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Drop in U.S. jobless claims boosts hopes of economic rebound

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Drop in U.S. jobless

The number of Americans filing for unemployment aid fell from a 14-month high last week, the latest sign that the economy was regaining speed after stumbling in the first quarter.

Another report on Thursday showed factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region contracted further in May, although manufacturers continued to anticipate a pickup in activity over the next six months.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000 for the week ended May 14, the Labor Department said. That was the biggest drop since February and snapped a three-week string of increases.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a strong job market, for 63 straight weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

The claims report added to data on retail sales, housing starts and industrial production in painting an upbeat picture of the economy at the start of the second quarter. Gross domestic product growth braked sharply to a 0.5 percent annualized rate in the January-March period.

The steady stream of firmer economic reports came amid signs that the Federal Reserve is moving closer to raising interest rates again. Minutes from the U.S. central bank’s April 26-27 policy meeting, published on Wednesday, showed most officials considered it appropriate to raise rates in June if data continued to point to an improvement in second-quarter growth.

The Fed raised its benchmark overnight interest rate in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

MANUFACTURING CONSTRAINED

In a separate report, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said its business conditions index fell to minus 1.8 this month from a reading of minus 1.6 in April. The index has registered a negative reading in eight of the last nine months.

Details of the survey were mixed, with a measure of new orders contracting after being flat in April. Current shipments, however, rose 10 points and a gauge of inventories increased to a nine-month high. The employment measure improved 15 points this month, but remained negative for a fifth consecutive month.

Manufacturing remains constrained by the delayed pass-through of the U.S. dollar’s rally between June 2014 and December 2015, as well as lingering effects of the oil price plunge.

The dollar .DXY pared gains against a basket of currencies after the data. Stock index futures were trading lower, while prices for longer-dated U.S. Treasuries edged higher.

Jobless claims had risen since mid-April, with economists blaming a variety of factors, including the different timing of school spring breaks, which often makes it difficult to adjust the data around this time of the year.

An ongoing strike by Verizon (VZ.N) workers as well as possible disruptions to manufacturing activity in the wake of recent earthquakes in Japan have also been cited.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week’s claims data and no states had been estimated. There were large declines in unadjusted claims for New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which had seen hefty gains in recent weeks.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 7,500 to 275,750 last week. The claims data covered the survey week for May’s nonfarm payrolls.

The four-week average of claims increased 15,000 between the April and May survey periods, suggesting little change in employment gains after the economy added 160,000 jobs last month.

Thursday’s claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 13,000 to2.15 million in the week ended May 7. The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims rose 4,250 to 2.14 million.

Politics

Facebook workers stage virtual walkout over no action on Trump tweet

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

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George-Floyd

San Francisco, June 1 : Several Facebook employees on Monday staged a “virtual walkout” in protest at the social networking giant’s policies regarding a recent controversial post by President Donald Trump on its platform.

The employees took to Twitter, publicly announcing their solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter protests that have seized the nation since the death of African-American George Floyd by a white police officer on May 25.

“Today I am participating in a virtual walkout over Facebook”s recent decisions not to moderate posts that we believe violate our platform standards,” posted one Facebook employee.

Another employee tweeted: “As allies we must stand in the way of danger, not behind. I will be participating in today”s virtual walkout in solidarity with the black community inside and outside FB.”

Several Facebook employees have come out in the open to protest the social media giant”s stand on not taking action on a controversial post from Trump about the Minnesota protests.

“I believe Trump”s ”when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet (cross-posted to FB), encourages extra-judicial violence and stokes racism. Respect to @Twitter”s integrity team for making the enforcement call,” David Gillis, Director, Product Design at Facebook, said in a tweet on Sunday.

While Twitter last week put out a “public interest notice” on the tweet for violating the platform”s policies about glorifying violence, Facebook refused to take action when the tweet was cross-posted to its platform.

Defending the decision to not take action on the controversial posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said that its “policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force”.

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today”s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be,” he said.

“Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician,” Zuckerberg added.

In a series of tweets, Gillis argued that policy “needs to evolve” and take more context into account.

“While I understand why we chose to stay squarely within the four corners of our violence and incitement policy, I think it would have been right for us to make a ”spirit of the policy” exception that took more context into account,” he said.

“At any rate, when we have to vigorously debate whether to make an exception to the way we interpret and enforce a given policy (as happened on Friday), this often indicates that said policy needs to evolve. I think that is the case here,” he said.

Another Facebook employee tweeted that he was not proud of how Facebook reacted.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we”re showing up. The majority of coworkers I”ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard,” said Jason Toff, Director of Product Management at Facebook.

–IANS

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Tech

Did ”Anonymous” hacker group attack Minneapolis police website?

On its unconfirmed Facebook page on Thursday, hacker group Anonymous said it was targeting the department.

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Website-hack

San Francisco, June 1 : After hacker group Anonymous issued a threat of retribution for the death of George Floyd allegedly due to police brutality, the website of Minneapolis Police Department showed signs that it faced a cyber attack.

The website currently requires visitors to submit “captchas” to verify they are humans, not bots, the New York Post reported on Monday.

On its unconfirmed Facebook page on Thursday, hacker group Anonymous said it was targeting the department.

The politically-charged hacker group targeted the police department for its “horrific track record of violence and corruption” in an almost four-minute video.

“This travesty has gone on for far too long, and now the people have had enough,” a figure said in a mechanical voice.

“People have had enough of this corruption and violence from an organization that promises to keep them safe,” it added.

“Unfortunately, we do not trust your corrupt organization to carry out justice, so we will be exposing your many crimes to the world,” said the masked figure.

Some 5,000 US National Guard troops were deployed in major states amid the ongoing protests against the death of Floyd in police custody on May 25 in the city of Minneapolis, while also demanding an end to racism and police violence.

–IANS

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Disaster

Italy’s death toll from coronavirus rises by 75 to 33,415

The rest 35,253 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

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Italy Coronavirus

Rome, June 1 : Seventy-five more COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country”s toll to 33,415, out of total infection cases of 233,019, according to fresh figures.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,616 to 42,075, said the Civil Protection Department on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 435 are in intensive care, 15 fewer compared to Saturday, and 6,387 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 293 patients from the previous day.

The rest 35,253 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 1,874 compared to Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 157,507.

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