Men’s Makeup Goes Mainstream With CVS Rollout

Men’s makeup is going mainstream in America.

CVS, the country’s largest drugstore chain, is making the biggest bet on the category in the U.S. yet, by adding a cosmetics line from Stryx, a brand launched last year, to 2,000 stores (about a quarter of its total). The retailer is giving more legitimacy to a small, but growing, group of products that had mainly been sold through high-end stores.

With this move, CVS likely has potential customers such as Max Belovol in mind. The 23-year-old grew up wearing dazzling eyeshadows and foundation for figure-skating competitions, but didn’t become truly comfortable with wearing makeup during work until the coronavirus lockdown.

“It’s a Zoom effect,” said Belovol, a law student based in Atlanta, who prefers concealer and its subtle look. “People don’t have to worry about how they look at work. You can paint your nails, and nobody on the Zoom call is going to know.”

Belovol is part of a growing shift—about one third of U.S. men under 45 said they would consider trying makeup, according to a survey by Morning Consult in September. Chalk it up to quarantine boldness, like Belovol, and the continued evolution of traditional masculinity that has already created a $9.3 billion U.S. men’s grooming and skincare market.

“It’s simple for cosmetics—men are a growth industry,” said Ben Parr, co-founder of marketing firm Octane AI, who points to the millennial generation’s embrace of men wearing makeup as a major catalyst. “You’re seeing that impact starting now.”

Getting into a nationwide chain marks a quick ascent for Manhattan-based Stryx. Just three years ago, 25-year-old Devir Kahan woke up on his wedding day with a pimple and couldn’t find a quick fix. The episode convinced him that he’d discovered an underserved market—guys looking for a product to make their skin look better, especially during a breakout.

Kahan co-founded Stryx in 2017 and has raised about $1 million from investors, including venture firm XRC Labs. Now its concealer tool ($19.99) and a new gel cleanser ($11.99) will be in CVS locations alongside shaving cream and razors. It’s the “ultimate validation,” said Kahan, also chief executive officer of Stryx, and will help normalize a stigmatized practice that’s flown under the radar for years.

“It’s not about a full face of makeup or color,” Kahan said. “We’re talking about improving blemishes, fixing up under-eye bags, a zit—all these sorts of things.”

For decades, men’s grooming in the U.S. equated to having a tight shave free of cuts and razor bumps, a practice that revolved around just two products: shaving cream and after-shave from giant brands, like Gillette and Old Spice. That Mad Men-era mentality began fading at the turn of the century when more men embraced fashion and skincare. The term metrosexual went mainstream.

In response, brands introduced a broader array of products, spanning wrinkle creams, moisturizers and hair serum. The market has grown about 13% over the past five years. However, revenue is projected to decline by 1% in 2020 due to softer razor sales as beards remain popular, according to Euromonitor International.

In the U.S., where male ruggedness is part of the country’s DNA, online search data shows a surging interest around men’s cosmetics. Queries for “male makeup looks” jumping almost 80% in April compared to about about a year ago, according to data from market analytics firm Moz. Other top requests include “covering redness,” “hiding acne” and “hiding bags under eyes.” America appears to be catching up to other countries, like Japan, where there are fewer taboos around men wearing makeup.

Makeup is a “natural extension” of men enhancing their beauty regimens over the past two decades, according to Parr, the marketing executive. It’s also bound to gain popularity, as society continues moving away from gender norms, he said.

“Men’s grooming has seen incredible growth during this stay-at-home period,” CVS said in a statement. Adding Stryx is part of a strategy to go after that market by bringing in more emerging brands that focus on guys. “Men are a top customer focus at CVS Beauty.”

Even though Stryx is pitching a product traditionally made for women, its presentation is stereotypical male. The packaging is black, grey and dark blue. The concealer tool is pitched as sleek and discreet and could be easily be mistaken for a black pen, clip included. A photo on Stryx’s website rests the makeup on a wooden desk, next to a leather-bound notebook and rocks glass half-filled with booze. A slogan reads: “Handsome made easy.”

“We didn’t just take a women’s product and slap a ‘For Men’ label on it,” Stryx says on its website. “Our products are meticulously formulated for male skin.”

Formen, a men’s cosmetics company founded in 2010, uses an antlered deer head—like you’d find stuffed on a wall—as its logo. A fluid foundation comes in a black vile shaped like a skull. The brand, found mostly in Canada, also promises discreteness, and touts the sturdiness of its concealer’s heavy weight aluminum container.

Axel Getz, a 24-year-old environmental consultant, became a makeup convert last year after a beauty-store clerk convinced him to try a tinted moisturizer from a women’s line. His skin turned “angelic,” the New York resident said, and a day later friends complimented his appearance without a single mention of the makeup.

“A lot of guys just never give themselves the chance, and that goes for men of all sexualities,” said Getz, who had that same hesitancy until he tried that tinted moisturizer.

“From that point on, I was like: ‘Oh damn, I’m sold on this.’”




J.K. Rowling Writes New Response To Fans Doubling-Down On Anti-Trans Views

J.K. Rowling is under fire again after she doubles down on her anti-transgender views. Rowling is most known for her Harry Potter series, which of course was turned into the popular film series starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. While her Harry Potter characters are beloved by fans around the world, Rowling has received a lot of hate these past few years due to changing Harry Potter canon and for her views on the LGBTQA+ community.

Rowling has been called out for being a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and for her Anti-Trans comments in the past, but the most recent drama started at the beginning of June. After sharing the article “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate”, Rowling commented, “People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”. Despite receiving backlash on the internet, Rowling defended her tweet by reiterating that she supports the trans community but has also been contacted by women she said are, “justifiably terrified by the trans activists.” Now Rowling is in hot water again for similar reasons.

In her latest response on Twitter, Rowling clarified why she liked a tweet comparing hormone prescriptions to anti-depressants. One Twitter user called out Rowling for supporting the claim that anti-depressants and hormone prescriptions were, “Pure laziness for those who would rather medicate than put in the time and effort to heal people’s minds.” Rowling reiterated her support of trans-women while also explaining again that she has taken medication for her mental health. Her long Twitter thread,explains why she believes hormones and surgery may not be the best option for people struggling with mental health. 

Throughout her thread, Rowling sites a handful of articles and studies to claim that using hormones for gender transition can lead to serious side-effects, which she believes many trans-activists ignore. Rowling also explains in her thread that she believes hormone therapy is “a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people,” reiterating her stance that hormones can cause problems with “fertility and/or full sexual function.” This most recent development, along with her previous comments saying, “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction” has caused many Harry Potter fans to turn against the once-beloved writer. 

Many Harry Potter stars have apologized and condemned Rowling’s comments, with Radcliffe, Watson, Grint, and Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne all standing with the trans community. The more Rowling speaks out on this subject, the more it seems to tarnish her reputation as more fans and organizations turn against her. Warner Bros. has issued a statement in the past on Rowling’s views, but with her most recent comments, the fate of Fantastic Beasts 3 is unclear, especially since Redmayne has condemned her beliefs and because the first two films have already received their fair share of controversy.

Source:Screen Rant

The Athenian Plague, a Cautionary Tale of Democracy’s Fragility

In 430–429 B.C.E., a mysterious epidemic ravaged Athens, plunging the city into chaos.Art work by Michiel Sweerts
“Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now,” Pericles, the great Athenian statesman, declared in his funeral oration, a celebrated speech in the winter of 431–430 B.C.E. He wasn’t wrong. We continue to admire Athens’s architectural splendor, stage its tragedies and comedies, and marvel, especially, at much that its democracy (the world’s first) wrought: participatory government, equal treatment before the law in private disputes, a distaste for class consciousness, juries made up of citizens, and tolerance about others’ personal lives.

But soon after Pericles gave that prideful speech, the original democracy got sick. In 430–429 B.C.E., Athens was devastated by a mysterious epidemic, which reared its head again a few years later. Tens of thousands of people died, perhaps as many as one-third of Athenians. Society was ravaged, and the military, which was in the early stages of a brutal twenty-seven-year war against Sparta, was debilitated for many years. The catastrophe contributed to Athens’s shattering defeat, in 404 B.C.E., by the loutish Spartans, who tore down the city’s walls and imposed a short-lived but murderous oligarchy. Among those who died from this plague were Pericles and two of his sons.

Millennia later, the plague reminds us that the legacy of the eternal “wonder” of Athens contains within it a cautionary tale: the failure of democratic society to cope with a lethal epidemic. The model of how democracy began is also a study in how it can founder and fall.

Most of what we know about the plague comes from the brilliant Athenian historian Thucydides, widely viewed by classicists as the single best source on Athens in the age of Pericles. He would not be surprised to find his book being read today, during the coronavirus lockdown. “My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public,” he wrote, with zero modesty, “but was done to last forever.”

Thucydides was a worldly Athenian general, whose “History of the Peloponnesian War” is a cold-eyed account of the ruinous conflict between democratic Athens and militaristic Sparta. The book, although unfinished, established him as the founder of the systematic study of international relations. It was translated into English in 1628 by Thomas Hobbes, and has since been cited by heads of state from Woodrow Wilson to Xi Jinping.

In a book packed with battle, conquest, and massacre, Thucydides’ account of the plague is especially horrifying. A seasoned, hard-bitten warrior, he was, for once, at a loss: “Words indeed fail one when one tries to give a general picture of this disease; and as for the suffering of individuals, they seemed almost beyond the capacity of human nature to endure.” Thucydides himself got the plague but survived, as he coolly notes in passing.

Nobody knows what the plague was, although classically minded epidemiologists still debate its cause. It might have been smallpox, a fungal poisoning called ergotism, or something worse. In 1985, a New England Journal of Medicine article argued that it was a combination of influenza and staphylococcus, dubbed “the Thucydides syndrome.” A 1994 article in the American Journal of Epidemiology rejected that diagnosis, proposing, instead, typhus, anthrax, or perhaps “a potentially explosive respiratory agent.”

Whatever it was, it was a horror. As Thucydides recorded with clinical detail, people suddenly felt their heads begin to burn, their eyes redden, their tongues and mouths bleed. Next came coughing, stomach pain, diarrhea, and “vomiting of every kind of bile that has been given a name by the medical profession.” The skin turned reddish with pustules and ulcers, while the stricken plunged into the city’s water tanks trying to slake an unquenchable thirst—possibly contaminating the water supply. Most died after about a week. The city was blanketed with corpses.

Athenians were already packed into the city as a wartime measure, and frightened people fleeing the countryside crowded it even further, creating conditions we now know are ripe for contagion. Athenian doctors bore the brunt: “Terrible . . . was the sight of people dying like sheep through having caught the disease as a result of nursing others.” Neither medicine nor quackery helped. Nor did consulting the oracles or praying in the temples, futile pieties which Thucydides dismissively noted were soon discarded.

Pericles’ stirring funeral oration is among the most famous passages of Thucydides. The statesman praised Athens for its freedom and democratic deliberations, while defending its increasingly oppressive empire. (Athens was only a democracy for adult, male citizens of Athenian descent, not for women or slaves, or for foreigners living under imperial rule.) This message has been remembered: during the First World War, London buses carried posters with passages from the speech; in 2012, a memorial in central London to the R.A.F. Bomber Command was engraved with a quote from it.

But Thucydides’ chronicle of what happened just after Pericles’ funeral oration is unsparing—and should be as enduring as the speech itself. “The catastrophe was so overwhelming that men, not knowing what would happen next to them, became indifferent to every rule of religion or of law,” Thucydides wrote. Orderly Athenians, no longer expecting to live long enough to face punishment for crimes, plunged into “a state of unprecedented lawlessness.” They could not even bother to lay their dead to rest respectably. Instead, survivors looked for already burning funeral pyres, adding friends and relatives to the blaze. And with the spectre of mortality looming at all times, they lived only for “the pleasure of the moment and everything that might conceivably contribute to that pleasure. No fear of god or law of man had a restraining influence.”

Many Athenians blamed the calamity on their Spartan enemies, spreading dark rumors of poisoned reservoirs. Yet Thucydides swiftly dismissed such speculation. After all, Athens was a naval power, an imperial capital, and a trading city whose fleets ranged across the ancient world; the contagion, he wrote, probably spread from Ethiopia to Libya to Persia before finally reaching Greece, where Athens—a global port for commercial ships—was its first stop.

And, once it arrived, its damage knew no bounds, doing terrible harm to democracy itself. In Plato’s “Republic,” written several decades after the plague, Socrates warned that democracy would decay into tyranny; Thucydides recorded it sliding into discord, folly, and demagoguery. Only someone of Pericles’ intelligence and integrity, Thucydides wrote, “could respect the liberty of the people and at the same time hold them in check.” His death left Athenian democracy in the hands of self-serving scoundrels such as Alcibiades, who later promoted an oligarchic coup, and bellicose demagogues such as Cleon, whom Thucydides scorned as “remarkable among the Athenians for the violence of his character.”

For anyone hopeful that democracy is the best system for coping with the current coronavirus pandemic, the Athenian disaster stands as a chilling admonition. As Plato knew, political regimes are as fragile as any other human structure, and all fall in time. The plague devastated Athens for many years—Thucydides reckoned it took fifteen years to recover—but his account suggests that the damage to democracy lasted far longer. The stakes of our own vulnerability are no different.

This is a sobering history, but, reading Thucydides’ account of the plague while under lockdown, I sometimes found the frosty old historian oddly heartening. He was too scrupulous to blame the epidemic on the Spartans—an ancient reproach to those today who try to pin blame on foreign rivals. Politicians in search of scapegoats would be wise to recall Pericles, who said, before the plague, “What I fear is not the enemy’s strength, but our own mistakes.”

Thucydides maintained a rationalist’s sensibility even in wartime and plague. Unlike some Athenian dramatists, he saw neither metaphorical significance nor divine retribution in the epidemic. The plague was just a plague. Surviving the disease, he carefully “set down the symptoms, knowledge of which will enable it to be recognized, if it should ever break out again.” His ancient empirical analysis of catastrophe offers a jot of hope, if not wonder: for as long as there have been plagues, there have been people, scared but tenacious, using reason to try to learn from them.

Source:The New Yorker


A police officer is being mocked online for crying over a McMuffin, and it shows how fast-food chains are getting pulled into the debate on policing in America

In a Twitter video that has over 1.1 million views, a police officer starts crying while telling viewers that she was made to wait for her McDonald’s meal after ordering ahead.

A Twitter user who posted the video wrote, “Stacey who has been a cop for 15 yrs went to @McDonalds She paid for it in advance and this is how she gets treated for being a cop [sad face emoji, angry face emoji] Come on America. We are better than this.”

The police officer, identified by the Twitter user as “Stacey,” films herself describing her experience waiting a long time for her McMuffin meal.  In the video “Stacey” notes that she has paid ahead of time “so people don’t pay for my stuff because I just always like to pay for it myself.” She appears to be referencing the common practice of police officers being given free food and drinks at restaurants.

When “Stacey” is finally given her coffee without her meal, she tells the employee who hands it to her, “Don’t bother with the food because right now I’m too nervous to take it. Right now I’m too nervous to take a meal from McDonald’s because I can’t see it being made.”

The Twitter user who posted the video also posted the phone number for the McDonald’s that “Stacey” went to, encouraging others to call and express their outrage. Some Twitter users commented in support of the police officer, with a few even calling for a boycott of McDonald’s.
Others lampooned her for crying over what they perceived to be a trivial matter.

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that fast food chains have been pulled into the policing debate that currently has America’s full attention.

Earlier this week, three New York police officers went to the hospital after consuming milkshakes from Shake Shack which they said contained suspicious substances. Police unions and associations condemned the incident as a targeted attack on police officers. But an NYPD investigation into the incident found no criminality by Shake Shack’s employees, instead discovering that a cleaning solution hadn’t been thoroughly rinsed from a milkshake machine.

In January, a cop resigned after admitting he had written “f—ing pig” on his own McDonald’s receipt and blaming an employee for it. In December, Starbucks addressed allegations from police officers who said they were denied service in Riverside, California, saying the officers were made to wait “five minutes.”

Fast-food chains are being increasingly influenced by consumers to take a stance against police brutality. While many have released statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, some activists are asking for companies to take more concrete action to combat systemic racism.

Source:The Business Insider

Zynn, the Hot New Video App, Is Full of Stolen Content

Multiple influencers told WIRED that their videos had been copied from other platforms and reposted to Zynn without permission.

LATE LAST MONTH, a mysterious new video app called Zynn began appearing at the top of app store charts, beating out household names like Instagram and YouTube. Zynn is a near identical copy of TikTok, and both apps are the product of Chinese tech giants. The biggest difference is that Zynn, in an effort to attract new users, is currently paying people in the United States and Canada small sums to watch videos and invite their friends to join. The tactic has seemed to work: Zynn has already been downloaded over 3 million times, according to the market research firm Sensor Tower, and ranked number one this week on Apple’s list of the most popular free apps.

As of Tuesday, however, Zynn is no longer available for download from the Google Play Store, and a link that previously went to the app’s listing is now dead. It’s unclear why the app was removed, and Google did not immediately comment. A spokesperson for Apple said it was looking into Zynn, but did not have any additional information as of publication. Twitter and Instagram accounts claiming to represent Zynn posted a statement Tuesday afternoon acknowledging the app had been removed, and said the company was “in communications with Google and working to fix this ASAP.”

Meanwhile, Zynn is filled with videos that appear to be stolen from creators on other social media platforms, including TikTok celebrities with massive followings like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. Many of the clips are aggregated by accounts centered around a single theme, like “pranks.” Other videos appear on lookalike profiles impersonating individual creators. Four influencers who spoke to WIRED said videos they originally published to TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube were uploaded to Zynn without their consent, under accounts they didn’t open.

“I didn’t create this,” Max Mazurek, a Polish dancer and model with almost 190,000 TikTok followers said after WIRED showed him a Zynn profile using his name. The account has nearly 25,000 followers and featured many of the videos Mazurek had previously uploaded to TikTok and other platforms. “It’s not my account. I can’t download this app in Poland,” he said.

The launch of a new social media platform often sets off a rush to grab famous or valuable usernames, and it’s not uncommon for scammers to impersonate celebrities on social media. Reposting other people’s content without credit has also long been an issue online. What’s strange about the Zynn accounts, however, is how many of the copied videos have timestamps that date back months before the app went public.

Zynn officially launched in the Apple App Store on May 7, and was first installed by Google Play users on May 5, according to Sensor Tower. Many of the impersonator accounts reviewed by WIRED, including the one under Mazurek’s name, uploaded their first posts on February 19. The significance of that date isn’t clear, and Zynn did not respond to a request for comment sent to an email address listed on its website. Its Community Guidelines state that it respects intellectual property rights, and forbids users from posting “anything that you do not own or do not have permission from the owner to share.”

“I feel that it’s honestly sad that they are stealing creators’ content and impersonating people,” said Chloe, a TikTok influencer with almost 18,000 followers. Until WIRED brought it to her attention, Chloe says she was unaware that a Zynn profile had been created using the same handle she uses on Instagram and TikTok, @ebonychlo. The account also began posting videos taken from her official social media profiles on February 19, months before Zynn became available for download.

Tiffany Hunt, a makeup artist with over two million followers across TikTok and Instagram, said she also had no idea someone was impersonating her on Zynn. “Never heard of this app, certainly never posted to it,” she said. A Zynn profile with a name similar to the one Hunt uses across social media, @illumin_arty, began posting videos taken from her legitimate accounts on the same date as the others: February 19.

Zynn is brimming with similar profiles that appear to exclusively post content taken from elsewhere on the internet, particularly TikTok. Many videos feature watermarks or other visual elements indicating they were lifted from other platforms. While digital creators do often repost videos across different sites, that possibility seems unlikely in cases where the videos are time-stamped from before Zynn’s launch.

Since its launch, an avalanche of suspicious accounts capitalizing on the app’s reward system have also appeared on Zynn. In addition to earning points by watching videos, which the app says can then be redeemed for cash or gift cards, users can also earn money when their friends enter their referral code at sign-up. Critics have called this system a pyramid scheme; at the very least, it seems to encourage scammy behavior. An account impersonating TikToker Addison Rae, for example, uploaded a video on May 25. “Hey y’all it’s Addison!!” the caption reads. “Decided to join Zynn to earn some quick cash. Use my code DJMA8VS to receive a special offer of $20!!!” The comments are filled with hundreds of similar offers, promising instant money or follow backs. “Let’s get rich together,” dozens of different accounts exclaim.

In an additional twist, Zynn appears to have been created to compete with TikTok by a rival of its parent company, ByteDance. Zynn’s listed developer, Owlii, is reportedly owned by Kuaishou, a billion-dollar Chinese company. Kuaishou is the second most popular video platform in China after Douyin, ByteDance’s domestic version of TikTok. The companies are two of China’s most powerful tech giants, and have a longstanding rivalry. Both apps have hundreds of millions of users each, with Douyin being more popular in cities and Kuaishou in rural areas. Now, they’re fighting for the upper hand in the West.

Kuaishou and ByteDance compete closely in China, but the latter is currently doing far better abroad. While an international version of Kuaishou’s app is used in some countries like Brazil, ByteDance has succeeded in making TikTok popular around the world. The app has now been downloaded over two billion times, and has become a major cultural force in the United States, on par with American platforms like Instagram and YouTube. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

Kuaishou did not respond to two requests for comment, but a spokesperson told the tech news site The Information last month that Zynn was tailor-made “for the North American market.” So far, the app has earned millions of downloads. But it’s not clear Zynn’s fast rise means lasting success—especially if people realize they can find much of its content elsewhere.

Do “Murder Hornets” Really Exist?

The answer hinges on a peculiarity of the Japanese language.

In the Old Testament, God wrought ten plagues upon humanity. In modern times, we have our hands full with just one: covid-19. Or so we thought, until it was reported, in the May 2nd edition of the Times, that a new pestilence is afoot. “Murder hornets” with “mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins,” we were told, were descending upon North America from their native habitat of Asia. Within twenty-four hours, the hashtag #murderhornets was trending on Twitter, fuelled by all the excitement befitting what sounds like a newly discovered species of homicidal Pokémon. Sensing a rare non-virus viral story, major media outlets ranging from the Washington Post to Fox News pounced. They began amplifying the insect threat with their own details, many of them simply rephrased from the original piece; by the middle of last week, Jimmy Fallon was interviewing a “murder hornet” in costume on “The Tonight Show.” (“Look, we’re just regular old bees who happen to make things fall asleep forever.”)

This is a familiar story of how trending topics drive the modern news cycle, but it’s also a testament to the power of a catchy label. Murder hornet is the nickname bestowed upon Vespa mandarinia, the already formidable-sounding Asian giant hornet, which is native to large swaths of East Asia. The Japanese call it ōsuzumebachi: literally, giant sparrow-hornet. They aren’t actually sparrow-size; the biggest specimens come in at just under two inches long. But that is cold comfort when one hears their menacing, resonant buzz approaching, which is something that occurs with disconcerting regularity if you spend time outdoors during the summer months in Japan.

The monsoons and humidity that can make Japan difficult to bear during the summer also make it a haven for insects and other creepy-crawlies. Some of them grow to truly enormous proportions. To the sparrow-hornet you can add startlingly large cockroaches, enormous orb-weaver spiders, and centipedes that can reach six inches in length. So, too, palm-size rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles. Unlike the dreaded hornet and its ilk, these gentle giants are beloved traditional playthings. The males use their horns to wrestle each other away from sources of food and from potential mates. Collected by children and squared off in sumo-style matches, these giant armored beetles provided the cultural template for the virtual battles that Japanese video-game designers would perfect in the eighties and nineties.

I know these things both because I love bugs enough to have flirted with majoring in entomology during my university studies, and because I have lived in Tokyo for close to twenty years. Even in the city, one has occasional run-ins with giant hornets during the summer months. Here, they are rightfully feared even without nicknames, and incidents involving them regularly make headlines. Like all wasps and other hornets, and unlike honeybees, giant hornets have smooth stingers that allow them to attack repeatedly. The Asian giant hornet’s barb packs an especially potent poison, and, every year, dozens of Japanese lose their lives as a result of anaphylactic shock. Asian giant hornets tend to nest in hidden places, such as the hollows of trees or ground burrows. Removing, or even simply approaching, these hives is dangerous work. Their stingers easily penetrate standard beekeeping suits, necessitating thick protective gear and specialized equipment such as vacuums to suck the creatures out of the air as they mass to protect their homes.

For all their ferocity, however, I had never once heard them referred to as “murder hornets” in Japanese. The first time I saw the name was, as for many Americans, when I read it in the Times that weekend. The phrase immediately piqued my interest. The closest analogue I knew, satsujin bachi, is simply “killer hornet,” Japan’s matter-of-fact equivalent of the English-language “killer bee.” Even that usage was largely relegated to tabloid news and variety shows. I had never heard a hornet called a “murderer”—how could it be? A murder requires premeditation. We don’t speak of bears or tigers murdering people. Why, suddenly, hornets?

I had a guess. Linguistically, the common Japanese word satsujin—written with the characters “kill” and “person”—does not clearly distinguish between a person being “murdered” or “killed.” This ambiguity means that if one looks up satsujin in a Japanese-English dictionary, they will be presented with a list of options that includes the words “murder,” “manslaughter,” and “killer.” It is up to the translator to select the proper word based on context. I strongly suspected that this linguistic subtlety had been lost in translation. For, as terrifying as the giant hornet may be, I have never heard anyone in Japan portray it as possessing homicidal intent. Curious, I approached Junichi Takahashi, a Japanese entomologist, who was quoted in the Times’ original report. When I explained my mission, it seemed that Professor Takahashi didn’t want to stir the hornet’s nest with another interview, but he did aver that “giant, killer, and murder are general names used by the media.”

Not everyone is happy about the dramatic nicknaming of the creatures. “They are not ‘murder hornets.’ They are just hornets,” the Washington Agriculture Department entomologist Chris Looney told the Washington Post. “It’s kind of a sensational term,” agreed the Texas A&M entomologist Molly Keck in an interview with a San Antonio television station. The linking of the foreign-born insects with a scary word, in this case “murder,” skirts dangerously close to uncomfortable territory: those of a certain age will recall the “Africanized killer bee” scare of the seventies, with all of its race-baiting overtones, and, more recently, the Trump Administration’s strenuous efforts to relabel the coronavirus as a specifically “Chinese” virus.

The phrase “murder hornets” leapt into the lexicon mere weeks ago, but its rapid percolation throughout the mediasphere evokes the way new dangers spread so fluidly through a globalized modern world. The ōsuzumebachi hornets have troubled the residents of Japan since time immemorial. That these tiny terrors have suddenly appeared on the American side of the Pacific is only the latest curveball from Mother Nature, and another reminder that the borders we surround ourselves with, whether lines drawn on a map or nicknames given to things that frighten us, are meaningless to natural threats like insects or viruses.

The shocking jobs report was good news, but it also proved the US economy is still a mess

US President Donald Trump, with Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow (L), holds a press conference on the economy, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 5, 2020. 

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the May jobs report, the latest snapshot of the US labor market. The report contains reason for optimism in the face of the crippling pandemic and reveals how much more support is needed to ensure a return to full employment.

Devil in the details

The big headline was what would be in any other circumstance a massive surge in employment: the monthly employer survey showed 2.51 million more employees on payrolls than there were in April when economic effects of COVID-19 were largest.

This gain came as a shock given that economists had projected a drop of more than 7 million jobs in the month. The gloomy predictions were based primarily on recent initial unemployment claims data. And the estimates seemed logical since the number of Americans receiving unemployment insurance (including those covered by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which extends benefits to more Americans than the traditional unemployment insurance program) continued to rise in May.

But survey-based approach of the BLS showed what is, on the face of it, a much brighter picture. There are, however, some caveats. In the report, the BLS emphasized that responses to its surveys appeared to be making things look a bit better than they otherwise would. BLS economists estimated that the 13.3% unemployment rate was about 3 percentage points lower than it would be if not for irregularities in survey response patterns.

Additionally, while the overall employment number did bounce, the improvement was entirely because the number of people reporting that they were temporarily laid off declined dramatically. The tally of temporary, likely pandemic shutdown-related layoffs dropped by 2.72 million from April’s report

That implies rising layoffs that are more permanent, and more damaging long-term; these aren’t jobs that are temporarily off the table because of COVID-19 business closures, but are being eliminated entirely. 2.3 million workers were reported as unemployed due to permanent job loss in the month of May, an 80% increase versus February.

There are two key factors driving re-hirings of temporarily laid-off workers: reopening of economies across the country and cash from Congress’ small business lending program — the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). For now, it’s impossible to say how much each impacted hiring, but the timing of the two slugs of PPP lending passed by Congress since March and reopenings around the country make some combination of the two inevitable.

The backdrop remains grim

Increasing employment is good news, even if it’s incomplete. But the total number of Americans employed is down 12.8% from its February peak, the headline unemployment rate is still in the double-digits (and likely understated), and sundry other indicators of labor market weakness abound.

A good example is the prime-age employment-to-population ratio. This measures the number of employed workers as a percentage of total population between 25 and 54 years old.

That metric reached the highest level since June of 2001 in February, with 80.6% of prime age workers employed. In April, it plunged to 69.7%, the lowest since 1975, and it sits at 71.4% in May, lower than any period other than April since the Jimmy Carter administration.

Further, more than 10 million Americans report they are working part-time for economic reasons, a record number. This category of workers wants full-time work but for a range of reasons beyond their control can’t find it right now.

How high and how far?

After the past two recessions — the dotcom bubble crash and the financial crisis — the prime age employment ratio was never able to return to its peak set in the 1990s. After the most recent recession, it took nearly a decade to get back to the mid-2000s peak.

The grinding recoveries after the past two recessions underscore the need for a strong fiscal and monetary policy response to help boost the fortunes of American households. But with the economy recovering, fiscal policymakers in Congress and monetary policymakers at the Federal Reserve will be tempted to declare job done. That would be a massive mistake.

Among other reasons, a large factor in the long, slow recovery following 2008 was the close to a decade of debt concern and deficit cuts that dragged out the recovery. Lawmakers can’t make the same misstep again.

Returning labor markets to robust and full employment must be pursued aggressively, and it’s disheartening to hear White House economic advisors make the case against supporting workers and bipartisan groups in Congress prepare to tighten fiscal policy. It’s not enough to declare mission accomplished after one jobs report that showed less than 13% of the jobs lost in March and April have come back.










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Why the N.B.A. Is Planning on Going to Disney World

ESPN Wide World of Sports, a sprawling 220-acre complex at the mega-resort in Florida, is poised to become the center of the basketball universe.

Singing pirates and spinning teacups. Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles. Impossibly chipper employees chirping, “Have a magical day.” Stroller gridlock.

Pre-eminent sports venue?

Walt Disney World is known for many things, but few people would immediately associate it with athletics, unless you count endurance walking or Super Bowl winners gleefully exclaiming their intention to visit, a marketing gimmick that started in 1987. Tucked behind oak trees and sabal palms on the southern edge of the Florida mega-resort, however, is ESPN Wide World of Sports, a 220-acre basketball, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, baseball and competitive cheer complex that serves as an overlooked Disney World engine — and is expected to soon become the capital of the basketball universe.

The N.B.A. has been in negotiations with Disney to restart its season by holding games and practices at the complex. Players, coaches and staff would also stay at Disney World, where Disney owns 18 hotels, ostensibly providing a protective bubble from the coronavirus. The yellow-walled sports complex, which has twice hosted the Jr. N.B.A. Global Championship, has been vacant since March 15, when Disney World closed because of the pandemic, causing Disney to furlough more than 43,000 Florida workers.

“We obviously have the capacity,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, said by phone last week, adding that he was “very optimistic” about making a deal with the league. Chapek noted that the ESPN complex has “turnkey” broadcasting capabilities, including an ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic connection to ESPN’s headquarters in Connecticut. Disney-owned ESPN is a top broadcast partner for the N.B.A., which suspended its season on March 11.

 The talks with Disney involve a late-July restart to the season. “We hope to finalize those plans soon,” Mike Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said in an email on Monday.

Here are some things to consider as Disney and the league complete an agreement:

Everything about Disney World is colossal — at 25,000 acres, it is nearly twice the size of Manhattan — and the sports facility is no exception. Three arenas can be configured into 20 basketball courts, according to Faron Kelley, vice president for ESPN Wide World of Sports, Water Parks and runDisney. That would allow the N.B.A. to play two games at once (no fans in the stands) and still have a practice space. The compound also offers restaurants, a nine-lane track and field complex, 17 grass playing fields and a 9,500-seat baseball stadium, which the Atlanta Braves used for spring training for more than two decades. (They decamped last year for a new park near Sarasota, Fla. Disney has not secured a new tenant.)

“Disney-style customer care, of course, has been drilled into everyone who works there,” Richard Lapchick, director of the DeVos Sport Business Management program at the University of Central Florida, said by phone on Saturday.

Relax. There are no referees wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

“You will only see a nod and a wink to Disney characters,” Kelley said. Outside the baseball stadium, for instance, there is a statue of Mickey winding up to pitch. His feline nemesis, Peg-Leg Pete, wields a bat nearby.

Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, and Robert A. Iger, Disney’s executive chairman, at Disney World in August 2019.

The league considered a number of locations, including IMG Academy, the Endeavor-owned sports complex in Bradenton, Fla., but two spots stood out on the list: Disney World and Las Vegas. In addition to safety — creating that bubble — costs came into account. It was certainly not lost on Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, that Disney is the league’s biggest customer, paying an analyst-estimated $1.4 billion a year to broadcast games on ESPN and ABC. Disney World also has fewer opportunities for players to get into off-court trouble.

Silver and Robert A. Iger, Disney’s executive chairman, who has been leading the talks from the Disney side, have what you might call a bromance. Last summer, they posed for photos together — along with Mickey and Minnie — at the opening of the NBA Experience, a two-story interactive attraction at Disney Springs, an outdoor Disney World shopping mall. “Disney creates memorable experiences better than anyone,” Silver said at the time.What is the benefit for Disney?

Disney World’s four major theme parks will reopen in mid-July, but attendance will be severely restricted, at least at first. A deal with the N.B.A. would give the resort a much-needed shot in the arm. It would put employees back to work, offer the invaluable marketing message that the property is safe to visit and generate facility fees and hotel spending. At a minimum, analysts said, the N.B.A. will spend tens of millions of dollars.

But the real value for Disney would come from ESPN, which has been starving for live sports to broadcast. Michael Nathanson, a media analyst, recently estimated that ESPN would lose $481 million in ad revenue if the N.B.A. did not complete its season and playoffs.

Lapchick called the pending deal “a huge win-win” for the league and Disney.

Fans have been having fun imagining how Disney World lodging might be doled out. Should the highest-ranked players get the most luxurious digs, like $1,150-a-night lake-view villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian? One blog suggested that the Knicks pitch tents at Fort Wilderness, the resort’s $102-a-night campground. Ouch.

Disney and the N.B.A. have not commented, but there is no chance that players will be sprinkled across a dozen hotels. The league will use one or two. The 443-room Four Seasons is high on the draft board; it sits inside a gated, ultraexclusive area near the center of Disney World called Golden Oak.

M.L.S. has also been talking to Disney about return-to-play scenarios, but haggling within the league over timing and pay has created speed bumps.

An initial proposal had teams sequestering at Disney World starting early this month. They would practice for a few weeks before resuming play into August. Now the league — after pushback from the M.L.S. Players Association — may have some teams regroup in their home markets before holing up at Disney World in early July for a tournament lasting several weeks. A league spokesman had no comment.

M.L.S. would bring at least 1,200 people to the resort. One possible living quarters: Coronado Springs, a 2,345-room Disney hotel that typically hosts conventions. It underwent a megawatt renovation and expansion last year. Coronado is also well contained; there are no adjoining hotels, as is the case elsewhere at Disney World.

ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision hold soccer broadcast rights. M.L.S. has been shut down since March 12.

Disney World, about 20 miles southwest of Orlando, opened in 1971 with one park (the Magic Kingdom) and added two more parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, in the 1980s. Most of the ’90s were about attracting people to fill them — especially nontraditional visitors. Disney Vacation Club, time-share condos aimed in part at empty nesters, opened in 1991. A weddings and honeymoons division opened at the resort in 1992.

And the first Disney World marathon took place in 1994, sparking a year-round runDisney business. The Wide World of Sports Complex opened in 1997 to tap into the youth sports industry, which was evolving far beyond Little League. Disney saw an opportunity to collect fees by hosting tournaments, fill hotel rooms, sell theme park tickets and merchandise and deepen teenagers’ affinity for its brand.

“You have the young man or young lady who is the athlete, and then you have the trailing siblings, and then you have mom and dad, sometimes grandparents who come,” Kelley said.

Kelley wouldn’t provide any financial information or assess the pre-pandemic health of the sports tourism market. But he estimated that the complex attracted about two million people last year, up from 1.2 million in 2007. To compare, the Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s most popular theme park, attracts about 21 million visitors annually.

Source:The New York Times