Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah are the latest round of states ending weekly federal enhancements early in an attempt to incentivize residents to return to work.
States Ending Enhanced Benefits
Ten states will stop giving unemployed residents an extra $300 a week in federal supplemental bonuses starting Saturday, impacting up to 2.5 million people.
Those states — Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah — will join 12 states that have already cut the enhanced benefits. Four other states have announced upcoming plans for similar cut-offs prior to the program’s official expiration on Sep. 6.
All but one of the 26 states ending the federal benefits early are Republican-led, and governors for each state have argued that cutting off access to additional unemployment aid is crucial for motivating people to return to work as the country continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Does Ending the Benefits Early Work?
Data is mixed-to-unclear on whether prematurely cutting off federal benefits has incentivized residents to return to work.
Unemployment rates are currently dropping the fastest in Republican states such as Vermont, Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, Idaho, New Hampshire, Alabama, Montana, and Oklahoma. Of the top 10 states with the fastest unemployment recovery, only one Democrat-led state (Kansas) made the list.
Still, of the Republican states with the fastest pace of recovery, unemployment data currently only exists at times when enhanced benefits were still active. It won’t be until next week that data following the cut-offs will begin to be seen.
Despite that, recent data from the job site Indeed suggests states without enhanced benefits are still having trouble getting people back to work.
In fact, the data appears to poke a substantial hole in the tentpole belief that most still-unemployed Americans are choosing to stay on unemployment solely because they’re making more money through that method than they would be at an actual job.
That’s because Indeed found job searches for the 12 states that have currently withdrawn from the federal extensions are still lower than the national average.
“You’d think they’d be searching more. At least right now, this does push back on the idea that federal unemployment benefits are the main reason there are labor market frictions,” Indeed economist Ann Elizabeth Konkel told CNBC.
Still, Konkel noted that the data could possibly shift in the coming weeks.
“The reality is that the strength of the jobs market, not the size of unemployment benefits, will determine how fast Americans can return to where they want to be: a job,” Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, told Fox Business. “In the meantime, workers should not be forced to rely on unbelievably low unemployment pay.”
Instead, analysts believe additional factors are likely at play for why people are not returning to work in higher numbers, including lack of childcare availability and ongoing COVID-19 risks, especially if they or their family members are immunocompromised. Many economists also believe a large portion of workers might be holding off on accepting jobs outside of their career field or below their experience level.
See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (CNBC) (Politico)
NFL Says Teams Could Be Forced To Forfeit Games If Unvaccinated Players Cause COVID-19 Outbreaks
Neither team will be paid for any forfeited games, and the team that faces the outbreak must also cover all expenses for the opposing team.
NFL Issues Strong Warning to the Unvaccinated
The National Football League announced Thursday that if a game is canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players on a certain team, that team will be forced to forfeit the match.
Additionally, the league said players on both teams will not be paid for any forfeited games, and the team that causes the game to be canceled will also be forced to cover all expenses for the opposing team. It could also face disciplinary action from the Commissioner’s Office.
As NFL.com writer Kevin Patra noted, this is “the clearest line the NFL has drawn to date and the most substantial incentive yet for owners, teams and coaches to pressure players to get vaccinated.”
While the league has not mandated that its players and staff get vaccinated, in its Thursday memo, it said that “nearly all clubs have vaccinated 100 percent of their Tier 1 and 2 staffs.” It also noted that 75% of players “are in the process of being vaccinated, and more than half the clubs have vaccination rates greater than 80 percent of their players.”
The NFL added that vaccinated players or staff who test positive and are asymptomatic will be allowed to return to work following two negative tests 24 hours apart. For unvaccinated players and staff who test positive, the NFL is deferring to its 2020 rules: 10-day isolation.
Rescheduling Vs. Canceling
Unvaccinated players — regardless of whether they test positive or not — will also be subject to more stringent protocols, including daily testing, mask-wearing, and travel restrictions.
That said, there is one potential loophole for teams that find themselves subject to outbreaks, though it could still be a longshot. The NFL will allow games to be rescheduled as long as they fit within the timeframe of its regular season.
“We do not anticipate adding a ‘19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season,” the NFL made clear in its memo.
Still, the NFL may not be as flexible as it was during 2020. For example, while it was able to reschedule all of its postponed games during that season, it did so by moving some to Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
What Players Are Saying
Currently-unvaccinated players were quick to speak out against the memo on Thursday.
“Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL,” Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said in a now-deleted tweet.
Those advocating for players to get vaccinated have argued that not vaccinating yourself while engaging in a high-contact sport could still result in hurting teammates. In fact, several athletes have reported lingering effects following COVID-19 diagnoses, and some worry that long-term lung issues could cut their careers short.
Similar to Hopkins, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader tweeted, “Talk about getting your hand forced smh.”
Las Vegas Raiders running back even compared this year’s season to “playing in jail” in a now-deleted tweet, saying, “read the rules-know em like you know your plays.”
Meanwhile, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he hopes his team is “headed toward 100%” vaccination following the memo.
California Sues Activision Blizzard Over “Frat Boy” Culture and Rampant Sexual Harassment
The lawsuit details how certain executives at the company assaulted and harassed female employees and how one woman ultimately committed suicide after having a nude photo of herself leaked around the office.
The Lawsuit’s Disturbing Harassment Details
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has lobbed a massive gender discrimination lawsuit against video game developer Blizzard Entertainment and its parent company Activision Blizzard, accusing the two of creating a culture of “constant sexual harassment.”
The details of the suit, which was launched Wednesday following two years of investigations, are disturbing. In some instances, it describes not just allegations of sexual harassment but also of sexual assault.
For example, DFEH claims Blizzard’s workplaces are seeped in “frat boy” culture and said female employees have been “subjected to numerous sexual comments and advances, groping and unwanted physical touching, and other forms of harassment.”
The suit cites specific instances of harassment through the accounts of female employees, including one who said random male employees would approach her at her worksite and comment on her breasts.
Other female employees working on the World of Warcraft team alleged that male employees and even supervisors would hit on them and make derogatory comments about rape.
In the most tragic outcome cited in the lawsuit, DFEH said one female employee committed suicide on a company trip after having a sexual relationship with a male supervisor who had brought along a butt plug and lubricant. According to the suit, she had also faced harassment at a holiday party when male co-workers began passing around a photo of her vagina.
DFEH Names Involved Executives
The allegations go straight to the top of Blizzard Entertainment’s chain of command.
In fact, the suit claims President J. Allen Brack both knew about this behavior and enabled it.
On top of that, an unnamed former Chief Technology Officer was allegedly seen “groping inebriated female employees at company events.”
The suit also specifically names Alex Afrasiabi, World of Warcraft’s senior creative director, saying he was “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions.”
“Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite” during company events “was nicknamed the “[Cosby] Suite” after alleged rapist Bill [Cosby],” the suit claims.
Female Employees Face Retaliation and Gender Discrimination
It’s not just that nothing was being done when female employees reported these instances, according to the DFEH. The agency also said those women faced retaliation, including being deprived of work, unwillingly transferred to other departments, and even being laid off at higher rates than male employees.
Separately, another employee alleged she was told she couldn’t be promoted as a manager because “she might get pregnant and like being a mom too much,” even though she had already assumed some of the responsibilities of a manager.
Other employees who had actually gotten pregnant said they were given negative evaluations while on maternity leave.
In 2019, it was reported by multiple outlets that Blizzard was offering third-party fertility and pregnancy tracking services to employees but was also receiving that anonymized data back.
Blizzard Denounces Lawsuit
In response, Blizzard has called California’s lawsuit “irresponsible” and from “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”
Blizzard has also defended its workplace, saying, “Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams.”
Others Speak Up
Since this lawsuit came out, at least five former employees have publicly corroborated several of its details.
That includes one woman who wrote on Twitter, “I left Blizzard after my boss gaslit me so badly my hair started falling out. My profit sharing, which I relied on to make ends meet, was docked due to “underperforming”, and when I went to HR to fight it with proof against his claims, I was told “maybe you are underperforming.”
“The fucked up part? I HATED leaving. Blizzard was my dream job and I loved the work I did there.”
Others, such as gamer Alanah Pearce, have recounted their own experiences working in gaming as a result of the allegations.
“It’s jarring to me to see so many people on Twitter, who are around the industry, who are like gaming fans who don’t work in the industry, and go ‘Oh my, God, this is horrific.’ When my reaction is, ‘Oh, so it’s normal…” Pearce said in a Twitch stream uploaded to YouTube Thursday.
“Even when I worked in Tech before, the stories that I fucking have — just the shit that they did to me… Iike I was repeatedly grabbed and groped at work functions, and I would complain — like to their faces — I’d be like, ‘Don’t fucking touch me,’ and then, they would be like, ‘Haha, of course. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking,’ and then they would do it again because me reacting negatively to it was what made it funny to them.”
Pearce went on to recount other very disturbing details about her time at that job, saying she eventually decided one day to not go back altogether.
“But if you see this shit, and you see ‘bros being bros’ and being like, ‘Who can fuck this girl first?’ Just please fucking say something. It’s so much harder for women to say something,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Kotaku) (Bloomberg Law)
Art Museums To Sue PornHub for Launching App That Creates Erotic Versions of Masterpieces
PornHub’s efforts are certainly a creative way to get more people interested in art.
PornHub Recreates Art Through Its Own Vision
Did Italian Renaissance painter Titian ever believe that his masterpiece “Venus of Urbino” would be interpreted or re-envisioned as a pornographic masturbation scene?
Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it has now, and the museum that owns the original — the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy — is not pleasured, to say the least.
The recreation is just one of several others featured on a new (NSFW) interactive website and app called “Show Me the Nudes,” which was recently launched by PornHub. The app itself functions as an audio tour for multiple world-renowned art museums, including the Louvre, The Met, the National Gallery in London, and several others.
Adult film star Asa Akira provides commentary and a brief bit of art history for multiple pieces featured on the site. More notably, however, the site also highlights one select work from each museum by recreating it as a pornographic clip, which features actors from the adult entertainment troupe My Sweet Apple.
“Time to ditch those boring self-tour recordings and enjoy every single brushstroke of these erotic masterpieces with me,” Akira said while promoting the site.
Indeed, PornHub’s descriptions for the works would not be considered boring by most. In its summary of “Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters” — which features the titular Gabrielle pinching her nude sister’s nipple — the site writes, “There’s something theatrical about the scene, with both women starting nonchalantly back at us from what feels like a stage, giving it some early cam girl energy.”
Louvre and Uffizi To Sue
As Daily Beast writer Barbie Latza Nadeau put it, “There is little doubt that the clever app will bring these masterpieces to a whole new audience by marrying two worlds that might not generally engage.”
That said, the extra attention seems to be actively unwanted by the Louvre and the Uffizi, both of which are now planning to sue PornHub for rights infringement and ask a court to force the website offline.
“In Italy, the cultural heritage code provides that in order to use images of a museum, compressed works for commercial purposes, it is necessary to have the permission, which regulates the methods and sets the relative fee to be paid,” a Uffizi spokesperson told Daily Beast. “All this obviously if the museum grants the authorization which, for example, would hardly have been issued in this case.”