Citi’s Corbat Pursues ‘Slow’ Reopening Amid Commuter Fears

Citigroup Inc. plans to reopen its New York headquarters to a small number of employees as soon as July, and workers will return to London offices even earlier, as Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat gingerly pushes the bank forward into a world reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s going to be driven by data, it’s likely to be slow, it’s going to be granular, site-by-site and within those sites, job-by-job,” Corbat said in a Bloomberg “Front Row” interview. On a follow-up phone call, he said sometime in July or possibly August is when Citigroup hopes to return about 5% of the 12,000-odd staff at its main building in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. Re-entry will begin next month at the Canary Wharf complex in London.

That timetable makes Citigroup one of first big banks to give clear guidance on one of the biggest dilemmas posed by the global outbreak: when to send people back to work. While the company has kept a few hundred essential employees on site since skyscrapers across New York cleared out in mid-March, the return of even a few bankers or traders from vacation homes in the Hamptons and the Rocky Mountains would send a signal that Wall Street is finding its footing again.

New York, until recently the hottest hot spot for coronavirus, has used social distancing, mask-wearing and increased testing to dramatically reduce its infection and death rates. Now, like CEOs around the world, Corbat is trying to balance the demands of his business with the dangers of returning to old norms too quickly.

“The conversations that I’m having are much more about the commute in urban areas, it’s getting on the train, it’s getting on the subway, it’s getting on the bus and it’s probably less about the workspace,” Corbat, 60, said from Wyoming, where he and his family went to escape the outbreak in New York. “The biggest hurdle we’re going to have is not getting people to operate in the office, it’s getting them to the office.”

In Hong Kong, where the pandemic has been more contained, Citigroup only recently increased staffing to 50%. In London, some of the company’s 5,000 employees will start returning next week as part of a plan to repopulate offices by less than 10%.

Yet Corbat was clear he doesn’t envision a virtual bank. Offices are necessary both for face-to-face meetings and because banking is an “apprenticeship business” that requires human interaction, he said. That’s why Citigroup is re-examining everything from turnstiles to cafeterias to elevators and is considering new locations in the New York suburbs for employees “who might be uncomfortable getting on mass transit” until a vaccine is widely available.

Corbat also said he’s considering less business travel, especially after seeing how well Citigroup can serve clients in online meetings and conferences.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has said that offices will be staffed at no more than half of capacity for the foreseeable future. Bank of America Corp., meantime, plans to notify employees at least 30 days before they’re scheduled to return. Corbat, too, said he has told his workforce of 200,000, “You’re not going to wake up one morning or go to bed one evening with a blast email saying, ‘Tomorrow’s the day to come back.’”

As much as it stirs anxiety, plays into political debates and captivates the public’s imagination, the question of when and how quickly to reopen is just one of the challenges Citigroup faces. Corbat also is wrestling with collapsing growth, record unemployment, rising tensions over global trade and the consequences of unprecedented aid and intervention by governments and monetary authorities.

Citigroup added almost $5 billion to its bad-loan reserves in the first quarter, mostly in preparation for potential consumer defaults in the months ahead. At the same time, the bank may struggle to make money on new loans now that interest rates are near zero again and the Federal Reserve is considering yield-curve manipulation to keep borrowing costs down.

Even less clear are the longer-term implications of ballooning deficits and central bank balance sheets.

“We do not want our government in the U.S. or other governments to come out in a position where the debt at the federal level is untenable,” Corbat said. “We’re likely to be in this slower-growth environment for an extended period of time.”

A decade ago, Citigroup was in no position to warn about imprudence. After loading up on risky debts and derivatives before the financial crisis, the bank needed two federal bailouts and became a poster child for Wall Street recklessness. At bottom, its shares lost 97% of their value.

Now, Citigroup has comparatively ample capital and liquidity, and even during a pandemic Corbat is still thinking about expanding in Asia. Growing distrust of China in the West hasn’t curbed his ambitions there, nor has the Chinese government’s recent move to curtail rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

“China remains a very important place for a big number of our clients and so we’re going to make sure we’re there to support them,” Corbat said. “Between some of the political challenges and the health-care challenges, it hasn’t been easy, but we remain committed to Hong Kong.”

— With assistance by Jennifer Surane

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New GTA 6 release date clue hints that game won't arrive until 2023 – years after PS5 and Xbox Series X launch

IT could be YEARS before gamers get to play Grand Theft Auto 6.

That's the latest theory from eagle-eyed fans who same game-maker Rockstar has teased the elusive GTA 6 release date.

GTA 5 came out way back in 2013, so gamers are desperate for a new entry to the series.

But Take Two and Rockstar are playing their cards close to their chest, keeping details of the yet-to-be-announced game a secret.

However, a recent SEC filing by Take Two may be proof that the game is coming out in 2023 or 2024, according to tech blog CNet.

Each year the firm spends between $10million and $40million on marketing.

But between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024, Take Two expects to spend a mammoth $89million.

That's a similar figure to 2018, when blockbuster game Red Dead Redemption 2 came out.

Importantly, 2023 will mark a decade since GTA 5 came out.

And we'll be three years in to the lifecycle of the next-gen consoles: the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

This is already the longest wait between and two GTA games.

For instance, there was a five-year gap between GTA 4 and GTA 5.

The other bad news is that we still don't know much about GTA 6, and we might not learn more until 2023.

In May this year, details about GTA 6 allegedly surfaced online.

A purported former employee of Rockstar leaked apparent info about the game, including the names of the main characters.

In it, the anonymous poster claimed the hotly-anticipated game's map will mirror the one in GTA San Andreas, with three major cities and one smaller town.

However, it will apparently be larger than the maps of both Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA:V) and Rockstar cowboy shooter Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) combined.

Grand Theft Auto games – a timeline

Here's the full list…

Main series:

  • 1997 – Grand Theft Auto
  • 1999 – Grand Theft Auto 2
  • 2001 – Grand Theft Auto 3
  • 2002 – Grand Theft Auto Vice City
  • 2004 – Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  • 2008 – Grand Theft Auto 4
  • 2013 – Grand Theft Auto 5

Expansion packs:

  • 1999 – Grand Theft Auto London 1969
  • 1999 – Grand Theft Auto London 1961
  • 2009 – Grand Theft Auto 4 The Lost and Damned
  • 2009 – Grand Theft Auto The Ballad of Gay Tony

Handheld games:

  • 2004 – Grand Theft Auto Advance
  • 2005 – Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories
  • 2006 – Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories
  • 2009 – Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars

Players will follow four main characters through the game's story mode, the poster said.

They include a driver called Walther Wallace, a man named Thomas Branigan with a smuggling plane called "the Raven" and a drug dealer named Marcus Burke.

An unnamed former Israeli IDF agenct was also mentioned in the post.

Missions in the game allegedly won't be as linear as in GTA:V or RDR2.

Gun mechanics and the the hand-to-hand combat system will be more like RDR2's, the poster claimed.

Apparently, the game will be set in the 1980s but will later jump to modern times – an unusual narrative choice for the franchise.

According to a lengthy post on Reddit the new game is code-named Project Americas, and has been in development in some form since 2012, a year before GTA 5 launched.

It's been on-and-off since then, the post says, first picking up properly in 2015 before being put on ice while all of Rockstar's global studios focused on the final details of Red Dead Redemption 2.

GTA 6 will reportedly only have one main playable character, a wannabe drug lord called Ricardo.

Starting in Vice City, the game will also feature action in a new South American city, and some story content that takes you to Liberty City too.

The game's story will be spread out over several years too, with areas in-game changing as the years go by, according to the leak.

Going along with that is a new system to build up and manage your own drug-dealing empire that will draw inspiration from PS2 series entry Vice City Stories as well the business systems found in GTA Online but "dial it up to 10".

The weapon system will draw from RDR2 and previous Rockstar game Max Payne, with the player only able to use weapons you can carry "on your person".

However, to help with this you'll be able to store things in the trunk of your car, where you'll be able to tweak your loadout.

The way the story is told, its look and its characters are all heavily inspired by Narcos, the Netflix drama about Pablo Escobar.

Escobar got his start in the drugs trade in the mid 70s, rising to prominence throughout the 1980s, becoming a folk hero and one of the world's richest men.

Negotiations are ongoing, the leak says, into securing all the music you'd expect for a GTA game set in the period.

 In other new, Call of Duty Warzone is reportedly getting a graphics update for the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

A Grand Theft Auto cheater was recently ordered to pay £115,000 after being sued by the game's designers.

And check out this amazing Xbox Project Oris concept console.

We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at [email protected]

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US plans new armed talks aimed at limiting Russian, Chinese and US nuclear warheads

Trump: US likely to pull out of deal with Russia

President Trump discusses U.S.-Russia relations.

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President Trump's new arms-control negotiator is planning to meet with his Russian counterpart soon to discuss a new U.S. proposal for a far-reaching accord to limit all Russian, Chinese and U.S. nuclear warheads, U.S. officials disclosed Thursday.

The talks will mark the first time the Trump administration has opened negotiations on an agreement to replace the New START accord, which covers Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear arms and is due to expire in February.

The disclosure of the new talks came as the Trump administration moved to withdraw from an old agreement: the separate Open Skies treaty, a nearly three-decade-old accord intended to reduce the risk of war between Russia and the West.

Marshall Billingslea, who took up his post last month as Mr. Trump's senior envoy on arms control, will launch the new talks with Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy Russian foreign minister. They have been working to finalize the agenda for the meeting, which is likely to take place in Vienna.

SENATE PASSES BILL REMOVING ROGUE CHINESE FIRMS FROM US STOCK EXCHANGES

"We have agreed that as soon as possible, taking into account the Covid virus, we will get together to begin negotiations," a senior Trump administration official said.

The new U.S. proposal is far more ambitious than the 2010 New START accord, not least because it seeks to convince China to join the negotiations. U.S. officials said the wide-ranging deal is necessary because of the projected growth in the Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Critics warn the Trump administration strategy amounts to an overreach — and could lead to a deadlock that will undermine the existing arms-control framework, which has already begun to fray.

Concern over the prospects for arms control was expressed by European officials after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will give six months' notice to treaty participants that it is leaving the 1992 Open Skies accord, which allows the West and Russia to carry out reconnaissance flights over each other's territories to build confidence that an attack isn't being planned.

US, CHINA MOVE FORWARD IN IMPLEMENTING TRADE DEAL

The U.S. has accused Russia of denying Western planes full access in flights over its territory. Defending his decision, Mr. Trump said he would seek to maintain good relations with Russia by pursuing other arms control agreements or perhaps rejoin the Open Skies accord if Moscow addressed U.S. concerns.

"There's a very good chance that we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together," Mr. Trump said. "We're going to pull out and they are going to come back and want to make a deal."

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko of Russia said the U.S. had relied on "contrived pretexts" in taking its decision and that it was, part of a pattern of "destructive steps in the sphere of strategic stability and security," state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

CHINA STOCK GSX TECHEDU IS A 'MASSIVE LOSS-MAKING BUSINESS'

China, which has with a much smaller nuclear arsenal than the U.S. and Russia, has repeatedly said it won't be party to a three-way nuclear accord. Beijing has no history of allowing intrusive arms-control verification on its territory.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in January that Beijing had "no intention to participate" in three-way arms talks. He charged that Washington was demanding that China join such negotiations as "a pretext to shirk and shift its own nuclear disarmament responsibilities." A spokesman for the Chinese embassy didn't respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump speaks during a listening session with African-American leaders at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Ypsilanti, Mich. (AP

Mr. Billingslea, however, has told the Russians that they need to help bring China to the negotiating table. The U.S. plans to use diplomatic — and possibly economic leverage, some officials hint — to insist that Beijing participate, U.S. officials said.

"I am not going to pretend that this is going to be easy. It is something new: The trilateralization of nuclear arms control," the senior Trump administration official said. "The Chinese do not have the same history with arms-control verification, so this will be a learning experience for them, but it is an experience we expect them to gain."

TRUMP EYES CRACKDOWN OF NYSE-LISTED CHINESE COMPANIES

The new U.S. proposal, in another break from New START, would also cover all nuclear warheads, including those kept in storage or which are mounted on short-range systems.

Such a provision would enable the U.S. to constrain Russia's arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, which American officials assert is growing, as well as Chinese warheads, which some experts believed are kept in storage and not mounted on missiles on a day-to-day basis. Specifically, the U.S. wants Russia to eliminate its nuclear warheads for ground-based short-range missiles — something Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pledged to do in 1991.

Verifying limits on warhead stockpiles, experts say, is much more difficult than counting large missiles, bombers and submarines that carry nuclear weapons and would require much more stringent monitoring measures.

The Trump administration says that it plans to propose more intrusive verification measures than under New START. This includes a demand for greater sharing of missile-test telemetry and measures that allow faster on-site inspections.

The British and French nuclear forces wouldn't be part of the accord under the U.S. plan, though Russian officials have sometimes argued that they should.

Negotiating a major arms-control treaty is a yearslong process, raising the question of what constraints will be kept in place once the negotiations are under way.

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The New START treaty can be extended for as many as five years by mutual consent. But Trump officials have hinted the U.S. may not do so unless the new three-way negotiations have begun and are making headway.

The collapse of the New START constraints, and the verification provisions it includes, would mark a further unraveling of the arms-control regime. Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which it alleged Moscow was violating.

Of all the looming obstacles toward a new accord, the principal one is persuading China to join.

China has about 320 warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. That is a fraction of the 1,750 nuclear weapons the U.S. has deployed on its long-range and shorter-range systems, among the 3,800 warheads in the U.S. stockpile, according to the group's estimate.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has said, however, that the Chinese arsenal is expected to at least double over the next decade.

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Frank Klotz — a retired three-star general and the former head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the development of the U.S. nuclear arsenal — said that the idea of drawing China into a new three-way accord was fraught with difficulties.

Establishing equal limits on Chinese, U.S. and Russian forces wouldn't be an option in seeking a new agreement because Washington doesn't want to allow China to match the current American level. Nor does the Pentagon want to cut its force to China's level.

"Why would the Chinese agree to be locked into a three-way agreement at significantly lower numbers than the U.S.?" Mr. Klotz said. "Why would Russia or the U.S. agree to allow China to have numbers equal to Russia and the U.S."

–Gordon Lubold and James Marson contributed to this article.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at [email protected]

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Coronavirus, new menu items help Papa John’s have its best month ever

Papa John’s to hire 20,000 employees

FOX Business’ Susan Li talks about Papa John’s success in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak and how former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal might not stay on the company’s board because he reportedly missed too many meetings.

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Papa John’s saw its best month ever, according to the company’s CEO Rob Lynch, who spoke in detail about the pizza chain’s April sales in a first-quarter earnings call Wednesday.

The company saw a near 27 percent increase in comparable sales throughout North America. A part of that growth can be credited to the current coronavirus pandemic, however, Lynch stressed that it wasn’t the only factor.

PAPA JOHN'S SWINGS TO FIRST-QUARTER PROFIT; REVENUE MISSES EXPECTATIONS

Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
PZZA PAPA JOHNS INTL 76.90 +0.74 +0.97%

“In line with our original 2020 outlook, comparable-store sales were very strong, rising 5.3 percent in North America and 2.3 percent internationally,” Lynch pointed out. “January and February were particularly strong in North America, with North America comp sales up 7.6 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, driven by successful new product and marketing innovation.”

Papa John’s has continued to innovate its signature fresh dough, and in February, the company introduced “Papadias” – a toasted sandwich alternative that has been set at a $6 price point and helped increase “lunchtime transactions and higher tickets.”

Likewise, the company launched its Jalapeño Popper Rolls nationally.

“And again, as with Papadias, our team's innovation is driving high customer satisfaction and higher tickets without adding material complexity or cost to our stores,” Lynch remarked.

PAPA JOHN'S HIRING 20,000 AMID CORONAVIRUS DEMAND SURGE

As millions of Americans stay home to avoid the coronavirus, Papa John’s has leveraged marketing and technology for consumer outreach.

“By moving dollars out of high-cost national sponsorships and into working media, we're able to reach a broader range of consumers more often,” Lynch explained. “We're still working closely with our local sports partners to activate in our local markets when sports return.”

PAPA JOHN WANTS TO FIX PAPA JOHN'S

In March, Papa John’s experienced a slight dip with the loss of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and other major sporting events and large gatherings – all of which were canceled after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. Additionally, pantry-loading and families cooking at home were factors that suppressed sales during that time.

By April, the company saw “a wave of growth in North America” as dine-in restaurants remained closed.

“Delivery and carry-out food businesses became essential services,” Lynch explained. “As we perform this critical service, our business is performing at historically high levels.”

Papa John’s transaction size increased by 25 percent among Papa Rewards loyalty members and the brand was reportedly introduced to more than one million new and lapsed customers on its digital channels for the month of April.

(iStock)

Lynch credits the success Papa John’s is seeing in North America to the strategies it applied in China and Korea, where the company has been managing the impact of the coronavirus since January.

“This experience and preparation have enabled us to act quickly, both to protect the health and safety of our customers and team members, and to ensure that we remain open for business and continue to serve our communities,” Lynch said. “In mid-March, applying what we learned in Asia, we launched no contact delivery, a complete reengineering of our ordering and delivery processes and technology conceived and executed in less than two weeks.”

When it comes down to the status of Papa John’s supply chain in light of several potential food shortages, Lynch told investors the company has not experienced ingredient disruptions.

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“Disruptions with meat or other key suppliers have not impacted our stores and based on the contingency plans that we have put in place, we don't anticipate any disruptions to our business,” he clarified.

Additionally, Papa John’s is working closely with franchisees and management of company stores to “reduce complexity and costs while heightening quality.”

Papa John’s has hired thousands of workers who have been displaced by the coronavirus and is partnered with three national delivery aggregators, which has allowed the company to scale more deliveries to customers during peak mealtimes.

The company also reinvested nearly half of its profit growth in the first quarter to support additional employee benefits, bonuses and incentives for corporate team members, helping employees throughout its supply chain and restaurants.

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“We've expanded our health and wellness benefits to include free virtual doctor visits for all employees and their families and increase paid time off policies,” Lynch said. “This, in addition to existing benefits of no-cost mental health support, affordable health care plan options, and access to Papa John's team member Emergency Relief Fund, if and when needed. We've also worked proactively with franchisees to help them expand their team member benefits.”

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Airline Stocks Could Hit New Lows

Quarantines and stay-at-home orders are starting to lift across the United States, with many locales preparing to reopen retail stores and restaurants for at least limited indoor operations. Airline carriers around the world hope that the worst is past, but as Warren Buffett's recent sales disclosure pointed out, not everyone is convinced that the travel industry will spring back to life in the next one or two quarters.

Many analysts believe that travelers will stay away from airports in coming months, waiting to see if the lifting of restrictions triggers a dreaded "second wave" of infections. In addition, airlines are now implementing safe distancing in their fleets, lowering passenger capacity and revenues into the indefinite future. Plans to hike fares to make up for these lost seats could backfire, delaying a recovery that many smart folks expect will take two to three years.

Airline stocks are trading close to March lows right now, despite strong bounces throughout the market universe, highlighting weak demand. It's no surprise because they brought exceptionally weak balance sheets into this crisis, pumping years of profits into buybacks and executive bonuses rather than building cash reserves, and the companies now need the government's help to survive. In turn, this raises the odds for secondary offerings that will dilute already depressed shares. 

These poorly managed companies were weak market performers throughout the second half of the economic expansion, failing to reward shareholders, so any commentary insisting that the group will return to prior highs should be viewed with skepticism. More importantly, these issues can easily drop to new lows, continuing a bear market that might persist for months or years.

United Airlines Holdings, Inc. (UAL) stock completed a round trip into the 2007 high in the lower $50s in 2014 and broke out a few months later, stalling in the mid-$70s. It completed a breakout above that level in the fourth quarter of 2018, but buying interest failed to develop, yielding dead sideways action ahead of a March 2020 breakdown that cut through support at the 2017 and 2016 lows. Price action since that time has failed to remount either barrier.

The decline found support at the .786 Fibonacci rally retracement of the 2008 to 2018 uptrend, a common turning point after a major decline. The monthly stochastic oscillator crossed higher at an extremely oversold level at the same time but still hasn't issued a buying signal. Even so, a bounce into 2016 resistance appears more likely than a quick plunge to new lows at this point, with the stock's fate riding on its ability to remount that level.

American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) stock sold off from $63 to $1.45 during the economic collapse and turned higher into new decade, gaining ground in a retracement that stalled within seven points of the prior peak in early 2015. The stock got cut in half in the next 18 months, bottoming out at a two-year low in the $20s in June 2016. The subsequent bounce completed a round trip into the prior high in January 2018, yielding a breakout that failed within four points of 2007's all-time high.

The subsequent decline continued through 2019, accelerating in February 2020. It broke 2016 support at the same time, ahead of continued downside that cut through the .786 Fibonacci retracement level of the 2008 to 2018 uptrend. The subsequent bounce lasted for just three days before stalling at $17.24, ahead of a new low in early April. The stock is now testing that critical support level and could break down, finally reaching the deep 2008 low at $1.45.

The Bottom Line

Airline stocks are struggling near sell-off lows due to continued headwinds and could break those levels in coming weeks.

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the time of publication. 

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UK new car sales fall to lowest level since 1946

Fox Business Flash top headlines for May 4

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British new car sales slumped by 97% in April to the lowest level of any month since February 1946 as factories and dealerships shut due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Lockdown measures have been in place across Europe since mid-March to contain the pandemic, leading to the closure of many businesses and limiting people's movements.

Last month, sales to businesses accounted for four in five of the 4,321 registrations, according to the data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which downgraded its full-year forecast to 1.68 million sales, on course for the lowest level in nearly 30 years.

DETROIT AUTOMAKERS TARGET MAY 18 U.S. RESTART DATE

"The market’s worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising," said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

"Safely restarting this most critical sector and revitalizing what will, inevitably, be subdued demand will be key to unlocking manufacturing and accelerating the UK’s economic regeneration."

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In February 1946, just a few months after the end of World War Two, just 4,044 new cars were sold in Britain, which was still undergoing rationing and trying to rebuild after wartime destruction, under its first majority Labour government.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison/Guy Faulconbridge)

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Trump threatens new tariffs on China as U.S. mulls retaliatory action over virus outbreak

Trump: China hasn’t asked for tariff suspension yet

President Trump discusses China tariffs while speaking about the coronavirus at a White House press briefing.

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Thursday his hard-fought trade deal with China was now of secondary importance to the coronavirus pandemic and he threatened new tariffs on Beijing, as his administration crafted retaliatory measures over the outbreak.

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Trump's sharpened rhetoric against China reflected his growing frustration with Beijing over the pandemic, which has cost tens of thousands of lives in the United States alone, sparked an economic contraction and threatened his chances of re-election in November.

TRUMP SAYS CHINA WANTS HIM TO LOSE HIS BID FOR RE-ELECTION

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a range of options against China were under discussion but cautioned that efforts were in the early stages. Recommendations have not yet reached the level of Trump’s top national security team or the president, one official told Reuters.

"There is a discussion as to how hard to hit China and how to calibrate it properly," one of the sources said as Washington walks a tightrope in its ties with Beijing while it imports personal protection equipment (PPE) from there and is wary of harming a sensitive trade deal.

Trump made clear, however, that his concerns about China's role in the origin and spread of the coronavirus were taking priority for now over his efforts to build on an initial trade agreement with Beijing that long dominated his dealings with the world's second-largest economy.

"We signed a trade deal where they're supposed to buy, and they've been buying a lot, actually. But that now becomes secondary to what took place with the virus," Trump told reporters. "The virus situation is just not acceptable."

CHINA HOLDS BACK CORONAVIRUS DATA IN RACE FOR CURE AGAINST US: NAVARRO

The Washington Post, citing two people with knowledge of internal discussions, reported on Thursday that some officials had discussed the idea of canceling some of the massive U.S. debt held by China as a way to strike at Beijing for perceived shortfalls in its candidness on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump's top economic adviser denied the report. "The full faith and credit of U.S. debt obligations is sacrosanct. Period. Full stop," White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Reuters.

TRUMP SPEAKS TO CHINA'S XI ON PHONE ABOUT CORONAVIRUS AND TRADE

Asked whether he would consider having the United States stop payment of its debt obligations as a way to punish Beijing, Trump said: "Well, I can do it differently. I can do the same thing, but even for more money, just by putting on tariffs. So, I don't have to do that."

WAR OF WORDS

Seeking to quell a damaging trade war, Trump signed a first phase of a multibillion-dollar trade deal with China in January that cut some U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for Chinese pledges to purchase more American farm, energy and manufactured goods and address some U.S. complaints about intellectual property practices.

SMALL BUSINESSES SUE CHINA CITING CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE

Tariffs of up to 25 percent remain on some $370 billion worth of Chinese goods imports annually.

Trump has touted his tough stance on China trade as a key differentiator from Democratic challengers in the presidential race. Keeping tariffs in place on Chinese goods allows him to say he is maintaining leverage over China for a Phase 2 trade deal.

Speaking to reporters, Trump declined to say whether he held Chinese President Xi Jinping responsible for what he feels is misinformation from China when the virus emerged from Wuhan, China, and quickly spread around the world.

In this Tuesday, March 10, 2020, photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping talks by video with patients and medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. Top Chinese officials

A senior Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that an informal “truce” in the war of words that Trump and Xi essentially agreed to in a phone call in late March appeared to be over.

Washington and Beijing have traded increasingly bitter recriminations over the origin of the virus and the response to it.

Trump and his top aides, while stepping up their anti-China rhetoric, have stopped short of directly criticizing Xi, whom the U.S. president has repeatedly called his “friend.”

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Among the other ideas under consideration for retaliation against China are sanctions, new non-tariff trade restrictions and a possible effort to lift China’s sovereign immunity, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Lifting sovereign immunity could allow the U.S. government and American citizens to file lawsuits seeking damages from Beijing in U.S. courts.

The options are being discussed, informally for now, across government agencies including the State Department, White House National Security Council, Treasury Department and Pentagon, two of the sources said.

CHINA CALLS CORONAVIRUS LAWSUIT BROUGHT BY US STATE 'VERY ABSURD'

The strongest pressure for action is coming from the National Security Council, including deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, while Treasury officials are advising caution, the sources said.

Conversations are at a very preliminary stage and significant action is not considered imminent, the sources said. When asked, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly said Washington's priority at the moment is to fight the virus but that the time to hold China accountable would come.

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New iPhone update makes it easier to face-unlock if you're wearing a coronavirus face mask

WITH more of us having to wear masks due to coronavirus, trying to open your iPhone using Face ID has become an issue.

However, Apple appears to have added a new feature to the developer version of iOS 13.5 that could rectify this.

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According to videos shared on Twitter by Robert Petersen and Guilherme Rambo, Apple has heard the masked cries of its users.

The footage apparently demonstrates an updated Face ID automatically detecting someone wearing a mask.

It then automatically shows the passcode-entry screen for a user to type in their PIN.

Currently, users wearing a mask are greeted with a shaking padlock and the message "Swipe up to unlock".

Automatically showing the passcode-entry screen may seem like a small step but it should make things easier for users who unlock their phone multiple times a day.

It could also encourage people not to take off their masks when they don't have to.

We don't yet know if this feature will appear in the final version of the software update.

We have reached out to Apple for comment.

How to unlock Apple Face ID with a mask on

Although it doesn't have a 100% pass rate, researchers at Tencent’s Xuanwu Lab discovered that you can technically train Face ID to recognise you with a mask on.

It involves setting up the biometric system while wearing half a mask.

First you'll need to go to "Settings" and click on "Face ID & Passcode".

You can either select to "Reset Face ID" or set up your masked face as an "Alternate Appearance".

Click your choice and then wear your mask but fold it in half so it's only on one half of your face.

Your phone may give you a "Face Obstructed" message.

If this happens move the mask slowly away from the centre of your face and only just cover the tip of your nose.

You should eventually get a “Move your head slowly to complete the circle” message.

Then you'll be asked to do two scans of your face.

Your iPhone should then read "Face ID is now set up".

All you need to do now is put your mask on and test it out.

The researchers who found this method did note that it doesn't always work so you may need to be patient or to just use your numerical passcode.

Face ID should still work when you're not wearing a mask at all.

If you're still having problems you can go back into "Settings", follow the steps above but try using a mask on the other side of your face.

You can also try "Set Up Alternate Appearance" instead of resetting the whole thing.

How does Apple's FaceID tech work?

Apple's facial recognition system for the iPhone X isn't massively complicated.Here are the steps your phone takes:

  • The phone will use various sensors to work out how much light it needs to illuminate your face.
  • It then floods your face with infrared light, which is outside the visible spectrum of light.
  • A dot projector will produce more than 30,000 dots of this invisible light, creating a 3D map of your face.
  • An infrared camera will then capture images of this dot pattern.
  • Once your phone has all that info, it can use your face's defining features – like your cheekbone shape, or the distance between your eyes – to verify your identity.
  • It computes a score between 0 and 1, and the closer it is to 1, the more likely it is that your face is the same as the one stored on your iPhone.
  • Apple says there's a one-in-a-million chance of someone else getting into your iPhone with Face ID, although the system has been tricked with twins.
  • Still, it's arguably better than the alternative: Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner has a one-in-50,000 chance if being fooled.

In other news, Apple and Google have started testing an app that warns users if they may have been infected with coronavirus.

Apple Maps could soon reveal your nearest coronavirus testing centre.

And, experts warned earlier this month that Apple and Google's contact tracing apps could pose significant risks to people's privacy.

Will you find the new face-unlock update useful? Let us know in the comments…

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George W. Bush Joins Global Coronavirus Livestream After Wife Laura Teamed with Michelle Obama



Both women went on thank those on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, including healthcare professionals, first responders, pharmacists and those delivering food or supplies to people's homes.

“The spirit and courage of the American people is most evident in times of crisis,” Mrs. Bush said. “And during this difficult period of physical separation, we’ve never been closer. Not just in our brave country, but tonight, we stand with the people of the world.”

Laura and George Bush have been social distancing in Texas, while Michelle and Barack Obama have been doing the same at their Washington, D.C., home with daughters Malia and Sasha.

The Call to Unite special begins streaming on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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New Starlink satellites will be 'low and bright' over UK tonight – best time to see Elon Musk probes launched yesterday

BRIT stargazer are bracing for another dazzling satellite display this evening – the fourth over the UK this week.

The super-bright "Starlink" satellites are operated by US rocket company SpaceX and will produce what could be their most spectacular showing so far on Thursday night.

Following awe-inspiring appearances on Monday and Tuesday (and a bit of a damp squib on Wednesday) we've got all the tips you need to catch tonight's display.

All you'll need is a smartphone and a bit of outdoor space, as the satellites are so bright that you don't need a telescope or binoculars to see them.

What is Starlink?

Starlink is a controversial scheme that aims to beam Wi-Fi to people from space using a "mega constellation" of thousands of satellites.

“With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet … Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” the official website explains.

The project is the brainchild of tech billionaire Elon Musk, whose California-based rocket firm SpaceX builds and operates the satellites.

More than 420 have been launched so far, with the network eventually set to reach 12,000, rising to as many as 42,000 in the future.

SpaceX sends its satellites up in batches of 60 at a time. Each group is launched atop an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX.

The solar-powered tech typically orbits around 340 miles above Earth.

How the probes will affect the night sky is causing concern as they sit in a low orbit, so appear brighter than stars and planets.

When is tonight's Starlink show?

Keen satellite-watchers can catch two Starlink displays over the UK tonight.

The first is expected to pass by at 8:54pm BST, lasting for roughly four minutes.

As many as 20 satellites could soar past in that short period, each looking a little like a sluggish shooting star without its tail.

For the early risers among you, a second display will last for six minutes from 5:14am.

The satellites are so bright that you won't need binoculars or a telescope to see them.

It goes without saying that your best chance of catching a display requires clear skies and as little light around you as possible.

Try not to stare at your phone too much and turn off outside lights to dampen the effects of light pollution.

Be warned that Starlink satellites can be up to ten minutes "late".



How to track Starlink satellites in real-time

Not sure where to look? Your phone's got you covered.

There are a number of stargazing apps you can use to follow the path of Starlink probes.

On the Apple App Store, we'd recommend Night Sky, which is free and helps you find all kinds of celestial wonders.

For Android fans, Satellite Tracker should do the trick (it's also available on iPhone).

Simply head outside at one of the scheduled Starlink times above, load up one of the apps and you should be able to spot one.

Alternatively, you can visit the Find Starlink website (or the “Find Starlink Satellites” app) and enter your location.


Why are Starlink satellites appearing over the UK and why are they so bright this evening?

According to space experts, the current high rate of sightings is due to the satellites being in low orbit after they first launch.

SpaceX launches Starlink satellites in batches of 60 before they gradually rise to a higher orbit and become less visible.

The satellites have been deliberately designed to be light and compact so they can be launched in large batches.

The most recent batch was fired into space on Wednesday, following another liftoff in mid-March.

And it's for this reason that this evening's showing is expected to be particualrly bright.

At roughly 8.54pm BST, the newest batch of 60 Starlink satellites will pass over the UK.

As they've only just been launched, they'll be closer to the Earth than normal, which should make them more visible.

Equally, the satellites won't have begun to space out yet, meaning you should be able to catch dozens of them in a row – if you're lucky.


Recent Starlink sightings

The satellites have now graced the skies over Britain four nights in a row.

The first took place on Sunday night at around 9:20pm BST, the second on Monday at 9.55pm, a third at 8:30pm on Tuesday and a fourth on Wednesday at around 9.34pm.

Brits took to social media to express their delight at the rare events, which are due to continue throughout this week.

One Twitter user wrote this week: "Absolutely amazing to see @SpaceX Starlink satellites fly around our world."

Another said on Tuesday: "@elonmusk just stood watching the #starlink show over the UK. Last night was a disappointment, tonight was awesome."

Reports of sightings were spread across the UK, with users in London, Manchester and Leeds among those taking to social media to report seeing the craft.

Some people have even compared the dazzling satellites to UFOs.

"These starlink satellites in the uk are terrifying me those m****r f****rs looking like UFOS," one Twitter user frothed.

Another quipped: "I’m seeing the #Starlink satellites but they’re going off in different directions. Not a straight formation. Unless these are UFOs."


Is Starlink 'blocking' the night sky?

The Starlink programme is controversial among astronomers, who have slammed Musk's hare-brained scheme.

They say Starlink gets in the way of observations due to light reflected off the the satellites.

University of Western Ontario meteor researcher Denis Vida stated in a blog post last year: "One has to be concerned how will our skies look like when hearing that there are plans to launch a total of 42,000 satellites.

"This might completely deny us to do any optical meteor observations as soon as 2024."

Never one to take something lying down, Musk has lashed back at his critics, claiming the satellites have no such impact.

Speaking at a conference in Washington DC last month, he said: "I am confident that we will not cause any impact whatsoever in astronomical discoveries. Zero. That’s my prediction.

"We’ll take corrective action if it’s above zero."

SpaceX engineers are also said to be looking into making the satellites a bit less shiny so they won't reflect the sun as much.

Will Starlink 'trap' humanity on Earth?

There are concerns that humanity could be trapped on Earth by too much space junk in Earth's orbit.

That's according to one space scientist, who says Starlink could create an impenetrable wall of rubbish around our planet.

A catastrophic clutter of space debris left behind by the satellites could block rockets from leaving Earth, an effect known as "Kessler syndrome".

"The worst case is: You launch all your satellites, you go bankrupt, and they all stay there," European Space Agency scientist Dr Stijn Lemmens told Scientific American.

"Then you have thousands of new satellites without a plan of getting them out of there. And you would have a Kessler-type of syndrome."

It will take thousands of years for any SpaceX satellites left in our orbit to descend to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere.

The firm says it's already taken steps to avoid cluttering up the region. It's launching the satellites into a lower orbital plane than most space tech to avoid collisions.

How do satellite-tracking apps work?

Companies and space agencies who manage satellites need to keep track of where they are in orbit.

This is partly to help operations (be that sending GPS signals or snapping space photos) run smoothly, but it also ensures they can change course if their probe is about to collide with someone else's.

The position of satellites is recorded by multiple ground stations on Earth, which send the coordinates back to whoever is responsible for them.

Robert Frost, specialist on GPS use for space navigation, wrote on Quora: "The locations of satellites are determined using tracking from ground stations.

"The ground stations use mechanisms such as radar, signal doppler, and laser reflectors to pinpoint the position of a satellite and to maintain an understanding of its orbital elements."

Apart from spy satellites and other secretive tech, the coordinates of most space probes are available publicly.

Satellite tracking apps simply compile data offered by dozens of space agencies and companies and present it on a digital map.

In other news, Brits grabbed snaps of Starlink satellites passing over the UK on Wednesday.

Here's the best way to track Starlink satellites as they soar across the night sky.

And, Nasa astronauts will launch into space from US soil next month for the first time in nearly a decade.

Do you plan on catching a Starlink display this week? Let us know in the comments!

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