The Week in Business: Shut It Back Down

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Hope you all are having a safe Fourth of July weekend, even if it has been weird and quiet. Here’s what you need to know for the week ahead in business and tech, including a new development in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, cameras that take your temperature in public and what’s going on in Hong Kong. — Charlotte Cowles

The latest employment report showed that the economy added 4.8 million jobs in June. Which sounds pretty good, especially since it’s the second month of gains after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April. But don’t celebrate yet. First of all, these data were collected before coronavirus cases began to resurge at a record pace. Now, many states are pausing their reopening plans and, in some cases, reversing them and forcing businesses to close again. Second, a lot of these newly added positions aren’t full-time. (Over 9 million adults were working part-time hours in June, more than double the number in February.) Also troubling: The recovery has disproportionately favored white workers, while the unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic adults have barely budged.

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate and former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested by the F.B.I. She faces charges of recruiting and grooming minors to participate in sex acts with Mr. Epstein, as well as perjury for previously denying it. Mr. Epstein, a financier who hobnobbed with the wealthy and powerful, hanged himself in jail last August before his trial on federal sex trafficking charges. Ms. Maxwell sued his estate in March, saying that he had promised to pay for her legal defense against accusations that she helped orchestrate his alleged crimes.

A Chinese law targeting pro-democracy activity in Hong Kong was enacted last week, effectively ending Hong Kong’s autonomy and allowing the Chinese police to round up political dissenters — not exactly kosher in the free world. To signal its disapproval, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to penalize Chinese officials who supported the law and the banks that do business with them. The United States has also begun to roll back its special trade arrangement with Hong Kong, which was previously exempt from the punitive tariffs that the Trump administration imposed during its trade war with China. And some companies with offices in Hong Kong are poised to pack their bags.

Most aid measures for individuals and businesses hurt by the pandemic are supposed to wind down in the next few weeks, but the virus seems to be doing the opposite. Scrambling to fill the gap, Congress voted to extend a small-business loan program for an extra five weeks, just hours before it was set to expire on Wednesday with more than $130 billion in unspent money. Lawmakers are also considering more legislation to prop up the flagging economy as it becomes clear that reopening businesses will require a lot more planning and time. But it’s unclear when and if any aid will come, which leaves Americans wondering what they’ll do if they still can’t work in the weeks and months ahead.

It’s lunch time — do you know what your temperature is? As some businesses reopen, they’re getting creative with monitoring customers and staff for signs of illness by using infrared cameras to identify anyone with a fever. Amazon has put infrared cameras in its warehouses to check on workers, and Subway restaurants are also trying out the technology. Some schools may follow suit. The upside is obvious — unwitting virus carriers may be ferreted out before they can spread more germs. But critics say that the cameras aren’t always accurate, and they infringe on people’s privacy.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico will visit President Trump at the White House this week to discuss the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal. The pact technically took effect on July 1, but it still has a long way to go before it’s fully in place, as manufacturers figure out how to comply with its rules and enforcement measures trickle through the Mexican legal system. This will be the Mexican president’s first foreign visit since he took office in 2018, and a rather strange choice of host, given Mr. Trump’s unpopularity in Mexico.


Charlotte Cowles

2020-07-05 07:00:15

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