Văn – Lão Thiệt…

Dưới cái hầm hập của buổi trưa hè, trời không có nổi lấy một cơn gió…

Trong căn chòi dựng tạm cuối vườn rau, ông Thiệt nhịp nhịp đung đưa võng nghỉ ngơi; đôi bàn chân người đàn ông quen gắn bó với ruộng đồng to bè, móng két đầy phèn…

Mấy mươi năm qua, ông Thiệt đã quá quen thuộc mùi phân bón, thuốc sâu, ấy vậy mà giờ vẫn hay nhức đầu, chóng mặt sau mỗi lần xịt thuốc; nhìn gương mặt ông sạm đen và đờ đẫn… nom già hơn cái tuổi vừa tròn lục tuần của ông…

Khoảnh vườn rau ăn lá nhỏ xíu của ông có vòng đời khoảng hai tháng, rau thơm ngắn hơn thì hơn nhưng cũng chẳng quá nổi tháng rưỡi, tính từ lúc trồng đến khi nhổ kể ra cũng vỏn vẹn 40-50 ngày, vậy mà, ông Thiệt cũng phải xịt trên dưới mười cữ, tức là cứ 4 ngày một lần. Tuần rồi, mới chỉ có bảy ngày, ông đã phải vác bình phun ra ruộng ba lần…

Ông đi phun thuốc bằng bình bơm tay, cái bình van kém đôi khi nước còn rỉ ra, thấm vào quần áo, bận nào phun về, cũng kêu bải hoải người, chóng mặt, có ngày bỏ cơm…

Kế đó, cũng trên chính 2 mẫu đất trồng cải được tách ra từ thửa của ông Thiệt – món quà quý giá nhất mà ông dành cho người con trai “cầu tự” của mình ngày anh ta đi lấy vợ… Giống cha mình, anh Thòi và vợ chăm chỉ làm ăn lắm, ngày nào cũng từ sáng tới tối trên cái khoảnh 2 mẫu xinh xinh của mình… cũng tạm đủ ăn…

Nhớ lại những ngày “mở cửa” ngành thuốc bảo vệ thực vật; từ chỗ nhiều lần được ông đưa tiền sai đi mua thuốc, dặn dò “bảo bác bán cho cái này, cái này“, đơn giản như mua chai tương, cọng hành; để rồi chính anh hồ hởi bơm thuốc và thấy đỡ tốn sức làm cỏ, diệt bệnh… Tốn có thêm đôi ba nghìn đầu làng là có ngay một gói mà lại nhàn…

Những mảnh ruộng dăm ba năm chuyển màu đen xơ xác, chai cứng, mưa thì rắn mặt, nắng lên đanh lại, nắm trong lòng bàn tay không khác gì cầm cục đá…

Cũng chính cái nước sản xuất thứ thuốc mà gia đình nhà ông Thiệt anh Thòi sử dụng nhiều mà chắc vẫn chẳng đọc đúng được cái tên thì lại cấm dùng và chỉ cho phép xuất khẩu sang 80% các nước mà có nhiều gia đình nông dân như nhà ông Thiệt; ở đó, họ cũng chẳng quan tâm hay chẳng buồn hiểu cái thứ thuốc có cái tên đọc trẹo cả miệng đó là Paraquat hay là gì nữa, cái vốn được nghiên cứu ở nhiều nước khẳng định có liên hệ với bệnh Parkinson khi tiếp xúc…

Uống trực tiếp, nó là một loại thuốc độc nổi tiếng. Trong các thập kỷ trước, từ Nhật Bản đến Việt Nam, uống nó – paraquat là biện pháp tự tử phổ biến. Thậm chí, Hàn Quốc thống kê tỷ lệ tự tử ở nước này đã giảm 10% sau khi họ đã cấm paraquat vào năm 2011.

Ấy vậy mà…

Ông Thiệt bảo lại với người con: “muốn biết thuốc có độc mạnh hay không, chỉ cần chấm đầu ngón tay vào thuốc rồi nếm thử, càng mặn thì thuốc càng mạnh…”

Dần dà, cũng vì nể nang xóm giềng, từ những nơi “đầu làng” ấy họ rỉ tai nhau về thời gian khoảng cách của những lần xịt thuốc; cũng ít nhất là 15 ngày, có loại tới 30 ngày, kể từ lúc trong làng bọn choai choai bỗng mắc nhiều hẳn lên những chứng bệnh quái lạ… Nhưng,

chẳng có người nông dân nào đợi được lâu như vậy, riết họ cũng quen rồi… Để cẩn thận hơn, mỗi người khi làm rau lại chừa ra một khoảnh vườn nhỏ sau nhà, trồng riêng để “nhà mình ăn“, họ nghĩ thế chắc an toàn…

Trong cái nắng hầm hập, cái váng vất sau buổi lao động cực nhọc, ông Thiệt, người vẫn còn ướt đẫm thuốc mới phun, lại mơ màng dỗ giấc ngủ trưa bằng cách nhẩm tính vụ rau tới thu hoạch ông sẽ dành dụm được bao nhiêu để giúp thêm cho vợ chồng thằng Thòi bớt vất vả… còn giục chúng nó sớm có cháu cho ông còn bế… ông cũng mong lắm, cũng đôi năm rồi chứ ít gì…

Nghĩ tới đó, bất giác ông mỉm một nụ cười rạng rỡ trên khuôn mặt nhăn nheo già trước tuổi, dường như ông đã quên đi những cơn nhức đầu chóng mặt ngày một tới đều hơn, dày hơn…

như báo hiệu một cơn giống đang vần vũ kéo tới chỉ chờ ập xuống…

___

xxx – NPL

Tuần – week: 20 – 25/07/2020…

<For English version, please scroll down…>

Đánh giá tác động của dịch Covid-19 tới kinh tế thế giới và Việt Nam – từ những nét đậm qua độ trễ thời gian…

(trích lược một phần “Báo cáo cập nhật đánh giá tác động của đại dịch Covid-19 đối với các ngành kinh tế Việt Nam” do TS. Cấn Văn Lực và Nhóm tác giả Viện Đào tạo và Nghiên cứu BIDV thực hiện.)

Các sự kiện chính – Main events:

Theo Báo cáo phát hành ngày 10/04/2020 thực hiện bởi Viện Đào tạo và Nghiên cứu, đánh giá dự báo tác động đối với từng ngành kinh tế này trong quý 2/2020; đối với kinh tế thế giới, trong 6 tháng đầu năm 2020, hoạt động thương mại, đầu tư, du lịch, sản xuất kinh doanh ngưng trệ do tác động tiêu cực từ đại dịch Covid-19, và nguy cơ bùng phát trở lại diện rộng khi các nước khôi phục hoạt động kinh tế – xã hội.

  • Về đầu tư, theo UNCTAD (6/2020), tình hình dịch bệnh khiến đầu tư trực tiếp nước ngoài (FDI) toàn cầu năm 2020 giảm khoảng 40% so với năm 2019 và tiếp tục giảm từ 5-10% trong năm 2021;
  • Về thương mại, theo WTO (6/2020), dự báo thương mại toàn cầu năm 2020 sẽ giảm từ 13-32% so với năm 2019 (tùy theo diễn biến dịch bệnh); trong khi WB và IMF (6/2020) dự báo mức giảm từ 11,9-13,4%;
  • Về tăng trưởng, các tổ chức đánh giá suy thoái kinh tế toàn cầu năm 2020 đã rõ rệt và dự báo kinh tế toàn cầu năm 2020 suy giảm từ 4,9-7%.

Đối với Việt Nam, sau 6 tháng năm 2020, có thể thấy ảnh hưởng của đại dịch Covid-19 đối với kinh tế – xã hội Việt Nam đã rất rõ nét, nghiêm trọng hơn rất nhiều so với các dự báo trước đây. Tại báo cáo cập nhật đánh giá tác động của dịch Covid-19 tới kinh tế Việt Nam tháng 4/2020, Viện ĐT&NC BIDV đã dự báo tăng trưởng kinh tế Việt Nam theo 3 kịch bản (cơ sở, tích cực và tiêu cực) lần lượt ở các mức: 4,81%, 5,4% và 4,07%. Đến nay, với các thông tin về kinh tế – xã hội 6 tháng đầu năm 2020; dự báo tăng trưởng GDP Việt Nam năm 2020 từ 1,5% (kịch bản tiêu cực) đến 3% (kịch bản cơ sở) và có thể đạt khoảng 4% (kịch bản tích cực nhất); chỉ số CPI bình quân xoay quanh mức 3,5-3,8%.

Tại sao nó ảnh hưởng – Why is it affected:

Nhìn chung tác động của đại dịch đến các ngành kinh tế đã khiến các ngành gặp nhiều khó khăn hơn trong quý 2 – tương ứng với độ trễ thời gian của sự kiện, tuy nhiên, một số ngành đã bước đầu hồi phục nhưng kết quả chưa thực sự khả quan.

Khu vực nông-lâm nghiệp-thủy sản: hồi phục nhẹ so với quý 1

Đối với khu vực nông-lâm nghiệp và thủy sản, bình quân tăng trưởng 6 tháng đã được cải thiện so với quý 1 (tăng 1,19% so với mức 0,08% của quý 1). Bên cạnh đó, hoạt động thương mại (xuất khẩu) nông sản cũng phần nào hồi phục, chỉ giảm 4,3% so với cùng kỳ trong khi mức sụt giảm của quý 1 là 8%. Đáng lưu ý, xuất khẩu mặt hàng rau quả đã tăng 8,4% so với 6 tháng năm 2019. Điều này cho thấy Việt Nam cũng như Trung Quốc (được coi là thị trường xuất khẩu lớn nhất) đã có sự hồi phục nhất định. Tuy nhiên, một số mặt hàng có tính chủ lực lại có kim ngạch xuất khẩu giảm mạnh như hồ tiêu (-25,8%), gạo (-14,1%); riêng thủy sản – thế mạnh và là mặt hàng có kim ngạch xuất khẩu lớn nhất có mức giảm -5,2%, thấp hơn mức sụt giảm của quý 1 là -11,2%.

Trong khi đó, lĩnh vực sản xuất sản phẩm hỗ trợ nông nghiệp có diễn biến trái chiều. Sản lượng sản xuất phân bón có mức tăng 4,7%, cải thiện hơn so với mức giảm 0,03% của quý 1 nhờ nhu cầu phân bón gia tăng trong vụ hè thu. Sản lượng sản xuất thức ăn chăn nuôi giảm -11% (quý 1 giảm -18%) do chuỗi cung ứng bị đứt gãy, xuất khẩu thủy sản còn nhiều khó khăn và nguồn cung thịt lợn đòi hỏi có thời gian trong bối cảnh khôi phục từ dịch tả lợn Châu Phi.

Khối doanh nghiệp trong lĩnh vực nông nghiệp thường không phải là những doanh nghiệp mạnh. Vì vậy, những khó khăn của ngành trong 6 tháng đầu năm như dịch Covid-19 cùng hạn hán, xâm nhập mặn ĐBSCL đã khiến số doanh nghiệp phải tạm ngừng hoạt động có tăng 23,9% so với cùng kỳ năm 2019.

Khu vực công nghiệp & xây dựng: tác động tiêu cực của Covid-19 rõ nét hơn

Nhìn chung, lĩnh vực công nghiệp và xây dựng, ảnh hưởng tiêu cực của đại dịch đã phản ánh rõ nét hơn trong quý 2 và do đó làm mức tăng trưởng 6 tháng đầu năm chỉ còn đạt 2,98%, thấp hơn mức 5,15% của quý I. Công nghiệp chế biến chế tạo, khu vực tạo động lực chính cho tăng trưởng cũng chỉ tăng 4,96% (so với mức tăng 11,2% cùng kỳ năm 2019). Theo đó, số doanh nghiệp tạm dừng kinh doanh cũng tăng tới 32,1% so với cùng kỳ năm trước.

Một số ngành lĩnh vực có diễn biến xấu đi so với kết quả quý 1 là dệt may, sản xuất đồ gỗ, sản xuất thép, khai thác dầu thô:

  • Đối với các ngành như dệt may và da giày, sản xuất gỗ, thị trường xuất khẩu đóng vai trò đặc biệt quan trọng, từ những khó khăn trong xuất khẩu do nhiều thị trường lớn như Mỹ, EU, Nhật Bản, Hàn Quốc và ASEAN hiện vẫn chưa kiểm soát được dịch bệnh dẫn tới hoạt động thương mại gặp nhiều khó khăn và ngưng chệ. Thêm vào đó, những quan ngại về triển vọng kinh tế cũng ảnh hưởng tới tâm lý, làm hạn chế nhu cầu tiêu dùng trên toàn cầu. Kim ngạch xuất khẩu hàng dệt may, da giày 6 tháng đầu năm đã giảm -13,1% so với cùng kỳ, cao hơn mức giảm của quý 1 là -6,3%; kim ngạch nhập khẩu cũng giảm -15,3%, cải thiện không đáng kể so với mức -16% của quý 1;
  • Đối với ngành sản xuất đồ gỗ, việc nhập khẩu nguyên liệu và sản phẩm gỗ đã phần nào được khơi thông nên kim ngạch nhập khẩu 6 tháng đầu năm chỉ còn giảm -8,5% so với cùng kỳ, cải thiện hơn so với mức -19% của quý 1. Mặc dù vậy, đầu ra xuất khẩu cho sản phẩm gỗ đã không còn duy trì được đà tăng, chỉ tăng 2,4% so với cùng kỳ (quý 1 tăng 9,5%);
  • Các ngành sản xuất công nghiệp nặng như thép, khai thác dầu thô còn nhiều khó khăn khi xuất khẩu thu hẹp và nhu cầu nội địa tăng chậm;
    • Đối với ngành thép, sản lượng sản xuất của các doanh nghiệp trong 6 tháng giảm 8,1% so với cùng kỳ (mức giảm của quý 1 là -5%); tiêu thụ giảm 10,7% (quý 1 giảm 10%) chủ yếu do ảnh hưởng của của đại dịch Covid-19 khiến xuất khẩu còn khó và ngành xây dựng trong nước phục hồi còn chậm;
    • Đối với lĩnh vực khai thác dầu thô, trong quý 2, giá dầu đã có sự hồi phục khá mạnh và phần nào hỗ trợ cho hoạt động khai thác dầu thô. Tuy nhiên, kim ngạch xuất khẩu 6 tháng đầu năm vẫn sụt giảm mạnh tới -26,6% so với cùng kỳ năm 2019;
    • Ngành khai thác than có mức tăng trưởng về sản lượng trong 6 tháng đạt 4,9% so với cùng kỳ nhưng thấp hơn mức 10% của quý 1.

Trong khi đó, ngành xây dựng ít chịu ảnh hưởng tiêu cực hơn khi vẫn đạt mức tăng trưởng 4,5% trong 6 tháng đầu năm, cao hơn mức 4,37% của quý 1 (một phần là nhờ đầu tư công tăng mạnh) nhưng thấp hơn nhiều so với mức tăng trưởng 7,85% của 6 tháng 2019, chứng tỏ mức độ hồi phục của ngành còn chậm và phụ thuộc vào nhiều lĩnh vực khác như bất động sản, đầu tư mua hoặc sửa chữa nhà ở…v.v.

Ở khu vực dịch vụ, do chịu tác động mạnh nhất do tổng cầu giảm, nên chắc chắn sẽ mất nhiều thời gian hơn để phục hồi. Khu vực dịch vụ là nơi phản ánh rõ nét nhất các ảnh hưởng từ đại dịch và sẽ khó khăn hơn trong quả trình phục hồi do yếu tố tâm lý và thay đổi hành vi tiêu dùng và đòi hỏi vốn tái đầu tư lớn.

Cụ thể trong các lĩnh vực dịch vụ, du lịch, vận tải (đặc biệt là vận tải hàng không) có mức sụt giảm mạnh nhất, chủ yếu do việc hạn chế đi lại, giãn cách xã hội diễn ra trong bối cảnh dịch bệnh.

Tính trung bình 6 tháng đầu năm (gồm cả thời gian trước bùng phát dịch), lượng khách quốc tế giảm tới     -55,8% so với cùng kỳ năm trước (quý 1 giảm -18%); khách du lịch trong nước cũng giảm tới -27,3% (quý 1 giảm 6%). Doanh thu toàn ngành ở quý 2, do đó, giảm tới -77,8%, cao hơn rất nhiều so với mức giảm -11% của quý 1. Tuy nhiên, du lịch nội địa đã và đang phục hồi nhanh, nhất là từ đầu tháng 7 khi vào hè…

Các ngành bán lẻ, kinh doanh bất động sản (BĐS) cũng thấy rõ xu hướng xấu đi so với quý 1 dù mức sụt giảm không lớn. Trong 6 tháng, ngành bán lẻ giảm -0,8% về doanh thu (quý 1 tăng 4,7%) trong khi ngành kinh doanh bất động sản giảm -0,36% (quý 1 tăng 2,65%). Tuy nhiên, ngành bán lẻ dự báo sẽ phục hồi khá từ đầu quý 3 do các hoạt động kinh tế – xã hội của Việt Nam đã khởi động lại, nhà hàng, cửa hàng, siêu thị (trừ giải trí) nhộn nhịp hơn nhưng ở các mức độ khác nhau. Đối với lĩnh vực kinh doanh BĐS, hoạt động mua bán còn chậm do người dân cân nhắc đầu tư mua nhà ở hay BĐS nghỉ dưỡng lúc này cùng với quá trình sàng lọc sàn giao dịch, công ty môi giới BĐS diễn ra mạnh mẽ, khiến số doanh nghiệp BĐS tạm ngừng kinh doanh tăng kỷ lục (tăng 99,5% so với cùng kỳ). Tuy nhiên, BĐS công nghiệp và logistics lại có nhiều triển vọng khả quan trong bối cảnh nhiều doanh nghiệp quốc tế đã và đang cơ cấu lại chuỗi cung ứng và đầu tư, trong đó có một bộ phận lớn đang nhắm tới Việt Nam như một điểm đến cho việc di dời sản xuất trong xu hướng “thoát Trung” bắt nguồn từ những tác động trả đũa qua lại khởi nguồn từ căng thẳng thương mại Mỹ – Trung…

Lĩnh vực tài chính-ngân hàng và bảo hiểm duy trì được mức tăng trưởng trong 6 tháng là 6,78% (quý 1 tăng 7,4%) nhưng cần lưu ý rằng tác động của đại dịch Covid-19 đối với hoạt động tài chính – ngân hàng thường có độ trễ sau một thời gian chống chọi với khó khăn; hấp thụ vốn kém và nợ xấu có nguy cơ tăng mạnh. Cụ thể, tín dụng hệ thống các TCTD dự báo tăng khoảng 8-10%, nợ xấu nội bảng tăng nhanh, có thể đến 4% và nợ xấu gộp dự báo lên đến khoảng 6% cuối năm 2020, và còn cao trong năm 2021 khi Thông tư 01 hết hiệu lực và phải chuyển nhóm nợ xấu. Tuy nhiên, dịch vụ ngân hàng số và thanh toán không dùng tiền mặt đang và sẽ trở thành xu hướng mới…

Tính chung khu vực dịch vụ, do bị tác động rất mạnh bởi đại dịch và phục hồi còn chậm, nên số lượng doanh nghiệp tạm ngừng hoạt động tăng tới 41% so với cùng kỳ năm trước.

Xu hướng chính – Key trends:

Từ các kết quả đánh giá nêu trên, báo cáo cũng gợi ý đề xuất một số giải pháp góp phần thực hiện mục tiêu kép của Việt Nam như sau:

  • Một là bên cạnh việc thực hiện phòng chống dịch Covid-19 trong bối cảnh diễn biến còn phức tạp trên phạm vi toàn cầu, Chính phủ cần thận trọng xem xét thời điểm, lộ trình và phương thức mở cửa phù hợp; cùng với việc đẩy mạnh hợp tác quốc tế trong phòng chống dịch, khai thác hiệu quả nguồn lực hỗ trợ của các tổ chức quốc tế như WB, IMF, ADB, các nhà tài trợ song/đa phương nhằm có thêm nguồn lực hỗ trợ khó khăn cho doanh nghiệp, người dân và nền kinh tế…
  • Hai là, cần tập trung đẩy nhanh tiến độ và triển khai các gói hỗ trợ người dân và doanh nghiệp; theo đó:
    • khẩn trương tháo gỡ những vướng mắc (gói 16.000 tỷ đồng cho vay lãi suất 0% để doanh nghiệp có thể trả lương cho nhân viên trong giai đoạn khó khăn này);
    • xem xét việc cho phép gia hạn thời gian giãn, hoãn thuế, tiền thuê đất để doanh nghiệp đỡ khó khăn về thanh toán chi phí;
    • sớm sửa đổi Thông tư 01 của NHNN theo hướng gia hạn thời gian giãn, hoãn nợ và mở rộng đối tượng được hỗ trợ (hết ngày 10/6/2020 thay vì 23/1/2020 như hiện nay);
    • tăng khả năng tiếp cập vốn cho doanh nghiệp vừa và nhỏ (DNVVN) bằng cách tăng cho vay qua Quỹ phát triển DNVVN và khởi động hoạt động thực chất của các quỹ bảo lãnh vay vốn DNVVN; và
    • mở rộng đối tượng hỗ trợ gồm cả 1 số doanh nghiệp lớn như trong lĩnh vực hàng không, du lịch… tương tự nhiều nước đang thực hiện, với tiêu chí và điều kiện hỗ trợ cụ thể từng ngành, từng lĩnh vực. Đồng thời, rà soát các đối tượng được hỗ trợ để thay thế, bổ sung kịp thời… Theo đó, tổng giá trị các gói hỗ trợ của Việt Nam theo báo cáo có thể lên đến 4-5% GDP.
  • Ba là, đẩy nhanh tiến độ giải ngân đầu tư công như là một giải pháp bù đắp thiếu hụt động lực tăng trưởng trong năm 2020 và trong dài hạn. Nếu giải ngân hết lượng vốn đầu tư công theo kế hoạch là 700.000 tỷ đồng, tăng khoảng 25% (so với năm 2019) thì sẽ giúp GDP Việt Nam năm 2020 có thể tăng trưởng thêm 0,38 điểm;
  • Bốn là, đẩy mạnh kích cầu thị trường nội địa; quy mô tiêu dùng cá nhân của Việt Nam tương đương gần 80% GDP và đóng góp 11,87% GDP năm 2019, do đó, nếu tiêu dùng cá nhân tăng 1%, thì GDP năm 2020 có thể tăng trưởng thêm 0,12%. Cụ thể, tập trung kích cầu vào một số ngành, lĩnh vực như du lịch, bán lẻ, vận tải, lưu trú, ăn uống…v.v.
  • Năm là, tận dụng cơ hội dịch chuyển chuỗi cung ứng và vốn đầu tư để thu hút FDI. Chỉ cần FDI tăng thêm 1%, thì GDP Việt Nam sẽ tăng trưởng thêm 0,08%. Để đạt được mục tiêu này, Việt Nam cần cải thiện mạnh mẽ, thực chất môi trường đầu tư – kinh doanh;
  • Sáu là, đẩy mạnh xuất khẩu; trong đó, tập trung các thị trường quan trọng sau khi dịch được kiểm soát như Trung Quốc, Hàn Quốc, Nhật Bản, ASEAN, Hoa Kỳ và EU; tận dụng cơ hội từ Hiệp định EVFTA giữa Việt Nam – EU sẽ có hiệu lực từ 1/8/2020; hơn cả, tập trung đẩy mạnh xuất khẩu sang Trung Quốc – một thị trường đang phục hồi nhanh và truyền thống của Việt Nam.

Cái gì tiếp theo – What comes next:

Mỗi khu vực đều có một vai trò không thể thiếu trong nền kinh tế; nhưng có một nhận định chung: Để vượt qua cuộc khủng hoảng này, khu vực kinh tế trong nước sẽ là bệ đỡ cho tất cả các ngành và lĩnh vực, chặn đà suy giảm để có thể có cơ hội phục hồi, trở lại mức tăng trưởng như trước khi có dịch trong các năm sau. Chính phủ với tư cách là người tiêu dùng lớn nhất của nền kinh tế, phải thể hiện trách nhiệm thông qua đầu tư công. Nhà nước phải cởi mở hơn nữa các chính sách để doanh nghiệp và các thành phần kinh tế khác đang có năng lực chuyên môn, khả năng tài chính và muốn đóng góp, thì có thể gia nhập rất nhanh cùng với đầu tư của Nhà nước.” – Tổ trưởng Tổ tư vấn của Thủ tướng: TS. Nguyễn Đức Kiên.

Dấu hiệu rủi ro – Risk signals:

Những luồng thông tin mà nhiều người đang phấn khởi về làn sóng FDI mới, có lẽ là đang lạc quan… hơi quá… Để một doanh nghiệp đi được, nhất là đối với những tập đoàn lớn, đa quốc gia, họ cân nhắc rất kỹ. Vào Việt Nam, họ phải tìm hiểu rất kỹ chứ không phải nhắm mắt đưa chân…”

“Xu hướng là có, nhưng có tác động ngay thì có lẽ là không…” – Tổ trưởng Tổ tư vấn của Thủ tướng: TS. Nguyễn Đức Kiên.

xxx – npl

<Week …>

Assessing the impacts of the Covid-19 epidemic on the world and Vietnam economy – from the highlights through time lag…

(Partially excerpted “Updated report assessing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Vietnam’s economic sectors” by Dr. Can Van Luc and author of BIDV Training and Research Institute.)

Main events:

According to the Report issued on 10/04/2020 conducted by the Institute of Training and Research, assessing the impact forecast for each of these economic sectors in quarter 2/2020; For the world economy, in the first 6 months of 2020, trade, investment, tourism, production and business activities stalled due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the risk of an wide re-outbreak when countries restore socio-economic activities.

  • Regarding investment, according to UNCTAD (6/2020), the epidemic situation had caused global foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020 to decrease by 40% compared to 2019 and continued to decrease by 5-10% in 2021;
  • Regarding trade, according to the WTO (6/2020), the forecast of global trade in 2020 would decrease by 13-32% compared to 2019 (depending on disease developments); while WB and IMF (6/2020) forecasted a decrease of 11.9-13.4%;
  • Regarding growth, organizations assessing the global economic recession in 2020 had become clear and the global economic forecast for 2020 would be expected to decline by 4.9-7%.

To Vietnam, after first 6 months of 2020, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Vietnam’s socio-economy had been very clear and much more serious than previous forecasts. In an updated report assessing the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on Vietnam’s economy in April 2020, BIDV Research and Development Institute forecasted Vietnam’s economic growth under three scenarios (baseline, positive and negative) respectively of 4.81%, 5.4% and 4.07%. Up to now, with socio-economic information in the first 6 months of 2020; forecast GDP growth of Vietnam in 2020 was from 1.5% (negative scenario) to 3% (base case) and may reach about 4% (the most positive scenario); The average CPI was around 3.5-3.8%.

Why is it affected:

In general, the impact of the pandemic on economic sectors made it more difficult for industries in the second quarter – corresponding to the time lag of the event, however, some industries had initially recovered but the results were not really a satisfactory.

Agriculture, forestry and fishery: recovered slightly from Q1

For agriculture, forestry and fishery, the average growth rate of 6 months had improved compared to the first quarter (up 1.19% compared to 0.08% of the first quarter). In addition, the trade (export) of agricultural products also partly recovered, only down 4.3% over the same period while the decline in the first quarter was 8%. Notably, exports of fruits and vegetables increased by 8.4% compared to the first 6 months of 2019. This showed that Vietnam as well as China (considered the largest export market) had recovered to some certain extends. However, some key products saw a sharp drop in export turnover such as pepper (-25.8%) and rice (-14.1%); Particularly, seafood – the strength and the biggest export turnover saw a drop of -5.2%, lower than that of the first quarter by -11.2%.

Meanwhile, the field of production of agricultural support products had had opposite movements. Fertilizer production increased by 4.7%, improved from the decrease of 0.03% in the first quarter thanked to increased fertilizer demand in the summer-autumn crop. Production of animal feed production decreased -11% (Q1 -18% reduction) due to a broken supply chain, difficult seafood export and pork supply required time in the context of recovery from African swine cholera.

The business sector in agriculture was usually not strong. Therefore, the difficulties of the industry in the first 6 months of the year such as the Covid-19 epidemic and the drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta drove the number of businesses temporarily suspended its operations increased by 23.9% over the same period in 2019.

Industry & construction sector: the negative impact of Covid-19 was more pronounced

In general, in industry and construction, the negative impact of the epidemic reflected more clearly in the second quarter and therefore, the growth rate in the first 6 months was only 2.98%, lower than level 5.15% in the first quarter. Manufacturing industry, the main driving force for growth also increased only 4.96% (compared to the increase of 11.2% in the same period in 2019). Accordingly, the number of businesses suspended business also increased to 32.1% over the same period last year.

Some sectors with worse developments compared to the first quarter results were textiles, woodwork, steel, crude oil exploitation:

  • To industries such as textiles and footwear, wood production, the export market played a particularly important role, from difficulties in exports due to epidemic had not yet controlled in large markets such as the US, EU, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN, leading to difficulties and trade stalling. In addition, concerns about economic prospects also affected psychology, limiting global consumer demand. Export turnover of textiles, footwear in the first 6 months decreased by -13.1% over the same period, higher than the decrease of the first quarter by -6.3%; import turnover also decreased by -15.3%, a slight improvement compared to -16% of the first quarter;
  • To the woodwork industry, the import of raw materials and wood products had partly been recovered, so the import turnover in the first 6 months of the year only decreased by -8.5% over the same period, improved compared to the previous year. -19% in the first quarter. However, the export output for wood products had been no longer maintained the momentum, only 2.4% over the same period (Q1 increased by 9.5%);
  • Heavy manufacturing industries such as steel, crude oil production still faced many difficulties when exports narrowed and domestic demand recovered slowly:
    • To steel industry, the production output of enterprises in 6 months decreased by 8.1% over the same period (the decrease of Q1 was -5%); consumption decreased by 10.7% (Q1 decreased by 10%) mainly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, making exports difficult and the domestic construction industry to recover slowly;
    • To the field of crude oil exploitation, in the 2nd quarter, oil prices had a strong recovery and partly supported the crude oil exploitation activities. However, export turnover of the first 6 months still dropped sharply to -26.6% compared to the same period in 2019;
    • The coal mining industry experienced a growth in production in the first 6 months to 4.9% over the same period but lower than 10% in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the construction industry was less negatively affected with the growth rate of 4.5% in the first 6 months, higher than the 4.37% in the first quarter (partly due to a sharp increase in public investment.) but much lower than the 7.85% growth for the first 6 months of 2019, proving that the industry’s recovery was slow and depended on many other areas such as real estate, investment in buying or repairing houses, etc…

In the service sector, being suffered from the worst impacts due to the decline in aggregate demand, it would certainly take longer to recover. The service sector was the clearest reflection of the effects of the pandemic and would be more difficult in the recovery progress due to psychological factors and consumer behavior changes and requirement of large reinvestment capital.

Specifically, in the service, tourism and transport sectors (especially air transport) saw the sharpest decline, mainly due to limited travel and social isolation taking place in the context of epidemics.

On average, in the first 6 months (including the time before the outbreak), the number of international visitors decreased by -55.8% compared to the same period last year (Q1 decreased by -18%); domestic tourists also decreased by -27.3% (in the first quarter down 6%). Industry revenue in the second quarter, therefore, decreased to -77.8%, much higher than the reduction of -11% in the first quarter. However, domestic tourism had been recovering rapidly, especially from the beginning of July when it came to summer…

The retail, real estate business (RE) also saw the worse trend compared to the first quarter although the drop was not large. In 6 months, the retail industry dropped by -0.8% in revenue (Q1 increased by 4.7%) while the real estate business dropped by -0.36% (Q1 increased by 2.65%). However, the retail industry was expected to recover quite well from the beginning of the third quarter because Vietnam’s socio-economic activities had restarted, restaurants, shops, supermarkets (except entertainment) were more bustle but at different levels. For real estate business, the buying and selling activity was still slow because people considered investing in buying houses or resort real estate at this time, along with the progress of screening real estate trading floors, real estate brokers causing the number of real estate enterprises to be suspended operation to a record (up 99.5% over the same period). However, industrial and logistics real estate had many promising prospects in the context that many international businesses had been restructuring their supply and investment chains, including a large part of which was targeting Vietnam as a destination for production relocation in the “Chinese exit” trend stemed from the reciprocal impacts originating from US-China trade tensions…

The finance-banking and insurance sectors maintained a growth rate of 6.78% in the first 6 months (up 7.4% in the first quarter) but it had had to be noted that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on operations finance – banking was often delayed after a period of struggling with difficulties; Poor capital absorption and bad debts were at risk of sharp increase. Specifically, credit system of credit institutions was forecasted to increase by 8-10%, NPLs would increase rapidly, may be up to 4% and gross NPLs were forecasted to reach 6% by the end of 2020, and remain high in the year of 2021 while Circular 01 expired and bad debt group had had to be re-catergorized. However, digital banking and non-cash payment services were and would become a new trend…

In general, the service sector, due to the very strong impact of the epidemic and the slow recovery, the number of businesses temporarily suspended operations increased to 41% over the same period last year.

Key trends:

From the above-mentioned evaluation results, the report also suggested some solutions to contribute to Vietnam’s dual goals as follows:

  • Firstly, beside implementing the prevention of Covid-19 in the context of complicated developments on a global scale, the Government may carefully consider the appropriate time, roadmap and method of re-opening; Along with promoting international cooperation in epidemic prevention, effectively exploiting the support resources of international organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, ADB and bilateral/ multilateral sponsors in order to have more resources to support difficulties of businesses, people and the economy…
  • Secondly, it would be necessary to focus on speeding up and implementing packages to support people and businesses; whereby:
    • urgently removing obstacles (as VND 16,000 billion package of loans with 0% interest rate so businesses could pay employees during this difficult period);
    • considering allowance of extending time of delaying, deferring taxes, land rents to support business difficulties in paying expenses;
    • soon revising Circular 01 of the State Bank in the direction of extending the period of debt rescheduling, extension and expansion of beneficiaries (ending June 10, 2020 instead of January 23, 2020);
    • increasing accessment to capital for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by increasing lending through the SME Development Fund and initiating the substantive activities of SME loan guarantee funds; and
    • expanding supporting objects including a number of large enterprises such as in the field of aviation, tourism … similar to many other countries, with specific support criterion and conditions for each industry and each field. At the same time, reviewing the objects that were supported for replacement and timely addition … Accordingly, the total value of support packages of Vietnam would be reported to be up to 4-5% of GDP.
  • Third, accelerating the disbursement of public investment as a solution to offset the shortage of growth drivers in 2020 and in the long term. If disbursement of all public investment capital was planned at VND 700,000 billion, an increase of about 25% (compared to 2019), it would help Vietnam’s GDP in 2020 to grow by 0.38 points;
  • Fourthly, stimulating domestic market promotion; Vietnam’s individual consumption scale was equivalent to nearly 80% of GDP and contributed 11.87% of GDP in 2019, so if individual consumption increased by 1%, GDP in 2020 could grow by 0.12 %. Specifically, it would be necessary to focus on stimulating demand in a number of sectors and fields such as tourism, retail, transportation, accommodation, catering, etc…
  • Fifth, taking advantage of opportunities to shift supply chains and investment capital to attract FDI. If FDI only increased by 1%, Vietnam’s GDP would grow by 0.08%. To achieve this goal, Vietnam needed to strongly and substantially improve the investment and business environment;
  • Sixth, boosting exports; in particular, focusing on important markets after the epidemic was controlled in such as China, Korea, Japan, ASEAN, the United States and the EU; taking advantage of opportunities from Vietnam – EU EVFTA Agreement coming into effect from August 1, 2020; above all, to focus on boosting exports to China – a market that was fast recovering and being traditional to Vietnam.

What comes next:

Each region has an integral role in the economy; but there is a general comment: To overcome this crisis, the domestic economic sector will be a platform for all industries and sectors, blocking the decline to be able to recover, return to growth as before the outbreak in the following years. The government, as the largest consumer of the economy, must show its responsibility through public investment. The State must further open policies so that businesses and other economic sectors that are competent, financially capable and want to contribute can join quickly with State investment.” – Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Group: TS. Nguyễn Đức Kiên.

Risk signals:

The flow of information that many people are excited about the new wave of FDI, perhaps being a bit too much… optimistic… For a business to relocate, especially for large, multinational corporations, they consider it very carefully. To Vietnam, they have to study very carefully, not with their eyes blind…

“The trend is existed, but if the impact comes immediate, maybe not …” – Head of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Group: PhD. Nguyễn Đức Kiên.

xxx – npl

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via Đừng bao giờ giã biệt đam mê! — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

Có bao giờ bạn muốn hát vang hay đặt bút viết một câu chuyện chưa? Nếu có, bạn sẽ làm ngay hay đợi mấy ngày nữa chỉ để hoàn thành nốt những công việc không cần thiết khác? 90% con người đều đợi việc muốn làm tới ngày mai. Nhưng rất tiếc, điều bạn muốn đôi khi chỉ xảy ra trong chốc lát, nếu không nắm bắt luôn, bạn sẽ bỏ lỡ cảm hứng từ nó.

Từ khi sinh ra, con người vốn bị đặt lên vai gồng gánh trách nhiệm để sống sao cho là một người bình thường đúng nghĩa. Nếu họ không hoàn thành thì bị nhận xét là yếu đuối, nhu nhược, trốn tránh. Nền tảng cơ bản tồn tại của xã hội là chúng ta có thể trở thành bất kỳ ai, siêu nhân hoặc Tổng thống cũng được, trừ là chính mình. Điều này vô hình tạo mối ngăn cách giữa tình yêu của con người với cuộc sống – với những giá trị đích thực trong nó.

Ra ngoài đường tôi nói với họ những câu chuyện về vẻ đẹp của biển cả hoặc niềm vui khi ở một mình, nhưng họ không quan tâm. Đối với họ, chúng chỉ là những chuyện viển vông. Họ đang tồn tại để lảng tránh thất bại. Họ không được mở lòng với cái tôi của chính họ.

Chí ít, tôi hiểu được mình phải diễn đạt thực tế hơn để họ thắp lên động lực dám hết mình vì hoài bão. Dám vượt qua thời tiết khắc nghiệt để cùng hiến dâng cho nhân loại, dám bỏ qua chấn thương thể xác để chữa lành tinh thần. Người ta hiểu nhầm rằng đam mê làm hao phí vật chất (hoặc những gì họ đang có). Nhưng không phải vậy. Đam mê làm cho ta sống hoang dã, hít vào bầu không khí tự do, tự tin thử thách giới hạn chính mình đặt ra. Nếu bạn bỏ ra một năm để chăm chỉ tập hít thở ngồi thiền và say mê nghệ thuật (vẽ nên bối cảnh kiến trúc, sáng tác thi ca…), đời sống tinh thần bạn sẽ bước ngưỡng cửa của tự do và hy vọng. Cảm xúc đi đến một trạng thái cân bằng kiên định, linh hồn tựa như độc lập và kết nối với thân thể. Chúng ta không cần phải tốn thời gian ngờ vực hoặc cố gắng tin vào công hiệu của nó. Nó luôn đến với ta một cách tự nhiên không ngờ.

Quả thật, trước khi bước vào thế giới xứ sở đam mê kỳ diệu, chúng ta ít nhất đã từng trải qua cuộc sống bộn bề ra sao. Lo toan tiền bạc, quan hệ, công việc… tất cả những thứ này đều là những ảo ảnh được phát triển bởi nỗi nghi ngờ được gieo rắc truyền miệng qua tai nhau. Con người dễ dàng mắc một cái bẫy – họ trở thành những con robot nô lệ khi họ không đủ niềm tin phản biện với một chính kiến riêng. Thế nên, nỗi lo bị người đời xa lánh không đáng sợ bằng nỗi lo phí mất tuổi trẻ chúng ta được Trời ban tặng.

Phần lớn chúng ta đều mắc kẹt ở giai đoạn hai (giai đoạn trưởng thành) dù cho có rất nhiều người bước qua tuổi xế chiều. Họ vẫn cứ khư khư những khuôn phép xuống cấp. Thời gian rất nhiều nhưng cũng trôi rất nhanh. Quan điểm của đám đông dù chống lại bạn quá mạnh, nhưng hãy nhớ, có những sức mạnh ban đầu tưởng chừng khủng khiếp nhưng sau đó nó yếu đi (VD: dư luận). Còn sức mạnh chúng ta làm chủ cuộc đời không thể yếu đi được. Chúng ta không cần phải cố gắng tỏ ra mình làm chủ được, chúng ta hãy cứ hít thở thoải mái, như thể thong dong đi trên con đường bờ suối.

Hãy nhớ lại lần nữa, khi bạn băn khoăn nên chọn nghề theo mong muốn của bố mẹ hoặc bạn đam mê, hãy mặc định chọn đam mê! Ban đầu sẽ hơi khó khăn nhưng tôi tin, về sau bạn sẽ không phải hối hận gì.  Cơ sở để hình thành nền đam mê chính là bạn tin vững chắc vào sự thật và chân lý trong góc nhìn bạn quan sát sự vật, sự việc. Đam mê của bạn, bạn thấy rõ cả bề nổi và bề sâu trong nó, trong khi người ngoài chỉ nhìn thấy bề nổi.

Người ta nhìn tôi say mê viết văn, họ bảo theo con đường đó thì tôi không kiếm được nhiều tiền. Tôi bỏ ngoài tai! Mục đích chính để viết văn là viết những cái mình trải nghiệm và đúc kết sự thật qua những gì mình viết. Nói cách khác là viết để đi sâu vào cốt lõi bên trong vẻ đẹp cuộc sống. Nên đó là lý do tôi viết một đoạn ngắn về hành trình định nghĩa niềm đam mê. Và tôi muốn truyền tải thông điệp cho các bạn rằng, luôn có một người đứng sau ủng hộ con đường các bạn lựa chọn. Đam mê là niềm động lực vĩnh hằng giúp ta thêm yêu đời yêu sống, vậy nên, đến khoảnh khắc cuối cùng, đừng bao giờ chính thức giã biệt nó!

Hãy hết mình làm điều bạn thích. Thời gian không muốn nhìn bạn nằm chờ sung rụng đâu. Thời gian và cơ hội luôn song hành cùng bạn để bạn tiến tới từng bước ngoặt tuyệt vời hơn.

Tác giả: Ally Yuu

Share – [THĐP Translation™] 10 thông điệp cuộc đời từ đại danh họa Leonardo da Vinci — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

(227 chữ, 1 phút đọc) “Từ lâu tôi đã để ý thấy rằng những con người thành công không ngồi chơi và để mọi thứ ảnh hưởng đến họ. 19 more words

via [THĐP Translation™] 10 thông điệp cuộc đời từ đại danh họa Leonardo da Vinci — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

  1. “Một họa sĩ nên bắt đầu trên mỗi tấm canvas được nhuộm đen, bởi vì mọi thứ trong tự nhiên đều tối trừ những nơi đã được phơi bày dưới ánh sáng.”
  2. “Hội họa là văn thơ được nhìn hơn được cảm, và văn thơ là hội họa được cảm hơn được nhìn.”
  3. “Học tập mà thiếu ham thích làm hư trí nhớ, và nó sẽ không giữ được những gì nó tiếp thu.”
  4. “Giản đơn là sự tinh tế tột cùng.”
  5. “Người họa sĩ có cả vũ trụ trong đầu và trong tay hắn.”
  6. “Từ lâu tôi đã để ý thấy rằng những con người thành công không ngồi chơi và để mọi thứ ảnh hưởng đến họ. Họ hoạt động và ảnh hưởng đến mọi thứ.”
  7. “Cuộc đời khá là đơn giản: Bạn làm một số chuyện. Đa số là hỏng. Một số thành công. Bạn tiếp tục làm những gì đã thành công. Nếu nó thành công lớn, người khác sẽ nhanh chóng bắt chước nó. Sau đó bạn làm những chuyện khác. Cái mẹo ở đây là làm những chuyện khác.”
  8. “Tôi tỉnh dậy, chỉ để thấy rằng cả thế giới này vẫn đang ngáy ngủ.”
  9. “Khi tôi nghĩ rằng tôi đang học cách sống, tôi thật sự đang học cách chết.”
  10. “Thiên nhiên là cội nguồn của mọi tri thức đích thực.”

Biên dịch: Huy Nguyen

Kungfu – 5 Keys to Long-Term Success

By

Part 1

Link: https://blackbeltmag.com/5-keys-to-long-term-success-part-1?utm_campaign=BBM%20FY20&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=91853076&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_n3gqkk1GnohhgW30Cd4TGZVuuqd6_v7wTNVzuD8_WiYXIEW9F_6n7_GGKifSD5sTIdZLYFigLZG_4ebbSZT9LIkZIWA&utm_content=91853076&utm_source=hs_email

As we all know, nothing in life, including success in your martial art, is guaranteed. However, with the right mindset and the right habits, you can stack the odds in your favor.

I have found that five habits are essential for long-term success. Although I’ve seen some people fail despite adhering to a few of these behaviors, I have never known anyone to succeed without them.

Keep Your Center

It’s been said that the mightiest person is the one who has control over his or her emotions. That’s essentially what it means to keep your center. I named my school the Satori Academy of Martial Arts. Our definition of satori is “in the moment, at your best.” This refers to a present-minded state of consciousness in which you have mental clarity, physical energy and emotional tranquility. In Western sports, this is referred to as “being in the zone.” Imagine how much you could accomplish if you lived the majority of your life in this state! How enjoyable would life be?

It may not be realistic to think you can spend your whole life at your best, but you certainly can increase the amount of time you spend there. A good way to start is to focus on the six pillars of health each day.

• Pillar No. 1: Exercise. Try to do something physical every day, preferably involving strength, flexibility and endurance.

• Pillar No. 2: Rest. Do your best to get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can have an extremely negative effect on your health.

• Pillar No. 3: Nutrition. Take time to learn which foods your body thrives on and which you should avoid.

• Pillar No. 4: Stress management. Everyone experiences stress, but the ability to manage it effectively is the key to good health.

• Pillar No. 5: Risk avoidance. This refers to actions like wearing your seatbelt, washing your hands and minimizing your exposure to dangerous activities.

• Pillar No. 6: Recharging. Recharging refers to the importance of scheduling enjoyable downtime in your life, which helps keep everything in balance.

Once your health is in order, maintaining emotional composure becomes much easier. The next step is being mindful of your emotions. Becoming aware of the fact that you’re experiencing a negative emotion, rather than just reacting to it, means you’re getting better at maintaining your center.

Value Your Relationships Above All Else

It’s always preferable to have friends rather than enemies. Having friends and friendly acquaintances not only makes life more enjoyable but also opens more doors wherever you go. A key ingredient to expanding your circle of friends is to go out of your way to bring value to all your relationships. Instead of asking yourself what a relationship can do for you, ask what you can do for that relationship.

Another crucial ingredient in strengthening your relationships is to make other people feel important when you’re with them. People appreciate being appreciated and value being valued.

Know Where You’re Going

It’s hard to know if you’re doing well if you don’t know where you want to go. That’s why creating a clear vision for yourself and your future is important. Make sure your vision has a purpose because when that purpose is clear, it’s much easier to maintain motivation. Don’t concern yourself too much with the details at this point; just dream big. Create a vision and visit it often.

Part 2

Link: https://blackbeltmag.com/martial-arts-school-success?utm_campaign=BBM+FY20&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_joBWFDFHigdqLJBGs31xN-mZYYCuh2SALNwjBvLrlkCjI6VrHK_zB1gKa1asZ5N6nevs284c5OYokH1xGNyV8qyse7Q&utm_content=91853076&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=91853076

In the March/April 2020 issue of MASuccess, I discussed the first three keys to long-term success in the martial arts: Keep your center, value your relationships above all else and know where you’re going. Here, I will cover the final two.

4. Know How You’re Going to Get There

Once you know where you’re going (my third key), the next step is figuring out how you’re going to get there. You don’t need to know every detail; you just need to begin taking steps in the right direction. Remember that motivation follows action. There’s something magical about taking that first step. Plan out the next step, and the step after that, day by day. Before you know it, you will have made great progress.

There are so many applications for this practice in the business of running a martial arts school. Imagine if your goal is to get 20 new members in the next month. How are you going to get there? One way is to work backward.

You might need 50 inquiries to net 20 new members. So you have to decide where these 50 inquiries will come from. If you’re planning to get 10 of the leads from birthday parties, how many parties will you need to book to make that happen? If you plan to get 12 leads from referrals, how many current students do you need to ask for that to happen?Once you determine that, you have an actionable plan for how you’re going to get there.

5. Keep Moving Forward

It’s important to remember that anything worth having is worth working for. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. There are always going to be obstacles. There are always going to be setbacks. That’s part of the process.

Remember that as long as you’re getting up and moving forward, there is no failure. It’s important to not fear moving forward slowly. The only thing you should fear is standing still. As long as you’re making progress, even slow progress, you’re OK.

For success to happen, you have to cultivate the belief that your best years are ahead of you. It seems that I frequently end up in conversations with people who are telling me how great their life used to be. They tell me that business used to be so much better, that they used to be able to run so much faster or that they used to have much more fun.

While I enjoy reminiscing as much as the next person, I think that spending too much time longing for past greatness keeps us from realizing our future potential. It keeps us from moving forward. It sends a message to our subconscious that things will never be as good as they used to be.

I believe that it’s crucial to embrace the mindset that our best years are still ahead of us. If we can affirm this on a regular basis, we set ourselves up for opportunities we might not otherwise see. And we keep moving forward.

So the next time you find yourself stuck and in need of clarity with respect to which way you should go, just remember to keep your center, value your relationships above all else, know where you’re going, know how you’re going to get there and keep moving forward.

We can always do more than we think we can. Don’t let your fears and doubts keep you from an amazing life. If you can adopt and embrace these five keys, you’ll reach a whole new level of success. And while you’re at it, do your best to enjoy the process and try to bring your “A” game to all that you do.

Dave Kovar was Black Belt’s 2019 Instructor of the Year.

Ẩm thực – 16 Subtle Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar

By COLLEEN DE BELLEFONDS

Full link: https://www.eatthis.com/too-much-sugar/?utm_source=nsltr&utm_medium=email&utm_content=best-foods-eat-daily&utm_campaign=etntNewsletter

From energy crashes to brain fog, here are warning signs you’re eating too much of the sweet stuff.

Sugar cubes on spoon

You’ve finally kicked the ice-cream-after-dinner habit. There’s no way you’re eating too much sugar, right? Not so fast. While nixing obvious sugar bombs like candy and cake is a huge step toward a healthier diet, there are lots of other sneaky foods where sugar hides. That includes everything from high fructose corn syrup found in salad dressings to fruit juice added to “all-natural” protein bars.

The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, which is the equivalent of 270 calories, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. And that’s a major problem because added sugars contribute extra calories to your diet and have no essential nutrients to help your body function at its best.

Some preliminary research has suggested that a high-sugar diet raises your blood sugar, increasing free radicals and compounds that boost inflammation. Over time, too much sugar ups your risk of obesity, increasing your risk of diabetes, and may even on its own increase your risk of conditions like certain cancers and chronic illnesses like heart disease, says Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN.

Before we get to the subtle signs to look out for that you’re consuming too much sugar, let’s delve into what sugar exactly is and how it affects your body.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a carbohydrate in its simplest form. There are many types of sugars, from maple syrup to high fructose corn syrup. Regardless of the type, your body breaks down these sugars into glucose, your body’s preferred form of energy.

There are two main sources of sugar: natural and processed.

  • Natural sugar is found in whole, natural foods. You likely associate fruit as the food group closely linked to natural sugar, but vegetables such as carrots, beets, squash, zucchini, and onions also contain some natural sugar. Examples of natural sugar include the sugars found in dairy products, fruit, and vegetables.
  • Processed sugar is sugar that’s been tinkered with in some way and extracted from its natural source. Examples of processed sugar include white cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and agave.

Why is added sugar bad for you?

It’s important to note that when we talk about too much sugar, we’re talking about added sugar, not naturally-occurring sugar in food.

The main difference between sugar and added sugar is simply whether or not the sugar is added to a food or it’s naturally found in that food. For example, honey is simply called sugar if eaten on its own. Once you use honey to sweeten a product, whether it’s yogurt or cookies, the honey is considered “added sugar.” Added sugar can be either natural or processed sugar, explains Karen Ansel, RD, author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging.

When it comes to the natural sugars found in a whole sweet potato or an apple, “most of us don’t come even close to overdoing it,” says Zeitlin. Experts aren’t worried about the sugar content because you’re getting so many other benefits, like vitamins and fiber to slow down and how your body absorbs and uses sugar. As a general guideline, she suggests limiting yourself to about two cups of whole fruit a day.

What happens to your body when you eat sugar?

While your body can’t tell the difference between these types of sugars, that doesn’t mean they all get treated the same way.

Simple sugar alone moves to your bloodstream quickly, causing your body to spike the production of insulin to transfer glucose into your cells. “We’re finding out more all the time about the negative health effects of too much insulin in our bloodstreams,” says Ansel.

Complex carbs like whole wheat, on the other hand, are made from long chains of glucose that take your body longer to break down. This longer digestion time gives you more sustained energy and helps you to avoid blood sugar and insulin spikes.

Another difference is in the dosing. “You don’t find foods in nature that have the insane amounts of added sugar found in processed foods. Putting that much sugar into your system is unnatural, and your body isn’t built to digest it,” says Ansel.

What foods have added sugars?

Ultra-processed foods—foods with added flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other additives—contribute to nearly 90 percent of our sugar intake, according to a BMJ Journal study. The main sources of added sugars in ultra-processed foods are:

  • soft drinks
  • fruit drinks
  • milk-based drinks (chocolate milk)
  • cakes, cookies, and pies
  • bread
  • desserts
  • sweet snacks
  • breakfast cereals
  • ice cream and ice-pops

As you can see, sugar-sweetened drinks are the top three sources of sugar in our diet. In fact, almost half of the added sugars in our diets come from drinks like soda and fruit drinks.

Check both the nutrition label and ingredients to find added sugar foods. “Just because a label says ‘no added sugar,’ you still want to read the label and see how many grams of sugar there are in that item per serving,” says Zeitlin.

How much sugar is too much?

When it comes to how much added sugar to eat per day, the answer isn’t so clearcut.

The most recent dietary guidelines recommend that added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. That equates to 38 grams (10 teaspoons) for women on a 1,500-calorie diet or 50 grams (13 teaspoons) for men on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Both the American Heart Association and World Health Organization are more conservative, recommending about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day of added sugar for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men.

What are the symptoms of eating too much sugar?

So how do you know you’re eating too much sugar? What are the symptoms? Here are 16 signs you’re eating too much sugar and exactly what to do if you think you are overdosing on the sweet stuff.

1

You’re experiencing digestive issues and irregular bowel movements.

Woman lying on sofa looking sick in the living room
Shutterstock

Some research suggests that sugar might decrease the diversity of healthy bacteria in your gut within as little as a week, making your digestive system sluggish. “Too much white sugar won’t help you if you’re trying to promote healthy bacteria in your system,” adds Zeitlin. Foods naturally high in fiber have a positive impact—and people eating lots of sugar generally aren’t eating a lot of fiber, says Ansel.

2

You’re breaking out around your mouth and chin.

Woman with acne
Shutterstock

While experts say that severe acne has nothing to do with diet for the vast majority of people, some studies have linked breakouts to eating too many sugary foods. In theory, says Ansel, sugar increases the production of hormones—particularly androgens—that are linked to inflammatory hormonal acne, which usually appears around the jawline and the mouth, says Bruce Robinson, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

“If you’re struggling with breakouts and don’t know why, it can be helpful to cut out added sugars in your diet,” says Ansel.

3

You’re moody and irritable.

woman angry restaurant

Some studies have linked sugars to mood disorders like depression. In addition to blood sugar swings, sugar can mess with the neurotransmitters in your brain that regulate your moods. Sugar, in particular, causes a spike in the feel-good hormone serotonin. “Because we know carbs affect neurotransmitters, it only follows that when you upset your carb balance by having so many entering your body at an unnatural rate it might make you feel better at first. But what goes up comes down, and they may make you feel worse in the long run,” says Ansel. Result: You feel cranky and tired.

Zeitlin says the best way to stabilize your blood sugar and mood is to eat more foods that take longer to digest, like whole grains, fiber, and protein.

4

You can’t get a good night’s rest.

frustrated worried male employee reading news, tired exhausted office worker feeling headache at work
Shutterstock

Eating a cookie or cupcake with loads of added sugar too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep, at least in the short-term. “It will give you a boost of energy by spiking your blood sugar, which always makes going to bed harder when you’re trying to wind down,” says Zeitlin. It might have the opposite effect shortly thereafter because sugar triggers the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes you feel relaxed and even sleepy, Ansel adds. But even if it is easier to nod off, the sleep you get probably won’t be as satisfying. “You might not wake up feeling as good, because your blood sugar dips during the night,” says Ansel.

A good rule of thumb, says Zeitlin: Stop eating entirely—especially sugary foods—two hours before bedtime, so you don’t get indigestion and sugar has time to make its way through your system—and you can relax and get into sleep mode.

5

Your skin is prematurely wrinkled.

Aging woman looking at wrinkles
Shutterstock

A high-sugar diet has been shown to speed up skin aging. That’s because too much dietary sugar reacts with proteins in your bloodstream and forms advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), damaging the structural proteins in skin collagen and elastin that make your supple and bouncy. “A high sugar diet can definitely make your skin wrinkle faster, making you look older. Limiting sugar can make difference,” says Ansel.

6

You keep getting cavities.

Man brushing teeth
Shutterstock

This one’s a no-brainer, but sugar is a major cause behind tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association. When sugar sits on your teeth, it feeds plaque bacteria that are already naturally there, producing acids that wear away at your tooth enamel (the hard surface of your teeth), which leads to cavities. “The worst is a combo of sugar and acid, which you get from sports drink or soda, since both destroy tooth enamel,” says Ansel. “People who drink lots of these drinks tend to have lots more dental problems.”

Solution: Swap the soda for sparkling or mineral water infused with your favorite fruit and/or herbs, like watermelon and basil or blackberries and mint.

7

You crave dessert after dinner.

dessert
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The more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to crave it. “Sugar boosts feel-good hormones. Because your brain feels good, it will want that high again,” says Zeitlin. “You’re also having peaks and dips in your blood sugar, which leads you to want to eat more.”

An after-dinner sugar habit can be one of the toughest diet pitfalls to kick. “Habits can be as powerful as hunger in steering food choices. After a meal, you should technically feel full, but if you’re in the habit of treating yourself to dessert every night your body becomes conditioned to want it,” says Ansel. If this is the case for you, a lot of people find it easier to avoid sugar altogether than having less of it, she says.

8

You’re always hungry.

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“If sugar doesn’t have fiber or protein with it, it won’t fill you up,” says Zeitlin. That’s because sugar causes your blood sugar to spike and quickly dip, so you feel hungrier and crave more sugar to bounce back. “If you eat the bread basket before your meal, it will make you feel full initially, but by the time dinner rolls around you’ll feel hungrier,” she says.

Instead, pass on the rolls and wait to fill up first on a salad or serving of salmon, chicken, or lean steak. Foods with fiberhealthy fats and lean protein fill you up, so you have a better grasp on whether or not you really want that slice of bread.

9

You have joint pain.

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Some research has linked regularly having sugary drinks to rheumatoid arthritis in women, possibly due to inflammation. Other research found that people who have five or more sweetened beverages a week—including fruit juice—are more likely to have arthritis. Ansel notes that these studies only found an association, which doesn’t necessarily mean that sugar directly causes arthritis.

10

You’re struggling to lose weight.

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While sugar in and of itself doesn’t necessarily in and of itself make the pounds pile on, it can keep you from losing them or maintaining a healthy weight. Weight gain, of course, happens when you eat too much of anything. “But the amount of research linked to sugar and weight gain is undeniable,” says Zeitlin. Food with loads of white sugar make you feel less satisfied, so you’re more likely to eat more calories per meal.

On the other hand, complex carbs (like whole grains, fruits, and veggies), healthy fats (like nuts and seeds), and lean protein (like fish and chicken) take your system longer to digest, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and you feeling fuller faster and for longer. “If you have a candy bar at 4 p.m., you’ll feel full for short while, but in a couple of hours you’ll feel hungrier than if you had an apple,” says Ansel.

11

Your brain feels foggy.

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Your whole body—including your brain—uses carbs, including sugar, as its main fuel source. So when blood sugar drops after a high-sugar meal, that can result in brain fog. “When your blood sugar drops, your energy is dropping, so your ability to stay focused and alert can drop too,” says Zeitlin. Swapping the cookie for an apple with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter will give you sustained energy to face down a 3 p.m. slump.

12

You’re constantly bloated.

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Salty foods are known for causing bloat, but foods high in sugar can also cause your tummy to bulge. But once you take control of your sweet cravings, you can kiss the bloat goodbye. It’s also important to note that if you have a sensitivity to sugars such as fructose (sugar in fruit) and lactose (in dairy), your belly might experience bloating and other common IBS symptoms.

13

You don’t feel as strong or you’ve lost muscle mass.

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Researchers found a link between refined sugar and age-related muscle loss due to sugar inhibiting the body’s ability to synthesize protein into muscle. Additionally, an animal study noted that sugar-fed rats lost more lean body mass and retained more fat mass than complex-carb-fed rats. Once you start to curb your sweet cravings and limit your consumption of sugar, you’ll start to see a difference in your workouts and feel stronger.

14

Your blood pressure is raised.

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Sugar is worse for your blood pressure than salt, according to a study in the journal Open Heart. Just a few weeks on a high-sucrose diet can increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Another British Journal of Nutrition study found that for every sugar-sweetened beverage, the risk of developing hypertension increased eight percent.

15

You’ve lost motivation to work out.

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Consuming too much sugar can make you gain weight in many ways, but the weirdest way is that it can reduce actual physical activity. In one University of Illinois study, mice that were fed a diet that mimicked the standard American diet–i.e., one that was about 18 percent added sugars—gained more body fat even though they weren’t fed more calories. One of the reasons was that the mice traveled about 20 percent less in their little cages than mice that weren’t fed the sugary diet.

16

Fruit doesn’t taste sweet enough.

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Eating sugar too frequently—including adding sugar or even sugar substitutes like Splenda to certain foods—can alter what your taste buds interpret as sweet. “A bowl of strawberries is sweet on its own, but if you sprinkle sugar or Stevia on it, your baseline for sweet is so much higher than the fruit on its own,” says Zeitlin. “It changes your expectation of how a dessert should taste.” Cutting out added sugars and fake sweeteners as often as possible helps reteach your body to enjoy the natural sweetness of the fruit.

Ẩm thực – Everything to Know About Freezing and Defrosting Meat

By 

Full link: https://www.eater.com/2020/5/6/21248448/how-to-freeze-defrost-meat?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NATIONAL%20-%205620&utm_content=NATIONAL%20-%205620+Version+B+CID_0198d7baaf67680b98f50b7f83f9d7a1&utm_source=cm_email&utm_term=EVERYTHING%20TO%20KNOW%20ABOUT%20FREEZING%20AND%20DEFROSTING%20MEAT

For the love of god, don’t just throw it in the freezer

Raw steak in vacuum-sealed bag.

I love the stories my dad tells about my grandmother’s cooking. There was the time she forgot to fully defrost a turkey before roasting it for Thanksgiving dinner. She served the bird beautifully browned in a pool of rich juices, still raw at the center. Then there was the chicken Kiev she proudly presented at a dinner party, each guest biting into the frozen chicken at the same moment.

Maybe you’ve mastered boeuf bourguignon and roast chicken during quarantine — my wonderful grandma has not — but if you haven’t gotten the hang of freezing and defrosting meat yet, now is a great time to learn. That way, you can space out trips to the grocery store just a little bit further. To alleviate my own meat-freezing anxieties, formed over years of listening to these stories, I called two people who really know their way around meat: George Turkette, the owner and lead butcher of Turchetti’s Salumeria in Indianapolis, and Aaron Rocchino, co-owner of the Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, California.

To freeze or not to freeze

I’ve always felt some amount of guilt about freezing pricier cuts of meat. I forget about them for months, until I’m rummaging in the freezer for an ice cube or a bag of frozen peas. By the time I find the rib-eye or the inch-thick pork chop, it’s covered in a dusting of freezer snow.

But both butchers assured me that it doesn’t matter much what meat you freeze. While Turkette says that stewing and braising meats are his go-tos because of their low price point and general durability, a couple months in the freezer shouldn’t negatively affect your nicer cuts of steak or pork either. It’s when you forget all about them (guilty) or package them lazily (guilty once again) that nice cuts of meat will take a blow in the freezer. “You can hold a lot of meat over really well by freezing, without losing very much in terms of quality or integrity or flavor, as long as it’s stored properly,” Rocchino adds.

So go ahead and freeze whatever meat — pork, chicken, beef — you like. Just don’t underestimate the importance of preparing it for freezing, and defrost it patiently when the time comes.

Preparing meat for the freezer

For those who eat meat, now is a good time to support your local butcher shop. As COVID-19 brings the conditions at many farms and slaughterhouses into sharp focus and threatens a possible meat shortage, smaller stores often have the advantage of dealing with less crowded slaughterhouses, are less likely to see major supply fluctuations, and are often willing to butcher specific cuts at your request. Unfortunately, they can also be cost prohibitive, and the following freezing techniques will work equally well with meats bought from a supermarket.

If you’re cooking for a family of four, it might make sense to freeze an entire pork shoulder as is. I’m only cooking for myself — and in quarantine, my grandma — so when I end up at a butcher shop instead of the supermarket, I’ll ask that roasts be sliced into one- or two-pound portions and wrapped separately. Once it comes time to freeze a chunk of meat, it’s much easier to do so if it’s already a quantity I’ll be able to defrost and eat in one or two sittings. Plus, cooked meat doesn’t last as long in the freezer, so it’s better to portion out the meat still raw than to cook and refreeze it as a stew or braise.

When you get meat from a butcher shop, it’s usually in its most freezer-friendly packaging already. “Most butcher paper is going to have a wax lining on the inside of it, and that’s going to be one of those barriers that helps [prevent] ice crystals from forming on meat that’s in your freezer,” Turkette says. “The best way [to freeze it] is to leave it in that packaging.” Some butcher shops have both regular and wax-coated wrapping paper, and will use the wax paper if you specify that you plan to freeze the meat.

If you’re transferring meat from Styrofoam trays, make sure you’re using zipper-lock bags specifically labeled for freezer use. Thinner plastic bags don’t hold up well to freezer burn. The goal when storing meat is to leave as little surface area as possible for water crystals to form in the freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer and the accompanying bags, this is the best option. For the rest of us, the cooking website Serious Eats recommends leaving just a corner of your zipper-lock bag unzipped, and immersing the bag slowly into water, which will push out all of the air. Zip the bag shut while it’s still nearly immersed, and you’re good to go.

Before freezing any meat — even if you’re positive you’ll use it next week — use a permanent marker to put a date on it. This is particularly important for meat that you don’t freeze the same day that you buy it. If ground beef sits in the refrigerator for a week before it’s frozen, it may only have one or two good days left after it’s been defrosted. The freezer does not, as I’ve learned through experience, reset the rate of expiration. If the meat wasn’t tagged with a date at the store, label it with both the buying and the freezing date before you slide it into the freezer. As your steak or chicken thighs or ground beef get buried under a pile of frozen bananas, knowing when you put the meat in to freeze will help you keep track of what needs to be cooked next.

Freezing isn’t forever

It’s all too easy to treat the freezer as some sort of time machine. Sadly, even meat left in the freezer will start to lose its oomph after a few months. While the USDA recommends keeping uncooked roasts, steaks, and chops in the freezer for anywhere from four to 12 months, Rocchino says pulling meat from the freezer around the six-month mark and no later than after nine months will ensure it still tastes the way it should. Chicken will last a little longer than steak and pork (around a year), and you’ll want to use ground meat sooner (think three to four months), since the large amount of surface area leaves it particularly vulnerable to freezer burn.

“I think a lot of times people think once they put something into the freezer, they can kind of forget about it until whenever,” Rocchino says. “But really freezing something just slows down the process of it going bad — There’s still an expiration date on it.”

Don’t rush the defrost

Most of the injustices against meat aren’t actually perpetrated during the freezing process. It’s defrosting that can go horribly wrong. Maybe you realize you forgot about a Zoom dinner party and rush to defrost your whole chicken in the microwave. Or in the interest of joining an impromptu virtual barbecue (a real thing), you run a frozen slab of brisket under warm water.

I’ve risked my health far too many times trying to defrost rock-hard meat this way. But rushing the defrosting process is a bad idea for many reasons. Technically, you can safely defrost meat in the fridge, in a cold water bath, or — shudder — in a microwave. But as Rocchino explains, defrosting isn’t just a matter of health safety. “What becomes really important is when you’re ready to eat whatever you have in the freezer, you kind of have to get into the mentality of thinking a little bit ahead, so it’s not still in the freezer when you want it for dinner tonight,” he says. Defrosting slowly in the fridge is the only technique he recommends.

As water freezes, it expands, and this affects the texture of an animal’s muscles. “There’s a ton of moisture in muscle meat, so when that expands, all the muscle fibers go along with it,” Rocchino says. “But then if you’re trying to [defrost] it super quickly, it doesn’t really have a way of shrinking slowly and going back to the way it was.” This process of quickly expanding and contracting the muscle is not good for texture. That said, larger, more sinewy pieces of meat that demand low and slow cooking are more forgiving, and you’re less likely to notice a difference in texture, regardless of how you defrost them.

By the time you’ve moved meat from freezer to refrigerator and waited patiently for it to defrost, you can feel confident that you’ve avoided all crises and virtual dinner party embarrassments, and an excellent piece of meat is in your future. All that’s left to do is cook it.

 

Ẩm thực – Michelin Promises The Coronavirus Pandemic Won’t Change the Importance of Its Stars

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Full link: https://london.eater.com/2020/5/6/21249021/michelin-guide-2021-stars-coronavirus-restaurants?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NATIONAL%20-%205620&utm_content=NATIONAL%20-%205620+Version+B+CID_0198d7baaf67680b98f50b7f83f9d7a1&utm_source=cm_email&utm_term=Michelin%20says%20the%20pandemic%20wont%20change%20the%20importance%20of%20its%20stars

It wants to be a guide for restaurants through a crisis that might just kill it

Michelin Guide’s 2020 London star ceremony

Tyre manufacturing restaurant arbitrator The Michelin Guide has quietly, but confidently announced its plans for next year, telling the world that the coming constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants “will mean the same in 2021 as they always have.” The printed guides will be delayed, as reported by Big 7 Travel, but a “Digital First” version will go ahead.

With the restaurant world irretrievably altered by the novel coronavirus pandemic, international guide director Gwendal Poullennec has pledged that “wherever you are, whatever kind of restaurant you are running, with our local teams of inspectors we will work with you in any way we can to ensure that the situation gets back to normal as quickly, and as safely, as possible.” Its inspectors, famously anonymous, will no doubt find creative ways to help without revealing their identities.

Poullennec also laid out the guide’s commitment to judging restaurants for 2021:

To be as efficient as possible in our mission to reconnect diners with your restaurants when reopening, as well as to achieve consistent and fair 2021 selections, we will make the most of our websites and digital facilities. Therefore, a Digital First strategy and an unprecedented commitment by our inspectors. Don’t worry, a Michelin Star, and all our award distinctions, will mean the same in 2021 as they always have.

Michelin had planned its U.K. announcement to be the opposite of “Digital First,” inviting members of the public to its bizarre annual unveiling for the first time to sit and applaud its taste. More pressing than that, is how its announcement appears simultaneously clued in to the seismic changes occurring in the restaurant arena and utterly oblivious to what it might mean for its existence. For starters: it cannot judge restaurants that are closed.

The Michelin Guide’s ongoing relevance is most easily understood in the context of its continuing to exist. For all its Eurocentric conceptions of culinary excellencepersistent social and logistical gaffes, and lionising of a narrow, exclusionary definition of chef greatness, it remains the apex of career achievement for a great many chefs, and a guiding star for the kind of people who fly around in pursuit of luxury restaurants. Chefs still want stars, and diners still hold their telescopes up to them.

What its defiance of COVID-19 misses out is how its roadmap is fundamentally changed. With airlines slashing capacity and pleading for bailouts, divergent national lockdown policies inevitably leading to inconsistent travel regulations across its 32 countries, and a widely forecast recession tightening budgets, “destination” dining is likely to be one of the last restaurant fields to recover as restaurants look closer to home. When it pledges to “ensure that the situation gets back to normal,” it’s referring to a normal that its restaurants will likely never go back to.

Michelin built itself as a tyre company that recommended restaurant journeys so people used their cars and wore down their tyres; cuisines “worth a special journey” and a “detour” are its literal criteria for inclusion and for differentiating its star ratings. When no one’s making those journeys anymore, including the “digital first” inspectors, it’s hard to see what purpose it can possibly, immediately have. It’s hard to see how its criteria can be applied when one country’s road trip is another country’s fine waiting to happen. What use is a star that no-one can come to see, beyond hardening a system already entrenched in legacy.

Poullennec’s announcement does get at this — in its promise of “support” for restaurants, whatever that may look like. His contention that diners “will want to help in the recovery and a more sustainable food scene” hints at an acknowledgment that its world is changing. The guide has made moves towards something more keyed into global reality, with a “sustainability” push whose first draft, while noble, couldn’t get away from its essential irony of being introduced by a company that wouldn’t exist without cars and heralds a form of dining as wasteful as it is rarified. It has published a Michelin delivery guide for the U.K. which features 19 of its 187 restaurants without recognising what that might imply for its future. But claiming that its stars will “mean the same” is fantasy. Or perhaps it’s appropriate, given that when new starlight shines in the sky, it’s already years in the past.

Ẩm thực – 7 Wondrous Breads to Make When You’ve Had Enough Sourdough

By SAM O’BRIEN

Full link: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wondrous-breads-to-make-without-yeast?utm_source=Gastro+Obscura+Weekly+E-mail&utm_campaign=17bb18b6dc-GASTRO_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2418498528-17bb18b6dc-70327933&mc_cid=17bb18b6dc&mc_eid=df51e46713

There’s a wide world of recipes that don’t require buying yeast.

This bread comes with a side of fortune-telling.

WITH ACTIVE DRY YEAST IN short supply, many home-bakers who are sheltering in place have succumbed to the siren song of sourdough. But people have produced bread without yeast across history, cultures, and climes, leaving an incredible array of styles to choose from when your leavening options are limited. From the sticky-sweet steamed bread of Colonial New England to the Icelandic rye that rises in a hot spring, here are seven breads that prove you don’t have to track down that elusive packet of yeast to make something extraordinary.

Turn bland brews into delicious bread.

Beer Bread

The relationship between brewing and baking dates back centuries and is especially prevalent within European cookbooks of the 1700s and 1800s. Brewers would skim the “barm”—a yeasty foam generated during fermentation—from the tops of their brewing vats and give the frothy mixture to bakers to leaven their dough. (This is why some old bread recipes, such as this one from the 1855 edition of An Encyclopedia of Domestic Economymeasure yeast in “pints.”)

But you don’t need to take up home-brewing to make beer bread. The carbonation provided by a 12-ounce can of beer helps get the job done. Simply start with a bland brew (think Miller Lite, PBR, or anything that won’t have a strong impact on the flavor), then add flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. If using self-rising flour, you don’t even need the baking powder and salt. Try the New York Times’ recipe for a tender loaf that still packs yeasty notes.

Hopefully, your fortune is just as sweet as your slice.

Barmbrack

This sweet fruit bread takes its name from barm and the Irish word for “speckled.” Originally, it was made with the yeasty foam, but most modern renditions use chemical leaveners. Of course, when it comes to yeast-less baked goods from the Emerald Isle, Irish soda bread is the most obvious choice. But why not try this darker, more ominous cousin? In addition to raisins, barmbrack comes speckled with portents.

Barmbrack is particularly popular during the Celtic festival of Samhain, which traditionally marked the end of harvest season and the transition to the darkness of winter. Samhain was also believed to be a time when the barriers between the living and the dead dissolved, and spirits roamed free. Superstitions carry over to the kitchen during Samhain, as well. In addition to cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried fruit, bakers pepper their barmbrack with four symbolic trinkets. Discover the ring in your slice, and you’re destined for marriage. Bite into the bean, on the other hand, and your romantic future doesn’t look so bright. Taste metal, and you’re in luck (provided you didn’t swallow): You’ve got the coin, so expect prosperity soon. But chew on the cloth, and brace for tough times.

Try this rich, sweet barmbrack recipe from Saveur, which includes tea-soaked raisins and currants. The world has had enough ill portents lately, so maybe just fill yours with coins and rings.

Icelandic rye (alas, made in an oven) with beef barley soup.

Hverabrauð

Bubbling beneath Iceland’s surface is an intricate network of volcanic hot springs. A dying breed of bakers harness this geothermal power to create a style of rye bread known as hverabrauð. To make this “hot spring bread,” Icelanders start with a dough consisting of rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, milk (or, if using baking soda, buttermilk), salt, and sugar or a sweet syrup. With their mixture sealed in a covered pot, they set off for the nearest spring, dig a hole in the sizzling sand, and bury the container among the waters that gurgle below. After unearthing the pot 24 hours later, they should find a gently-steamed, fully-formed loaf.

If you don’t have hot springs nearby, you can very loosely mimic the environment by covering your dough and leaving it overnight (about eight hours) to slowly cook in a 200-degree oven. The resulting rye should be dense, nutty, and chewy.

Try this recipe that Saveur excerpted from Icelandic Food and Cookery, which uses the oven method. If you don’t have the recipe’s requisite buttermilk and want to avoid a trip to the store, try stirring in one tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar for every cup of milk and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, until it thickens and curdles just a bit. If you don’t have the golden syrup, swap in honey or molasses (cutting the latter with maple syrup if you want a sweeter flavor). Before tearing into an entire loaf, beware: Its nickname, þrumari, or “thunder bread,” is no misnomer. It references the intense way the fiber-heavy food can rumble through one’s digestive system.

Yes, you <em>can</em> make this New England classic.

Canned Brown Bread

The story of this niche New England favorite begins with 17th-century Pilgrims. Forced to adapt the recipes of their British homeland to the New World, these settlers made adjustments based on local resources. When it came to “thirded bread,” a cost-cutting recipe that traditionally combined rye, wheat, and oat flours, that meant swapping in cornmeal for oats and adding in the sweet upgrade of molasses. While some baked the bread in a hearth, others choose to steam it. The dark, moist, sticky-sweet product of the latter approach came to be known as Boston brown bread.

In the early 1800s, a new invention that would forever change the food industry also changed the recipe for Boston brown bread: the tin can. Home-bakers turned to coffee or baking-powder cans to steam perfectly-formed cylinders of their bread, which continued to be popular well into the 1900s. Nostalgic New Englanders might remember growing up pairing slices with baked beans and hot dogs. In fact, the combination is so beloved that B&M, a Maine-based company that’s been making canned baked beans since the 1920s, is one of the few producers that still sells premade canned bread.

Making your own canned brown bread is easy. Try this recipe from Serious Eats. If you don’t have buttermilk, use one of the substitutions mentioned in the hverabrauð profile above. Grease the inside of the cans and, when the bread is ready, be sure they’re open at the top and at the bottom to help coax the loaves out.

Paired with beans, the dumplings make a hearty meal.

Cherokee Bean Bread

More of a dumpling than a traditional bread, this Cherokee staple relies on two of the three “sisters” that form the base of Native American cuisine: corn and beans.

The historic method for making the bread involves soaking corn kernels in a lye-rich mixture of hickory ash and water, then grinding and working the hulled, washed corn into a dough. Modern cooks, however, can skip ahead by purchasing a premade form of this corn flour known as masa harina. (It’s crucial to a good tortilla.) The flour gets blended with water, cooked brown beans, and a bit of the liquid from the bean pot, then shaped into flat, oval dumplings.

Like canned bread, this recipe relies on steaming. If you want to be a stickler for authenticity, wrap the dumplings in hickory leaves, corn leaves, or corn husks, tie the pouches shut, and steam the lot for an hour. But those in a pinch can swap in aluminum foil for the leaves. You’ll miss a bit of the earthy flavor imparted by the plants, but still get a close approximation of the real deal.

The resulting bread is a soft, moist, slightly savory taste of Cherokee history. Try this recipe from Nico Albert, a Cherokee chef based in Oklahoma.

Crispy pieces of carta di musica rest atop a bread basket.

Carta di Musica

Carta di musica has no need for the rising effects of yeast: It’s supposed to be as flat as possible. The Sardinian bread’s name comes from the fact that bakers keep rolling out the dough until it’s thin enough that you could read a sheet of music through it.

As the discs of dough start to puff up in the oven, bakers continuously slice them into halves until they become thin and cracker-crisp. The dried-out bread can last for months, ideal for the Sardinian shepherds who snacked on pieces as they wandered with their flocks.

While you might not be wandering anywhere for a little while, you can still try King Arthur Flour’s recipe for carta di musica. For ideal results, the recipe requires semolina flour, all-purpose flour, water, and salt, but King Arthur also offers substitutions (along with associated caveats) depending on what ingredients you might have on hand. Pair your crisp bread with wine and cheese, and imagine you’re traipsing through the Sardinian countryside.

Beautiful loaves brought to you by the bacteria that causes gangrene.

Salt-Rising Bread

Popularized by pioneers in 19th-century Appalachia, this highly unusual bread also earned fame as the star of what the West Virginia Medical Journal declared “perhaps the most macabre experiment in culinary history.”

How can a bread be macabre? That lies at the heart of what makes salt-rising bread unique. While yeast-leavened loaves rise with the help of carbon dioxide, salt-rising bread gets heightened by hydrogen. Creating that hydrogen are microbes that bakers cultivate by leaving a mixture of cornmeal (or sliced potatoes), boiled milk, sugar, and salt in a hot environment overnight.

Scientists eventually learned that the resulting bacteria is Clostridium perfringens, which also happens to be what causes a type of gangrene. Putting this connection to the test, one researcher actually used Clostridium perfringens from a soldier’s infected wound to make his own loaf of salt-rising bread in the 1920s. Thankfully, you don’t need a festering wound. As Gastro Obscura addressed in a recent article, you can find great injury-free recipes from James Beard and Harold McGee.

Note – PitchBook: Ackman, Airbnb and the blank-check bonanza

The special-purpose acquisition company, also known as the blank-check company, was for decades a confusing, little-seen entity with a reputation on Wall Street for helping foster stock market frauds in the go-go 1980s. In recent years, however, the SPAC has come into fashion, offering companies a path to going public that’s faster and simpler than a traditional IPO.

This week, the SPAC spike may have reached its highest point yet. A hedge fund baron led the biggest blank-check IPO of all time. There’s talk that one of Silicon Valley’s most valuable companies could have its eye on a SPAC merger. And other notable investors and companies are circling deals in the suddenly red-hot space.

Welcome to The Weekend Pitch. I’m Kevin Dowd, and you can reach me at weekend@pitchbook.com. The SPAC is inescapable these days, which is one of 11 things you need to know from the past week:

1. SPAC to the future

Hedge fund pro Bill Ackman has a long history of converting bold, contrarian bets into very large sums of money. Earlier this year, he reportedly turned a $27 million position into $2.6 billion by essentially betting that the coronavirus would cause steep declines in US equity and credit markets. In his latest move, Ackman raised $4 billion in an offering this week for a SPAC called Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, widely believed to be the largest SPAC IPO on record.

At this point, I’m not sure how many people need a SPAC-splainer. For those who do: SPACs are holding companies that raise money in an IPO on the promise of making a future acquisition or investment. Managers who commit capital to the IPO are betting on the ability of the executives behind the SPAC to find an attractive target at an attractive price.

So, in Pershing Square Tontine’s case, the listing amounts to a $4 billion gamble on Ackman and his team. What sort of deal will the SPAC pursue? Ackman has indicated that the vehicle has $5 billion in total capital, including his fund’s own money, and that he wants to make a minority investment in a highly valued growth company. If you’re looking for more vibrant imagery, Ackman told Bloomberg TV this week that the SPAC is now “in a unicorn mating dance.”

There are only so many growth companies out there in which a $5 billion investment might buy a minority stake. Which brings us to Airbnb.

The pandemic has caused serious strain at the vacation rental company, including a significant number of layoffs, but Airbnb has revived talks of potentially going public in 2020. This week, CEO Brian Chesky told Reuters that the company has “been approached by some people that have presented us some opportunities” regarding a merger with a SPAC. That’s quite far from anything concrete, but even the prospect of a potential marriage of Ackman and Airbnb is tantalizing.

Then again, if Airbnb were to opt for a SPAC deal rather than going it alone in an IPO or a direct listing, the recent blank-check boom means the company should have multiple options.

Interest in the SPAC space was already growing before this year: Blank-check companies raised $13.6 billion across 59 offerings in 2019, compared to $1.4 billion in 10 listings back in 2013, according to the website SPAC Research. This year has already seen $19 billion raised across 50 such listings, with an average size of nearly $380 million, up 65% from last year. Virgin Galactic, DraftKings and Nikola are just some of the notable companies to recently opt for SPAC debuts.

Part of the story is quality, given the involvement of those big names. But another part is quantity.

Alec Gores and his Gores Group, a veteran of the SPAC movement, returned to the market this week with an IPO filing for their fifth blank-check company. In 2016, a Gores-backed SPAC acquired iconic snack-cake company Hostess Brands. And telecom billionaire Craig McCaw and software entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé recently filed for SPAC offerings of their own, adding to a crowded field.

There are also plenty of potential SPAC targets on the market. Hims, a VC-backed maker of personal health and wellness products, is considering a blank-check listing that could result in a valuation of more than $1 billion, Reuters reported. Topgolf, a PE-backed proprietor of tech-powered driving ranges and gaming centers, is also said to be considering a SPAC deal, according to Bloomberg.

There are more SPACs than ever out there, and seemingly more highly valued companies than ever that are open to a deal. In the words of Ackman, let the unicorn mating dance begin.

2. Musk maneuvers

Elon Musk is many things, but boring is never one of them. This week brought reports that one of Musk’s companies, SpaceX, is aiming to raise up to $1 billion in new funding at a whopping $44 billion valuation. Meanwhile, another of Musk’s ventures, Tesla, reportedly filed a lawsuit against Rivian accusing its well-funded electric vehicle rival of poaching Tesla employees and encouraging the theft of trade secrets.

3. Major mergers

A winner emerged this week in eBay’s auction for its classifieds business, with Norwegian classifieds conglomerate Adevinta signing a deal to acquire the unit for $9.2 billion. The oil and gas sector was also home to a high-priced takeover, with Chevron expanding its presence in the Permian Basin and elsewhere through the purchase of Noble Energy for $5 billion, or $13 billion including debt.

4. Talking TikTok

A group of investors including the likes of Sequoia, NEA and SoftBank have reportedly held talks to acquire a majority stake in TikTok from parent company ByteDance, The Information reported this week, the latest sign of TikTok’s attempts to distance itself from China. In a separate move, TikTok announced the formation of a new $200 million vehicle called the TikTok Creator Fund, which will distribute money to certain creators on the app, a novel form of compensation for users driving the platform’s popularity.

5. Online ingredients

Companies offering an alternative to masking up and venturing to a grocery store continue to raise some serious capital during the pandemic. MissFresh, a provider of grocery delivery services operating in China, gathered $495 million from a host of notable backers. And Misfits Market, a food delivery company competing with Imperfect Foods in the “ugly produce” category, collected $85 million, about two months after Imperfect raised $72 million.

6. Dual listings

Chinese fintech giant Ant said it has begun discussions for a dual listing later this year, with plans to begin trading shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai. In Shanghai, the Alibaba affiliate is opting to list on the STAR Market, a win for the young, tech-centric exchange that aims to be something of a Chinese equivalent of the Nasdaq. Reports also emerged that Junlebao Dairy could follow a similar dual-listing path in China, several months after Sequoia China reportedly valued the business at more than $1 billion.

7. SoftBank sales

SoftBank said earlier this year that it planned to sell off $41 billion in assets as part of a plan to buy back shares and reduce debt. The company took new steps in that direction this week, with reports surfacing that SoftBank has discussed selling its Arm semiconductor unit to fellow chip maker Nvidia and, separately, that the Japanese conglomerate has hired bankers to sell internet-of-things business Treasure Data.

8. CEO shakeup

After less than three years in the role, Glenn Youngkin announced this week that he will retire as co-CEO of The Carlyle Group at the end of the third quarter, leaving Kewsong Lee in place as sole CEO. A Bloomberg article from later in the week reported that news of Youngkin’s departure follows “a long, awkward power struggle” between Lee and Youngkin after they took joint control of the firm’s reins in 2018.

9. Blackstone’s bounce

Blackstone reported its second-quarter earnings this week, the first of the four major publicly traded private equity firms to do so. Pros: Blackstone’s PE portfolio appreciated by 12.8% in the quarter after a 22% depreciation in Q1, and the firm flipped from a $2.6 billion net loss to nearly $1.4 billion in net income. Cons: Distributable earnings declined compared to Q1, and the firm’s stock ended the week down about 4% from its Wednesday close.

10. Jamf’s jump

At first, Jamf thought it could sell shares in its IPO for $17 to $19. Then, the Vista Equity Partners portfolio company upped its range to $21 to $23. But demand continued to build for the business, which companies use to manage Apple devices. It ultimately priced the shares at $26 and closed its first day of trading at $39.20, becoming the latest privately backed company to see its stock soar after an IPO.

11. Fowl play

It was a big week for the confluence of venture capital and pasture-raised chickens. Vital Farms, a VC-backed purveyor of ethically produced eggs and butter, set initial terms for a looming IPO, one that could raise more than $130 million and result in a market cap of more than $660 million. And Cooks Venture, which sells a proprietary breed of pasture-raised chickens for meat consumption, raised $10 million in a new Series A deal.

Startup name of the week

Home insurance startup Lemonade has been one of the biggest IPO stars of July, pricing its offering earlier in the month above its expected range and seeing its stock price nearly triple in the ensuing three-plus weeks. A rival with a similarly noun-based but ultimately nonsensical name had a big week of its own: Hippo, a Bay Area insurance startup that banked $150 million in Series E funding at a $1.5 billion valuation.

When I think of the humble hippopotamus, home insurance is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. (What is the first thing that comes to mind? “Hungry Hungry Hippos,” of course.) But Hippo, just like Lemonade, is a happy name, one that probably has pleasing connotations to most people. And when it comes to insurance, a notoriously un-fun industry, perhaps trying to put a smile on a customer’s face is the best bet.

The Weekend Pitch

 PitchBook

Stoic – You Decide the End of This Story

We’ve spoken of the great Admiral James Stockdale here many times. We told you how when he parachuted into that terrible prison camp, he knew he would be tortured and possibly killed, yet all that was on his mind in that moment were the teachings of Epictetus. We told you about how he made himself of service and a leader to others, even as he was being tortured and trapped in leg irons.

We have spoken of his courage, his wisdom, his self-discipline, and his sense of justice. But nothing better encapsulates the man and his heroism than this one quote, which applies today to our own adversity just as it did to the horrible ordeal that he went through:

I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

We must never lose that faith. Does that mean we ignore the brutal reality of the current moment? Does it mean we pretend that all is well, even as blows rain down upon us? No. Of course not. We must be realistic. We must be honest.

Yet we should be ever confident of our ability to respond to the situation we have found ourselves in. We decide where this is going to go. We decide what we’re going to get out of this. We will prevail in the end and turn this into a defining event in our lives.

We will make it something we would not trade.

Collection – 7 Places to Keep Your Money

By RYAN FUHRMANN

Full link: https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0812/5-places-to-keep-your-money-when-you-dont-trust-the-banks.aspx?utm_source=personalized&utm_campaign=bouncex&utm_term=20988591&utm_medium=email

Wary of banks and the stock market? Consider these alternatives

Mistrust toward banks and other financial institutions prompts more fearful individuals to seek alternative venues to park their capital. Others may be avoiding the banks on principle, given their participation in the reckless lending that led up to the housing bubble bursting and triggered the Great Recession. Of course, since the coronavirus outbreak, banks look safer than the wildly volatile stock market. But all the same, it’s worth looking at these seven alternatives. One in particular is considered the safest place to keep cash.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The FDIC protection for deposits makes banks look appealing in difficult times, such as the coronavirus outbreak, but there are alternative places to put money.
  • Federal bonds are considered very safe, but have very low returns.
  • Real estate can produce income, but can be risky.
  • Precious metals, especially gold, offer an alternative to stocks and bonds.
  • Luxury assets are tangible, but lag stock market returns.
  • Hidden cash isn’t secure and loses value over time, if there is inflation.
  • Businesses are another place to put money, including farms.
  • Cryptocurrency is a new alternative, but comes with its own risks.

Why Keep Money Outside of the Bank?

The website for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) states that “no depositor has ever lost a penny of insured deposits since the FDIC was created in 1933.” But FDIC insurance only covers $250,000 per bank account. This applies to both the initial principal and any interest earned.1

Meanwhile, investments in the S&P 500 Index have yielded an average return of about 8% over the past 60 years. But the long-term record for solid returns in the stock markets is dotted with downturns that shake the confidence of some investors. Most stock indexes dropped by 4% to 6% overall in 2018, for example. That was the worst record in 10 years until we got to the market drops triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

If you’re still looking for alternative places to park your money, here are seven possibilities:

Investments in stocks and bonds are not covered by the FDIC.

1. Federal Bonds

The U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve would be more than happy to take your funds and issue you securities in return, and a very safe one at that. A U.S. government bond still qualifies in most textbooks as a risk-free security.

Unfortunately, many individuals and institutions already know that and have entered the bond market ahead of you, which has bid bond rates to very low levels in this time of crisis. On April 9, 2020, the yield from a 10-Year Treasury Note was 0.73%, an all-time low. If the low rates don’t deter you, government bonds are one of the safest places to keep cash.2

2. Real Estate

In disquieting times for the banks and the stock market, the allure of real estate investment can be strong. Become a landlord. Put down some of your principal on a property, fix it up a bit, rent it out, and have your tenants pay off the mortgage. Or, if you’re interested in a shorter-term opportunity and have more experience, maybe try flipping houses.

Done right, real estate can have a huge financial upside. Yet it can also be a risky and sometimes fickle investment. True, residential and diversified real estate investments have averaged about a 10% return in the past 20 years, which is slightly better than the S&P 500 in that period. But real estate can also be an unreliable investment, especially in the short term.

An extreme example is the the housing bubble that burst and led to the Great Recession. The global economic downturn that began in 2007 resulted in millions of people losing their jobs and homes, resulting in a housing market crash.

It’s unclear how the coronavirus situation will affect real estate, but it’s not likely to be positive. the huge hit to the economy and employment will likely limit buyer’s ability to come up with cash and desire to part with it. On the other hand, sellers who really need to sell may be willing to settle for lower prices.

3. Precious Metals

One doomsday scenario in which financial markets cease to function holds that gold, silver, and other metals such as platinum or copper will continue to retain their value, if not appreciate.

The likelihood of having to return to a barter system with physical goods is minimal, but it may make sense to hold a certain percentage of your assets in this form. For one, precious metals have historically provided a low or negative correlation to other asset classes like stocks and bonds—which is to say, when those investments go south, metals are unlikely to follow, at least very far, and may even increase in value.

4. Luxury Assets

This category of tangible assets encompasses fine art, cars, watches, diamonds, and other jewels, and just about anything that qualifies as a collectible. In their favor, they’re objects that can be touched and seen, compared to a bank account statement that could take time to collect on if the financial institution that housed it ceases to exist.

That said, luxe investments are hardly a sure bet. While data on their historical returns are elusive, they are generally thought to have lagged stock market returns, while having periods of rapid appreciation due to either strong financial market performance or periods of popularity, which increases underlying demand and resulting prices.3

5. Cash, Hidden Away

Although stuffing money under your mattress has become a cliché, it unquestionably keeps your funds close at hand, if not necessarily secure. You could, of course, also hide your assets in a safe deposit box or safe.

Again, this method probably qualifies only for a doomsday scenario, or for times of a short-term liquidity crunch. Even then, keep only a small stash, not least because inflation steadily erodes the value of currency over time. In a deflation, the opposite is true, of course.4

Fast Fact

Cash held in a safe deposit box is not insured.

6. In a Business, Perhaps a Farm?

Buying a business can ensure a return on your investment, provided of course that the enterprise generates a profit. In very bad times, of course, businesses suffer as well. A farm can be a particularly tangible business, if not a reliably profitable one.

You don’t necessarily need to get our hands dirty, either; with a so-called investment farm, you hire staff to handle the actual agricultural operations. Owning farmland is a good fit with a survivalist mindset, too, since the land can produce food on the off-chance of a global calamity or meltdown of the global financial system.

7. Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies are another alternative investment option. There are a number of choices; Bitcoin is just the best known. So-called “cryptos” offer individual investors a unique opportunity to get into what is still very much an emerging technology.

Of course, this is also a high-risk, high-reward opportunity. For example, after soaring to stratospheric highs, bitcoin lost about three-quarters of its value in 2018. You shouldn’t invest much, or any, funds in cryptocurrency that you’ll rely on for your future. Yet most analysts believe these alternative currencies are here to stay and brave investors may want to pitch a stake on the off-chance of hitting it big with one of them.

The Bottom Line

Although the subprime mortgage meltdown is more than a decade old, the financial industry is still looked upon with some suspicion these days, at least by some skeptics. And the stock market may be no less of a concern for such people, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented ongoing volatility the markets are experiencing. For the especially wary, the above alternatives to a traditional bank or stocks may make sense for at least a percentage of net worth. But given their risk, none should be too big a component of your investments.

 

Collection – Economic forecast: mixed outlook for 2020/21

CPA Australia logo

Full link: https://www.intheblack.com/articles/2020/07/23/australias-economic-outlook-is-a-mixed-bag?utm_medium=email&utm_source=INTHEBLACK&utm_campaign=Article_Australias_economic_outlook_is_a_mixed_bag&utm_term=COVID19&utm_content=Economics

Unemployment forecast to go up as Australia's economy shrinks in 2020/21.

Unemployment forecast to go up as Australia’s economy shrinks in 2020/21.

The Australian government today unveiled its Economic and Fiscal Outlook, setting out how COVID-19 has impacted the Australian economy and the nation’s finances. In short, it paints a sobering picture of the state of the Australian and global economies.

The huge levels of government support injected into Australia’s economy from March could only limit the negative fallout from the pandemic, not keep Australia out of recession.

The Outlook forecasts that Australia’s economy will shrink 2.25 per cent in 2020/21. If looking at the 2020 calendar year, the government is forecasting a 3.75 per cent contraction in economic activity, before rising 2.5 per cent in 2021.

The government forecasts that the unemployment rate will increase to 8.75 per cent in 2020/21 from 7.4 per cent in June 2020 (forecasting that unemployment will peak at 9.25 per cent in December).

The government states that unemployment would have been much higher without support measures such as the JobKeeper wage subsidy. It estimates that such payments prevented around 700,000 additional job losses, which would have equated to an unemployment rate around five percentage points higher than the current rate.

However, others have a more pessimistic outlook. The OECD recently forecast that Australia’s economy will shrink 5 per cent in 2020 (in a best case scenario of a single wave of COVID-19 infections), or decline 6.3 per cent if there is a second wave of infections.

In this double-hit scenario, the OECD is forecasting the economy will grow only 1 per cent in 2021.

The OECD stated that consumption in Australia will be tempered due to ’lost earnings, higher unemployment levels and ongoing caution,” while ”reduced demand, more fragile finances and uncertainty” will weigh on business investment.

On the level of unemployment benefits and the environment, the OECD stated that ”the authorities should also ensure that the social safety net is adequate and consider further investment in energy efficiency improvements.”

For those looking to do some scenario analysis for budgeting purposes, CEDA, in its Macroeconomic Policy: avoiding the cliff report (see page 7) has produced the following chart showing how single wave and second wave scenarios may impact Australia’s economy:

Under the scenario where Australia experiences a second wave of infections, the economy does not return to where it was in December 2019 until some time in 2022, at the earliest.

Globally, the Australian Treasury is forecasting that:

  • China will grow 1.75 per cent in 2020 and 8.25 per cent in 2021
  • US will shrink 8.0 per cent in 2020 and grow 4.75 per cent in 2021
  • Japan will shrink 6.25 per cent in 2020 and grow 2.75 per cent in 2021
  • India will shrink 4 per cent in 2020 and grow 4.25 per cent in 2021
  • The euro area will shrink 8.75 per cent in 2020 and grow 5 per cent in 2021.

In other economic forecasts, the government is expecting wages growth to be very low in 2020/21 at 1.25 per cent in 200/21, the same rate as inflation, meaning real wages growth will be zero.

Fiscal outlook

The government states that it has provide A$289 billion in fiscal and balance sheet measures to the economy, which is equivalent to around 14.6 per cent of GDP. Fiscal support includes the JobKeeper wage subsidy, the JobSeeker Bonus Payment and the Cash Flow Boost.

Balance sheet measures include the SME bank loan guarantee scheme. The direct fiscal support amounts to around 9 per cent of GDP, one of the larger packages of all countries

This large spending will have a significant impact on the nation’s finances, with the underlying deficit expected to be A$85.8 billion in 2019-20 or 4.3 per cent of GDP. In 2020-21, the deficit is expected to grow to A$184.5 billion or 9.7 per cent of GDP.

Australia’s net debt is expected to grow from A$373.6 billion in 2018-19, to A$488.2 billion in 2019-20 and A$677.1 billion in 2020-21. However, as a percentage of GDP, the net debt (35.7 per cent of GDP in 2020-21) is still low against many other advanced economies, giving the government the “fiscal space” to do more if required.

While Australia’s fiscal deficit and debt has “ballooned”, the OECD stated that ”Australia’s ample fiscal space permits a strong response to a second outbreak.” It suggested that expanded ”loan guarantees, coupled with accelerated insolvency processes, could reduce scarring for entrepreneurs and facilitate a more dynamic recovery.”

Policy announcements

Most of the tax and superannuation measures announced in the update have previously been announced or implemented. More recent announcements include:

The extension to JobKeeper wage subsidy
The JobKeeper payment, which was originally legislated to expire on 27 September 2020 will continue to be available to eligible businesses and not-for-profits until 28 March 2021.

The payment rate will be reduced from $1500 per fortnight for eligible employees and business participants to $1200 per fortnight from 28 September 2020 and to $1000 per fortnight from 4 January 2021.

From 28 September 2020, lower payment rates will apply for employees and business participants who worked fewer than 20 hours per week.

From 28 September 2020, businesses and not-for-profits will be required to reassess their eligibility with reference to their actual GST turnover in the June and September quarters 2020. They will need to demonstrate that they have met the relevant decline in turnover test in both of those quarters to be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.

COVID-19 SME Guarantee Scheme extended
The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme has been implemented to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) impacted by COVID-19 to access working capital. The scheme will be extended from 30 September 2020 to loans written until 30 June 2021.

Under the Scheme, the Australian Government will provide a guarantee of 50 per cent on new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.

Application period extended for temporary early access to superannuation
The government has allowed individuals affected by the financial impacts of COVID-19 to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in the 2019/20 income year and a further $10,000 in the 2020/21 income year on a tax-free basis.

The application period for the 2020/21 income year will be extended from 24 September 2020 to 31 December 2020.

Apprentice and trainee wage subsidy expanded
The Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy will be expanded. The initial wage subsidy provided small business employers with 50 per cent of an apprentice or trainee’s wages for nine months, capped at A$7000 per quarter.

The subsidy, due to end on 30 September 2020, will be extended to 31 March 2021 and will be expanded to include medium-sized businesses from 1 July 2020.

INTHEBLACK - Leadership, Strategy, Business

Collection – A perfect storm for fashion marketplaces

By Achim Berg, Antonio Gonzalo, Hanna Grabenhofer, Miriam Lobis, and Karl-Hendrik Magnus

Full link: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/a-perfect-storm-for-fashion-marketplaces?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hlkid=aaad97988d9c4906aea0697c09ad6f55&hctky=2618809&hdpid=e2faebf1-c9dc-44e4-8557-0124c0e5e449

In this virtual roundtable, European fashion executives discuss digital acceleration and the role of marketplaces in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Kinsey conducted a virtual roundtable discussion with a panel of fashion industry executives as part of the ongoing Apparel, Fashion & Luxury COVID-19-response Webex series. Below, panelists share their views on how the fashion industry will likely evolve in light of the crisis and what it will take to navigate the next normal.

COVID-19 is, first and foremost, a human tragedy. As the global death toll rises, healthcare workers continue to risk their lives to combat the crisis on the front lines. Solving this humanitarian challenge is, of course, the top priority, and much remains to be done globally to respond and recover.

In addition to the concern about the very real impact on human lives, businesses in every sector are grappling with an uncertain future while working to develop responses that best serve their vulnerable employees, customers, and suppliers—and the fashion marketplace industry is not immune.

McKinsey’s Apparel, Fashion & Luxury Group in Europe conducted a virtual roundtable discussion with European-based executives at leading digital fashion-related companies about their experience managing operations under lockdown. The panelists included Maximilian Bittner, chief executive officer of Vestiaire Collective; Stefan Edl, head of Trans/formational Retail & Fashion DACH at Facebook; Boris Ewenstein, SVP of Supply at Zalando; Stephanie Phair, chief customer officer of Farfetch; and Albert Serrano, CEO of Veepee, a group representing a range of categories and segments: off-price players, luxury companies, social media, and digital-only marketplaces. The McKinsey team of Achim Berg, Karl-Hendrik Magnus, Antonio Gonzalo, Miriam Lobis, and Hanna Grabenhofer developed and guided the conversation and subsequent Q&A.

The panelists offer perspectives on the main difficulties they face, the measures that have proven most successful in mitigating the human and business impact of the virus, and how their operational emphasis has shifted at different stages of the pandemic.

They agree that the crisis has accelerated the use of digital and believe that the opportunities and paradigm shifts that have emerged will persevere postcrisis. Companies will communicate, engage, and interact with customers in new ways. At the same time, consumption is changing. Because consumers are looking for purpose and sustainability, a company’s mission is becoming more important than ever. And because the next normal is here to stay, fashion companies must be ready to embrace innovation.

Interview transcript

McKinsey: Let’s start with an opening statement from each of you. You all occupy a unique position: closely connected with both consumers and brands and getting input from multiple sources. How have the past weeks played out for you?

Stephanie Phair, Farfetch: Over the last four to six weeks, we experienced an unprecedented series of events. This is foremost a humanitarian crisis, and fashion is not at the top of consumers’ minds—they are primarily worried about health. But recently they have been shopping for fashion again—whether as a pastime, passion, or way to have fun. And online players have seen that the demand curve is in line with the state of the crisis. At Farfetch, we have been thinking about how we can manage this crisis in the short term and then move on to the long term. One thing we realized is that you have to go back to your mission. Why do you matter? What do you stand for? Sales should only be an outcome of the answers to these questions.

Boris Ewenstein, Zalando: The next normal is that I’m talking to you from my daughter’s bedroom. The situation has been a mix of shock and opportunities. In January/February, we were looking at supply-side risks. How do we ensure that our logistics are functioning properly and that there is sufficient production and product to supply? Then it was March and the tide turned as we faced the issue of too much stock. It was a huge swing: from potentially having too little to having way too much. We saw a similar swing in terms of planning. Business performed as expected in January and February. In March, demand dried up. But after March 30, the landscape changed again. People who would have bought offline before are now moving into online. Of our 32 million active customers as of March 31, 17 percent are new (year over year). We sold one million items just over Easter via our direct-to-consumer partner program, which is up more than 100 percent from last year. Similarly, new sign-ups to the Partner Program were up 150 percent from February to March.

There are shocks and opportunities for fashion players.

Albert Serrano, Veepee: Everything is about people. In the beginning you want to understand how your people are doing and how you can support them. Our business is logistics-heavy, and people were working in areas hit hard by the crisis. They were our first priority. Second, for an off-price business, you need demand. January and February were difficult for us, but now business is doing well: we are getting more and more brands as they have a lot of stock—new customers, new offers. But there is a big question mark on how this will evolve.

We are getting more and more brands—new customers, new offers. But there is a big question mark on how this will evolve.

Maximilian Bittner, Vestiaire Collective: For us, the shift started in January, as we have business in Hong Kong. In the last four to five weeks it has intensified. It’s an interesting time because we interact with consumers on both the buying and selling side. Consumer sales on our platform dropped during the first lockdown, but now that people have figured out the more important things, they are buying again. And now sales are accelerating. We are 15 to 20 percent above February’s level and experiencing record days. We see a similar pattern on the selling side. There are always two sides to the story, and the reselling side is much more serious right now as sellers are experiencing uncertainty and financial distress. In this situation, they are happy that they can monetize their wardrobes.

On our platform, we haven’t talked about discounts, but about community. People are passionate about belonging and togetherness. We started a series of charity sales with a range of profiles, including Kate Moss, to raise money, which were very successful.

We haven’t talked about discounts, but about community. People are passionate about belonging and togetherness.

Stefan Edl, Facebook: I was surprised by how fast people adapted to working from home. High demand exists for digital insights, and companies want to switch into our offered products faster. Usage is up a lot. Time spent on Instagram increased rapidly,  and the number of reviews went up as well. There is a clear shift to online shopping. Brands are innovative—examples include advertising for a client concierge service or selling directly via Facebook live.

McKinsey: What works in this next normal? How do you generate traffic and activate consumers?

Stephanie Phair: What works is that people want authentic communication from the company. They want to buy from companies that have a mission. Farfetch refocused on its core values. We started the company after the financial crisis to bring together small companies who have a great curated assortment and should be given a broad audience. This mission statement could not be more important now. So we really highlight the human aspect and story. Fashion is the product, but it also takes the curator—by which I mean boutiques and brands (the creators)—to give the product meaning. The key points are storytelling, meaning, purpose.

People want authentic communication and to buy from companies with a mission. Farfetch is refocusing on its core values.

This approach is working, and consumers have a broader mindset—including about shopping locally. They think about small retailers. Our partners need us to monetize their stock and tell their story. Flexibility in our business model has meant companies can operate through us. We are the business partner for them.

McKinsey: There are also special programs in place to support smaller retailers. What are their demands?

Stephanie Phair: We serve independent retailers, larger retailers, brands. This is multifaceted. Our partners realize the power of our business model, especially in a time when they are unable to welcome their customers physically into their stores. COVID-19 could accelerate the shift to digital in luxury fashion. Now brands really want to find a great partner that works with them. Harrods went live on February 22 with Farfetch Platform Solutions, and, as they unfortunately cannot have their retail store open, this is a way they can still serve their customers. And there is something around innovation. If you are a technology business, that is your DNA. There is a lot of demand for start-up innovation. Brands wonder how they can use technology to continue design. We link them to start-ups with 3D design, digital showrooms.

Thus, we help in two ways: direct to consumer and technology.

Boris Ewenstein: First, social is a matter of not just channels, but tone of voice. Second, we really want to show support for brands and retailers during the crisis: we want to support all kinds of fashion brands, designers, and retailers suffering from the effects of the coronavirus crisis and strengthen the diversity of the industry. That’s why Zalando now offers immediate solutions to increase liquidity, clear overstock, and launch or expand direct-to-consumer business. For small to midsize partners, we will push on-site visibility worth EUR 5 million via Zalando Marketing Services until the end of 2020 because we believe our partner program is the best way for smaller brands to put their creations in front of millions of customers.

We took out loans to pay partners faster. We also have initiated measures for brick-and-mortar retailers to uphold parts of their business during the lockdowns. Until May 31, partners in the Connected Retail program can sell via the platform without paying commission fees. This led to around 35,000 items sold by brick-and-mortar stores over the Easter weekend alone. So far, we have connected over 1,500 offline shops to the Zalando platform. Over the past two weeks, we have received more than 160 requests from retailers to join the program, growing the Connected Retail network by more than 1,500 stores over the weeks to come. We are seeing our partner program accelerate through our direct-to-consumer offering. Since the beginning of the crisis we have seen existing partners expanding way quicker into more markets than initially agreed: the number of countries to which brand partners have expanded has tripled.

McKinsey: What are some of the changes you’re seeing as a result of the crisis?

Maximilian Bittner: The point is not to just keep the consumption machine going. This event is changing our world and what people think is important. It’s a wake-up call. Sustainability is becoming a bigger part of the decision-making process. People are more conscious of what they buy and what impact that product has—the ethical side is coming to the forefront. And the economic impact will be apparent. We haven’t seen big price drops. But consumers might trade down as they did in 2008, when people shifted to cheaper food-shopping channels and never shifted back. We believe we can make a positive contribution because we are a selling machine that gives people the ability to monetize their wardrobes and connects people around the world to help them through this crisis.

This event is changing our world and what people think is important. It’s a wake-up call. Sustainability is becoming a bigger part of the decision-making process.

Albert Serrano: How are we differentiating ourselves? By going back to our core business. And off-price has always been our core. Brands are asking us to work in this area with them. While there might be a “discount war,” we think we have advantages in this world. The way you sell discount is much more important than just the sales themselves. There will be a lot of competition but also twice the stock, and we offer a place for players to deal with this situation.

Boris Ewenstein: With everyday life changing so significantly for most of us, we’re seeing a shift in customer demand and an increase in loungewear, skincare, and sports products. Yoga-wear sales have spiked over the past weeks, doubling last year’s sales within the same time period. The share of existing customers that have bought sportswear from us for the first time has also doubled compared to last year. In line with increasing demand in sportswear, Zalando has launched its first-ever remotely produced marketing campaign, #TogetherIAmStrong, inspiring customers to stay active at home.

McKinsey: What are people thinking out there? When will consumers have an appetite for fashion again? When will consumer sentiment bounce back?

Stefan Edl: There already is an appetite. Some categories are growing: home wear, sports, casual. Businesses need to communicate in an authentic way. So the question is, how do you produce content? We recommend apps for this. How do you tell different stories? How do you use existing material? Recovery depends on how quickly businesses can adapt—and everyone should adapt. It’s important to set realistic expectations in terms of product delivery, product credibility, etc. You have to be customer-centric.

Recovery depends on how quickly businesses can adapt—and everybody has to.

McKinsey: Participants in this virtual roundtable have asked us a lot about discounting. We have done some analyses based on the MGFI (McKinsey Global Fashion Index) that show there will be around EUR 35 billion to 45 billion in overstock from the spring/summer 2020 season. What levels of discounting will be required to get rid of this overstock?

Stephanie Phair: Obviously there is an inventory pileup right now; we remember 2008 and how big department stores had to use huge discounts back then. Right now, our boutique partners provide a 25-percent discount on our site. Farfetch matches this by waiving 25 percent of our charge to boutiques to sell through our marketplace. But there are some systemic issues of what happens in fashion. Large uncontrolled wholesale players do not seem to work anymore. There are fundamental issues in the fashion ecosystem that this crisis is making us think about. Brands want to move into concessions (offline or online). They want to have more control. Consumers are motivated by price, and economic agents will reduce the price in response. But this opportunity should be used to rethink the fashion business: sustainability, no more overproduction. This opportunity to change the business should not go to waste.

This crisis is forcing us to think about fundamental issues in the fashion ecosystem.

Boris Ewenstein: Once stores open, discounts will likely be massive. We are trying to help our brands ease stock pressure now. Platforms are accelerating. We want to help bring our partners into the driver’s seat on their platform business. Our off-price channel Zalando Lounge offers consignment deals and takes care of order fulfillment. We are also creating a dedicated sales event for partners that will take place at the beginning of May so that they can release some of their immediate stock pressure.

Once stores open, discounts will likely be massive.

McKinsey: Let’s talk about marketing budget. Is this the time to increase it or to invest instead?

Stefan Edl: It depends on the brand. But generally, yes, it’s the time to invest—in your brand and your e-commerce marketing. Don’t neglect measuring the right KPIs, and make use of automation. Having systems in place provides these opportunities and companies should make sure that they set the right targets for campaigns.

McKinsey: Our analyses show that in from April to September, 35 to 40 percent of all sales will take place online. But the question arises: Is digital here to stay?

And looking further into the future, when will we have the first normal season again?

Stephanie Phair: Is digital here to stay? Absolutely. It was growing already, and this will likely accelerate it. I don’t think we will go back to normal and hope we don’t miss this opportunity to use consumer feedback to move the industry in the right direction and fulfill our missions.

Boris Ewenstein: I’m very excited about our completely new partners but also about customers who have never shopped with us or even shopped online before. People have said that our brand is geared toward younger shoppers, but this perception is now changing.

Normality for the industry’s mega-winners might arrive in spring/summer 2021, bringing them a more normal, plannable future. For smaller players, it’s more difficult.

Albert Serrano: It’s important to understand that the fashion industry is full of small brands and many will not survive, especially in countries where the market is not big enough. In Southern Europe, digital is not as big as it is elsewhere. The idea of going back to normal there will be different, and there will be fewer brands.

It’s important to understand the fashion industry is full of small brands and many will not survive, especially in countries where the market is not big enough.

Maximilian Bittner: A world where my parents, who are in their 70s, are asking to have Zoom chats with their grandchildren is a crash course in digitization. And once you’ve made new habits, they are hard to break. Are things going back to normal? I don’t know what normal is. Will we be able to travel internationally in the coming months? Will Chinese tourists come to Paris in the next six, ten, or twelve months? I doubt it. The new normal will be different.

Stefan Edl: More digital is a definite. People will also change their behavior and be more mindful about traveling, etc. But I’m looking forward to innovation: things are speeding up and companies are very open to developing new solutions.

When will we go back to normal? I hope it will be mid-2021, at least for Germany. Across the globe, we will see.


Summary of key lessons and best practices for thriving in the new normal:

  • Focus on and reemphasize your company’s mission. Consumers are looking for purpose in this world of uncertainty. Staying true to who you are as a brand is authentic and infuses your products with value.
  • Accelerate digital change. Consumer behavior will likely change in the long term, and online and social channels will pick up momentum even directly after the immediate COVID-19 crisis. It is important to reevaluate your company’s digital positioning, grow opportunities, invest in marketing, and find strong collaboration partners.
  • Reinfuse value in your products and avoid steep discounting through innovative approaches like upcycling, reusing items for different seasons, or using discreet off-price channels.
  • Push your company’s sustainability goals further as consumers are developing a heightened sense of environmental goals as we come out of the crisis.
  • Use this opportunity to reimagine what the fashion life cycle should look like in terms of speed, overproduction, and consumption to change things for the better.

Collection – Financial Modeling Case Study: OOVA

By ELIZABETH J. HOWELL HANANO, CFA

Full link: https://www.toptal.com/finance/financial-modeling/financial-modeling-case-study?utm_campaign=Toptal%20Finance%20Blog&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=91731126&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_hVwUD0EsurC2tMpM3bQfzHyCUuNM90Xv5Xd9jfMrZtGhAm-oMeGUCnHK-qrEW2bMTsf_ErakgAoUB_5rNxhr6VgqUmQ&utm_content=91731126&utm_source=hs_email

The following is a Toptal Case Study that details how one founder worked with a Toptal financial modeling consultant to bring confidence and certainty to her projections.

Problem: A founder trying to close a seed round needs financial projections based on research presented in a way investors understand.

Amy Divaraniya, CEO and co-founder of OOVA, created a product she knew the market needed – a fertility diagnostic kit that brought the accuracy of a clinic into your own home. Yet, while she was pitching investors trying to close her seed round, she found that the financial projections needed a fresh pair of eyes. Divaraniya recalls, “When financial projections came up in conversation, I felt they were weak. They weren’t backed up by data. Further, it was in a format I could understand, but it was something VCs were not used to seeing.”

While Divaraniya had great relationships with other startups, she couldn’t get her hands on a good template. “That’s the one thing nobody wants to share.” Even if she did, Divaraniya felt she didn’t have the background to make fact-based, reasonable assumptions. “What’s the going growth rate I should assume for legal fees? Taxes? What is a typical CAC for a company like ours? How are we different?”

Solution: A financial model with significant flexibility and logic, with every assumption based on research.

How Divaraniya Found the Right Consultant

Divaraniya had been working with a Toptal developer since 2018 and saw that Toptal also offered finance consulting. She decided it was time to pull the trigger so she began interviewing candidates.

The Toptal matching team selected two consultants with appropriate backgrounds, and Divaraniya chose Jeffrey Fidelman during the interview. “With Jeffrey, he understood what I needed. He’d ask, ‘Have you thought about these things?’ Everything he mentioned, someone had asked me about and I didn’t have well-fleshed out.”

He really understood what my need was, not what my ask was.

Quick Kickoff Process

Fidelman plugged himself into the workflow immediately. “The interview was toward the end of the week and over the weekend, he sent a sample of what a financial projection would look like. He responded to everything over the weekend, within a few hours.” They had a kickoff call on Monday and then communicated at least twice per week for the next few weeks. In about two weeks, Divaraniya had a working model.

Understanding the Bigger Picture, Not Just the “Ask”

The project could have ended there, but Fidelman kept asking questions that unveiled more holes that Divaraniya wanted to fill in her fundraising efforts. Further, Divaraniya realized she wanted to add flexibility to her model so she could see the impact of different strategies (e.g., various distribution models). While Divaraniya thought she just wanted a basic financial model, she ended up working with Fidelman for about 100 hours. In the end, she not only had a very flexible financial model, she had six reports of about 25 pages each backing up every assumption.

Snippet from Market Research Report

Snippet from Market Research Report

A Flexible Financial Model

At the time Fidelman was building out the financial model, both Fidelman and Divaraniya were still working out the optimal sales channel model for OOVA. “At the same time, we were still doing product development. The sales model kept changing. Should we have affiliate fees? One-time fees? Jeffrey was super flexible. No matter what I decided, we could still make it work with the model he created.” Fidelman ended up creating an assumptions tab that included the various sales methods Divaraniya was considering so she could simply plug and play when she decided on a model.

Market Research to Create Fact-based Financial Model Inputs

Your model is only as good as its inputs. Fidelman aimed to create a model that resembled the company as closely as possible. While the expense side was relatively straightforward, the topline figures took some research. Fidelman tapped his network to research questions like: What’s the average markup? What’s the size of the US fertility market? “Yes, it’s health technology, but it’s also consumer goods. So a lot of the research I did was relative to things like heart rate monitors, baby monitors, and contraceptives,” noted Fidelman.

Fidelman researched the unique market position of OOVA. “It’s tech-enabled, yes. But they’re still ovulation sticks so you’ll likely need to replenish them. Where would you find this OTC? Would it be in the Personal Care/ Family Planning section? Will it be behind the counter at the pharmacy? We had to really think about who we wanted to sit with.”

Results: A flexible financial model based on deep market research that aided OOVA in closing its seed round.

With a flexible financial model and market research in hand, Divaraniya successfully closed her seed financing round. “Conversations with investors were so much easier. During fundraising, I felt like I could firmly stand on my own two feet.”


OOVA (Client)About OOVA: OOVA is a fertility diagnostic company that spun out from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Using patent-pending biochemistry and artificial intelligence, OOVA learns a woman’s fertility profile by accurately measuring key hormones over time through daily urine samples. By monitoring this critical balance of hormones, OOVA can help a woman get pregnant, identify reasons she is having trouble getting pregnant, and even expose reproductive health issues like PCOS.

Jeffrey Fidelman (Consultant)About Jeffrey Fidelman: Jeffrey has been a trusted advisor for several years, focused on working with entrepreneurs and helping them build and grow their business, often from the ground up. He’s successfully helped entrepreneurs raise more than $1 billion. His ability to work across a wide variety of industries is the result of a diverse investment background. Freelancing enables him to work directly with leadership to achieve efficient and positive results.

Landscape – US–China blame game grates on Southeast Asia

Author: Hunter Marston, ANU

Full link: https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2020/07/22/us-china-blame-game-grates-on-southeast-asia/?utm_source=subscribe2&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=postnotify&utm_id=273577&utm_title=US%26ndash%3BChina%20blame%20game%20grates%20on%20Southeast%20Asia

2020 has been an extremely difficult year for Southeast Asia. Multiple countries are expecting an economic contraction as tourism and intraregional trade grind to a halt in the wake of COVID-19. China has donated enormous quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing equipment to the region, while the United States has directed roughly US$80 million in pandemic assistance to Southeast Asian countries. But rather than forging a global response to the pandemic, the two superpowers have resorted to blaming one another in an information war.Medical officers prepare to send boxes with protective suits and masks as
a donation for government, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in
Konawe, Southeast Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, 14 April 2020 (Photo:
Reuters/Antara Foto).

While Southeast Asian countries express gratitude to both superpowers for their assistance in combatting COVID-19, public attitudes reveal deeper frustrations than their political leadership is able to express. Southeast Asia has responded to the COVID-19 propaganda war between Beijing and Washington much like it has responded to South China Sea disputes — with little protest, even less unity and with almost no say over great power competition.

This division is largely due to differing perceptions of the threats and benefits posed by China. ASEAN states also differ in their capacities and willingness to resist China’s expanding influence. Despite the urgent need for unity and consensus, particularly with regard to rising tensions in the South China Sea, ASEAN responds to crises — from COVID-19 to maritime disputes — with lacklustre disarray.

After initially covering up the pandemic’s severity and spread within China, Beijing changed its tune to encourage a message of stability and responsiveness by February. By March Chinese officials were expressing solidarity with members of ASEAN (from whom they received initial pandemic assistance) through the provision of medical assistance. Around this time, China’s foreign ministry began disseminating a counter-narrative that the US military had brought COVID-19 to Wuhan. The Trump administration responded through US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who railed against the ‘Wuhan virus’ at the G7 meeting.

Despite China’s eventual success in containing the spread of the virus domestically, Beijing’s efforts to promote its response as a model for the world fell flat in many quarters of Southeast Asia. Southeast Asian responses to China’s handling of the crisis have been mixed. Despite a lack of democratic governance, most regional states cannot replicate Beijing’s use of authoritarian power to shut down entire provinces and monitor citizens’ movements due to limited government capacity.

China’s pandemic assistance has also been staggered, implying conditionality. Beijing swiftly provided aid to Cambodia and the Philippines, two countries with rulers who are overtly loyal to China. US partners such as Singapore and Vietnam didn’t receive protective equipment until May.

Like their European counterparts, Southeast Asian states have lamented China’s flawed PPE, with common reports of defective masks and testing kits. These reactions have deepened racial animosity towards China according to Nicole Curato. In the Philippines such resentment is linked to frustration over the perception that Chinese citizens are taking Filipino jobs. Indonesia has seen similar discrimination against Chinese communities.

Despite its best efforts to obscure the origins of the virus, Beijing has failed to deflect blame for the pandemic’s outbreak. Yet as Sebastian Strangio recently argued ‘Southeast Asian governments undoubtedly want answers about the origins of the virus and China’s bungled early response, but they have resisted being conscripted into a US-led fight with Beijing’.

Only Malaysia and Indonesia supported the Australian-led inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, drawing the ire of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Singapore and Vietnam, both of which closed their borders to travel from China early on in the pandemic, received stern warnings from Beijing. Meanwhile, the CCP lavished praise on Cambodia’s President Hun Sen for his steadfast refusal to stop travel with neighbouring China.

China’s opportunistic manoeuvrings in the South China Sea amid the virus have eroded the goodwill it earned from pandemic assistance to frontline states in Southeast Asia. ASEAN leaders have decried recent maritime provocations with thinly-veiled references to Beijing. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pursued entente with China and downplayed the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision in Manila’s favour regarding maritime features in disputed waters, voiced concerns about ‘alarming incidents in the South China Sea’ even as ASEAN states struggled to contain COVID-19.

Despite China’s initial missteps and bullying of its smaller neighbours, the United States has been unable to offer an appealing alternative during the crisis. The Trump administration’s inability to contain the pandemic at home has not gone unnoticed around the globe, and though Washington has provided significant aid to Southeast Asian states to fight the virus, its messaging has not clearly resonated. Illustrating the disconnect between resources and pandemic preparedness, Vietnam sent a large shipment of masks to the far wealthier but comparatively hapless United States.

Rather than openly criticise Chinese or US responses to the pandemic, Dan Slater argues that Southeast Asia has largely dealt with COVID-19 with ‘grim resilience’. While some regional governments have used the crisis to seize emergency powers and clamp down on political dissent, most have not concerned themselves with the broader information competition between the United States and China, but rather looked inwards as they have in past crises.

As US–China competition escalates from the pandemic to the South China Sea, ASEAN states find themselves with little influence over the great powers yet again.

Hunter Marston is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University.

Landscape – The Global God Divide

BY CHRISTINE TAMIRAIDAN CONNAUGHTON AND ARIANA MONIQUE SALAZAR

Full link: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/07/20/the-global-god-divide/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=39afb9f11f-Weekly_2020_07_25&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-39afb9f11f-400737085

People’s thoughts on whether belief in God is necessary to be moral vary by economic development, education and age

A mother and son pray at home during a live broadcast of an East Sunday service in Nairobi, Kenya. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)

What is the connection between belief in God and morality? And how important are God and prayer in people’s lives? Pew Research Center posed these questions to 38,426 people in 34 countries in 2019.

A map showing that majorities in emerging economies connect belief in God and morality

Across the 34 countries, which span six continents, a median of 45% say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. But there are large regional variations in answers to this question.

People in the emerging economies included in this survey tend to be more religious and more likely to consider religion to be important in their lives, and they are also more likely than people in this survey who live in advanced economies to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral. Differences occur within countries as well. In general, people who are relatively nonreligious are more inclined than highly religious people in the same countries to say it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person.

A chart showing that many say religion is important and God plays an important role in their lives, less consensus on belief in God and moralityDespite variances in religious observance, a median of 62% across the countries surveyed say that religion plays an important role in their lives, while 61% agree that God plays an important role in their lives and 53% say the same about prayer. Since 1991, the share of people who say God is important to them has increased in Russia and Ukraine, while the opposite has occurred over the same time span in Western Europe.

In the eight Western European publics surveyed, a median of just 22% say belief in God is necessary to be moral, while in the six Eastern European nations studied, a median of 33% share the same view. Prior research establishes the European continent as increasingly secular on the whole, though among Europeans, there are notable differences between Eastern and Western countries in attitudes toward religion and religious minorities.

Opinions on whether belief in God is necessary to have good values vary by region

A chart showing most in Western Europe say belief in God not needed to be moralOf all 13 countries surveyed in the European Union, Greece has the largest share of residents who tie belief in God to morality (53%), followed closely by Bulgaria (50%) and Slovakia (45%). Still, in many countries on the European continent, relatively few people say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral, including just 9% in Sweden, 14% in the Czech Republic and 15% in France.

Less than half in both Canada and the U.S. say belief in God is necessary to be moral (26% and 44%, respectively). (For more on religion in the U.S., go to “In a Politically Polarized Era, Sharp Divides in Both Partisan Coalitions.”)

By contrast, nearly everyone surveyed in Indonesia and the Philippines (96% each) draws a connection between belief in God and having good values. And nearly eight-in-ten (79%) in India say the same. But in East Asia, South Koreans are somewhat split on this question (53% say it is necessary, 46% say it is not), while smaller shares in Japan (39%) and Australia (19%) take the view that it’s necessary to believe in God to be a moral person.

Among those in the Middle East and North African nations surveyed, at least seven-in-ten in Lebanon (72%), Turkey (75%) and Tunisia (84%) think belief in God is necessary to have good values. Israelis are split on this question, with 48% of the population on either side.

Additionally, strong majorities in each of the sub-Saharan African nations surveyed say belief in God is necessary to be moral. Over nine-in-ten in Kenya and Nigeria (95% and 93%, respectively) connect belief in God with morality, while 84% of South Africans are of the same opinion.

Majorities in all three Latin American countries surveyed say that belief in God is necessary to be moral, with the highest share in Brazil (84%). Catholicism remains the largest religion in Latin America, and majorities of Catholics in all three nations surveyed think it is necessary to believe in God to be moral.

A table showing connection between belief in God and morality over timeStrikingly, both Russia and Ukraine have seen an evolution of opinion on this question, but in opposite directions. Russia has seen an 11 percentage point increase since 2002 in the share who say belief in God is necessary to have good values, while Ukraine has seen an 11-point drop. Aside from Russia, only two other countries – Bulgaria and Japan – have seen significant increases in the share of their publics who hold this opinion (17 points and 10 points, respectively). In addition to Ukraine, four other countries – Mexico, Turkey, South Korea and the United States – have seen significant decreases in the percentage of their publics who say belief in God is necessary to be moral.

Differences in views on belief in God and morality by GDP per capita

Overall, respondents in nations with lower gross domestic product are more likely to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral and have good values. In other words, there is an inverse relationship between GDP per capita and the percentage of the public that draws this connection between belief in God and morality. Statistical analysis shows a strong inverse correlation, with a coefficient of -0.86.

A chart showing countries with higher GDP per capita less likely to tie belief in God to morality

For example, in Kenya, which has the lowest GDP per capita of all 34 nations included in this analysis ($4,509 in 2019) 95% of respondents express the view that belief in God is integral to being moral.

A table showing those with higher incomes less likely to see belief in God as necessaryBy contrast, only 9% of respondents in Sweden – which has one of the highest GDP per capita of the nations surveyed ($55,815 in 2019) – say belief in God is necessary to be moral. This pattern is consistent with prior research that has found that Europeans tend to be less religious than people in many other parts of the world.

On an individual basis, those who earn at or above the median income threshold in most nations are significantly less likely to say that belief in God is necessary for morality. The largest difference between those at different income levels is in the U.S., where there is a 24 percentage point difference between those below the median income and those at or above it.

A chart showing wide age gaps in most countries on whether belief in God is morally necessaryMost countries surveyed display generational gaps on the question of whether belief in God is necessary in order to be moral and have good values. In keeping with past analyses that found younger adults are generally less religious by several measures, 18- to 29-year-olds are the least likely to say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. In a majority of the 34 countries surveyed, those ages 50 and older are significantly more likely than those ages 18 to 29 to think that belief in God is necessary for morality.

This is especially true in South Korea, where 64% of older adults take the position that belief in God is connected with morality, while only one-fifth of younger South Koreans say the same. The gap between adults ages 50 and older and adults ages 18 to 29 is equal to or greater than 20 percentage points in South Korea, Greece, Argentina, the U.S., Mexico, Poland, Japan, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

Age gaps on this question are present in nearly every region of the world. In Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey and Brazil, at least seven-in-ten people in every age group agree that belief in God is necessary to morality. However, in the Czech Republic and Sweden, no more than two-in-ten people in every age group take that position. In no country surveyed were 18- to 29-year-olds more likely than older age cohorts to say that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral.

More education connected with belief that God is not necessary to have good values

A table showing those with more education less likely to see belief in God as necessaryIn most European and North American countries surveyed, individuals with more education are less likely to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral. This pattern closely tracks the connection between income levels and the way people answer this question, because there is a significant correlation between educational attainment and earnings.

In addition, there are differences on this question among respondents at different education levels in several other nations included in the 2019 survey. In 24 out of the 34 countries surveyed, respondents with higher levels of education are significantly less likely to say belief in God is necessary to be moral. There are no significant differences among the other 10 countries included in the survey.

A chart showing that those on the ideological right more likely to say belief in God is necessaryIn 15 countries surveyed, those on the ideological right are significantly more likely to say it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values (ideology is self-reported and varies by country). Majorities of those on the right in the U.S., Greece, Argentina and Israel say that belief in God is necessary for morality; less than half of those on the left in those countries say the same. The left-right gap exceeds 30 percentage points in the U.S., Poland and Greece.

Though only about one-in-ten right-leaning Swedes say that it is morally necessary to believe in God, the right-left gap persists even in Sweden: Just 2% of those on the left say the same. Those on the right also are significantly more likely to say it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral in Hungary, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Germany, Israel, Brazil, Australia, South Korea, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Slovakia is the only country surveyed where those on the left are more likely to say that it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral: 49% of those on the left in Slovakia agree, compared with 33% of those on the right.

The importance of religion varies around the globe

A chart showing Europeans somewhat mixed on the importance of religion, but overall less committedIn most of the countries surveyed, more than half of the public says religion is either “very important” or “somewhat important” in their lives. However, Europeans generally show less religious commitment on this measure than people in other regions.

When asked about the importance of religion in their lives, majorities in 23 out of 34 countries say religion is very or somewhat important to them. This includes nine-in-ten or more in Indonesia, Nigeria, Tunisia, the Philippines, Kenya, India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon.

Majorities in several of these countries have particularly high levels of religious commitment, saying religion is very important their lives. Such attitudes are common in Indonesia (98%), the Philippines (92%), Tunisia (91%), Brazil (84%), India (77%), Turkey (71%), Lebanon (70%) and all African countries surveyed – 93% in Nigeria, 92% in Kenya and 86% in South Africa.

Meanwhile, the European countries in the study tend to have much smaller shares who say religion is either very or somewhat important in their lives, including 22% of adults in Sweden, 23% in the Czech Republic, 33% in France and 39% in both the Netherlands and Hungary.

In multiple European nations, pluralities say religion is “not at all” important in their lives. This is the case in the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, where adults are more likely to say religion is not at all important in their lives than to choose any other answer option.

On the other hand, more than six-in-ten respondents in Greece, Poland and Italy say religion is very or somewhat important in their lives. More people in Greece say religion is at least somewhat important to them (80%) than in any other European country. Lesser majorities in Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania (each at 55%) and Bulgaria (59%) say religion is at least somewhat important to them.

More say God plays an important role in life than say the same about prayer

A chart showing that in most countries, a majority say God plays an important role in their lifeWhen asked separate questions about the roles that prayer and God play in their lives, more respondents say that God is important than say that prayer is important, though strong majorities in half of the countries surveyed say that both are important to them. Across 34 countries, a median of 61% say that God plays an important role in their lives, compared with 53% who say that prayer is important in their daily life.

Just as respondents in wealthier countries tend to disagree that it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person, people in wealthier countries generally say that God and prayer are not especially important in their lives (For more on advanced and emerging economies, see Appendix B). People in emerging economies are more than twice as likely as people in advanced economies to agree that prayer is an important part of daily life. Nine-in-ten or more respondents in all the emerging economies surveyed (except for Ukraine) say that God plays an important role in their lives. By contrast, less than half of respondents in 11 of the economically advanced countries surveyed consider God to be important in life. Similarly, while a median of 41% across these advanced economies say that prayer is an important part of daily life, 96% of those in emerging economies say that it is.

A chart showing religiously unaffiliated people are much less inclined to see God as important in their livesIn some countries, respondents are less likely to say that prayer is an important part of daily life than they are to say that God is important in their lives. For example, 71% of Israeli respondents say that God is important in their life, while 54% say the same about prayer. Muslim Israelis drive much of this sentiment. Among Muslim Israelis, 96% say God is important in their life, compared with 66% of Jewish Israelis; 81% of Muslim Israelis say prayer is important, compared with 50% of Jewish Israelis.

Views on whether God plays an important role in life differ substantially based on religious affiliation as well. Not surprisingly, in most countries relatively few religiously unaffiliated people (those who say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”) agree that God is important in their lives. Still, around three-in-ten religiously unaffiliated people in Argentina and the U.S. say that God is important to them, and a majority of religiously unaffiliated people in Mexico say that God plays an important role in their lives.

There is near unanimous agreement that God is important in life among people of all major religious affiliations in Brazil, the Philippines and Kenya, as well as among all Muslim and Christian respondents in Nigeria.

The rising significance of God after the dissolution of the Soviet Union

A table showing Importance of God has declined in many European nations since 1991, but has increased in former Soviet UnionFollowing well-documented trends that trace the decline of Christianity in Western Europe, the share of Europeans who say that God plays an important role in life has declined since 1991. Spain, Italy and Poland had the most dramatic decreases, with declines of 26, 21 and 14 percentage points, respectively. This trend is mirrored in many other European countries, including Lithuania. Since the collapse of the USSR, Lithuania has seen a 12 percentage point drop in the share of its public that feels God plays an important role in their lives.

At the same time, other former Soviet republics where religion was harshly repressed or effectively banned during the Soviet period have experienced an increase in the percentage of people who say God plays an important role in life. Both Ukraine and Russia have experienced double-digit increases in the share of people who agree that God is important to them. In Bulgaria, a former satellite state of the USSR, 41% said in 1991 that God was important in their lives. Today, a majority of Bulgarian respondents (55%) express that view.

Similar trends hold for those who say prayer is an important part of their daily lives.

Note – Blooloop weekend briefing: London Resort plans | Elon Musk’s brain chips | Disney deepfakes

Theme parks

The London Resort will begin a public consultation from 27 July to 21 September, with construction expected to start in 2022.

According to media reports in Japan, a $1.2 billion theme park is planned for Yokohama, near Tokyo. The operator of the attraction, which will be similar in size to Tokyo Disneyland, will be an unnamed Hollywood studio.

Disneyland has unveiled Mickey’s interactive water feature, dubbed ‘Ink & Paint’, which is coming to the Disney Vacation Club tower at Disneyland Hotel. ‘Ink & Paint’ uses water jets that squirt and appear to ‘paint’ ink splats

Xiangjiang Joy City Snow World, boasting a giant indoor snow centre and a water park on the roof, has opened in the Chinese province of Hunan. The snow centre features a snow playground, skiing, skating, and snow sliding.

India is investing heavily in tourism projects, including an energy park at Koradi, a Buddhist theme park at Futala, and a tourism circuit in Saurashtra. Koradi and Futala are located in Maharashtra.

CLYMB, Ferrari World and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi are set to reopen after months of closure with extra safety precautions in place.

Museums

Celtic FC is moving forward with its plans to build a hotel, museum, shop and ticket office located near Celtic Park in the Parkhead area of Glasgow. The new documents attempt to resolve a planning condition provided by the council.

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum, located in southwest downtown Colorado Springs, is opening to the public on July 30, with tickets going on sale on July 22.

Plans have been submitted by JKMM Architects for planning permission for the new expansion at the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki.

Blooloop, in association with Gallagher & Associates, has launched the first Blooloop 50 Museum Influencer List. Nominations are now open until August 31.

Zoos and aquariums

The Pairi Daiza Resort is offering visitors the chance to enjoy an immersive overnight stay in its themed accommodation, which offers unique views of walruses, bears, wolves, penguins and tigers.

Technology

Attractions continue to use innovative drive-through or drive-in solutions during the coronavirus crisis, with a floating movie theatre in Paris and a drive-through art experience in Rotterdam.

Disney has reportedly joined the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign, pausing its advertising spending on Facebook and Instagram over their handling of hate speech throughout July 2020.

Disney is committed to making deepfakes more realistic than ever with higher resolution, and its face-swap tech is closer to being used in big-budget movies and TV shows.

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s new company, is working on a brain chip that could let users stream music directly to their brain and manipulate emotions. This chip could offer the ultimate personalised visitor experience for the attractions industry.

Brands

Peanuts Worldwide has collaborated with SN Garden to open South Korea’s first Snoopy Garden. This garden mixes natural beauty with the popular brand to create a relaxing environment.

Other attractions

Therme Group has appointed Richard Land as Chief Development Officer. Land will manage the company’s UK projects, including Therme Manchester which is on track to open in 2023.

Dubai-based real estate developer Emaar has abolished the job titles of all its staff, including that of its chairman Mohamed Alabbar. The company will instead focus on ‘culture and talent’.

blooloop V-Expo

Exhibit at blooloop V-Expo to reach new markets with our content focused opportunities. With our news background over 15 years, we truly understand the power of online content. Hosted by Merlin Entertainments, the blooloop V-Expo is a high-level, content-driven event, delivered by industry leaders. Find out more about how our exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities here.

In depth

The Bourne Stuntacular brings an exciting new adventure to Universal Orlando Resort MORE

Milwaukee County Zoo looks to the future with new habitats MORE

Going undercover at the International Spy Museum MORE

Enhancing guest immersion using audio storytelling MORE

Reopening outdoor play in the COVID-19 era MORE

Note – Asia Times: When it rains in China, it pours

Torrential downpours are putting stress on China’s key infrastructure, and that’s adding to the nation’s wider geopolitical problems

If coronavirus has been a distraction from worries about the climate, the recent floods in China have put paid to that. Unseasonal torrents of rain have reminded us that there are bigger processes shaping our world. Not that that offers any consolation to a country that’s under pressure economically and geopolitically.

The official arrival of the rainy season in China this week was greeted by much of the country with a soggy shrug: huge swathes of the world’s second-largest economy was already underwater after record rains hit areas upstream in the previous weeks. River banks have burst, thousands of square kilometres of agricultural land is now untillable and city water defences are being threatened.

Following warnings last month, focus has been trained largely on the gigantic Three Gorges Dam, which holds back billions of liters of surging Yangtze River water from some of China’s most important industrial and financial regions downstream. It also generates hydro-electric power for millions of homes and businesses. Such is its importance that the dam been included in a list of projects deserving of emergency funding under a US$266 billion bond issuance program, writes Chris Gill.

Beijing has admitted, however, that the 2.4-kilometer edifice “deformed slightly” after the floods, writes Frank Chan. The official Xinhua News Agency quoted the facility’s operator as saying that some nonstructural, peripheral parts of the dam had buckled when the flood from western provinces including Sichuan and Chongqing peaked at a record-setting 61,000 cubic meters per second.

Although the flood eased later, more rains have since pounded those provinces at a time when all the Yangtze’s major tributaries are already inundated. The headwaters are poised to reach the dam over the weekend, adds Frank Chen. 

Fan Xiao, chief engineer with Sichuan’s Provincial Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, who also writes a column in the Chinese National Geographic, is pessimistic.

“The dam can only temporarily intercept flooding upstream, but it can do nothing to the flooding from heavy rains in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze,” he said.

With millions of people likely to perish or be left homeless if the dam bursts, it’s an obvious strategic target of China’s enemies, among them Taiwan. Our contributor explains Taipei possesses missiles that could easily reach the dam and take it out in just two strikes.

As the integrity of one major engineering achievement momentarily dictates millions of people’s futures, a more modest construction not too far away has become the focus of the nation’s political present.

Beijing ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu in a tit-for-tat retaliation for the White House’s closure the Chinese equivalent in Houston. The initial move by the US marked a dramatic escalation in diplomatic tensions between the feuding superpowers.

The move came as the world’s two biggest economies cross swords on a growing number of fronts and highlights yet again the difficulties of getting two obstinate powers to cooperate. But Ng Weng Hoong wonders what the benefit of friendship with China would be. If Beijing’s experience in dealing with other “friends” – including India and Russia – is any guide, finding any positives might be difficult, Ng writes.

The point may be moot, anyway, if US President Donald Trump loses the November election to Democratic rival Joe Biden, as looks likely from the incumbent’s poll ratings. For that reason, writes David Goldman, China may choose to play the latest standoff cautiously, holding out for a change in the Oval Office and a new approach to the nations’ strained relations.

Note – AngelList: AI wrote this newsletter

Welcome to our robot overlords

The internet is swooning over OpenAI’s new artificial intelligence API. It’s called GPT-3, and it’s a big deal.

GPT-3 is basically an autocomplete. But it doesn’t just finish your sentences— it writes entire paragraphs or essays for you. And it’s essentially omniscient.

Most of today’s AI models focus on prediction. Give a model some text, and it’ll classify it as spam or not spam. Give it an image, and it’ll tell you what kind of object it is. This same prediction technology is used in self-driving cars: provide a LIDAR feed, destination, and a map, and an autonomous vehicle algorithm will decide whether to accelerate, brake, or turn.

GPT-3 is different because it creates.

GPT-3 is a text-generation API. You give it a topicand it spits back a (hopefully) coherent passage. It learns over time, tracking not just what it thinks your topic is about, but how you talk about that topic. The results are surprisingly good.

In fact, we just generated the rest of that sentence with GPT-3:

 

Alternate text

The implications of the technology are huge.

Text generation is foundational to how we communicate online. And GPT-3 is really, really good at it. Here are some examples of how people are using GPT-3:

This person used GPT-3 to automatically generate a cover letter from a job description and a resume.
This person used GPT-3 to generate React components based on descriptions of a UI.

The implications are also scary. Combine GPT-3 and a great voice API, and suddenly we’re not going to know whether we’re talking to a robot or a human. Seed GPT-3 with propaganda and it’ll generate infinite amounts of fake news, making it difficult to tell what’s real or not.

OpenAI was founded to develop friendly AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole. As they birth one of the most powerful artificial intelligences in existence, we hope they live up to their mission.

Funding and acquisitions

Hippoa home insurance startup and competitor to Lemonade, announced a $150 million Series E at a $1.5 billion valuation. The company currently sells policies in 29 states and plans to go public in 2021. It’s also on track to earn over $100 million in revenue this year due to low interest rates, which has resulted in more people purchasing homes.

Arrive Outdoorsan LA-based gear rental startup, raised $4.75 million in seed funding. Arrive allows customers to rent outdoor gear for a variety of different activities, including skiing, camping, and hiking. 

Qumuloa Seattle-based data intelligence company, recently raised a $125 million Series E. The round has propelled them into unicorn status, with a new valuation of $1.2 billion. Launched in 2012, Qumolo provides solutions to help customers manage large amounts of file data.

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