Real Estate Investing in the Age of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies

Just a few years ago, some financial experts made the claim that only 1% to 2% of all forms of money used in the United States was physical by way of dollar bills or coins.
Today, the number might be even lower as more people rely on credit and debit cards, crowdfunding platforms, and cryptocurrencies or blockchain networks to buy and sell goods, services, and assets.
As of early 2018, there were an estimated 180 different national currency systems used around the world. The British Pound is the world’s oldest currency still used today, dating back to the 8th century. The newest global currency is the South Sudanese Pound introduced on July 18, 2011.
Physical Assets & Their Market Value

Here’s a look at the total estimated market value of some prominent types of physical assets: Cash, gold, stock certificates, checking and savings accounts, and real estate.
* Source: Visual Capitalist

Physical Asset Class Value in U.S. Dollars

All Coins and Banknotes worldwide $ 7.6 trillion
All Gold held by individuals and central banks $ 7.7 trillion
All Global Stock Markets $ 73 trillion
Global Money Supply (cash, savings, checking) $ 90 trillion
All Developed Real Estate worldwide $217 trillion

Over the past 100+ years, the primary source of capital to purchase real estate has come from some of the largest global banks. Yet, big banks aren’t lending as much money these days for real estate as they were 10 or 20 years ago, so more private money options have become available to buyers, such as crowdfunding platforms for real estate, investment funds, hedge funds, and various digital currency systems.
Some of these banks listed in the global Top 10 have been a consistent source of capital for residential and commercial property investors over the past several decades:

On January 3, 2018, the total combined market capitalization value of all global cryptocurrencies or blockchain networks reached an all-time high of over $700 billion dollars (U.S.). Prior to this, the previous overall market cap high was $654 billion reached on December 21, 2017.

BITCOIN
The best known cryptocurrency around the world is Bitcoin. The price for an ownership share of one Bitcoin has fluctuated widely over the past year.
Near the peak high of $19,700 for Bitcoin in mid-December 2017, the total combined market cap value was greater than any bank on the planet in spite of not having any actual cash as Bitcoin briefly surpassed JPMorgan Chase for the #1 spot overall.
Bitcoin exchange As a percentage of global dominance, Bitcoin is still ranked #1 most valuable cryptocurrency or blockchain network in the world.
Yet, the percentage of the overall cryptocurrency market has fallen for Bitcoin as compared with the other cryptocurrencies.
For example, the combined market value of Bitcoin reached a whopping 95.96% of all cryptocurrencies held on November 11, 2013.
By March 5th, 2018, the total global market share for Bitcoin fell to 41.57% of the global market, per coinmarketcap.com.
In January 2018, there were an estimated 1,380+ cryptocurrencies available for sale over the Internet. So, the falling market shares for Bitcoin may be due to increased competition and the 1,380+ selections available.
Real estate values far exceed all other combined values of physical currency, digital currencies, stock markets, gold, and bank account deposits worldwide. It would be a natural transition for holders of digital currencies to take their newfound wealth and roll it from cryptocurrencies into real estate as a way to diversify their financial holdings.
Many investors in blockchain networks have made an absolute fortune watching their share prices go from cents to dollars to hundreds of dollars and even tens of thousands of dollars.
Propy, an online international real estate marketplace that allows investors to purchase properties with digital currency, has handled potentially the very first recorded real estate closing and deed transfer using blockchain currency in South Burlington, Vermont.
bitcoin pay
Natalia Karayaneva, the CEO of Propy, has said that the company has closed real estate transactions in the Ukraine, and hopes to use their system for deals in California and Dubai soon.
Will this very first blockchain closing in Vermont open the door to the other 49 states? If so, how will it affect title insurance and escrow companies, banks, investors, agents, and speed up the closing process?
We’ll see what happens as more digital money enters the real estate marketplace.
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Bob Iger’s long goodbye to Disney is a very big deal

The news that Disney boss Bob Iger is stepping down as the company’s CEO has taken the movie world by surprise.

Since becoming chief executive in 2005, Iger led the company through several blockbuster investment and the launch of the Disney+ flow service.

Iger will remain Disney’s executive chairman until the end of 2021.

In a statement, the company said Iger would direct its “creative attempt” while securing “a smooth and successful transition”.

Bob Chapek, who joined Disney in 1993 and earlier ran the company’s parks and products division, has been appointed the company’s new CEO.

During Iger’s tenure as CEO, Disney took over animation studio Pixar, comic book company Marvel, Star Wars originator LucasFilm and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

These acquisitions, combined with the launch of Disney+, amusement park openings and other factors, saw the company’s market value increase five-fold

Of the 20 highest-grossing films of the 2010s, 13 were Disney releases. Three of these titles made more than $2 billion (£1.54 billion) worldwide.

The most lucrative of the three, superhero blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, overtook 2009’s Avatar in July 2019 to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

Last year Iger published a memoir, titled The Ride of a Lifetime, in which he wrote about the lessons he had learned from his 15 years as Disney CEO.

While promoting his book he gave his only UK interview to BBC media editor Amol Rajan, during which he reflected on his experiences and accomplishments.

“It would be nice to know that it’s going to turn out as well as it has, because I probably would have been just a little bit more relaxed,” he mused when asked what advice he would offer his younger self.

“But then again if I had been a little bit more relaxed, I probably wouldn’t have worked as hard and it might not have turned out. So because you can’t go back and do it over in anyway, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The 69-year-old also expressed pride about the number of jobs he said had been created at the Disney company during his time as CEO.

“I’m proud of our efforts for our employees – for cast members as we call them – around the world. Of which there are now about 230,000,” he said.

“There are tens of thousands more of them today, by the way, than they were when I got the job. So we’ve created a huge number of jobs. And for hourly workers.

“I am proud of their compensation. I’m proud of the benefits that we’ve bestowed upon them. I’m proud of the opportunities we’ve created for them.

“There’s been huge upward mobility in our company by the very people that start at the bottom – I’m one of them – and enable themselves to not only work their way up, but to work their way up and to earn more.”

In other departments, however, Iger did concede mistakes had been made

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yankees’ Luis Severino needs Tommy John surgery, will miss this full season

The 26-year-old pitcher Tommy John have surgery,that’s likely keeping him out until the beginning of next season. The injury is a big blow to the Yankees’ pitching staff.

TAMPA, Fla. — Last February, the Yankees gave one of their homegrown talents, Luis Severino, a four-year contract extension worth $40 million, locking up one of the best young pitchers in baseball at an reasonable rate before free agency.

A year later, it appears the Yankees might be lucky to get a season and a half out of Severino over the length of that extension. On Tuesday, Severino learned that he would require Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm, a significant blow to the rotation of a team with hopes of a World Series title this year. He will miss the rest of the 2020 season and likely some of the 2021 season.

“I am extremely disappointed that I will not be able to put on a Yankees uniform and compete with my teammates this year,” Severino said in a statement on Tuesday, “but I promise that I will be working tirelessly during this process to come back stronger than ever to make the greatest fans in baseball proud.”

Severino had been struggling with broken soreness in his right forearm since October, when he started against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. It disappeared quickly and he was cleared to start again if needed later that round.

After resting and taking some medication, Severino was throwing in spring training at the team’s facility in Tampa, Fla., without any alarm — until he tried his changeup last week and the discomfort returned. It was puzzling to Severino, he said, because he had no problems throwing his other pitches.

Still, the Yankees shut Severino down and sent him to New York, yet again, on Sunday night for three days of testing with their doctors and specialists.

This time they gave Severino an M.R.I. with dye contrast, which requires the injection of a chemical substance that improves the quality of the images. From that examination, Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees’ head physician, and Dr. David Altchek, who provided a second opinion, determined that Severino needed Tommy John surgery for a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman told reporters on Tuesday that he believed Severino’s injury had originated during the A.L.C.S. He said Severino’s discomfort wasn’t near the damaged ligament, and that none of the athletic trainers, physical therapists and doctors that had examined him in Tampa or New York previously could find any ligament problems until Tuesday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that being without Sevy, that’s a blow,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the team’s spring training game in Dunedin, Fla. “But it doesn’t change our expectations and what we’re truly capable of. No, nothing changes.”

The Yankees had been counting on Severino to help form a stout rotation this year, along with Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ. To shore up their rotation, which was arguably their biggest weakness last season, the Yankees signed Cole to a record nine-year, $324 million deal this off-season.

Last season, Severino made only three regular-season starts, plus two more in the postseason, because of a shoulder ailment and a mysterious latissimus dorsi injury. Still, the Yankees won 103 games without Severino (or Cole) thanks to their depth, which again will be tested.

Paxton is out until about May because of a lower back operation he had on Feb. 5. A typical recovery from Tommy John surgery lasts 12 to 15 months, so Severino might miss some of next season, too.

In the meantime, Jordan Montgomery, in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, is likely to fill one rotation spot. The other could go to an unproven youngster such as Deivi Garcia, Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King or Clarke Schmidt until the return of Paxton or Domingo German, who will miss the first 63 games of the season because of his suspension for violating M.L.B.’s domestic violence policy.

The injuries to Severino, Paxton and outfielder Aaron Judge (whose spring training has been delayed by right shoulder soreness) may feel like a cruel reminder of 2019. Last season, the Yankees set a major league record, with 30 different players landing on the injured list. As a result, they restructured their player health and performance staff, bringing in new experts from outside the organization and shifting around some on the inside.

Coronavirus Spreads to Soccer’s Schedule, Closing Stadiums

In China, officials struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus have delayed the start of the soccer season for months, and at least one top-division team has been marooned in the Middle East for weeks, unable to return from a preseason training camp.

 Also In South Korea, fans attending matches earlier this month were examined for fever before being allowed inside stadiums, and masks was everywhere in the stands in Japan recently — until Tuesday, when officials announced that there will be no league play until at least mid-March.

But the consequence of the coronavirus on the global soccer calendar have crossed borders, as well. Asia’s soccer association announced three weeks ago that the matches in its biggest club championship which includes Chinese teams would not be played for several months, and Vietnam has banned the hosting of sporting events of any kind this month, forcing even more games to be rescheduled.

And now the interferance has spread to Europe.In Italy, where the number of afirmed coronavirus cases is up to 300 on Tuesday, at least one game — the second leg of a knockout tie on Thursday between Internazionale of Milan and Ludogorets of Bulgaria in the Europa League — is to be played behind closed doors as the authorities continue to restrict public gatherings in the northern region of Lombardy.

The decision on Tuesday to play the game without observation came after the Italian authorities postponed four league games last weekend.

Inter Milan, a top contender for the Italian league title, said the decision was a result of several days of talks with health officials in Lombardy and European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, on how to stage the game, which could not be canceled because of the lack of alternate dates.

The game against Ludogorets is believed to be the first time a European soccer match has had to be played behind closed doors because of a health crisis. on a normal ground such conditions are forced on teams as a punishment for fan violence.

Inter, owned by a Chinese company, had already been taking steps to reduce the danger of its staff members from the virus. inessential employees have been told to work from home, and the club has purchased stocks of face masks and hand sanitizer for the team’s headquarters.

The decision to go ahead with Thursday’s match at Milan’s cavernous San Siro stadium was afirmed on Tuesday. Inter, which has an even bigger game on Sunday, when it is scheduled to visit first-place Juventus, was one of the four Italian clubs that moved a match in the country’s top league last weekend.

Other European countries are now thinking of  similar probability. On Tuesday, the French club Olympique Lyonnais said in a statement that it had taken note of the French authorities’ decision to let its match against Juventus in the Champions League proceed “in its initial configuration” on Wednesday night. Up to 3,000 fans of Juventus, a team based in the northern Italian city of Turin, are expected for the game, which is sold out.

Asked about the match, Olivier Véran, France’s health minister, told RTL radio that the authorities were being vigilant but that there were currently “no scientific and medical arguments” justifying the cancellation of large events in France.

“Should we stop Fashion Week?” Véran said. “Should we stop games? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

He added, “We are not closing the borders because we do not know how to, but because it would make no sense at this stage.”

Health officials and governments in Asia, where sports schedules have been most affected since the virus first started to spread, are facing a far different reality.

When Afshin Ghotbi, the Iranian-American coach of the Chinese team Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, was thrown into the air by his soccer players in early November after clinching promotion to the Chinese Super League, he had no inkling that almost four months later, he and his squad would still be waiting for the new season to begin.

Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, whose home city of 11 million is about 165 miles southwest of Beijing, should have kicked off its new campaign last weekend. But instead of taking on Chinese superclubs like Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG in front of 40,000 fans, Ghotbi’s team is playing preseason games in empty stadiums in Abu Dhabi, its base for five weeks and counting.

Team officials said that they did not expect to play competitive soccer until at least May or even be allowed to return to China before mid-March.

“It is a challenge for the players,” Ghotbi said. “They are away from their families and psychologically they feel very helpless.”

Ghotbi, a former head coach of Iran’s national team, has experience in global events disrupting sports schedules. He was in charge of the Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami caused the Japanese league’s season to be

delayed for six weeks.

“Back then, we also tried to use the football team as a source of inspiration and hope,” Ghotbi said. “And we are trying to do the same now through banners in the stadiums we play and through social media, though it is different as we are outside China.”

To keep his players sharp physically and mentally, he and his coaches have created a points system for intrateam activities, among other distractions. “Even changing the hotel can make a difference,” he said.

Similar challenges are now being faced across East Asia. South Korea, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases neared 1,000 on Tuesday, postponed the start of its domestic season indefinitely on Monday. The next day, Japan’s J. League announced a delay of three weeks.

Individual qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics have already been moved; in one extreme example, the China women’s soccer team was quarantined inside an Australian hotel,

forced to exercise and train in hallways, before it was allowed to play a series of Olympic qualifying games.

Yet it is the group stage of the Asian Football Confederation’s Champions League, with 32 teams spread across eight time zones, that is causing the biggest headaches.

After an emergency meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 4, the A.F.C. decided to reschedule the first three group games for the Chinese entrants in the competition: Guangzhou Evergrande and two teams from Shanghai. That means they will have to play all six games in the group stage from April 7 to May 27. The second round is scheduled to start in East Asia — the tournament is divided into two geographic zones until the final — on June 16.

Yet with Japan and South Korea suspending their leagues, and 12 deaths recorded in Iran, it may become difficult for the Champions League to continue as planned.

The implications of the spread of the virus, though, are a concern around the globe, even in places where the virus has not yet spread. On a conference call Tuesday with senior executives of Manchester United, the giant English team with partners, fans and financial interests in the lucrative Asian market, an American analyst asked if the virus would have any effect on the club’s billion-dollar bottom line.

“It is a very fluid situation,” Manchester United’s executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, replied, “and we are monitoring it closely.”

Deontay Wilder ‘points win in Las Vegas impossible’ Tyson Fury

Fury, 31, drew with Wilder in Los Angeles in 2018 and he hopes to avoid controversy by securing a knockout in their rematch on Saturday.

But he said similarities in his style with Floyd Mayweather – who landed 15 wins by decision in Vegas – is reason for his confidence in the judging.

“That slick style works and the judges here like that,” Fury told BBC Sport.

“Wilder can’t beat me on points, it’s not possible. This is Las Vegas, not Los Angeles.

“One of the greatest boxers that has ever lived in Mayweather has come from this town and they can appreciate a master boxer here.

“If it goes 12 rounds I have won.”

Fury conducted media commitments at the offices of his US promoters Top Rank on Monday, a short drive from the Las Vegas strip where his bout with WBC world heavyweight champion Wilder can be seen advertised on billboards and blackjack tables.

He spoke glowingly of his first camp under trainer SugarHill Steward after his split from Ben Davison and will also fight for the first time since appointing Conor McGregor’s nutritionist George Lockhart as his personal chef.

Those closest to the British heavyweight believe his dietary changes have offered notable results. The team have also appointed legendary cuts man Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran to ensure the damage caused by a cut that required 47 stitches in Fury’s last fight does not pose an issue.

Fury continues to predict a second-round stoppage of Wilder – who has never been floored as a professional – and trainer Steward told BBC Sport he was brought into the team because he is a “knockout architect”.

“To knock out a knockout artist you have to make them go backwards and back them up,” Fury told the BBC Radio 5 Live Boxing podcast.

“Wilder is used to coming forwards his whole career. He has never knocked anyone out on the back foot.

“All bullies when they are backed-up, fold. Wilder is no different to any other playground bully. When someone stands up to Deontay Wilder, he will fold. I will prove that on Saturday.

“Technically he is not so great. Fighting Deontay Wilder is like giving a seven-year-old an AK-47 in a room, fully loaded. He is easy to control but could let rip any time.

“He can throw punches from novice angles that usually a world champion or high-level professional wouldn’t throw. They come from the floor sometimes or around corners so you have to have your wits about you.”

Fury is expected to weigh in about 10lbs heavier than when he out-pointed Sweden’s Otto Wallin in September and again believes extra bulk will help him stop Wilder.

On Monday, Wilder’s trainer Jay Deas told BBC Radio 5 Live it was “advantageous” his fighter last competed as recently as November, when he knocked out Luis Ortiz.

But Fury is adamant the 34-year-old Alabama fighter’s five-year “reign as world champion is over” and any win would see him reclaim world-champion status for the first time since he gave up his titles when he battled personal issues in the wake of beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

A set of three bout with Wilder may form part of his next move and while there are also calls for him to face IBF, WBA and WBO champion Anthony Joshua, Fury is only certain of how long he has left in the sport.

“I am in the latter end of my career,” he added. “Three more fights, whether it takes a year or 18 months. The Gypsy King will be no more within two years that’s for sure.”

Fury’s rematch with Wilder was carefully plotted, with promoters Top Rank overseeing him build his profile with wins in the US over Tom Schwarz and Wallin in 2019.

Top Rank boss Bob Arum, 88, believes the contest will now sell in excess of two million purchases on pay-per-view.

Sitting with BBC Sport in his Las Vegas office, Arum said: “You may not know what has happened in the USA. We have two major networks pushing the fight, Fox and ESPN.

“Fox broadcast the Super Bowl. A 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl costs $5.6m [£4.3m]. Fox gave us two slots. When you put a spot like that on in the Super Bowl, you reach over 130 million people in the United States.

“Last weekend you could not put a sports network on and not see adverts for this bout. Nothing like that has ever happened in this country since I have been in this business in 1966.”

Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas Date: Saturday, 22 February Time: About 04:00 GMT, Sunday, 23 February.

Tottenham Son Heung_min Suffers Fractured Arm

Tottenham forward Son Heung-min will be sidelined for a “number of weeks” after fracturing his arm during Sunday’s 3-2 win at Aston Villa.

The South Korea international, 27, will have surgery this week.

But unfortunately for the young footballer this surely means that he will miss the Champions League last-16 tie against RB Leipzig on Wednesday and Saturday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea.

Tottenham are already without England striker Harry Kane, who tore his hamstring at Southampton in January.

Son has scored in his past five games for the club, including two goals in Sunday’s win at Villa Park.

His absence means 27-year-old Brazilian Lucas Moura, 22-year-old Dutchman Steven Bergwijn, signed in January, and Republic of Ireland international Troy Parrott, 18, are Spurs’ only fit forwards.

China Inc. Struggles to Reopen as a result of the coronavirus

Airbus company is gradually restarting its convention line in China. While General  Motors began restricted production on Saturday, Toyota followed up on Monday morning.

With a lot of  bothered poking from Beijing — China is now trying to reopen for business.

The known world’s second-largest economy practically shut down three weeks ago as a viral outbreak disease holds up a thousands of people, unexpectedly elongating a Chinese holiday. The hold set of warning that the global economy could be in jeopardy if the world’s pre-eminent manufacturing powerhouse stayed shut for long.

Now, as some factories jaks back into action, the monumental task of restarting China is becoming clear. China’s efforts to contain the virus are clashing with its push to get the country back to work, requiring the country’s leaders to strike a balance between keeping people safe and getting vital industries back on track.

Chinese leaders called this past week for more emphasis on reviving the economy. But many of the factories that have reopened are operating well below capacity, say companies and experts. Quarantines, blocked roads and checkpoints are stopping millions of workers from returning to their jobs. Supply lines have been cut.

Even to start up again, Chinese officials are requiring businesses to provide equipment like, masks to workers, record their temperatures and track their movements to make sure they haven’t come into contact with the coronavirus, which is now known as COVID-19.

“The kind of fear and freeze that has taken hold in terms of economic activity is likely to persist,” said George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Center. “I don’t really see a good outcome.”

By Monday, more than 70,000 people had been infected by the coronavirus and over 1,700 had died worldwide, according to officials. New infections continue to be confirmed around the world, including an American who was identified with the disease in Malaysia on Sunday who had been on a cruise ship, raising concerns about another potential cluster outside mainland China.

Also on Sunday, Taiwan said that a 61-year-old man who had a history of poor health but not known for travel to China had died of the coronavirus, making him the fifth fatality outside the mainland.

Still, the pace of new cases officially confirmed in mainland China, the center of the outbreak, has slowed over the past three days.

The ripples have continued to spread around the world. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore warned on Friday that the city-state could fall into recession as a result of the outbreak. Germany, Europe’s business powerhouse, on Friday reported slowing economic growth at the end of 2019, prompting fears the virus could delay a recovery.

As the new week begins, China’s mighty manufacturing machine — which accounts for a quarter of the world’s manufacturing output — showed glimmers of revving up again.

Airbus, the European aircraft maker, said that it began to reopen its narrow-body jet assembly operations last week in Tianjin but that it would only “gradually increase production, whilst implementing all required health and safety measures.” Airbus needs the production: It acknowledged on Thursday that it could not meet global demand for narrow-body jets, which airlines are clamoring for after the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jet. The Tianjin plant has a targeted production rate of six jets per month.

Volkswagen said that it partially restarted one of its 15 assembly plants in China on Thursday and that it planned to reopen the rest gradually. G.M. said that it had begun a gradual process on Saturday to reopen its more than a dozen assembly plants in China. Hyundai said it restarted most Chinese production on Monday.

Others were more circumspect. Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company, said it reopened most plants in China last Monday at the request of the government authorities, but did not offer details, like whether production had resumed. Honda said it was trying to restart production on Feb. 24.

With the exception of factories producing medical protective equipment, which the Chinese government has asked to run around the clock, few businesses seem to be returning yet to their previous pace.

Toyota said that its four assembly plants had operated on two work shifts a day before the virus spread. But it planned to reopen three of them on Monday and Tuesday with just one shift and leave closed for now the fourth and smallest, in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.

Foxconn, the Taiwan company that makes iPhones and other gadgets on behalf of Apple and global electronics companies, declined to detail which plants have reopened since the Chinese holiday ended but denied a media report that it was aiming to reach 50 percent production levels by the end of this month. It did not respond to requests for additional comment. Apple also declined to comment, but its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said last month, without offering specifics, that some of its suppliers could be disrupted.

China’s consumer electronics components factories slowly reopened through last week, and by Monday practically all had reopened except those in Wuhan, at the center of the epidemic, said

Others were more circumspect. Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company, said it reopened most plants in China last Monday at the request of the government authorities, but did not offer details, like whether production had resumed. Honda said it was trying to restart production on Feb. 24.

With the exception of factories producing medical protective equipment, which the Chinese government has asked to run around the clock, few businesses seem to be returning yet to their previous pace.

Toyota said that its four assembly plants had operated on two work shifts a day before the virus spread. But it planned to reopen three of them on Monday and Tuesday with just one shift and leave closed for now the fourth and smallest, in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.

Foxconn, the Taiwan company that makes iPhones and other gadgets on behalf of Apple and global electronics companies, declined to detail which plants have reopened since the Chinese holiday ended but denied a media report that it was aiming to reach 50 percent production levels by the end of this month. It did not respond to requests for additional comment. Apple also declined to comment, but its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said last month, without offering specifics, that some of its suppliers could be disrupted.

China’s consumer electronics components factories slowly reopened through last week, and by Monday practically all had reopened except those in Wuhan, at the center of the epidemic, said

agriculture ministry demanded over the weekend the removal of road and highway blockages in rural areas that have prevented the movement of livestock and animal feed. The southern province of Jiangxi announced last Thursday that it would dismantle checkpoints at highway entrances and exits.

But many obstacles remain.

“I know the virus is serious. I can understand that this is a disaster for the country,” said Ma Hongkui, a truck driver from northwestern China who has been stranded for weeks with dozens of other truckers in a small town in the southwestern province of Yunnan for lack of cargo. “I don’t know whom to ask for help.”

In the city of Yiwu, a hub for small manufacturers in Zhejiang province and home to a sprawling wholesale merchandise market, migrant workers returning to jobs have to submit to a two-week quarantine. When they arrived at a train station in Yiwu, they are examined by dozens of officials in makeshift hazmat suits with thermal cameras. The local government has arranged 40,000 beds to accommodate them.

Only those registered with an official list of companies and work units will be allowed to enter the city, according to a statement from the government last week. Lying would be punished with arrest.

Shanghai is gathering data from employers on each worker’s date of return and travel history, said Zhu Zongyao, the director of the city’s Big Data Center. The city’s computers will automatically assess and rate the riskiness of each worker’s recent travels in terms of possible exposure to the virus.

China is “maintaining the balance of safety for the population while at the same time getting people back to work as soon as possible,” said Michael D. Crotty, the co-owner of a curtain factory in Jiangsu Province that is preparing to reopen on Monday.

The local authorities required Mr. Crotty’s factory to obtain a 10-day supply of face masks for every worker. But suppliers in China have been giving priority to health workers and others with urgent needs. Mr. Crotty quickly arranged to import masks from all over the world.

Requiring masks is more than onerous, said Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It could also aggravate a global shortage of masks.

“At a time when there is such a shortage of face masks, you’ve got to have a rational way of using them,” he said.

The slow and partial reopening of factories could have a knock-on effect on businesses around the world. China Weaving Materials in

Jiangxi Province said that its yarn factories would not open until Feb. 20. Other companies in China need the yarn to make fabric.

In neighboring Vietnam, handbag factories are running short on fabric, zippers and various metal components that come mostly from China, said Tatiana Olchanetzky, a handbag manufacturing consultant in that country.

“Some vendors might have to make workers take unpaid leave in March if materials are not arriving,” she said.

Restarting China’s factories is only part of the challenge. The country has a huge services and consumer sector, including shops and restaurants enjoyed by an increasingly affluent middle class. Those businesses have also been devastated by the outbreak, which has kept many Chinese families confined to their homes.

Amy Li, the owner of a Shanghai restaurant that specializes in northeastern Chinese cuisine, said that her eatery had little hope of reopening soon, like dozens of others nearby, and may not survive.

“We don’t know when we can reopen,” Ms. Li said. “The future is a matter of fate.”

All You Need to Know About Chocolate And How It’s Prepared

The precious bar of chocolate has come a long way in quality and complexity. Here’s a leading on how it’s prepared, and how to pick the best and most socially produced.

You think you know everything you need to know about chocolate?

For instance: The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter the chocolate, right? The term “single origin” on the label indicates that the chocolate expresses a particular whereness.

Americans spend $21 billion on chocolate every year, but just because it’s been eaten a lot of it doesn’t mean we know what we’re eating. And misinterpretation at the store can make it unnecessary hard for chocolate lovers to figure out which of the myriad, jauntily wrapped bars crowding the shelves are the best to buy, in terms of both taste and ethics

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One thing that’s clear is that there are more varieties of handcrafted chocolates on offer than ever before, at prices that soar as high as $55 a bar.

According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, sales of premium chocolates grew 19 percent in 2018, compared with 0.6 percent for mainstream chocolate like the classic Hershey bar. Over the past decade, the number of small American bean-to-bar chocolate producers — the kind with cacao percentages and places of origin printed on those hyper-chic labels — has jumped from about five to more than 250.

But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.

How is chocolate made?

All chocolate, even white chocolate, starts with the fruit of the cacao tree, an equatorial, Seussian-looking plant with plump, bumpy, ovoid pods that grow directly from the trunk.

The cacao beans (also called cocoa beans) are the seeds that grow inside the pod, surrounded by fleshy, juicy fruit that tastes a little like a mango crossed with a pear that was carrying a lychee. After harvesting, the beans are fermented for up to a week to develop their flavors, and dried.

To make chocolate, the dried beans are roasted, then cracked to separate the outer husks from the inner nibs, which have a nutty, earthy flavor and crunchy texture — and are excellent added to baked goods. The nibs are about half cocoa solids and half cocoa butter.

Chocolate makers grind the nibs into what’s called chocolate liquor, or chocolate paste. This liquor is ground again, along with sugar and other ingredients that might include milk powder to make milk chocolate, lecithin to smooth the texture, or vanilla for flavor.

Sometimes extra cocoa butter is mixed in to give creaminess to dark chocolate, or to mellow the flavor of extra-bittersweet chocolates without much added sugar.

(Industrial chocolates may include other ingredients, like vegetable oil, corn syrup or glucose, or vanillin, an artificial vanilla. Always read the label.)

The goal of this second grinding, called conching, is to reduce the size of the sugar and cacao particles until they feel like satin on the tongue, a process that can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. Then the chocolate is tempered (heated and cooled to specific temperatures) so that it sets with that characteristic glossy look and snappy texture. After that, it’s ready to savor.

Sincerely speaking, all chocolate is bean-to-bar, just as all meals are essentially farm-to-table. But just like the chef who fanatically seeks out all her ingredients, down to the flakes of salt garnishing her sustainable line-caught crudo, bean-to-bar chocolate makers obsess over the character and ethical origins of their beans.

This is in marked contrast to mainstream industrial chocolate, in which the beans are a commodity product, bought in bulk for price, not quality.

“If there are infested, moldy, terrible-looking beans mixed in with the good ones” large chocolate companies will buy them anyway, said John Scharffenberger, a founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in San Francisco. That’s because big companies often mix in so many other ingredients that the consumer won’t taste any bad beans in the final product.

[Learn how to taste chocolate like a professional.]

The best bean-to-bar chocolate makers (also called craft or micro chocolate makers) choose beans the way chefs choose tomatoes — obsessively, often visiting the farms where the beans are grown. They roast and grind the beans themselves before making them into chocolate bars.

The pastry chef and author David Lebovitz, who wrote “The Great Book of Chocolate,” compares bean-to-bar chocolate to natural wine. “It’s exciting and alive in a way that even really great regular chocolate isn’t,” he said. “It can surprise you.”

The new wave of craft chocolate began with Scharffen Berger, founded in 1996 by Mr. Scharffenberger, a winemaker, and Robert Steinberg, who had studied at the famous chocolate shop Bernachon, in Lyon, France.

“When we started, there were only nine companies grinding their own cacao in the United States and they were all huge, except for Guittard,” Mr. Scharffenberger said, referring to the Guittard Chocolate Company, also in the San Francisco area. “We were the first new chocolate maker on the scene in 150 years.”

When Gary Guittard, the company’s fourth-generation owner, sampled some of Scharffen Berger’s chocolate, it spurred him to revamp his own production, in some cases going back to the way his great-grandfather made chocolate when he started the company in 1868.

“Scharffen Berger was the disrupter,” Mr. Guittard said. “Trying their chocolate was just terrible for me. It opened my eyes to a world of flavors that had been present in our chocolates 50 years ago, but that were lost. We had to change everything to get them back.”

Scharffen Berger was sold in 2005 to the Hershey Company, which moved the operation to Illinois. But other small bean-to-bar makers quickly followed Scharffen Berger’s lead. There are now more than 250 in the United States. And even though Brooklyn, contrary to popular belief, didn’t invent the bean-to-bar craze, it has

several producers, including Kahkow, Cacao Prieto, Jacques Torres, Raaka and Fine & Raw.

No. A bean-to-bar maker makes chocolate from cacao beans. A chocolatier buys premade chocolate, then melts it and combines it with other ingredients to make confections like truffles or pralines. And this isn’t at all a bad thing: The best chocolatiers buy superb bean-to-bar chocolate as a starting point. (Many professional chocolatiers buy from Valrhona.) It’s just that making chocolate and making chocolate confections are two different skill sets.

we have been discussing a lot about single-origin chocolate. so,

 

To return to the wine analogy, many people think that single-origin cacao beans are like grapes from one vineyard, producing chocolate that expresses nuances from that particular soil and vintage in the same way a wine might.

And sometimes that’s true. But just as often, beans labeled as having a single origin in, say, Peru or Trinidad can come from small farms in different parts of that region, each farm with a distinct terroir, variety of cacao bean and fermentation process.

“Single-origin is a flexible term,” said Maricel Presilla, the author of “The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes.” “It could refer to a specific farm known for a particular cultivar of fine cacao. Or it could mean a larger region where they grow a mix of cultivars, some of which are high-quality and some of which are not. Just saying that a cacao comes from Ecuador opens a can of worms because there are so many genetic varieties. You can’t be sure what you’re getting.”

That said, knowing a chocolate’s origin can tell you something general about its flavor. I’ve found that chocolates made from fine Latin American beans tend to be complex. Some might be bright and fruity, with notes of dried apricots, fresh berries and dark fruit, while others taste of nuts or fresh herbs. West African chocolates are often more straightforwardly fudgy, sometimes tinged with flavors of coconut, raisins and coffee.

When you’re buying single-origin chocolate, Dr. Presilla’s advice is to look for as much detail on the label as possible, including country and region, farm or estate, and the genetic variety of the cacao. “It’s a lot for the consumer to understand,” she said, “but if the chocolate maker is transparent about it, it’s a sign that they are putting thought and care into the bar.”

What does the cacao percentage on the label mean?

Cacao percentage is the amount of cacao mass (ground-up beans) present in the bar.

In order for something to be labeled chocolate in the United States, it must be at least 10 percent cacao mass. Most milk chocolate is 10 to 30 percent cacao; most bittersweet chocolates, 35 to 55 percent. (For white chocolate, only the cocoa butter is used, and it must constitute at least 20 percent of the bar.)

Historically, the cacao percentage was printed on the back of the package in tiny type, if it was listed at all. But this had changed by 1986, when Valrhona introduced its Guanaja chocolate, the first bar with a 70 percent cacao content. And it said so right smack on the front of the label, indicating a more intensely bittersweet flavor. Other chocolate makers quickly followed suit.

Here’s the confusing part. While most people assume that the higher the cacao percentage, the more bitter the chocolate, that’s not always true. In some cases, a chocolate maker’s 68 percent might taste more bitter than its 74 percent.

That’s because the percentage includes both cacao solids and cocoa butter. The solids are bitter, while the butter is smooth and creamy.

 

If a chocolate maker adds extra cocoa butter to produce a smoother texture, the overall cacao percentage will increase, but the bitterness will not.

Carol Morse, who owns Acalli Chocolate in New Orleans, adds a small amount of cocoa butter to her Teapa Dulce 64 percent dark bar to round out the inherent toasty flavors of cacao, and make the chocolate slightly creamier on the palate.

“I’m working with so few ingredients, so it’s all about balancing them,” she told me in her workshop just outside New Orleans, where she was wrapping the latest batch of glossy brown bars by hand in gold foil. Piled in a corner, burlap bags of raw cacao beans from Peru were waiting to be sorted, then roasted in a repurposed rotisserie oven once used at a Walmart store. “A small amount of added cocoa butter can make a huge difference.”

One of the biggest ethical concerns about chocolate-making is the cacao supply chain. In the current system, the vast majority of cacao beans are sold as a commodity crop without regard to quality. Because farmers aren’t paid more for better beans, there’s no incentive for them to plant finer-flavored cultivars. Nor would they have the money to do so. In West Africa, which grows 60 to 70 percent of the world’s beans, many cacao farmers live below the poverty line, making less than $1.90 a day.

Direct trade refers to beans that are bought outside this system, most often directly from farmers or farmers’ cooperatives. These beans are usually higher quality, and the farmers are paid anywhere from 50 percent to 300 percent more than the market price of commodity cacao. Currently, though, direct trade accounts for less than 1 percent of the cacao beans on the market.

While some chocolate makers buy directly from farmers, most of the micro, bean-to-bar makers in the United States get beans from one of two direct-trade cacao importers, Uncommon Cacao and Meridian Cacao. Both have strong social goals that include living wages for the farmers.

“Ninety percent of the world’s cocoa is grown on six million small farms, and most of the farmers can’t survive on what they’re paid,” said Emily Stone, a founder of Uncommon Cacao. “Our mission is building a more equitable and transparent supply chain.”

The past two decades have brought reporting about the use of child labor, sometimes under hazardous conditions, on cacao farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana, and of widespread destruction of forests in cacao-growing regions worldwide.

By 2001, consumer vicious attack had prompted the major chocolate companies to pledge to end the worst forms of child labor in the cacao industry. But no laws were ever passed in America to require this (those same companies lobbied against the legislation and quashed it). Reports have surfaced that little has changed.

It’s a similar story with environmental impact. In 2017, 34 chocolate companies agreed to end deforestation by their industry. But according to a 2018 report by the environmental group Mighty Earth, cacao production was still ravaging forests, and the animals living within them, at an alarming rate.

Even when the industry does act, efforts from the top down can fail to take root. Both child labor and deforestation are part of the daily realities of the systemic poverty afflicting West Africa, said Kristy Leissle, a founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana and author of the 2018 book Cocoa.”

To truly improve the lives of farmers and their families, Dr. Leissle said, the farmers need to be included in the conversation. “The current initiatives have been imposed on Africa from European and North American people who are not engaged in the daily labor of cocoa farming,” she said. “The solutions need to come from within the cocoa industry in Africa. That’s where the expertise is.”

Cacao, a shade-tolerant plant, can be grown under the forest canopy without drastic clearing. And when grown in a sustainable manner, it can have a low carbon footprint.

Consumers looking for chocolate that is sustainably and ethically grown should parse a lot of labels and ask a lot of questions. A good start is looking for Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and organic certifications. These independent, third-party audits can be an important part of the process, even if they are only partly effective.

Many craft-chocolate makers don’t seek certification. Instead, companies like Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco publish detailed sourcing reports on their websites, telling where they buy their beans and for how much. “It’s transparency that goes deeper than what you can fit on a label,” said Greg D’Alesandre, an owner of Dandelion.

“Everyone wants to be able to buy chocolate and go to heaven,” Dr. Presilla said, “but the issues are complicated.”

Of course, Dr. Presilla said. Chocolate is part of history, it’s part of culture and it’s delicious. But it goes even deeper than that.

“Where there is cacao,” she said, “there is life.”

Recipes: Chocolate Tahini Mousse | Cocoa Nib Sablés With Flaky Sea Salt | Bittersweet Brownie Shortbread

 

 

 

Coronavirus Patients Pose New Risks

It’s not understandable on how patients are screened or even treated in China’s standby wards, or how long they are to remain.

Credit…China Daily/Reuters

As the new coronavirus  keeps spreading unabated within the city of Wuhan, China, government officials last week imposed draconian measures.

Workers in protective gear were instructed to go to every home in the city, removing infected residents to immense isolation wards built hastily in a sports stadium, an exhibition center and a building complex.

“There must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever,” said Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who is leading the government’s response to the virus.

Many specialist are doubtful that isolating thousands of patients in shelters can stop the spread of the coronavirus. There are more than 40,000 cases in China now, in every province, despite the fact that the wide majority are in Hubei Province.

“This is a bit like closing the barn door after the horses are already out,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expect at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

And the shelters, so reminiscent of those erected in the United States during the Spanish flu pandemic, raise other concerns.

Chinese authorities have said that only residents with confirmed coronavirus are being sent to shelter, but have not fully explained how they are being screened, raising the possibility that many patients may actually be infected with flu or something else.

Inside, narrow beds are laid side by side, or stacked in bunks, in wards separated by temporary walls — perfect for the transmission of respiratory viruses. Little is known about the treatments patients are to receive, or how long they will be kept.

A spectral parallel

The containment measures in Wuhan are reminiscent of steps taken in 1918 in the United States to stop the Spanish flu. But they are being put in order on a far grander scale: Wuhan is a city of 11 million.

In New York City in August 1918, after reports that an arriving Norwegian ship was carrying sailors and passengers infected with the Spanish flu, health officials dispatched ambulances to transport 11 patients directly to hospitals.

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2020 shortlist revealed

The five contenders for the BBC World Service accolade were chosen by a panel of experts, including coaches, players, administrators and journalists.

The nominees are:

  • Lucy Bronze – England and Lyon
  • Julie Ertz – USA and Chicago Red Stars
  • Sam Kerr – Australia and Chelsea
  • Vivianne Miedema – Netherlands and Arsenal
  • Megan Rapinoe – USA and Reign FC

Voting closes at 09:00 GMT on Monday, 2 March 2020 and the winner of the award will be announced on Tuesday, 24 March on BBC World Service and the BBC Sport website.

Here’s more on the five contenders vying for the honour, which is in its sixth year.

Lucy Bronze

Age: 28 Country: England Caps: 81

Club: Lyon Position: Defender

Bronze enjoyed accolades playing for both club and country in 2019, claiming the treble with Lyon and helping England win the SheBelieves Cup and reach the World Cup semi-finals.

The right-back scored a 20-yard strike in the Lionesses quarter-final win over Norway on her way to picking up the award for second best player at the tournament.

Domestically, she was part of the Lyon side that lifted the French league, French Cup and Champions League trophies, and she was named Uefa’s Women’s Player of the Year and was runner-up for the women’s Ballon d’Or.

 

Julie Ertz

Age: 27 Country: USA Caps: 88

Club: Chicago Red Stars Position: Midfielder

An essential but often unsung member of the USA team, Ertz claimed her second World Cup winner’s medal by helping her country to success at France 2019.

The midfielder, who had only moved to the position from defence in 2017, scored a goal in the group game against Chile and was named US Soccer Female Player of the Year for the second time.

In the NWSL she helped Chicago Red Stars finish second in the division and reach the play-off final, losing to North Carolina Courage.

 

Sam Kerr

Age: 26 Country: Australia Caps: 76

Club: Chelsea Position: Forward

A new arrival at Chelsea this winter, Kerr finished as top scorer in two national leagues in 2019.

In the Australian W-League she found the net 13 times to win back-to-back golden boots, and finished top scorer in the NWSL for the third successive time with a record 18 goals for Chicago Red Stars.

She became the first Australian to score a hat-trick at a World Cup, netting four times in a group win over Jamaica and scoring a total of five in the tournament.

 

Vivianne Miedema

Age: 23 Country: Netherlands Caps: 87

Club: Arsenal Position: Forward

Miedema finished the 2018-19 WSL season as a champion and top goalscorer, netting 22 times as Arsenal affirmed a first title in seven years.

That got her the award of PFA Players’ Player of the Year for the season.

She was part of the Netherlands side that reached the World Cup final, scoring three goals in the tournament that also saw her become her nation’s all-time leading scorer across the women’s and men’s teams.

Megan Rapinoe

Age: 34 : USA Caps: 158

Club: Reign FC Position: Forward

Rapinoe co-captained the USA to success at the World Cup in 2019 and in the process claimed a hoard of accolades.

She won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top goalscorer with six, was selected as the best player of the tournament and was named player of the match in the final, a game in which she scored her 50th international goal.

Rapinoe was named Best Fifa Women’s Player and got the Ballon d’Or for 2019