By Michelle Martin BERLIN (Reuters) - From charging slaughterhouse workers for their knives to compensating staff with tanning salon vouchers, German employers are coming up with creative ways to avoid paying a new minimum wage, angering unions. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government introduced Germany's first nationwide wage floor of 8.50 euros per hour early this year. The law was the brainchild of the Social Democrats (SPD), who made it a condition of joining Merkel's coalition in 2013. The centre-left party argued that it was a necessary response to the sharp rise in low-wage jobs over the past decade. Some 3.7 million people were expected to benefit. But in the months since it went into effect it has become clear that not everyone is taking home more pay. The NGG food and catering union is fielding up to 400 calls a day from people who say their employers are finding ways to circumvent the law. "We're seeing some employers display an awful lot of creativity to get round paying the minimum wage," Burkhard Siebert of the NGG said. He said some workers were no longer getting paid for overtime. Others are being charged for drinks and clothing they are required to wear on the job. German Labour Minister Andrea Nahles has admitted to implementation problems but said she had not yet heard anything to suggest the law may need to be changed. The far-left Linke party say it was "botched" and contains too many loopholes. Butchers have complained that they must pay a fee of up to 100 euros per month to use knives they need to cut meat. Bakers say they are being paid in buns and bread instead of cash. Bernd Bischoff, who runs an advice center for contractors in the city of Oldenburg, said the meat industry was especially affected. Workers from southeast Europe were being charged more for accommodation to offset the cost of higher wages. Last week a survey by pollster Infratest dimap showed 15 percent of Germans had heard about employers sidestepping the minimum wage from friends and family. Some 3 percent said they were directly affected. Among them is 66-year-old Juergen Schluens, who used to earn around 6.30 euros per hour delivering papers in the village of Witzwort close to the North Sea. Once the new wage law took effect, he says his boss reduced the premium he received for starting work at 4.45 a.m. and demanded that he get the job done in half the time. "The minimum wage of 8.50 euros per hour was paid on paper but my boss said I could only take 52 minutes to do my round," he told Reuters. "I needed about 94 minutes -- and I should know as I've been doing the job for nearly 11 years." He wrote a note of complaint to his boss and says his contract was subsequently terminated without notice, prompting him to take his employer to court. Schluens' employer did not respond to a request for comment. Unions report cases of bakeries, a solarium and a gym giving staff coupons to use on site rather than paying the minimum wage. A baker who refused such an offer was told to give the vouchers to her husband, the NGG said. Other workers have had their holiday entitlement reduced or premiums for working nights, holidays and Sundays slashed. Firms breaking the law face fines of up to 500,000 euros. But it's not bad news for everyone. Uwe Schlegel, a Cologne lawyer, advises small firms on how to get around the minimum wage legally. Demand for his services is "extremely high". (Editing by Noah Barkin and Catherine Evans)
- Associated Press
William Nylander tied it with 1:28 left in regulation and scored 1:06 into overtime to give the NHL-leading Toronto Maple Leafs a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night. Nylander took a pass from Auston Matthews in the extra period and beat goalie David Rittich high for his seventh of the season. “Nice to be able to score,” Nylander said.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will send more than 25 million masks to more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in order to reach some Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19. Why it matters: Many studies show wearing tightly fit masks, and even double-masking, is effective to curb the spread of COVID-19 when social distancing is not possible.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeDetails: Masks will be free to recipients, made out of well-fitting cloth in children's and adult sizes and can be washed for reuse.The federal government will pay $86 million for the American-made masks.The administration is taking the more targeted move to send to vulnerable populations after considering whether to send masks to all Americans, a notion that’s been shelved for now, Bloomberg first reported. The big picture: Despite declines in coronavirus cases and deaths and increased vaccine intake across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still urges Americans to wear masks. What they're saying: "Months ago, sending a mask to every American would have been a good idea," Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus coordinator, said in a press conference. "Today, masks are widely available in many different shapes and sizes, yet still not all Americans are wearing masks regularly and not all masks are equal. Many Americans need access to a mask that provides effective protection," he added.Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Prices have been anchored at £9.99 for years, and Spotify says the situation isn't likely to change.
- Reuters Videos
Every morning before their shift at a Kajima construction site, workers check their vital signs.Location: SingaporeAll it takes is a 45-second scan of his face using an app developed by Singapore start-up Nervotec. The app takes note of heart rate,oxygen levels, respiration rate, and even stress levels using Artificial Intelligence-based technology.So how does it work?The Nervotec app uses remote photoplethysmography (rPPG) and AI to capture and analyze the user's vitals.The smartphone camera measures the differences in the reflectivity of light that hit the user's skin, which corresponds to the different pulse rates of the body. Computer vision and predictive analysis AI then monitor the user's face and conclude the readings for their vital signs.Here’s Nervotec Founder Jonathan Lau.(SOUNDBITE) (English) NERVOTEC FOUNDER JONATHAN LAU, SAYING:" What we do, is we use the white light that's now reflecting off my face, we apply smart computer visions techniques to first identify the face, then filter this white light into the channels we're interested in, and then deriving the vital signs from those channels."Kajima has been using Nervotec's app at its work sites in Singapore since December 2020 - to complement daily temperature screenings.It’s part of a government-initiated program which provides companies with technology still in their trial stages to help them adjust to the new norms.Kajima’s senior manager Tan Kee Chuan says the Nervotec app is his company’s "first line of defense" against another health crisis.(SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR ENGINEER AT KAJIMA, TAN KEE CHUAN, SAYING: "The application acts as a first line of defense by scanning the workers just by using the handphone. It is very convenient provided that the worker adheres to this scanning on a daily basis. So we do have our own temperature monitoring system installed as a second line of defense, to reject all of the personnel who are deemed unfit for work." Similar apps that utilize smartphone cameras to scan users' vital signs do exist…but Nervotec claims that its technology goes one step further by using the data to offer a "diagnosis" of the user's health condition.Professor Chwee Teck Lim is the director of the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Health Innovation and Technology. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE'S INSTITUTE OF HEALTH INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY, PROFESSOR CHWEE TECK LIM, SAYING: "So what Nervotec is proposing could potentially be a game-changer, they are trying to use the smartphone camera coupled with an AI-driven app, to capture an image of the face then thereafter be able to measure the vital signs. So currently, I think they claim that they can obtain accuracy of down to two beats per minute for heart rate, and also two percentage in terms of oxygen saturation. But it remains to be seen, I think we still have to go through this FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulatory test before we can determine how accurate this technology is."The app is still under review….but Lau said there is significant interest in the technology. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NERVOTEC FOUNDER JONATHAN LAU, SAYING: "We see the most traction coming from healthcare providers, both private and public, more than the authorities, because the ability to use rPPG and to have constant remote patient monitoring without the need for additional manpower or equipment is really a big problem solver for a lot of healthcare providers, globally."
- Architectural Digest
Made in the USA and seriously meant for cuddlingOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
More than 300 COVID-19 vaccines in Tarrant County went to waste because of the winter storm that left millions in the state without electricity.
- Business Insider
Texas Lt. Gov. says that people getting huge energy bills 'gambled on a very, very low rate' - but suggests they won't have to pay the full amount
Texans on variable-rate energy deals were faced with enormous bills as the wholesale price of electricity spiked 10,000% during the storms.
A Chinese couple paid $155,000 in fees to have 7 children in violation of the country's 2-child policy
China ended its one-child policy in 2015, but it's still struggling with declining birth rates and an aging population.
- Business Insider
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger called out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for hanging a sign declaring binary gender across the hall from a lawmaker with a trans daughter
Greene and Rep. Marie Newman were sparring over the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Christopher Cantwell, known as 'The Crying Nazi,' sentenced to 41 months in prison on extortion charges
Cantwell went viral after he posted a YouTube video of himself crying and pleading with police not to hurt him.
- Business Insider
An ex-girlfriend tipped off the FBI about an alleged US Capitol rioter after he called her a 'moron'
Richard Michetti was arraigned Tuesday in Philadelphia over his alleged participation in the January 6 insurrection.
- Business Insider
Vaccine makers are testing the safety and efficacy of third doses in anticipation of new coronavirus variants.
- Business Insider
NASA just unveiled a high-def, 360-degree panorama of Mars from the Perseverance rover. It's made from 142 photos.
The Perseverance rover wasted no time snapping photos on Mars. NASA scientists stitched together 142 of them to create a high-definition panorama.
- The Guardian
Let’s be clear: whatever he may say, Biden absolutely has the power to unilaterally cancel all federal student debt Students activists at Washington University in St Louis pull a mock ball and chain representing student debt. Photograph: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images At his recent town hall, Joe Biden made a series of convoluted and condescending comments about American student debt. His remarks cast doubt on his ability, or willingness, to confront this country’s ballooning student loan crisis. Within hours, #cancelstudentdebt was trending on Twitter. Biden’s rambling justification of the status quo was peppered with straw men, invocations of false scarcity and non-solutions. He pitted working-class Americans against each other, implying that people who attend private schools aren’t worthy of relief, as though poor students don’t also attend such schools. He said that money would be better spent on early childhood education instead of debt cancellation, as if educators aren’t themselves drowning in student debt, and as if we can’t address both concerns at once. He suggested relying on parents or selling a home at a profit to settle your debt, a luxury those without intergenerational wealth or property cannot afford. And he touted various programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), that have totally failed borrowers: over 95% of PSLF applicants have been denied. In contrast to Biden’s smug comments, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley recently revealed that she defaulted on her student loans. Similarly, at a recent Debt Collective event, congressional hopeful Nina Turner said that she and her son owe a combined $100,000. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has, of course, proudly confessed to being in debt, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that becoming a congressperson was easier than paying off her debt. Philadelphia councilmember Kendra Brooks (who is planning to introduce a city resolution calling on the Biden administration to cancel all student debt) has also spoken out about her own struggles as a borrower. Their experience and candor – and commitment to real solutions including cancellation – demonstrate why we need debtors, not millionaires, in our public offices. Let’s be clear about another thing. Biden absolutely has the legal authority to use executive power to cancel all federal student debt. Congress granted this authority decades ago as part of the Higher Education Act. It’s even been put to the test: in response to the Covid pandemic, Donald Trump and his former education secretary, Betsy DeVos, used that authority three times to suspend payments and student loan interest. As he rambled on, Biden gave the distinct impression that he preferred not to have the power to do so. That way he could blame Congress should his campaign promises go unkept. (The day after the town hall, Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, attempted to clarify her boss’s remarks about whether he will use executive authority to cancel student debt. She stated that the administration was still considering the possibility.) Adding to the confusion, Biden seemed unable to keep his own campaign pledges straight, muddling his student debt cancellation proposals. For the record, he campaigned on two distinct planks. One: “immediate” cancellation of $10,000 for every borrower as a form of Covid relief. Two: the cancellation of all undergraduate student loans for debt-holders who attended public universities and HBCUs and who earn up to $125,000 a year. Keeping these two promises is the absolute minimum the Biden administration needs to do to keep the public’s trust. But the Biden administration should, and can, do much more. Biden should cancel all student debt using executive authority. It is the simplest way the new administration can help tens of millions of people who are being crushed by the double whammy of unpayable loans and an economy-destroying pandemic. Yet, to date, all the Biden administration has done for this country’s 45 million student debtors is extend Trump and DeVos’s federal student loan payment suspension. Continuing a flawed Republican policy is hardly a progressive victory – especially not for the 8 million FFEL borrowers who are unconscionably left out of the moratorium. Biden owes this country debt relief not only because he campaigned on it, but because he helped cause the problem. A former senator from Delaware, the credit card capital of the world, he spent decades carrying water for financial interests and expanding access to student loans while limiting borrower protections. Biden’s brand is empath-in-chief, but on student debt he is alarmingly out of touch Biden’s record shows that he won’t address the problem without being pushed. Indeed, the fact that the president has embraced debt cancellation at all (however inadequate his proposals) is testament to ongoing grassroots efforts. The Debt Collective, a group I organize with, has been pushing for student debt abolition and free public college for nearly a decade. On 21 January, we launched the Biden Jubilee 100 – 100 borrowers on debt strike demanding full cancellation within the administration’s first hundred days. A growing list of senators and congresspeople have signed on to resolutions calling on Biden to cancel $50,000 a borrower using executive authority. (It’s worth noting that the $50,000 figure is based on outdated research. After three years of rapidly rising debt loads, the scholars behind it now recommend $75,000 of cancellation.) A growing chorus of voices from across the country and a range of backgrounds are shouting in unison: cancel student debt. Biden’s brand is empath-in-chief, but on student debt he is alarmingly out of touch. The president has shared that his own children borrowed for college and noted that he was the “poorest man in Congress” – meaning the poorest man in a body of millionaires. He didn’t question the ease with which his well-connected kids got well-compensated jobs enabling them to repay their loans, nor mention that people his age were able to go to college without being burdened by a mountain of debt. All people want today is the same opportunity that Biden and his peers had. Instead of acknowledging this generational disparity, Biden reiterated a common criticism of more generous forms of student debt cancellation – that it would help the privileged, specifically the minuscule subset of debt-holders who attended the Ivy League. But as Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response: “Very wealthy people already have a student loan forgiveness program. It’s called their parents.” As things stand, poor and working people typically pay more for the same degrees than their affluent counterparts due to years or decades of monthly payments and accumulating interest. Our debt-financed higher education system is a tax on poor people who dare pursue a better life. Imagine if, instead of defending the status quo, Biden used his platform to articulate the social benefits of cancelling student debt. He could have said that cancelling student debt will support 45 million Americans and provide an estimated trillion-dollar economic boost over the next decade and create millions of desperately needed jobs. He could have spoken about canceling student debt as a way to help close the racial wealth gap, acknowledging that Black borrowers are the most burdened, or talked about how education should be free and accessible to all if we want to expand opportunity and deepen democracy. He could have acknowledged that cancellation will help struggling seniors, especially those having their social security checks garnished because of student loan defaults. He could have mentioned that debt cancellation is popular, even among many Republicans, and that eliminating it will help his party stay in power. He didn’t say any of that, and so we have to say it. Debtors have to get organized, connecting online and protesting in the streets. We live in a period of intersecting crises. Some of them are very difficult to solve. But cancelling student debt is easy. By refusing to act, the president and his administration are choosing to perpetuate a system that causes profound, pointless, and preventable harm. Astra Taylor is the author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, and an organizer with the Debt Collective
- The Independent
The Democratic operative criticised the Senator’s daughter for receiving a pay increase as a CEO
- The Independent
New York congresswoman hits out at controversial Republican over Equality Act
Jill Biden assures Kelly Clarkson things will get better after her divorce: 'If I hadn't gotten divorced, I never would have met Joe'
In a new interview on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," first lady Jill Biden offered the singer advice about healing after divorce and finding love again.
- Business Insider
A preliminary study from Israel suggests people vaccinated against COVID-19 have lower viral loads, which are linked to less spread of the virus.
- The Independent
Who is Heidi Cruz? The high-powered Goldman Sachs executive and wife to ‘disgraced’ Texas senator Ted Cruz
Heidi Cruz’s ‘high powered’ role on her husband’s campaign trail prompts comparisons with Hillary Clinton
- The Independent
Angry Democrat Gerry Connolly tells Trump ally he ‘will not be lectured’ by someone who tried to overturn election
Accusing Jim Jordan of ‘gaslighting,’ Gerry Connolly said ‘I didn’t vote to overturn an election and I will not be lectured by people who did about partisanship’