ImageTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
By Alan Rappeport and Madeleine Ngo
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen on Thursday said she believed it was time to retire the term “transitory” to characterize inflation as temporary and suggested that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus could prolong the problem of rising prices.
Speaking at an event sponsored by Reuters, Ms. Yellen said that over the summer it appeared that the pandemic was subsiding and that the economy would soon normalize. The spread of new variants, she said, has changed that calculus.
“Now the new variant, the Omicron variant, the pandemic could be with us for quite some time and hopefully not completely stifling economic activity but affecting our behavior in ways that contribute to inflation,” Ms. Yellen said.
Ms. Yellen’s remarks echoed those of Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, who said earlier this week that inflation was more than a short-term issue.
“I am ready to retire the word transitory,” Ms. Yellen said. “I can agree that that hasn’t been an apt description of what we are dealing with.”
The Treasury secretary said that it was too soon to say what impact Omicron would have on the economy, noting that it could snarl supply chains and fuel further inflation, but that if it dampened economic growth it could blunt price increases. She warned, however, that it could cause “significant problems.”
“We’re very uncertain at this point just how significant a threat it’s going to be and closely watching the scientific evidence on this that’s accumulating,” Ms. Yellen said. “Hopefully it’s not something that’s going to slow economic growth significantly.”
She added: “This could again exacerbate supply chain and inflation problems.”
Ms. Yellen, a former Fed chair, said that the central bank was committed to using its tools to contain inflation but said there was little it could do to ease clogged supply chains. She said that Mr. Powell’s suggestion this week that the Fed would consider speeding up its plan to withdraw financial support from the economy “makes sense.”
“What we don’t want to have develop is a wage-price spiral, in which inflation becomes its own self-reinforcing kind of phenomenon that would become chronic in the U.S. economy, something endemic,” Ms. Yellen said.
Read moreGazprom Neft’s oil refinery in Omsk, Russia. Officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries met on Thursday to discuss oil production in January.Credit…Alexey Malgavko/Reuters
When officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries met by video conference on Thursday, they had a lot to worry about. The biggest concerns were whether the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus might torpedo the budding global economic recovery, and the restiveness of the United States and key Asian customers, including China, over high oil prices.
In the end, the group known as OPEC Plus decided to take the easy route and stick with a previously agreed to program of gradually adding oil to the market. They decided to raise production by 400,000 barrels a day in January, just as they have in recent months.
But to show worried oil markets that they are ready to change that plan if needed, the producers said in a news release that their meeting would “remain in session” so the producers could monitor the market and “make immediate adjustments if required.”
Prices dipped sharply as it emerged that OPEC Plus would raise production. But they recovered quickly, and later in the day futures were trading 1.7 percent higher, at about $70.10 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark.
Though many analysts predicted the group might pause the monthly increases it agreed on in July, or even cut output, others said the decision taken on Thursday made sense.
In recent months, strong demand for oil and the producers’ restraint on output has drained stockpiles to low levels.
And analysts pointed out that future demand is probably holding up. “Middle East OPEC members will likely have seen good demand for their crude in January,” analysts from FGE, a consulting firm, said in a report on Thursday, as Asian economies powered ahead.
Given the unknowns about what impact the Omicron variant will have, producers appear to have decided to wait and find out rather than make a move that might have sent an unwitting negative signal to the markets.
What’s more, under the schedule put in effect during the pandemic, OPEC Plus always has a meeting coming up during which changes can be made. The next scheduled gathering is on Jan. 4.
Maintaining the planned increase will probably ease friction with the Biden administration, which last month orchestrated a release of oil stocks from the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve in conjunction with smaller moves by other large oil consumers.
Read moreA propaganda display in the city of Hotan, in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, earlier this year. Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
Twitter and Facebook said they have removed thousands of accounts connected to Chinese information campaigns, in the latest sign of Beijing’s ambitions to shape the global narrative around the country.
In a notice posted early Thursday, Twitter said that it took action against two networks comprising more than 2,000 accounts that worked to undermine accusations of human rights abuses in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where Chinese officials have interned Muslim minorities and subjected them to harsh surveillance.
Both networks promoted videos shot within Xinjiang that sought to portray the region as one of prosperity and freedom. One of the networks, which Twitter attributed to the Chinese Communist Party, also coordinated verbal attacks against activists and articles critical of China, while bolstering Chinese state media with positive comments and likes, according to a report on the takedown released by the Stanford Internet Observatory, a research group focused on the misuse of technology and social media.
The New York Times and ProPublica first identified a large number of accounts in the network in a June report about the campaign to project normalcy in Xinjiang.
Although many of the more than 30,000 tweets attributed to the network received little engagement, the use of harassment and hashtags indicated “an effort to reframe global debate or to crowd out critical/adversarial narratives,” the Stanford report said.
In a separate statement released late Wednesday, Facebook said it had taken down more than 500 accounts after they had helped to amplify posts from a fake Swiss biologist named “Wilson Edwards” who alleged the United States was interfering in World Health Organization efforts to track the origins of Covid-19. The fake scientist’s accusations were quoted by Chinese state media.
When the Swiss embassy in Beijing said “Wilson Edwards” did not exist, Facebook found that his account on the platform had been created less than 12 hours before it began posting.
The takedowns are the latest in a series of efforts by American social media companies to push back against Chinese information campaigns. Although blocked within China, Twitter and Facebook have become important avenues for shaping global opinions about China. In recent years, Chinese diplomats and state media have focused new efforts on building followings on the platforms.
Read moreAssembling a Ford F-150 truck at the company’s plant in Dearborn, Mich. Members of the union voted on an election proposal that would change the way they select its top leaders.Credit…Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Members of the United Automobile Workers union have voted decisively to change the way they choose their president and other top leaders, opting to select them through a direct vote rather than a vote of delegates to a convention, as the union has done for decades.
The votes on the election reform proposal were cast in a referendum open to the union’s roughly one million current workers and retirees and due by Monday morning. About 143,000 members cast ballots, and with 84 percent of the vote counted on Wednesday night, a direct-election approach was favored by 63 percent, according to a court-appointed independent monitor of the union.
The referendum was required by a consent decree approved this year between the union and the U.S. Justice Department, which had spent years prosecuting a series of corruption scandals involving the embezzlement of union funds by top officials and illegal payoffs to union officials from the company then known as Fiat Chrysler.
Reformers within the U.A.W. have long backed the one member, one vote approach, arguing that it would lead to greater accountability, reducing corruption and forcing leaders to negotiate stronger contracts. A group called Unite All Workers for Democracy helped organize fellow members to support the change in the referendum.
“The membership of our great union has made clear that they want to change the direction of the U.A.W. and return to our glory days of fighting for our members,” Chris Budnick, a U.A.W. member at a Ford plant in Louisville who serves as recording secretary for the reform group, said in a statement Wednesday evening. “I am so proud of the U.A.W. membership and their willingness to step up and vote for change.”
David Witwer, an expert on union corruption at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, said the experience of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which shifted from voting through convention delegates to direct election in 1991, after an anti-racketeering lawsuit by federal prosecutors, supports the reformers’ claims.
Dr. Witwer said the delegate system allowed seemingly corrupt union leaders to stay in power because of the leverage they had over convention delegates, who were typically local union officials whom top leaders could reward or punish.
“Shifting the national union election process from convention delegates to membership direct voting was pivotal in changing the Teamsters,” he said by email.
At the U.A.W., leadership positions have been dominated for decades by members of the so-called Administration Caucus, a kind of political party within the union whose power the delegate system enabled.
Some longtime U.A.W. officials credit the caucus with helping to elevate women and Black people to leadership positions earlier than the union’s membership would have directly elected them to these positions.
But the caucus could be deeply insular. The Justice Department contended in court filings that Gary Jones, a former U.A.W. president who was sentenced to prison this year for embezzling union funds, used some of the money to “curry favor” with his predecessor, Dennis Williams, while serving on the union’s board.
Union officials have said that Mr. Williams, who was recently sentenced to prison as well, later backed Mr. Jones to succeed him, helping to ensure Mr. Jones’s ascent.
Read moreMr. Bannon was indicted by a federal grand jury in November and charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress.Credit…Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press
A coalition of the nation’s largest media companies and news organizations has filed a legal brief in support of Stephen K. Bannon, asking a federal court not to bar him from publicly releasing documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
As part of a contempt of Congress case against him, the government is seeking to prevent Mr. Bannon from releasing thousands of pages of documents he has access to. The coalition — which includes ABC, CBS, CNN, Dow Jones, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post — on Tuesday filed the brief arguing that the government’s proposed order would violate the First Amendment.
Mr. Bannon, a onetime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November and charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with subpoenas to testify and to provide documents for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 mob attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
As part of the discovery process, Mr. Bannon’s lawyers have gained access to more than 1,000 pages of documents, including transcripts of witness testimony and grand-jury exhibits. In a Nov. 17 filing, the Justice Department asked that a protective order be put in place to bar Mr. Bannon from making any of the documents public.
In a subsequent filing it noted that Mr. Bannon had indicated that he intended to release documents “to make extrajudicial arguments about the merits of the case pending against him and the validity of the government’s decision to seek an indictment.” Federal prosecutors also pointed to remarks Mr. Bannon made at a news conference after his first court hearing, including: “We’re gonna go on the offense on this.”
It is unusual for Mr. Bannon and major news organizations to fall on the same side of an issue. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon has frequently denigrated established news media outlets.
But the coalition argued that the release of documents by Mr. Bannon is in the public interest.
“The public has an overwhelming interest in the facts, circumstances and causes of the Jan. 6 riot,” the coalition said in its brief. “Bannon has been indicted in an investigation of the riot and has demonstrated his desire to communicate with the press and public about the government’s case against him.”
News of the legal brief was first reported by The Daily Mail.
Read moreBuzzFeed’s headquarters in New York in 2018. All 61 employees who belong to the BuzzFeed News Union are stopping work for a day on Thursday.Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images
As BuzzFeed prepares to go public in the coming days, a move that could mean millions of dollars for its early investors and some current and former staff members, not everyone at the company was cheering.
On Thursday, union employees at the company’s Pulitzer Prize-winning news division, BuzzFeed News, announced that they were “walking off the job for one day” in an effort to speed contract negotiations. All 61 of the workers who belong to the BuzzFeed News Union, which includes reporters, editors, photographers and designers, are taking part in the daylong work stoppage, the union said.
The walkout comes on a big day for the 15-year-old digital media company: BuzzFeed’s shareholders were scheduled to vote Thursday on a long-in-the-works plan to take the company public by merging it with a so-called blank check company, 890 5th Avenue Partners, a deal that was announced in June.
The company is targeting a valuation of $1.5 billion. If the plan wins shareholder approval, BuzzFeed could make its stock market debut as soon as Monday, under the ticker symbol BZFD.
In a statement, the union accused the company of refusing to budge in contract negotiations. The main sticking point is pay. The union said BuzzFeed was proposing a 1 percent guaranteed annual wage increase and a minimum salary of $50,000.
“We deserve a strong contract that protects us and ensures a fair and equitable workplace for everyone in our unit,” Katie Notopoulos, a senior tech reporter, said in the statement.
A BuzzFeed spokesman said the company would be back at the negotiating table soon.
“There’s a bargaining session planned for next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues,” a BuzzFeed spokesman said.
The union, which formed in February 2019, is represented by the NewsGuild, which also represents workers at The New York Times and other media outlets. The union and the company have yet to agree on a first contract.
Read moreA screen grab from a commercial for Tesco.
A commercial for the supermarket chain Tesco featuring Santa Claus wielding a vaccine passport was deemed acceptable by British advertising regulators after viewers submitted a near-record number of complaints that the spot promoted vaccination.
Most of the 5,000 complaints received claimed that the ad, which was posted in mid-November, tried to pressure viewers into getting vaccines and encouraged medical discrimination based on vaccine status, according to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Toby King, a spokesman for the agency, said on Thursday that the commercial “doesn’t break our rules and there are no grounds for further action.”
The Tesco ad, created by the Bartle Bogle Hegarty ad agency and set to a rendition of the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” shows people prevailing through various obstacles (a blackout, a closed mall, a produce shortage that leaves a snowman with an eggplant for a nose) to celebrate Christmas. A news anchor announces at one point that Santa might be quarantined, but then he shows proof of vaccination to a border control agent, inspiring cheers.
“While we understand that some people disagree with the vaccine program and may find the ad in poor taste, we have concluded that the ad is unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offense on the basis suggested,” Mr. King said.
Tesco said in a statement the ad takes “a lighthearted view on how the nation is feeling.”
“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the advert reflects the current rules and regulations regarding international travel,” the company said.
Amid concerns about a new coronavirus variant, Omicron, Britain has barred travelers from 10 African countries, required face masks in shops and on public transportation and accelerated its rollout of vaccine booster shots, hoping to vaccinate every adult by the end of next month.
Earlier this year, another vaccine-related ad prompted a review by the Advertising Standards Authority. In late December, when vaccine rollouts were in their early stages, the Irish budget airline Ryanair began running commercials proclaiming “vaccines are coming” and showing young vacationers without masks or social distancing with text urging customers to “jab and go!”
The ad generated 2,370 complaints from viewers who felt that it was misleading, offensive and irresponsible, and that it implied that the majority of Britons would be successfully vaccinated by summer (more than half of people ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated by the first week of June). The Advertising Standards Authority banned the ads.
The Tesco holiday ad drew the second-highest number of complaints in the agency’s history. The leader is a commercial from 2014, in which the betting company Paddy Power took bets on the outcome of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic sprinter who was eventually convicted of killing his girlfriend. The ad attracted 5,500 complaints and was banned.
U.S. stocks rallied Thursday, with the S&P 500 recovering some of its losses from the week.
The benchmark index was 1.5 percent higher, while the tech heavy Nasdaq composite was up about 1 percent.
The emergence of the new variant of the coronavirus, Omicron, has triggered a tumultuous stretch for major indexes. The S&P 500 on Friday marked its biggest drop since February, and has whipsawed between gains and losses since.
News that the Federal Reserve could reduce its support for the economy more quickly, as well as the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the U.S. prompted stocks to fall again.
Oil prices, which have been similarly volatile, also swung higher on Thursday as officials from
OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries decided not to make any changes to their production schedule. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, recovered early losses and was up about 2 percent at $66.89 a barrel in early afternoon trading.
“The Omicron variant has sobered up markets during the last few days, halting the oil demand recovery enthusiasm and sending traders scrambling to limit risk in their portfolios,” Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, wrote in a note.
The Labor Department reported a rise in initial jobless claims on Thursday, saying that claims rose last week by 28,000 to 222,000, but still remaining at their lowest level since March 2020. The jump follows sharp drop in claims in the prior week.
The Labor Department is set to publish its jobs report for November on Friday, with economists surveyed by Bloomberg expecting more than 500,000 jobs added last month.
Lynn Fitch, the Mississippi attorney general, with Scott Stewart, the state’s solicitor general, on Wednesday in Washington.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta
One of the arguments that Mississippi has made as a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy makes its way through the Supreme Court is that women have progressed enough economically to make abortion unnecessary.
Before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to abortion up to 23 weeks, “there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career,” Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, said in a statement in July summing up the argument and announcing that she had filed a brief with the court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Maternity leave was rare. Paternity leave was unheard-of. The gold standard for professional success was a 9-to-5 with a corner office. The flexibility of the gig economy was a fairy tale.
“In these last 50 years,” she continued, “women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives.”
While some progress has been made, the idea that the benefits that Ms. Fitch described are available to a majority of women is still a stretch.
Parental leave is still rare. The United States is the only rich country without national paid maternity leave. Family leave is available to only 20 percent of private-sector workers and 8 percent of low-wage workers, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The option to work from home is not widely available. Even with the pandemic closing down offices, fewer than half of U.S. workers had the flexibility to work from home in 2020.
Research has found that women face more barriers to fully participating in the work force without access to abortion. One study last year compared the outcomes of women who were able to obtain an abortion and those who were denied the procedure. It found “a large and persistent increase in financial distress” for those denied abortions, including larger debt and higher eviction rates. Studies also have directly linked a woman’s ability to control her fertility with increased labor force participation.
Becoming a mother also can have a significant economic impact. Mothers lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in lifetime earnings in what is known as the “motherhood penalty.” Fathers don’t face decreased wages.
While pregnancy discrimination has been outlawed, it is still rampant. In two-thirds of the dozens of pregnancy discrimination cases filed between 2015 and 2019, courts sided with employers, stating that they didn’t need to provide pregnant women with accommodations like additional bathroom breaks or a stool to sit on, according to an analysis by A Better Balance, a national advocacy organization that provides free legal advice for pregnant women facing discrimination.
Should the court overturn Roe v. Wade, at least 20 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place to ban abortion as quickly as possible, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, and five others are likely to follow suit.
That could affect abortion access for 41 percent of women of childbearing age, adding to women’s economic difficulties that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Source by www.nytimes.com