefer to not drop his name.”

West did not respond today to messages asking for comment, nor did Kushner’s press team at the White House. “We have no knowledge of anything Kanye West is doing or who is doing it for him,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said early this month, a statement that’s clearly untrue. The president himself echoed that message to reporters at the White House: “I like Kanye very much,“ adding, “I have nothing to do with him being on the ballot. I’m not involved.”

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The White House gambit, those close to him say, has accelerated West’s mental issues (unquestionably brilliant, he has previously told Forbes that he considers his bipolar condition a “superpower”). “He’s mentally ill,” says a West friend. “When you have people around him who have the best intentions and don’t need anything from him, you can steer him when he’s in that space into a positive place. When you have people around him who see him as an opportunity, they create a very, very bad scenario.”

Some close to West feel that Kushner now falls into that latter camp in ways that flirt with exploitation—concerning, after Kardashian West asked publicly for “compassion and empathy.” One described their understanding of Kushner’s conversations with West as “reverse psychology.” Others prescribe less malicious intent, though that narrative would require a level of naiveté that would rank up there with sitting in a meeting at Trump Tower with Russians who promise to have dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“Jared, why are you meeting with him?” asks one source. “Tell him, ‘Hey, man, I saw you’re running for president—let’s talk when the election’s over.’”

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I am the chief content officer of Forbes Media and editor of Forbes Magazine, and believe strongly that entrepreneurial capitalism and market-based thinking can solve the world’s problems. This is my second stint at Forbes — between 1991 and 1997, I was a reporter, a staff writer (five cover stories), associate editor and Washington bureau chief. In between, I caught the start-up bug: I co-founded P.O.V. Magazine (Adweek’s Startup of the Year), and then launched Doubledown Media (Trader Monthly, Dealmaker, Private Air, etc.). As a fattening hobby, I have reviewed restaurants for various magazines since college (and was a National Magazine Award finalist for my wine writing). I used to think chronicling the world’s greatest business minds made me a great entrepreneur, but I now realize my time as an entrepreneur made me an acute business journalist. For the full story, check out my book, just out in paperback, The Zeroes: My Misadventures In the Decade Wall Street Went Insane.

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Bill Gates on How the U.S. Can Course Correct Its COVID-19 Response: ‘You Wish Experts Were Taking Charge’

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The U.S. domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic thus far has been “weak,” Bill Gates believes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair and Microsoft co-founder told TIME senior health correspondent Alice Park during a TIME100 Talks discussion on Thursday that he’d give the U.S.’s COVID-19 response, “on a relative and absolute basis, not a passing grade.”

But, he added, the U.S.’s funding for vaccine and therapeutic research “has been the best in the world,” so if it coordinates to share resources globally, the U.S. could “potentially score the highest” in that realm.

During a global pandemic like COVID-19, Gates argued, governments must collaborate to ensure the virus is fully eradicated. The U.S. has historically led global responses to past health crises like smallpox or polio, he told Park, but has been less of a leader during COVID-19. Instead, countries that were exposed to SARS or MERS responded most quickly and “set a very strong model.”

“There’s about six countries that immediately went to the private sector and said okay, ‘how do we get mass testing? We’ll commit to buy tests’,” he said. “That never happened in the U.S.”

The U.S. continues to face huge delays that make many tests “a waste of money,” he continued, adding that while the responsibility for testing has been delegated to the states, they “don’t have enough power” to speed up testing.

“The more you know about this, the more you wish experts were taking charge,” Gates continued.

If the U.S. can get its COVID-19 numbers down in the next few months, he noted, that will make a “huge difference” in terms of the death rate “going into the fall,” which “could be a challenge because people are indoors more, it’s colder and the flu symptoms will be confusing.”

Fall could also bring new developments in vaccine and therapeutic research, however. “Even within two months, we can have some new anti-virals and antibodies that could make a big difference,” Gates said, adding that countries will need to work together to distribute those resources globally.

Companies that create vaccines need to coordinate with those that have factory capacity and adopt tiered pricing “so the poorest countries get it for the lowest price,” he continued. And governments will also need to ensure that the vaccine is allocated equally—not only within countries but between countries. That can’t be done using only market forces, he said. “The private sector all by itself, would simply charge the highest price and only give to the very wealthy.”

As of yet, the U.S. hasn’t “shown up in the international forums where money to get these tools out to countries is being discussed,” he told Park. Still, he continued, “that still absolutely can be fixed.”

By Madeleine Carlisle

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How New Zealand Used Evidence-Based Policies to Beat The Pandemic

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The day the US mourned reaching a tragic milestone – 100,000 novel coronavirus deaths – people on the other side of the world in New Zealand celebrated a much more hopeful one: No new coronavirus cases over the prior five days.

What’s more, the country’s last hospitalized coronavirus patient was discharged, officials said during a press briefing on May 27, according to CBS. Now, only 21 people in the country have active COVID-19 cases.

Overall, the country confirmed about 1,500 cases and 21 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Centre. Meanwhile, the US has confirmed 1.74 million cases (and counting) and, again, more than 100,000 deaths.

Of course, New Zealand is a much smaller country, with a population of 4.8 million to the US’s 328.2 million, and more sparsely populated too – 46 people per square mile compared to 94 people per square mile in the US.

That alone hinders the coronavirus’s ability to spread. But overall, like Australia, the country has reported smaller-than-average coronavirus cases and deaths when compared to other Western nations.

“Here in New Zealand, we are all very aware of how lucky we are, and we connect with colleagues overseas and really feel for them,” Auckland City Hospital intensive-care specialist Chris Poynter previously told Business Insider.

Experts say it’s more than luck, but rather early lockdown efforts, citizen’s adherence to the rules, widespread testing and contact tracing, and good communication that are the keys to its success.

New Zealand issued national lockdown efforts early

Beginning February 3, New Zealand began imposing restrictions on travel – even though it had no known cases, Insider’s Rosie Perper previously reported.

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It recorded its first case February 28 and less than a month later had 102 confirmed cases. At that point, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the country’s alert to Level 3 restrictions, which closed schools, cancelled mass gatherings, and allowed people to speak to their doctors online.

Two days later, the country progressed to Level 4 restrictions, issuing stay-at-home orders country-wide and severely limiting travel. “At least for New Zealand, it was relatively prompt action at an early stage to go for a strong lockdown,” Nick Wilson, a professor and public health expert at the University of Otago in New Zealand, told Perper.

Citizens largely obeyed stay-at-home guidelines

New Zealanders followed those restrictions in earnest, and there’s data to prove it. “The Google data shows that New Zealanders have followed the lockdown rules … with a remarkably high level of behaviour change,” Wilson wrote in an April 12 blog post.

“Activity dropped almost instantly, by over 90 percent from baseline levels in some categories,” he added. That led to a levelling off of cases just 10 days after lockdown measures were put in place, he said.

The country instituted widespread testing and contact tracing

According to CBS, New Zealand conducted a total of 267,435 coronavirus tests, and on May 20, it released the NZ Covid Tracer app.

While released later than other countries like Singapore, the app will help to ensure the country doesn’t experience a surge in cases as it begins to ease lockdowns. According to the American Enterprise Institute it works by allowing users to scan a QR code at entry points at various venues.

If later, they test positive for the COVID-19, contact tracers can review where the person has been and decide whether to follow up with the venues to alert them of their potential risk.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention calls contact tracing “part of a multipronged approach” to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Testing and tracing, taken together, “are the backbone of public-health work,” Insider’s Hilary Brueck reported.

The Prime Minister communicated well and is trusted by the public

According to Wilson, “New Zealand shows the benefit of having quite high levels of scientific expert input into the policymaking process and a Prime Minister who is a very good communicator who the public trust.”

Arden was also praised for taking a 20 percent pay cut, along with other top government officials.

By: Anna Medaris Miller, BUSINESS INSIDER

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Zoom Promises To Do Better After Banning Tiananmen Square Protests — Then Builds Tech To Help China’s Censorship

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Already under fire for security lapses and facing scrutiny over its links to China, Zoom made the startling decision earlier this month to ban three users organizing memorials to mark the Tiananmen Square massacre at the request of Beijing. It’s now reversed the decision, according to a company post released late Thursday. But it’s still going to help China block accounts of users in the country.

Though the tech giant neglected to use the words “Tiananmen Square” in its post, it acknowledged that the Chinese government had been in touch earlier this year to warn about four Zoom-hosted commemorations of the famous pro-democracy protests in 1989. China wanted the groups and the administrators banned.

Astonishingly, Zoom chose to monitor the metadata for the calls from the U.S. so it could tell if anyone from mainland China was participating. And when it discovered that people from mainland China were joining three of the meetings, it shut down the calls and suspended or terminated the host accounts.

Those hosts – Lee Cheuk-yan, Wang Dan, and Zhou Fengsuo – have now had their accounts reinstated. Fengsuo, a U.S.-based activist and president of Humanitarian China, sounded the alarm on Sunday when he discovered his paid-for Zoom account had been shut down, according to the South China Morning Post. On Wednesday, he had his account back.

Zoom will still aid Chinese censorship

Zoom admitted it made errors in banning the users, saying  it would “not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.” That indicates, of course, that it will still assist the Chinese government on cracking down on dissent within the country.

In fact, it’s creating tech to do just that. “Zoom is developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography,” it wrote. Such technology is already widely used in China as part of its Great Firewall, which blocks citizens from visiting certain sites and online services. In making this tech, Zoom is effectively aiding the Chinese government with that same censorship, even if it thinks it’s doing something positive.

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“This will enable us to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders; however, we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed,” the company added.

U.S. representatives Greg Walden and Cathy McMorris Rodgers have now sent a letter to Zoom chief Eric Yuan, asking for clarity on what data it shares with China, according to Reuters. Republican senator Josh Hawley even asked Yuan “pick a side” between the America and China.

In its blog post, Zoom wrote: “We did not provide any user information or meeting content to the Chinese government. We do not have a backdoor that allows someone to enter a meeting without being visible.”

Zoom had already faced criticism for creating encryption keys in China, where it has a big research and development arm. It said that was a mistake and has issued a patch to prevent it happening again. Later, Zoom came under fire for only providing end-to-end encryption for paying customers.

In its own SEC filings, the communications company warns investors it could face additional scrutiny because of its Chinese links. “We have a high concentration of research and development personnel in China, which could expose us to market scrutiny regarding the integrity of our solution or data security features,” it’s previously written.

Those ties to China are only going to lead to more strife for the business, one that has become a fixture of lockdown life, and a stock market darling. Tech companies have had to walk a fine line in doing business with China and the rest of the world with Apple, LinkedIn and Google all coming under fire for trying to placate China’s communist rulers. For Zoom, and its founder Eric Yuan, ties to China raise the stakes dramatically.

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I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice Motherboard, Wired and BBC.com, amongst many others. I was named BT Security Journalist of the year in 2012 and 2013 for a range of exclusive articles, and in 2014 was handed Best News Story for a feature on US government harassment of security professionals. I like to hear from hackers who are breaking things for either fun or profit and researchers who’ve uncovered nasty things on the web. Tip me on Signal at 447837496820. I use WhatsApp and Treema too. Or you can email me at TBrewster@forbes.com, or tbthomasbrewster@gmail.com.

Source:https://www.forbes.com

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For the first time in 30 years, police have banned the Tiananmen Square massacre Vigil in Hong Kong. But that didn’t stop the crowd. Subscribe to VICE News here: http://bit.ly/Subscribe-to-VICE-News

Reebok And Athletes Cut Ties With CrossFit Over Founder Greg Glassman’s George Floyd Tweet

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Reebok has led the charge of brands and athletes cutting ties with fitness firm CrossFit, after founder and CEO Greg Glassman controversially tweeted “It’s Floyd-19” in response to a tweet about racism being a public health issue.

Reebok ended its exclusive ten-year deal as the main CrossFit sponsor and licensee of CrossFit apparel.

The sportswear giant said in a statement: “Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year. Recently, we have been in discussions regarding a new agreement, however, in light of recent events, we have made the decision to end our partnership with CrossFit HQ.”

Professional CrossFit athlete Rich Froning, who has won the CrossFit Games four times, criticized Glassman’s comments to his 1.4 million Instagram followers, saying the last few days made it “impossible to stay loyal to leadership who make callous statements that alienate and divide in a time when unity is needed.”

CrossFit Games champion Tia-Clair Toomey said she was “incredibly saddened, disappointed and frustrated” at the company and Glassman, adding: “My future with Crossfit is unclear and depends on the direction of HQ.”

Other CrossFit Athletes including last year’s second place competitor, Noah Ohlsen, announced he would not compete in this year’s games.

CrossFit affiliate gym Rocket CrossFit, based in Seattle, is one of at least 200 linked gyms to disaffiliate with the company, and in a blog post published a profanity-laden letter from Glassman that attacked the gym’s co-owner, Alyssa Royse, of trying to brand CrossFit as “racist.”

CrossFit games supplier Rogue Fitness, which provides strength training equipment to the event, said it would remove the CrossFit logo from this year’s event and will “work with CrossFit Games leadership to determine the best path forward.”

News peg

Glassman sparked outrage on Sunday after referring to the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody as “It’s FLOYD-19.” His tweet was a direct reply to a post from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that read: “Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response. #BlackLivesMatter.” Glassman later apologized on the CrossFit twitter page, saying: “I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism. I made a mistake by the words I chose yesterday. My heart is deeply saddened by the pain it has caused. It was a mistake, not racist but a mistake.” As of Monday morning, Glassman’s original tweet on his personal account is still live.

Key background

Before Glassman’s tweet, CrossFit had stayed noticeably silent on Twitter and Instagram on the Black Lives Matter movement as a host of companies publicly took a stand on anti-racism following Floyd’s death. CrossFit has previously pledged public support for the LGBT community, as well as dedicating its “Hero” workouts to fallen soldiers.

Further reading

Boxed Out? CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman’s George Floyd Tweet Sparks Outrage (Forbes)

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I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night reporter at the Guardian. I studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where I was a writer and editor for one of the university’s global affairs magazines, the London Globalist. That led me to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed my M.A. in Journalism. Got a story? Get in touch at isabel.togoh@forbes.com, or follow me on Twitter @bissieness. I look forward to hearing from you.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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Greg Glassman Brands including Reebok cut ties over CrossFit CEO’s George Floyd tweet
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