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Business

COVID-19: Amazon staff in the UK to get pay packet bonus in the run-up to Christmas

Amazon staff in the UK are set to see a Christmas boost in their pay packet, after the firm announced $500m (£374m) in global bonuses.

The company, which is run by the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, will hand out £300 to full-time workers who are employed from 1 to 31 December, while part-time staff will get £150.

It comes after a year where many people have relied on the company – which runs a global retail operation and streaming service – to send gifts, buy essential items or while away the hours on box sets and films.

In a blog post, the firm’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, Dave Clark, said this holiday season would be “unique”, and that he was “grateful to our teams who continue to play a vital role serving their communities”.

He added: “This brings our total spent on special bonuses and incentives for our teams globally to over $2.5bn (£1.84bn) in 2020, including a $500m (£374m) thank you bonus earlier this year.

“Our teams are doing amazing work serving customers’ essential needs, while also helping to bring some much-needed holiday cheer for socially distanced families around the world. I’ve never been more grateful for, or proud of, our teams.”

Despite paying two rounds of bonuses this year, the firm has had to answer questions about its safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic after US politicians scrutinised Amazon’s working practices.

Amazon joins major US retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot in spreading the wealth, after sales during coronavirus lockdowns surged.

Bezos also grew his personal wealth exponentially in 2020 and is estimated to be worth almost $186bn (£136bn) – almost $60bn (£44bn) ahead of the next richest person in the world, Elon Musk.

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World News

Man dies in shark attack at popular tourist beach in Australia

A 55-year-old man has died after being attacked by a shark in Western Australia, the eighth fatality in the country this year.

Police were called to Cable Beach, a popular tourist spot on Australia’s Indian Ocean coast, at about 8.40am on Sunday.

The man was pulled from the water with serious injuries and treated by police before paramedics arrived. He died at the scene, police said.

Local media reports said the man was bitten on the upper thigh and hand.

The species of shark involved in the attack is not known.

Park rangers immediately closed the beach and a fishing vessel was assigned to patrol the area.

The man was the eighth victim to die in a shark attack in Australia this year, the highest toll since 1929 when nine died.

The most recent previous attack in Esperance, Western Australia, occurred on 9 October when a surfer was dragged from his board by a shark, according to his companions.

His body wasn’t found despite a three-day search but his surfboard and parts of his wetsuit were located.

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World News

1 in 49 Coloradans now contagious with COVID-19, state estimates

One in 49 Coloradans is now contagious with COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis said Friday, citing estimates from the Colorado School of Public Health.

That’s a dramatic leap from last week’s estimate of 1 in 110. In late October, officials estimated the average was 1 in 292.

“If you have five people over, you’ve got a 1 in 10 chance of being exposed to the virus right there,” Polis said during a virtual press conference Friday. “Literally everybody that you encounter could be contagious at this time.

“Now is the time when what was always reasonably safe is no longer reasonably safe,” he added. “We are losing Coloradans every day to this horrible virus.”

He continued to stress the importance of personal responsibility and suggested that the present challenges many small businesses face — laying off staff and cutting back capacity, if not closing altogether — are an unfortunate outcome of individuals’ lack of caution.

“It’s unfair that our small businesses are paying a price for, fundamentally, a lack of personal responsibility and us each taking charge of preventing the spread of the virus in our own lives, which is well within our own power,” Polis said.

As of Friday afternoon, the state reported 1,564 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 159 suspected cases. That is a new state record, and far above the springtime peak 1,277 hospitalizations of people either confirmed or suspected to have the virus. Mesa County reported Thursday that it has no remaining ICU capacity, and Polis said Friday that Weld County had just three ICU beds remaining.

Polis also reported more than 5,000 confirmed new cases of the virus Friday, though he said the state believes the real daily number of new cases is likely as high as 12,000.

In response to the uncontrolled spread of the virus and the resulting pressure on local health care systems, the state is moving 20 of its 64 counties to Level Red on the recently revised COVID-19 restrictions dial. At that level, in-person dining is shut down, and offices and gyms must dramatically reduce capacity. This is the strictest level on the dial short of Level Purple, which the state created this week and which calls for a stay-at-home order similar to what Polis ordered in March.

For 15 counties, Level Red went into effect Friday. Those counties are Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Logan, Mesa, Morgan, Routt, Summit and Washington.

Another five counties — Alamosa, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo and Weld — have been directed by the state to move to Level Red on Sunday. Weld County commissioners on Friday declared they would not enforce this new designation. It was unclear as of Friday afternoon how the state planned to respond to that declaration.

At the virtual press conference, Polis spoke generally about county-level designations and said he wants to “give the counties a chance to implement their own mitigation efforts.” That approach has led to some counties being placed at Level Red, while other counties with worse or similar virus metrics avoiding Level Red.

State officials, Polis included, remain extremely frustrated by the lack of new federal stimulus money from Congress. The state cannot deficit-spend, unlike the federal government, which means the state can do relatively little to prevent many of the business closures, layoffs and individual descents into poverty, hunger and homelessness that are likely in the offing.

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Business

The surge in coronavirus cases is helping speed up the development of vaccines.

There is a slender silver lining to the out-of-control pandemic: It is hastening the testing of vaccines that could eventually end it.

The surging number of virus cases has already allowed Pfizer and Moderna to accelerate the testing of their vaccines, which appear to be very effective at preventing Covid-19, and it is likely to speed the evaluations of promising vaccine candidates from other pharmaceutical companies, The New York Times’s Rebecca Robbins reports.

Here’s how the trials work:

Late-stage vaccine trials are designed so that the faster participants get sick, the faster drug developers gain enough data to know whether their vaccines are effective.

The trial ends after a certain number of cases — around 150 to 170 — have accrued. That number is chosen to make sure the results have sufficient statistical power to tell how well the vaccine works.

For example, Moderna, which announced on Monday that an early analysis found its vaccine to be 94.5 percent effective, had planned for an outside panel to take a first look at its data after only 53 cases of Covid-19 turned up in its trial. But the nationwide surge in infections helped Moderna blow past that number: The results were based on 95 sick participants.

Hoping to fast-track their testing, drug makers have been setting up trials in virus hot spots all over the world — not just in the United States. For example, Chinese vaccine makers are running late-stage trials of their candidates in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Argentina and Peru.

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Business

COVID-19: One in seven UK companies fear they are at risk of collapse, ONS survey finds

One in seven companies fear they are at risk of collapse in the next three months, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics.

The survey found that some 14% of British businesses said they have “low or no confidence” that they will survive the next 12 weeks.

The least positive were accommodation and food services, with 34% saying they had no or low confidence in their three-month survival prospects.

Across all industries, 7% of businesses said they expected to temporarily or permanently close a site in the next two weeks, including 25% of accommodation and food service firms.

The survey was based on the period between 19 October and 1 November 2020, when 82% of businesses were trading.

The ONS also estimated that 9% of the workforce was on furlough during the two weeks to 1 November, including 34% of people in the arts, entertainment, and recreation.

Earlier on Thursday, the government said it had given banks guarantees on £65.48bn of lending to businesses hit by the pandemic.

The figure, as at 15 November, was up from the £61.93bn a month earlier.

Most of the lending (£42.18bn) was to small businesses, for which banks get a 100% government guarantee.

Also on Thursday, the Confederation of British Industry called for at least seven days’ notice of any government plan for ending the lockdown brought in by the government earlier this month.

The lobby group said firms will need time to activate supply chains and call in staff ahead of the expected reopening in England on 3 December.

The financial quarter leading up to Christmas is vital for retailers, who were already struggling to recover from the harsher lockdown earlier in the year.

The coronavirus pandemic pushed Britain’s economy into the worst recession on record in the first half of the year and GDP is expected to shrink again in the fourth quarter.

Redundancies have risen to a record high, prompting the government to extend its furlough scheme.

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Politics

Here is the state of play in the undecided states that could determine the presidency.

Here is the state of play in seven battleground state as of 10 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.

ARIZONA

Electoral votes: 11
Biden leads Trump, 51 percent to 47.6 percent, with 87 percent of the estimated vote in.
To keep in mind: Counties with critical votes still to be counted include Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and where Biden is ahead by about six points. Vote-counting is expected to finish today, though it could take longer.

GEORGIA

Electoral votes: 16
Trump leads Biden, 50.5 percent to 48.3 percent, with 92 percent of the estimated vote in.
Keep in mind: Most of the votes yet to be counted are in DeKalb County and other counties in the suburbs of Atlanta that have been breaking heavily for Biden. The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said in a television interview that he expected the count to be done by the end of the day, and called a news conference for late Wednesday morning

MICHIGAN

Electoral votes: 16
Biden leads Trump, 49.3 percent to 49.1 percent, with 90 percent of the estimated vote in.
Keep in mind: More than a quarter of the vote in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Detroit, has yet to be counted, and Biden was closing the gap in Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, with more than 10 percent of votes outstanding.

NEVADA

Electoral votes: 6
Biden leads Trump, 49.3 percent to 48.7 percent, with 86 percent of the estimated vote in.
Keep in mind: The critical votes still to be counted are mail ballots sent on or after Election Day and provisional ballots, which are expected to favor Biden. The secretary of state says the next update will come at around 12 p.m. Eastern time.

NORTH CAROLINA

Electoral votes: 15
Trump leads Biden, 50.1 percent to 48.7 percent, with 95 percent of the estimated vote in.
Keep in mind: With most votes now tabulated, Biden would need to win about two-thirds of the remainder to pull ahead.

PENNSYLVANIA

Electoral votes: 20
Trump leads Biden, 54.8 percent to 43.9 percent, with 76 percent of the estimated vote in.
Keep in mind: An analysis by The Time’s Upshot finds that the remaining vote appears to be overwhelmingly for Biden. Only 19 of 67 counties have reported absentee votes. The counties where the largest portion of the votes have yet to be counted include Philadelphia, the state’s most populous county, where Biden leads by 53 percentage points, and Bucks, the state’s fourth most populous, where Trump leads by 14 percentage points.

WISCONSIN

Electoral votes: 10
Biden leads Trump, 49.5 percent to 48.8 percent, with 97 percent of the estimated vote in.
Keep in mind: Biden’s narrow lead is the mirror image of the Trump’s four years ago, and there are only a scattering of precincts remaining to be counted across the state.

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Politics

The view in Pennsylvania: Democrats are confident, even as the Trump team considers legal challenges.

PITTSBURGH — As Pennsylvania continued to count an estimated 1.4 million outstanding mail-in ballots on Wednesday, Democrats were confident that the results would skew heavily to Joseph R. Biden Jr. and ultimately deliver him a narrow victory over President Trump, whose legal team was descending on the state to mount challenges in court.

Mr. Trump holds a 542,000-vote lead with 78 percent of the estimated total votes reported. Elections offices in the state’s populous, Democratic-leaning cities and suburbs were only partway through tabulating and reporting the bulk of mail ballots.

So far, Mr. Biden has won nearly four in five of the mail votes reported, a reflection of the president’s monthslong disparagement of mail ballots, which led to far fewer Republicans voting by mail than Democrats than Republicans.

If the unreported votes follow the same pattern, said Rich Fitzgerald, the Democratic county executive of Allegheny County, “Joe Biden would probably pick up 1,050,000 voters, Donald Trump would pick up 350,000, for a net gain for Joe Biden of about 700,000 votes.’’

“The distance now is 540,000,” he added. “So Biden probably wins the state by roughly 100,000.’’

Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, expects to report its outstanding mail votes by the end of Wednesday. Other Democratic enclaves, including Philadelphia and its suburban counties, are expected to report in the next one to three days. As of Wednesday morning, more than half of the ballots in Philadelphia had still not been counted.

Looming over the counting, however, are multiple lawsuits filed by Republicans at both the county and statewide level, questioning the process by which voters were notified of issues with mail in ballots and allowed to cast provisional ballots. Hearings are scheduled in both Montgomery County and at the state level on Wednesday.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated that election officials would count every ballot remaining.

“Pennsylvania will have a fair election, and that election will be free of outside influences,” Mr. Wolf said. “I will vigorously, and we all will vigorously, defend against any attempt to attack that vote in Pennsylvania.”

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Politics

In Detroit, Kamala Harris makes a final pitch.

DETROIT — Standing in the parking lot of Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, Senator Kamala Harris issued a late call to action on Tuesday.

“Today is a day that many of us have been waiting for four years,” she told a crowd of a few hundred people. “Let’s make sure everyone we know votes. Let’s keep texting. Let’s keep calling, knocking on doors of neighbors and your family members. We got all day to get this done.”

Shortly after, at the Greater Grace Temple on West Seven Mile Road, she rallied volunteers who were getting ready to knock on doors at a few final homes before the polls closed at 8 p.m.

Fazila Siddiqui, 46, a surgical trauma nurse at St. John Ascension Hospital in Detroit, had volunteered for the campaign. She was infuriated at Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that doctors were miscategorizing patient health problems as Covid-19 as a way to make more money.

“For him to say that we’re doing it for the money is insulting, and it belittles our work,” Ms. Siddiqui said in an interview. “And it makes me very, very angry. I already knew how I was going to vote because of the way he handled the entire crisis, which was beyond ridiculous.”

Garnering those final few votes is crucial for both campaigns. Mr. Trump won Michigan by the smallest margin in the nation — less than 0.2 percent of the vote — over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats here still reel from that loss in a state that hadn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1988.

And even though the vast majority of polls have shown Mr. Biden up by anywhere from six to 12 points in the state in the last month, Mr. Trump decided to return again and again to Michigan to try and recreate his 2016 victory.

“We’re going to win the state of Michigan so easily,” he told the crowd at a rally that was televised in Grand Rapids on Monday that stretched past midnight into Election Day.

At the sheet metal workers union, Ms. Harris offered a countering view: “I’m done talking about the guy currently in the White House. You know why? Let’s talk about the opportunity that is in front of us right now: We get to elect Joe Biden.”

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Politics

In a historically Republican suburb of Pittsburgh, voters debate whether to give Trump a second term.

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Long lines of voters moved steadily in the first hour of voting at the Municipal Center in this town of about 30,000 people in Butler County, a historically Republican county.

Cranberry Township, home to the headquarters of Westinghouse Electric and many engineers, voted four years ago for Mr. Trump. Signs outside the polling place voiced support for Republicans, including one reading “Fire the Lockdown Liberals.’’

“I’m voting to honor God today,’’ said John DeGraaf, 47, a software engineer who said he was voting for President Trump because of his appointments to federal courts.

Another engineer, Vince Vazquez, 38, whose mother survived Covid-19 in March, said Mr. Biden would do a better job handling the pandemic. “As an engineer, there is a certain level of rationality that you should have,’’ he said, complaining that the Trump administration had not followed the guidance of scientists.

Alex Kimbi, 29, an internet technology specialist, said he voted for Mr. Trump four years ago but was casting a ballot for Mr. Biden. “I thought I should give Trump a shot,’’ he said, “but after so many of his tweets and the way he talks, I think maybe I should try someone else.’’

“I just think Biden might be able to bring the country together,’’ Mr. Kimbi said. “He said he’s going to be the president for the whole of America and not a specific party.

Mr. Kimbi held a mail-in ballot that he had requested, but he said he did not trust the Postal Service to deliver it on time and was voting in person.

Justin Rees, 29, an engineer who said he did not vote in 2016, was casting a ballot for Mr. Trump. He described his position as a vote against the news media, which he said had distorted Mr. Trump’s speeches.

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World News

Free and cheap things to do in Denver, November 2020

Election deals

While there are more important issues on Nov. 3, bargain hunters will always vote for saving money. Whether you dropped your ballot into a box, mailed it in or stepped into the voting booth, you can enjoy a few Election Day deals around town. Snarf’s Sandwiches is offering voters a buy-one-get-one free 5-inch or 7-inch non-specialty sandwich. Just let the staff know you voted or show your “I Voted” sticker. At Krispy Kreme, anyone who visits on Election Day get a free original glazed doughnut. And, finally, the day is expected to be long for many, so Boston Market is serving one of its new sliders for free, from 9 to 10 p.m. Choose from chicken cheddar, turkey cheddar, chicken chipotle or BBQ meatloaf. Each offer is available at participating locations, while supplies last.

Melt down

Natural Grocers is also offering some post-election relief. From Nov. 5 to 7, customers can get a free full-size chocolate bar. Choose your favorite flavor from one of the following brands: Alter Eco, Natural Grocers Brand, Chocolove, Endangered Species or Theo Chocolate. The offer is open to its loyalty members. Limit one per account. If you’re not a member, you can sign up in-store. Plus, for the three days, customers can enter to win a $500 gift card and other prizes.

Santa’s back

Kids can meet Santa Claus for free at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s from Nov. 7 to Dec. 24. With new safety and social-distancing measures in place, the store continues the annual event’s tradition of in-person visits with Santa, live elves and animated reindeer. Best of all: Families that visit Santa receive a free 4×6 studio-quality photo, as well as a free customized digital video that can be shared on social media. In addition, children can mail their letters to Santa and bring home complimentary holiday craft activity kits. Store hours vary throughout the season; check the website for details. NOTE: Registration is required this year and opens Nov. 2. There is one location of Bass Pro Shops (Denver) and two Cabela’s (Lone Tree and Thornton) in Colorado.

Buzz-worthy offer

Great Clips is celebrating Veterans Day with an offer for those who are a cut above the rest. On Nov. 11, the salon is giving all veterans and active military members a complimentary cut (no buzz-cut required). Not in need of a haircut quite yet? Pick up a free haircut card valid through Dec. 11. (Cards can only be redeemed by a veteran or active military.) You must present a proper military ID for either the free cut or card. Civilians who purchase a service on Veterans Day will also receive a free haircut card to share with a veteran in their lives. The offer is popular, so expect a little wait or use the chain’s online check-in for convenience.

16th Street Mall Holiday Festival

If you’re looking for a little fresh air and space with your holiday shopping, the 16th Street Mall Holiday Festival is the place to go. Take a stroll along the Mall to enjoy a showcase of artisans producing original and unique handmade goods, delicious specialty foods, home décor and unique holiday gifts. With plenty of elbow room, you can peruse a wide variety of vendors, all while enjoying that Colorado sunshine. The free event takes place weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., next to the 100-foot-tall Christmas tree. Mark your calendar for Nov. 13-15, Nov. 22, Nov. 27-29 and then Dec. 4-5, Dec. 11-12, and Dec. 18-20.

RELATED: Denver’s winter celebrations will somehow be bigger this year — but some favorites will be missing

Winter Wonderlights

Loveland gets a bit brighter this holiday season with its Winter Wonderlights. The walkable lighting attraction in the Chapungu Sculpture Park at Centerra is open from Nov. 14 to Jan. 1, 2021, from 5 to 9 p.m. Each night, visitors will revel in more than 75,000 holiday string lights, twinkling bulbs, LED snowflakes, illuminated African stone sculptures and the only 20-foot LED Christmas Tree in the state. In addition, there is a 30-minute music and light show each evening, starting at 5:30 p.m. In addition to nightly lighting attractions, special weekend programming includes Colorado’s largest inflatable igloo, weekend food and retail vendors and special performances sprinkled throughout. The event is free. However, canned food donations to support the Larimer County Food Bank will be accepted.

L’Esprit de Noel Home Tour

After 43 years as a signature holiday event in Denver, the L’Esprit de Noel Home Tour is going virtual for the first time ever. As the Central City Opera Guild’s only fundraiser of the year, the event has a long history of featuring Denver’s most interesting neighborhoods through a two-day walking tour of grand and historical homes, decorated by the area’s most prolific florists and designers. This year, the “Le Petit” tour moves online in the form of a free video walk-through of the incredible Fisher Mansion and features performances by Central City Opera artists. The video will be available from Nov. 20 to Dec. 25. Viewers are encouraged to support Central City Opera through a donation, if possible.

When the Broncos score, you score

With so many changes to the NFL season, some Broncos fans may be a little late to the game knowing about the local offers on the playing field this season. When the Broncos score just a single touchdown, fans can get a Classic Roast Beef sandwich for just $1 at Arby’s, the following day. New this year: Arby’s has increased the limit from one sandwich per person to five. And fans can sip on a complimentary 12-ounce cup of coffee at Conoco. The hot offer is available all day, the day after every game.

More freebies, discounts and deals at MileHighOnTheCheap.com.

Every month, Laura Daily and Bryan K. Chavez at MileHighOnTheCheap.com compile “Cheap Checklist” to help smart shoppers find freebies, discounts and deals. Send tips to [email protected] 14 to 21 days in advance.

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