Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Foxconn May Produce Electric Vehicles in Wisconsin: Live Updates


Credit…Johnson Lai/Associated Press

The Taiwanese electronics behemoth Foxconn, which is aiming to become a contract manufacturer of electric cars, is considering a plant in the United States for production of its first battery-powered vehicles, the company’s chairman said on Tuesday.

Foxconn is weighing whether to use its facility in Wisconsin or one of its plants in Mexico to make its clients’ vehicles, Young Liu, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said at a news briefing in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.

Foxconn, best-known for making iPhones for Apple, has moved eagerly to expand its car business as the world shifts away from internal combustion engines. Last month, it signed an agreement with the California-based start-up Fisker to develop a new electric vehicle. The two companies said they would aim to start jointly producing cars in 2023, with a goal of eventually making more than 250,000 of them a year.

On Tuesday, Mr. Liu emphasized that Foxconn had not made a final decision about where to manufacture cars for Fisker or any other potential partners.

Foxconn has taken its time figuring out what to produce at its site in Wisconsin, a reflection of the complicated economics of manufacturing in the United States.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in 2018, President Donald J. Trump said it would be the “eighth wonder of the world,” as a manufacturer of flat-screen TVs. But those plans have stalled, and the company will announce what it decides to make in Wisconsin — whether electric cars or something else — before July, Mr. Liu said.

In October, Foxconn unveiled a kit of technology and tools aimed at helping automakers develop electric vehicles. It also said it was aiming to release a solid-state battery by 2024. Many companies are investing in the technology behind such batteries, which would allow electric cars to travel farther and be charged more quickly than current batteries.

“It’s just the beginning of this E.V. era,” Mr. Liu said. “We have to be ready for that.”

President Biden is scheduled to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden plans to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which contains an assortment of measures aimed at helping small employers and their workers endure the pandemic’s economic shocks.

The aid bill created a $29 billion grant fund for restaurants and set aside additional money for several relief programs run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses that the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.

But the Biden administration’s most sweeping small-business initiative has been hindered by problems. Last month, the administration announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that were intended to get more money to freelancers, gig workers and other self-employed people.

Women and minority owners are much more likely to run tiny businesses than larger ones, and they were disproportionately shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program under earlier rules that calculated such companies’ forgivable relief loans based on the size of their annual profit. The Biden administration’s more forgiving formula lets those businesses instead use their gross income, a switch that significantly increased the money available to many applicants.

But the change was not retroactive, which has set off a backlash from the hundreds of thousands of borrowers who got much smaller loans than they would now qualify for. Many have used social media or written to government officials to vent their anger.

JagMohan Dilawri, a self-employed chauffeur in Queens, got a loan in February for $1,900. Under the new rules, he calculates that he would have been eligible for around $15,000. That wide gulf frustrated Mr. Dilawri, who has struggled to keep up on his mortgage, car loan and auto insurance payments since the pandemic took hold.

“When the Biden administration came, they said, ‘We will be fair with everyone,’” he said. “But this is unfair.”

Small Business Administration officials have said that only Congress can fix that disparity. Some key Democratic lawmakers say they are willing.

“I am aware of the situation facing these sole proprietors and am working to ensure they get the funds they are entitled to under the Biden administration’s rule changes retroactively,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House Small Business Committee. “My staff and I are working with the S.B.A. and congressional Republicans to find a path forward, whether that be through agency action or additional legislation.”

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Signal, the encrypted chat app, had stopped functioning in China as of Tuesday, in what appeared to be a block of one of the last major foreign messaging services still available in the country, where the internet is closely controlled.

Users in China on Tuesday morning reported widely that the app had stopped working. A New York Times test of the app in Shanghai and Beijing confirmed the reports. Signal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The outage appeared likely to be a government-led block. The app continued to work when users in the mainland logged on to the service via a virtual private network, software that routes their connections outside the country.

Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” which blocks anyone but the sender and receiver from reading the contents. The app has soared in popularity globally in recent months a fears have grown over data harvesting from large internet companies.

The likely block further limits communication options on China’s internet, where the government has built a sophisticated system of censorship and surveillance to control speech. Over the past 15 years, Beijing has steadily winnowed down the major foreign communication tools available to regular Chinese users. Services like Google’s Gmail, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter are all blocked.

In recent years, Signal had grown a modest following in China among activists, journalists, lawyers and others as China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.

For years, it had been a parlor game among its users in China to guess why Signal, long a well-known tool for secret communications, remained unblocked. One theory was that it helped the authorities find who was trying to hide from government spies because, when first downloaded, the app sends the new user a text message that they could possibly track. Still, China’s government often waits for apps to reach larger scale before banning them. Last month, the social media site Clubhouse fell afoul of the blocks after it soared in popularity.

A sign posted outside a vaccination center in Rome notified people that use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been temporarily suspended.
Credit…Ettore Ferrari/EPA, via Shutterstock

European and Asian stocks rose on Tuesday, while futures indicated the S&P 500 index would open slightly lower than its record high from Monday.

A survey of investor confidence in Germany’s economic outlook rose in March, for the fourth consecutive month. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.5 percent and the DAX index of Germany’s 30 largest companies by market value gained 0.6 percent.

Stock traders in Europe appeared to be overlooking the recent turmoil about the vaccination rollout. Several European countries, including Germany, France, Denmark and Norway, have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports that some people had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots after receiving the vaccine. AstraZeneca has said there is “no evidence” of a link and the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have warned against an exodus from the vaccines and disrupting the rollout.

Ten-year government bond yields held steady in the United States and Britain ahead of central bank policy decisions this week. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will announce its policy stance and publish new economic forecasts. Analysts at BNP Paribas said the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, faces a tricky balancing act: acknowledging the improved economic outlook and increase in bond yields, while defending the central bank’s easy-money policy stance.

On Thursday, the Bank of England will announce a rate decision. Economists are not forecasting a change in policy.

U.S. retail sales data will be published on Tuesday and economists surveyed by Bloomberg are forecasting a 0.1 percent decline in February following a 5.3 percent jump in January that was fueled by stimulus checks.

  • Shares in NatWest, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland, fell 1.8 percent after Britain’s financial regulator said it has begun criminal proceedings against the bank for failing to properly follow money laundering rules.

  • Oil prices fell. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, dropped 1.5 percent to about $64.50 a barrel.

  • Volkswagen shares rose 5.5 percent after the German carmaker said on Monday that it was going all in on electric cars, with plans to build battery factories in Europe and work out how to drastically cut charing times.

The Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, and owner, Louwenda Kachingwe, in their new flower shop next door.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Hatch is alive, albeit as a different place.

Louwenda Kachingwe used ingenuity and a bit of good fortune to take advantage of federal money and discounted leases to not only hold on but expand his Oakland, Calif., bar, Jack Nicas reports for The New York Times.

He lobbied city officials to close down a lane of traffic and then twice built a patio in its place. (Days of rain ruined the first patio.) He and staff built the takeout window, rewrote the menu, moved a projector and screen outside, and bought an outdoor sound system off Craigslist.

He said the Hatch was now better suited for a post-pandemic world, with more outdoor space and a takeout operation. It also suddenly has a few sister businesses.

Last month, he and the Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, opened Pothead, a flower and wine shop, next door to the Hatch. They also took on a third lease in the empty space next to Pothead as a place to build larger floral arrangements for events, to stage a new operation making bottled cocktails and sauces, and to sublease the storefront to some friends’ apparel business.

Such a bet in the midst of a pandemic was bold, but Mr. Kachingwe saw opportunity. He had just received his second $72,500 forgivable loan from the federal government, and his landlord was desperate. So Mr. Kachingwe negotiated a deal that gave him access to the three adjacent storefronts for $7,500 a month, or 20 percent more than what he was paying for only the Hatch before the pandemic. The landlord said they would assess the arrangement at the end of April.

  • Viewership for the Grammy Awards on CBS on Sunday fell to 8.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen, the television research firm. That’s a new low for the show and a 53 percent drop compared with last year’s show, which drew 18.7 million viewers. The previous low was 17 million viewers in 2006, when Green Day won record of the year.

  • The future for the travel industry is looking a little brighter as more Americans get vaccinated, states open up and resorts sell out, the nation’s largest airlines said Monday. Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Industrial Conference on Monday, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, said he was starting to see “real glimmers of hope” as ticket sales accelerated. At the same conference, the United Airlines chief executive, Scott Kirby, said his company would end the month having taken in more cash from operations than it spent.

Amazon’s warehouse in Chester, Va., where a union effort tried to organize about 30 facilities technicians in 2014 and 2015.
Credit…Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Over two decades, as Amazon mushroomed from a virtual bookstore into a $1.5 trillion behemoth, it forcefully — and successfully — resisted employee efforts to organize. Some workers in recent years agitated for change in Staten Island, Chicago, Sacramento and Minnesota, but the impact was negligible.

The arrival of the coronavirus last year changed that, reports David Streitfeld for The New York Times. It turned Amazon into an essential resource for millions stuck at home and redefined the company’s relationship with its warehouse workers. Like many service industry employees, they were vulnerable to the virus. As society locked down, they were also less able to simply move on if they had issues with the job.

Now Amazon faces a union vote at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. — the largest and most viable U.S. labor challenge in its history. Nearly 6,000 workers have until March 29 to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. A labor victory could energize workers in other U.S. communities, where Amazon has more than 800 warehouses employing more than 500,000 people.

“This is happening in the toughest state, with the toughest company, at the toughest moment,” said Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University. “If the union can prevail given those three facts, it will send a message that Amazon is organizable everywhere.”

But a unionization effort in Chester, V.a., which The Times reconstructed with documents from regulators and the machinists’ union, as well as interviews with former facilities technicians at the warehouse and union officials, offers one of the fullest pictures of what encourages Amazon workers to open the door to a union — and what techniques the company uses to slam the door and nail it shut.

The tactics that Amazon used in Chester are surfacing elsewhere:

  • The retail workers union said Amazon was trying to surveil employees in Bessemer and even changed a traffic signal to prevent organizers from approaching warehouse workers as they left the site.

  • Last month, the New York attorney general said in a lawsuit that Amazon had retaliated against employees who tried to protest its pandemic safety measures as inadequate.

It wouldn’t have been a Carl Hiaasen column if it didn’t go on the attack. In his Miami Herald farewell on Friday, Mr. Hiaasen took aim at the sorry state of local news coverage.

“Retail corruption is now a breeze,” he wrote, “since newspapers and other media can no longer afford enough reporters to cover all the key government meetings.”

Mr. Hiaasen, 68, joined The Miami Herald as a reporter in 1976 and started his column in 1985. Along the way he became a best-selling author, writing about Florida’s underbelly and environmental devastation in comic novels like “Tourist Season,” “Sick Puppy” and “Strip Tease.” Now he will no longer have a weekly venue for skewering government officials, business leaders and the various absurdities of life in the Sunshine State.

“Nobody becomes a journalist because they yearn for mass adoration,” he wrote in his final column. “Donald Trump didn’t turn the public against the mainstream media; the news business has never been popular.”

Mr. Hiaasen also used his goodbye to pay tribute to his brother, Rob, a journalist who was killed in a gunman’s rampage at The Capital Gazette in Maryland in 2018. He also thanked The Herald’s “talented, tenacious” editors and reporters.

The paper was owned by the newspaper publisher Knight Ridder when he started working there. In 2006, the McClatchy Company, a family-run newspaper chain, bought Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion. Last year Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey hedge fund, bought McClatchy, and The Herald along with it, in a bankruptcy auction.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Hiaasen said he had lasted 45 years at The Herald because it was “a good fit.”

“I always felt privileged to be able to write for a paper that I read as a kid growing up here in Florida and to be writing in a place that I care about,” he said. “I was lucky to be at this paper as a reporter in the ’70s and ’80s, when Miami was catching fire. It was a hell of a newspaper, hell of a news town and I was lucky to be there.”

He said he planned to do more fishing but will continue writing books. “Nobody really retires as a writer,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “You keel face forward into the keyboard one day and that’s it.”

He added that the hardest thing to watch during his career was the shrinking of the local news industry, saying, “There are fewer and fewer boots on the ground to do the grunt work required to keep democracy informed.”





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