Increasing Returns to Scale – Louth Online http://louthonline.com/ Fri, 21 Jan 2022 17:01:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8 http://louthonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/louthonline-icon-70x70.png Increasing Returns to Scale – Louth Online http://louthonline.com/ 32 32 Intelligent Process Automation Can Give Your Business a Powerful Competitive Advantage http://louthonline.com/intelligent-process-automation-can-give-your-business-a-powerful-competitive-advantage/ Fri, 21 Jan 2022 16:34:13 +0000 http://louthonline.com/intelligent-process-automation-can-give-your-business-a-powerful-competitive-advantage/

Over the past two years, we’ve seen digital players enter verticals with astonishing speed, introduce radically new offerings, disrupt the way businesses interact with customers, and raise the bar for simplicity and personalization. . Driven by this rapid change, traditional businesses are looking to reinvent themselves, stay relevant and thrive.

A set of disruptive technologies are maturing in the business operations space, enabling companies to improve the way they create and deliver value. Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is emerging from the back office to help businesses create adaptive, resilient, and efficient operating models and deliver seamless experiences for customers and employees.

McKinsey defines IPA as “a set of business process improvements and modern technologies that combine fundamental process redesign with robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning ( ML) and cognitive technologies such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) It helps organizations redesign processes and workflows by aligning them with customer journeys for better fluid experiences, digitize data for personalization and insights, and automate mundane tasks to achieve breakthrough increases in productivity.

Exponential growth

In the world of operations, IPA is a Swiss army knife. CEOs love its power to transform customer and employee experiences; CFOs appreciate its potential for exponential efficiency growth; line-of-business leaders appreciate the clear results it delivers; CIOs are embracing it as a digital accelerator and way to demonstrate business results.

A US health insurer, after adopting IPA across its business, found it could process claims six times faster. An agriculture and agribusiness company improved productivity by 75% with a fourfold return on investment. And one of the world’s leading providers of consumer credit and debit card services has saved more than $160 million by automating its accounts payable, accounts receivable and purchase order workflows.

At best, automation also makes tasks more human, empowering employees with new capabilities through analytics and AI and freeing up time for creativity and critical thinking.

Successful automation adopters invest in effective talent and change management programs that close skills gaps and enable frontline employees to understand and adopt related technologies. Amazon’s multi-year automation program, Hands off the Wheel, has elevated the roles and responsibilities of its employees by reducing their focus on algorithms, which ML handles more efficiently, and freeing them to imagine and innovate, while by increasing productivity.

Five Emerging Automation Themes

To understand how increasingly sophisticated automation tools can handle repetitive tasks and create smarter process flows to tackle business complexity and foster resilience, Cognizant recently surveyed 4,000 global executives in the framework of the study The work ahead. Five key themes emerged from our research and analysis:

  1. Automation is coming of age. Automation is already an integral part of modern business. Respondents also cite AI and analytics as crucial to enabling intelligent automation.
  2. More and more process work is turning to machines. The volume of work performed by intelligent machines is growing rapidly, and many organizations are leveraging automation to make sense of a deluge of process data. Respondents expect the volume of complex, routine decisions performed by machines to increase by approximately 50% between 2021 and 2023. As automation approaches incorporate AI and other cognitive technologies, organizations will move even more processes to machines.
  3. Large-scale automation deployments are rare (yet). Only 8% of respondents say they have deployed automation at scale. Most organizations implement automation piecemeal, targeting process pain points rather than integrating processes into a workflow. This strategy will change as companies understand the value of implementing increasingly sophisticated automation tools across all business functions and focus on supporting employees in the new way of working. .
  4. The more processes you scale up, the greater the returns. Respondents who augmented more business processes through automation, AI, and analytics perform better than those who augmented fewer processes. Areas of higher performance include operational efficiency, decision making, risk reduction and better customer experience.
  5. Scaling automation requires new skills and organizational models. As workplace automation grows, organizations will increasingly need soft skills such as decision-making, learning, and creativity. The sea change will occur when automation moves beyond a series of isolated initiatives to become the defining factor of a workflow, reshaping the way the business does its work.

A powerful competitive advantage

“Companies with advanced automation programs will annihilate — not just beat — the competition,” Forrester Research recently predicted. Yet many companies still take a siled approach to automation, unable to realize the full potential of IPA to help them transform their business.

To accelerate scale and achieve lasting advantage, organizations must make automation across all functions and beyond IT a strategic board-level priority, a critical enabler of an adaptive and scalable operating model.

Chart a step-by-step path to the future with intelligent process automation at cognizant.com/neuro.

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Lithuanians pave the way for EU legal migration initiatives with Sub-Saharan Africa http://louthonline.com/lithuanians-pave-the-way-for-eu-legal-migration-initiatives-with-sub-saharan-africa/ Tue, 18 Jan 2022 16:01:30 +0000 http://louthonline.com/lithuanians-pave-the-way-for-eu-legal-migration-initiatives-with-sub-saharan-africa/

The European Union faces a shortage of specialists. The reality of demographic and labor market characteristics dictates that the legal migration of talent to the EU is a unavoidable need. Yet current pathways for specialized migration fall short. So the EU is looking for new ways to connect European companies to foreign labor markets, teeming with talented young jobseekers, and has launched a series of pilot projects to test the waters. Quite unexpectedly for many, Lithuania was the first to join the initiative and its digital explorers have become one of the most successful in terms of tangible results.

The main objective of the Digital Explorers— contracted by ICMPD on behalf of the European Commission, filled vacancies in Lithuanian technology companies with Nigerian ICT talent; therefore, he explored models of international collaboration between business and government, with a non-governmental organization as the intermediary. In light of the previous limited engagement between Lithuania and African countries, this is truly a groundbreaking experience, participants and partners agree.

While the current European mobility tool for professionals, the Blue Card initiative, provides a simplified set of legal migration requirements for highly skilled workers from non-EU countries, the number of talents attracted is moo. A recent revision of the Initiative aims to solve this problem by widening access to the framework for young, more qualified specialists, but modifying the regulations may not be enough. A significant bottleneck is the real and perceived risks to the private sector of hiring talent from outside the EU.

“The legal migration paths for young specialists to the Union can solve multiple problems, including the shortage of talent in the EU, the lack of opportunities for young specialists in third countries, and address the unknowns that the sector private is faced. They could also help build mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries on comprehensive migration management. We are looking for ways to facilitate the process with EU Member States, in line with the New Pact on Migration and Asylum,” says Magdalena Jagiello, Deputy Head of Legal Paths and Integration Unit, Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).

A success story to build on

Even though EU-based companies willing to hire abroad are inevitable initiators of staff migration, mobility projects act as catalysts by providing a missing link between participating countries as well as between companies. and the public sector.

“While private companies were initially skeptical of the possibility of this unexpected connection, we spoke their language, a language that is at the heart of ICT companies. Our team members had a diverse background in ICT and law and direct knowledge of the African technology market. Therefore, we were successful in addressing hiring companies’ concerns and got answers to key questions, including recruitment and matching strategies, and potential skill level,” says Mantė Makauskaitė, Project Manager from Digital Explorers.

“We also had a long-term vision that the project would empower us to create new mutually beneficial connections between the Baltic and African ICT markets, and stakeholders were excited about this way forward,” she continues.

Through the Digital Explorers journey, 26 young men and women moved from Nigeria to Lithuania via two mobility models: a one-year job and a 6-month paid internship. They joined 13 companies working in the ICT, engineering, fintech and data science markets. Both parties were supported throughout the program – Nigerians underwent technical and non-technical training to further enhance their career prospects, while companies were consulted on the integration of international and diversity management practices . After the program, 18 participants were retained by Lithuanian ICT companies, while others continue their careers in Nigeria, making it a win-win initiative.

“The Lithuanian ICT sector is growing rapidly and the shortage of specialists is difficult to solve by relying only on local talent. We were open to hiring talent from outside the EU, but needed help establishing contacts, aligning with potential employees from third countries and making paperwork easier,” says Vaidas Laužeckas, CEO of Metasite Data Insights .

With the help of Digital Explorers, Metasite Data Insights initially hosted a junior data scientist; after the program, the company hired another. Both explorers started as junior specialists in internship positions and finished as mid-level specialists within 6 months.

Another Lithuanian company that has benefited from a connection to Nigeria, Telesoftas, was deeply impressed by the new opportunities offered by the African IT talent market and made the strategic decision to set up a Nigerian branch and open an office in Abuja with the aim of hiring at least 30 engineers by the end of 2022 and up to 100 in 2023. “The potential offered by Nigeria is simply too great to ignore. An on-site subsidiary could act not only as our main delivery center, but also as a connection, allowing Lithuanian teams to seek talent to fill their ranks and create new business opportunities,” says Algirdas Stonys, CEO of Telesoftas.

Go forward

A collaboration between Lithuania and Nigeria has emerged as an excellent example demonstrating the importance and mutual benefits of legal migration. Building on lessons learned from Digital Explorers and other projects, the EU is working to build talent partnerships. “Digital Explorers have demonstrated a successful way to connect businesses, employees and governments internationally, and could become an example of future cooperation. A better match between skills from outside the EU and labor market needs within the EU is badly needed and benefits all stakeholders in multiple ways. This would be the key aspect of talent partnerships that would improve legal pathways to the EU, while strategically engaging partner countries in migration management,” says Jagiello.

A collaboration between Lithuania and Nigeria has established itself as a prime example for larger-scale projects in Talent partnerships. “Digital Explorers have demonstrated a successful way to connect businesses, employees and governments internationally, and could become an example for future projects. A better match between skills from outside the EU and labor market needs within the EU is badly needed and benefits all stakeholders in multiple ways,” says Jagiello.

According to Makauskaitė, who is already exploring ways to expand digital explorers from the Lithuanian scale to the Baltic scale, including other African countries, such partnerships could create even more European added value if our legal systems were more harmonized and if the cross-border scale would not require understanding completely different regulations. However, for now, at least in-depth knowledge of the match between the existing talent pool and business needs can be used by other European countries.

“The match may not be perfect right away, but it’s important to know how to perfect it,” concludes the leader of Digital Explorers.

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Investors are increasingly looking to cannabis debt investment as a diversification opportunity http://louthonline.com/investors-are-increasingly-looking-to-cannabis-debt-investment-as-a-diversification-opportunity/ Sat, 15 Jan 2022 17:31:00 +0000 http://louthonline.com/investors-are-increasingly-looking-to-cannabis-debt-investment-as-a-diversification-opportunity/

The traditional option of corporate debt financing is now fueling the future of cannabis, delivering strategic returns for investors

Most often, cannabis investors have generally focused on equity investments. Early believers plunged into space, spurred on by wild speculation about future legalization. The rise of debt financing in the industry is just the latest opportunity to lure new investors into the space.

In the current low yield environment, investors face a limited number of attractive debt investment opportunities. Investors looking for yield have typically been forced to seek out distressed investment opportunities or illiquid markets. It’s no surprise that investors have therefore started exploring the cannabis industry to find higher returns without taking on the risk of distressed investments. For traditional debt investors, cannabis industry loans offer an opportunity to add exposure to a growing market with greater structural protections and reduced risk compared to traditional equity investments.

Unlike equity investments, if a company defaults on its debt, there are ways to recover capital from investors. The borrower’s assets, which can be in the form of licenses, equipment and inventory, can be sold to recover the money owed to the investor. The result is an opportunity that can increase the chances of a return on investment in a short period of time on short-term loans with durable assets.

The recent surge in mergers and acquisitions in the cannabis industry has provided a growing and healthy supply of debt investment opportunities for investors. As more lenders open their checkbooks to loan capital for cannabis businesses, interest rates have started to drop and the growing appeal of these loans to cannabis entrepreneurs has boosted investor confidence. . Today, cannabis debt investing has become an extremely stable way for investors to enter the space, and more investors than ever are relying on them to add cannabis exposure to their portfolios with a significantly lower volatility than equity investments.

The appeal of debt financing for cannabis businesses has never been stronger, as more businesses view it as a non-dilutive source of capital. Cannabis company founders recognize the potentially expansive value of their potential exit opportunities. These outflows can reach over $100 million, which means that every drop of capital has value. But to reach this potential, capital injections are needed for continued growth. Debt financing offers the solution to fund this growth, without sacrificing equity that can be worth millions of dollars down the line.

Despite the surge in cannabis debt issuance, there remains a significant pool of demand from institutional investors that could further bolster the industry. Non-traditional forms of financing will continue to thrive as federal legalization winds through the lengthy legislative process. Even after federal legalization occurs, major financial institutions will likely continue to view cannabis as a high-risk space, which will keep the cost of capital higher in this industry relative to other markets.

That being said, federal legalization is just one of the many challenges investors face when working in the cannabis space. Banking limitations will continue to be a challenge as cannabis matures, and the complex web of different state and local regulations will continue to burden the industry.

The rise of debt financing is an absolutely encouraging and significant moment in the history of the industry and will allow businesses to grow and stay nimble without sacrificing growth opportunities. Loan capital is a tool that has been a mainstay in the operation of traditional businesses and is finally widely available to cannabis businesses of all sizes.

George Mancheril is Managing Director of Custom Financial Inc., which was founded in 2018 as the first licensed commercial lender focused on the cannabis industry.

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Consumer Spotlight: A Shift to Alternative Assets http://louthonline.com/consumer-spotlight-a-shift-to-alternative-assets/ Fri, 14 Jan 2022 15:48:23 +0000 http://louthonline.com/consumer-spotlight-a-shift-to-alternative-assets/

Summary

Alternative assets can generally be defined as assets that fall outside the traditional definition of stocks, bonds, or currency investments. In recent years, there has been a democratization of access to investments in alternative assets, such as startups, investment funds or real estate projects.

Various platforms have been created over the past decade to enable individual investors to participate in private markets that otherwise would not have been accessible to them. The most recent trend? Access to cultural investments – unlocking a new asset class.

Investment platforms such as Alt, SNKRS, Rally Rd, Otis, and GOAT not only allow individuals to purchase a new class of assets in an organized fashion, but also allow fractional ownership of those same assets.

While investing in culture has been a big trend, the boom in alternative asset investing spans many verticals ranging from NFTs to real estate, art, crypto and farmland. The movement towards the “financialization of everything” will allow individuals to create value and earn according to their interests and skills. Investing in assets will move away from a market owned by “financial professionals” and instead usher in a new class of investors.

In the news

On Wednesday, January 12, it was announced that streetwear e-commerce platform StockX would seek to go public in the first half of 2022.

The company was last valued at $3.8 billion after its $60 million Series E capital raise in April 2021. Additionally, it was announced that StockX has tapped investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to work on the transaction.

What is StockX? The Company is an e-commerce platform that connects buyers and sellers of designer and streetwear accessories, footwear, electronics, luxury watches, and other collectibles. The company has recently expanded its offering to more and more consumer goods as a platform that captures various verticals within the “culture” space. Items such as sought-after game consoles, consumer electronics, and trendy accessories are often listed as the platform is product type independent (SKU) and instead focuses on capturing a cultural zeitgeist. .

StockX is one of the first “cultural” investment platforms that will grace the public markets. Ebay and Craigslist are successful examples of Internet retail marketplaces that have existed and thrived in the past. The likes of StockX and other similar marketplaces represent an “unbundling” of an existing business model.

This unbundling is not only seen in the culture market. Earlier this month, Fanatics agreed in principle to buy Topps trading cards for $500 million. Additionally, PSA/Collectors Universe went private for $850 million at the end of 2020 as the collectible card and sports nostalgia market hit its initial peak during the pandemic.

Whichever way you slice it, investing in alternative assets is becoming mainstream.

current market

As we examine the current market for investing in alternative assets, various verticals have formed as investor interest drives demand for new and innovative platforms to invest in. Below, we’ve outlined some of the major verticals that have seen new investment platforms. The map includes some of the larger players that we have identified which we believe provide a representation of the current market.

Our market map provides context on how capital has flowed to these different platforms over the past few years. According to funding data, the highest areas of concentration can currently be classified into the following categories:

  • Culture
  • Infrastructure
  • Crypto
  • Crowdfunding

What we can see from the formation of these different verticals is that there is a shift in investing from public assets (stocks, bonds, ETFs) to private assets such as those in our market map above.

Previously, these private markets were not accessible to the general public. But with the introduction of splitting and platform trading, we can anticipate a shift in capital. For context, JPMorgan and BlackRock released their Global Alternatives Outlook which covers how institutions are spending on traditional alternative assets. Both investment firms pointed to the increased volume of investments in alternative assets and cited low interest rates as one of the driving factors. More specifically, in 2021, the institutional market for alternative assets experienced:

  • $1.1 trillion in new assets under management in private debt, infrastructure, natural resources, private equity (“PE”) and real estate.
  • Total alternative assets under management exceeded $9 trillion.
  • PE investments reached $ 737 billion in new funding and a total of PE under management of $ 5.8 trillion.

Why is this important? Institutional investors (eg large banks, pension funds, insurance companies, etc.) have historically dominated all markets – public and private – by more than 90% according to NASDAQ. Retail investors, however, have seen their volume increase in recent years, with a sharp increase especially during the pandemic era. The trend shows that retail (i.e. non-institutional) investors have been more active in markets in general, a positive sign for emerging alternative asset markets.

The global macroeconomic trend of ordinary individuals accessing markets, actively seeking returns or returns, and participating in investment activities, is a tailwind for further adoption of alternative assets – an asset class that opens the appeals to a wider population.

NFT Market vs Collectibles

To look at the alternatives market on a more granular level, we’ll look at NFTs and collectible cards, two verticals that have seen incredible growth during the pandemic until today. In terms of collectible cards, the pandemic has seen a massive increase in the adoption and value of these assets. According to eBay data, domestic card sales increased 142% in 2020, indicating that an additional 4 million cards changed hands in the past year. An additional note: according to a PWCC study, if you had invested in a basket of high-end trading cards (sports, Pokemon, etc.) in 2008 instead of an S&P 500, your returns would have been 175% compared to 102 %.

Looking ahead, the domestic trading card market size is expected to grow from $10.6 billion in 2020 (last recorded data) to $62.1 billion in 2027, according to research by Research and Markets. Growth represents an annual growth rate of 28.8%.

NFTs are also rapidly gaining popularity. According to data from blockchain research firm DappRadar, the total volume of NFTs traded in 2021 was $16.7 billion including Web3 assets and $13.1 billion including only NFTs. The number represents an increase of approximately 43,000% from 2020, when trading volume only reached $33 million.

However, it is important to note that some trends seem to persist at a higher rate than others. When looking at Google’s search volume traffic and trending data, it appears that NFTs have retained internet interest while trading cards have seen a steady decline or “leveling off”. since the peak of the first wave of the pandemic. Collectibles as a whole are also showing increased interest. Supporting data included below:

Across all platforms, we anticipate increased adoption, regardless of vertical. The general trend of retail investors increasing their overall investment activity will drive the most change.

Why is this important?

The big picture would indicate that transaction platforms (think of everything from PayPal to Airbnb) have the ability to scale, generate revenue, and succeed in today’s market. While there are winners and losers, like any market, there are indications that these platforms could gain mass adoption. In the future, it is possible that major investment managers such as BlackRock, Nuveen, Invesco, VanGuard, etc. partner with platforms such as GOAT or StockX to form real ETFs for people to invest in the stock market.

The possibilities are vast in the “financialization of everything” version of the world. From a cultural investment perspective, the sports industry is squarely in the middle of the trend. We anticipate continued growth from both a platform perspective and a market participation perspective.

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M&S steals retail crown from upstart online rivals http://louthonline.com/ms-steals-retail-crown-from-upstart-online-rivals/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 04:00:01 +0000 http://louthonline.com/ms-steals-retail-crown-from-upstart-online-rivals/

It looked like a sign of things to come in January 2020 when the market value of fast fashion retailer Boohoo surpassed that of venerable Marks and Spencer, once the UK’s largest clothing retailer.

But two years later, M&S is comfortably worth more than Boohoo and its online rival Asos combined. It has improved its earnings forecast twice in the past year and Clive Black, an analyst at real estate broker Shore Capital, believes he may do so again when he briefs investors this week. Its share price rose by three quarters in 2021.

Meanwhile, shares of Boohoo, which twice warned of profiting in 2021, fell by nearly two-thirds. Asos, which is also due to release a trade update this week, has lost more than half of its market value and its chief executive.

The resurgence at M&S ​​is not one-off. B&M, a variety discount that only sells in stores, is set to hand over another £ 250million to shareholders after strong trading.

Shares of Next, which have raised their earnings forecast five times since the start of 2021, hit new all-time highs last year. JD Sports did the same. Frasers, owner of Sports Direct and Flannels, expects to make his biggest profit this year.

Kate Calvert, retail analyst at Investec, said much of the bifurcation in stock price performance was due to equity-specific issues, such as the heavy restructuring of Marks and Spencer or the bold acquisitions of JD Sports in the United States.

© Boohoo

But there are also industry-wide issues. The first is that long-established, primarily store-based retailers have used the pandemic to accelerate existing cost-cutting and restructuring plans. “In tough times, you make bigger, bolder decisions,” Calvert said.

John Lewis, Boots, and M&S, for example, have closed stores, cut thousands of head office jobs, and cut levels of store management.

“They also learned how to work more effectively online within their own businesses,” Calvert added. Higher volumes helped; around 34% of M&S clothing is now sold online, up from 22% before the pandemic. At electrical retailer Currys and DIY specialist Kingfisher, the increases are even more dramatic.

But while many more consumers have made it a habit to shop online during the pandemic, they haven’t given up on the stores.

“For much of 2020, everyone working from home and online was the only viable channel,” said Richard Chamberlain of RBC. “It was very different in 2021, people wanted more of a multi-channel experience.”

In mid-range fashion, offline competition has diminished as retailers such as Debenhams and Gap have disappeared from the shopping streets. This has helped retailers such as M&S and Next sell more products at full price, thereby increasing their profit margins.

But online competition has grown – ultra-cheap operators such as China’s Shein, established rivals such as Germany’s Zalando, and global players such as Hennes & Mauritz and Inditex, who have invested in e-commerce. .

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And many of the factors that helped online retailers early in the pandemic have faded. The proportion of clothing returned for reimbursement – a significant cost to e-commerce players – initially fell as shoppers loaded up with elasticated sweatpants and loose hoodies, but has since picked up.

Chamberlain said online operators were also heavily exposed to rising costs. “There’s a lot of upward pressure on labor costs in warehousing and logistics and it’s hard to absorb them when you’re already working at low margins.”

This has affected established players as well, but their store usage – four of Next’s five returns are processed in its stores – means the financial burden is less.

The logistical challenges have also raised questions about the international expansion of Boohoo and Asos, which does not hide their desire to be global players.

“To really compete internationally, you need scale,” Calvert said. The investment needed in logistics and marketing to achieve this is considerable, while distribution to Europe from the UK has left them ‘to be killed’ by the post-Brexit cost and complexity of exporting to market. unique.

In contrast, many traditional retailers have long since reduced their international ambitions to focus only on markets where they have a significant presence.

© Simon Dawson / Bloomberg

As a result, they ended up dominating certain niches – Kingfisher in DIY, Currys in electricity, Halford in cycles or DFS in home furnishings. Their dominant positions in these markets give them more weight with suppliers and shipping companies than online entrants such as Made.com or AO.com can exercise.

This could prove to be significant in 2022, as cost inflation is set to remain acute and discretionary income increasingly under pressure.

Next said this week that its clothing prices would on average be around 6% more expensive by the end of the year due to rising input costs.

With a 9 percent share of the UK clothing market, according to Kantar data, it has a better chance of sustaining such increases than Boohoo, which owns 0.7 percent and competes heavily on price. .

Retailers will be rigorously tested in 2022, but many expect the older, wiser cohort to come out on top.


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Searching for comets on cold, crisp nights – Sky & Telescope http://louthonline.com/searching-for-comets-on-cold-crisp-nights-sky-telescope/ Wed, 05 Jan 2022 17:53:06 +0000 http://louthonline.com/searching-for-comets-on-cold-crisp-nights-sky-telescope/

Comet 19P / Borrelly, seen here on December 30, 2021, displays a small, compressed coma and a short weak tail pointing northeast. The comet reached perihelion on February 1 and glows around magnitude 9 this month as it heads northeast through Cetus.
Rolando ligustri

If you live where it snows, you know the noises it makes when stepped on. In warmer temperatures, the snow emanates with a krunk-krunk-krunk rumble. As the air cools, it rises in height. In sub-zero weather the snow squeaks loudly and sounds like stepping on styrofoam.

Comets are made up of ice, dust and rock at low temperatures. Walking on them might not be different from walking on rocks. But I would like to think that there would sometimes be slippery spots, clumps of dust to hit and lift, and brittle, rotten ice ready to crumble at the slightest glance. Certainly, it will be a long time before someone sticks a boot in there. But that shouldn’t stop us from imagining the possibilities when we point our telescopes at those winter comets the next crisp and clear night.

Comet Leonardo (C / 2021 A1)

Amazing tail of comet Leonard
Despite Comet Leonard’s increasing distance from Earth, at the time of this photo (January 1, 2022) its tail is showing remarkable structure, while the comet’s head is glowing blue-green from the emission of diatomic carbon and cyanogen.
Damien Peach

Comet Leonard (C / 2021 A1) has stolen the show in recent weeks with its cyclical explosions, disconnect events and spectacular photogenic tail. On December 29, from the dark skies of the Atacama Desert, Daniele Gasparri captured a 60 ° long fluffy ion tail that looked like chimney smoke twisting in the wind. Not bad for a mile-wide comet that peaked at around 3rd magnitude during its brightest eruption.

The long tail of comet Leonardo
Stacked exposures with a wide-angle lens in the dark sky of the Atacama Desert reveal the extent of Comet Leonard’s ion tail on December 29, 2021. Jupiter is lower right.
Daniele Gasparri

“Parked” for now in the southwest corner of Piscis Austrinus, Comet Leonard passed perihelion on January 3 and vanished at magnitude 5.5 to 6 (January 7). He still sports a bright coma and a faint east-pointing tail visible through binoculars from dark skies, but only to southern hemisphere observers. For the most part, he left the northern skies at the end of December. My last sighting was on Christmas Eve, when Leonard barely came out for the twilight air.

Detailed map of comet Leonardo
This map shows the nocturnal progression of Comet Leonard from January 6 to February 13. The field is 6 ° × 3 ° with stars up to magnitude 12. The numbers in black are the magnitudes of the stars without the decimal place. Blue numbers are Flamsteed identifiers. The wide-field inset map – with positions marked every five nights – shows the frame. Click to enlarge.
MegaStar with permission

Expect the comet to reach magnitude 10 by mid-February. If you can, say goodbye to him – Leonard has arrived in a parabolic orbit, but he’s going into a hyperbolic orbit and will never make a smile again.

Comet 19P / Borrelly

Comète 19P / Borrelly on November 24, 2021
Comet 19P / Borrelly, which returns to Earth’s vicinity every 6.8 years, exhibits a flattened coma on November 24, 2021.
John nassr

I was happy to start the New Year with my first look at this well-known periodic comet during its current appearance. Despite the light pollution amplified by a recent snowfall, 19P / Borrelly exhibited a small, well-condensed 2-minute arc coma in my 15-inch Dob (used for all of these observations) at 64x magnification. I applied a Swan Band filter, which improves the apparent brightness and contrast of gas-rich comets, but saw no change in its appearance.

Comet 19P / Borrelly January 2022
Comet 19P / Borrelly is moving steadily northeast through Cetus over the next two weeks.
MegaStar with permission

Comet 19P / Borrelly appears near magnitude 2 Deneb Kaitos, also known as Beta (β) Ceti, earlier this month as it heads northeast of Cetus towards Pisces at a bit less of 1 ° per day. Hunt it early in the evening as soon as it gets dark when the comet peaks in the southern sky. Borrelly will hover around magnitude 9 to 9.5 all month, then slowly fade, although it will remain brighter than 11th magnitude until March. Good news as it will pass just one degree south of the complicated reflection nebula NGC 1333 on March 15-16 and roughly the same distance off the southern coast of the California Nebula (NGC 1499) on March 26-27. . These should make for good photo opportunities. (See the January 2022 issue of Sky & Telescope for a detailed graph of Comet Borrelly’s path this month.)

Comet 104P / Kowal

104P / Kowal on January 3, 2022
Coma 104P / Kowal displays a moderately condensed diffuse coma and a faint tail tip pointing northeast on January 3, 2022. Visually, the coma appeared somewhat condensed with a degree of condensation (DC) of 4 on a scale from “0” (completely diffuse) to “9” (stellar appearance). The comet reached perihelion on January 11 at a distance of 1.1 au
Michael jäger

On January 2 UT, after jumping for stars between 30 and 33 Piscium, I landed on a large, soft, circular glow about 4 inches in diameter with a magnitude of 9.8. Even through the light pollution, 104P / Kowal was easy to spot at low magnification (64x), and this time the Swan filter made the difference, increasing the comet’s contrast and further brightening the internal coma.

104P / Kowal Card
Comet 104P / Kowal joins 19P / Borrelly at Cetus this month.
MegaStar with permission

On January 5 and 6, it passes from the south of Pisces to Cetus, moving northeast. Kowal will peak at magnitude around 9.5 this month and then fade away. Watch it pass just north of magnitude 4 Alpha (α) Piscium on the night of January 27 – about 8 ′ from Europe and Africa and 12 ′ from the Americas.

American astronomer Charles Kowal, who worked at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories, discovered the object in 1979. It is a member of the Jupiter comet family, so called because their current orbits are mainly shaped by the gravitational influence of this planet. Kowal died in 2011, but his comet returns to the inner solar system every 5.7 years.

ATLAS (C / 2019 L3)

Comet ATLAS (C / 2019 L3)
Comet ATLAS (C / 2021 L3) has been present in the northern sky for months. Its apparent small size and strongly condensed core are distinctive. In early January, it peaks around magnitude 9 while moving southwest through Gemini.
Juanjo González

Now at full brightness with a magnitude of 9.5, this wonderful little comet is ideally located in Gemini for sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere. Don’t be fooled by its small size. The coma has a high surface brightness and a bright, star-like pseudo-nucleus (DC = 7 as of January 1.05 UT). ATLAS clings to it between magnitude 9 and 10.5 until March while slowly forming an arc southwest through Gemini. On the nights of January 30 and 31, it passes approximately 20 ′ east-southeast of the attractive open cluster NGC 2266.

Map of comet ATLAS (C / 2019 L3)
Comet ATLAS (C / 2019 L3) crosses Gemini in January while maintaining an almost constant luminosity of magnitude 9 to 9.5.
MegaStar with permission

ATLAS is an acronym for Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System and consists of two telescopes 100 miles apart on separate Hawaiian islands that automatically scan the sky several times a night for moving objects. To date, the investigation has discovered hundreds of near-Earth and potentially dangerous asteroids, 65 comets and more than 10,000 supernovae.

Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Comet 67P / CG on January 3, 2022
Despite being about two months after perihelion and the closest approach to Earth, Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko still displays a moderately bright, well-condensed coma and a dust tail deployed on January 3, 2022. La narrow tip can be an ion tail.
By Erik Jorde

“Chury” has lasted, having provided excellent views since the fall. Although slowly fading, the comet continues to glow around magnitude 9.5 in early January as it slides east to southeast across northern Cancer. To find it, start with Iota (ι) Cancri of magnitude 4, a magnificent and colorful double star (magnitudes 4.2, 6.6; separation 30 ″). Comet 67P passes within ½ ° north of this gem on January 15th.

Detailed map of comet 67P
Comet 67P / CG passes near Iota (ι) Cancri as it traverses northern Cancer over the next six weeks.
MegaStar with permission

On Jan 2, 23 UT I observed a moderately condensed coma 2.5 arcmin wide (DC = 5) with a brighter, fuzzier false core and a beautiful pale tail about 12 inches long pointing to the west. Average magnifications of around 100 × help bring out this dusty trail better.

Thanks to the incredibly detailed images returned by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, we can easily imagine the genius two-lobed shape of the 67P, the jets of dust and the crumbling cliffs every clear January evening.

PanSTARRS (C / 2017 K2)

Watching this eagerly awaited comet means getting up early. I observed it just before the start of early morning twilight low in the eastern sky at Ophiuchus on January 2, 50. It appeared small – about 1.5 ′ in diameter – and moderately compact with DC = 5 and a magnitude of 11, 8. It seems small until you realize that K2 is currently 5.1 au from Earth, almost the same distance as Jupiter is from the Sun.

Map of comet PanSTARRS (C / 2017 K2)
Discovered in 2017, comet PanSTARRS (C / 2017 K2) took a long time to come. Still pale this winter, it should become a beautiful object for modest telescopes by summer.
MegaStar with permission

Its distance decreases as it slowly clears up for the rest of the year. After heading east through Ophiuchus, it crosses Aquila in early March, makes a steep, slow turn, and leaves the constellation on May 10. As it picks up speed, K2 slopes southwest through Ophiuchus and clears up to a magnitude of 8 to 8.5 during the summer. On July 15, it passed ½ ° northwest of the brilliant globular cluster M10.

The comet plunges into evening twilight by September for northern observers, but southern hemisphere sky watchers will be able to follow it to its December 7 perihelion and beyond. Although the comet is rather low in Ara and Pavo, it could reach 6th magnitude when it is brightest in late December and early January 2023.



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Edinburgh Festival Fringe leader predicts 2022 will see ‘rebirth’ of 75th anniversary event http://louthonline.com/edinburgh-festival-fringe-leader-predicts-2022-will-see-rebirth-of-75th-anniversary-event/ Tue, 04 Jan 2022 04:55:35 +0000 http://louthonline.com/edinburgh-festival-fringe-leader-predicts-2022-will-see-rebirth-of-75th-anniversary-event/

Shona McCarthy is Executive Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

Shona McCarthy said she was “more optimistic than ever about the future” ahead of the Fringe’s 75th anniversary season in August. , after its cancellation in 2020 and a reduced incarnation in 2021. However, Ms McCarthy insisted that the future is “to reimagine the Fringe as the best version of itself.”

The Fringe was increasingly watched over its annual expansion in the years up to 2019, when it first drew an audience of three million people, and a record 3,841 shows were organized in 323 locations.

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After the Fringe 2020 staged fully online due to the pandemic, plans to relaunch the event in 2021 were hampered by difficulties caused by uncertainty over which Covid restrictions would still be in place.

Sophie Douglas, Emmanuella Damptey, and Caitlin Anderson played aliens from planet Hanyana on the Fringe 2021 WeCameToDance show. Image: Ian Georgeson Photography

Physical distancing at live events in Scotland was not abandoned until the Fringe venues opened and the shows started.

In the end, 942 shows were recorded – 414 online and 528 in person – with over 400,000 tickets sold.

At the end of August, the Fringe Society launched a £ 7.5million fundraiser to help get the event back on track.

Scheduled to last between three and five years, the “Save the Fringe” campaign will lead to the creation of new funding pots to try to make it more affordable for artists, companies and venues to put on shows, help pay the roll. – “sustainable practices” across the festival, developing new audiences in Edinburgh and securing a new long-term home for the Fringe Society.

In a post on the Fringe Society’s website, Ms McCarthy said “pride” was her main feeling as she recalled how the Fringe had fought “against the toughest odds” to get there. ‘before last summer.

She added: “In January, I don’t think any of us could have imagined that we would be together again this summer, experiencing the joy of performing live in our streets and venues.

“Our first tickets went on sale in July, and even when our box office opened, we didn’t know what to expect.

“By the end of the Fringe, over 900 shows had chosen to participate – both in person and online. There was excitement again in our community. There was hope for the future. And after all the lessons learned in 2021, I feel more optimistic than ever for the future.

“2022 will be a great year for the Fringe. It’s our 75th anniversary and it will mark our rebirth as a festival.

“We will fight as hard as we can to make sure the larger Fringe recovers and the returning Fringe truly reflects the world we live in.

“Recovery is not about going back to the current situation. It’s about reimagining the Fringe as the best version of itself, and I’m excited to see that come to life.

“2021 has taught us about strength, resilience and community. And it is these values ​​that will guide us in our future.

Speaking at the Fringe Society’s annual meeting in August, its president, Benny Higgins, insisted that the scale of the event should no longer be seen as a measure of its success and that the event of 2002, its 75th birthday in 2022 should be seen as “the start of what will become of the Fringe”.

He said at the time: “Scale is not success. It’s what we do and how we do it that is success. Scale is sort of a by-product of that, but that’s not the goal.

“This is the time for reflection. We have to be part of the recovery. But we have to reinvent the Fringe and see it as the rebirth of the Fringe.

“Part of being reborn is getting back to the first principles of what you’re trying to accomplish.

“As we begin to envision the future and the importance of recovering our economies and societies, I don’t think we should even consider trying to get back to where we were.

“In any crisis, it is very important that you come back to your goal, that you do not lower your ambition and that you stick to the values ​​that are important.

“I think we can expect next year to be the start of a new future for the Fringe.”


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Top High Growth Canadian Equities to Buy in 2022 http://louthonline.com/top-high-growth-canadian-equities-to-buy-in-2022/ Thu, 30 Dec 2021 20:30:00 +0000 http://louthonline.com/top-high-growth-canadian-equities-to-buy-in-2022/

Image source: Getty Images

Although the markets are trading near record highs, some TSX stocks are still trading well below their fair value. Here are three Canadian stocks that could outperform next year.

Suncor Energy

Canada’s largest oil sands producer Suncor Energy (TSX: SU) (NYSE: SU) significantly underperformed its peers in 2021. Despite rising dividends and a massive recovery in earnings, SU stock returned 50% in 2021, compared to an average of 85% of his peers.

However, 2022 could turn the tide, as valuation plays a crucial role. In addition, the higher contribution of Suncor’s downstream operations during reopenings is expected to result in higher profits. Rising oil and gas prices could also significantly increase its free cash flow growth through 2022.

SU stock currently returns 5.6%, higher than its peers. The superior growth in free cash flow in 2021 has enabled the company to double payments to shareholders and to repay a significant portion of long-term debt. Whether that will allow another generous dividend increase in 2022 remains to be seen.

If oil and gas prices stay higher next year, energy giants like Suncor could see their profits rise and create more shareholder value.

Financial Intact

Financial Intact (TSX: IFC) is the leading property and casualty insurance company in Canada, with a 21% market share. Although it lags the markets and only returned 10% in 2021, the stock Intact has notably outperformed in the longer term.

Intact has achieved superior financial growth, beating its peers over the past decade. Its revenues have increased by 12% CAGR and profits have increased by a nice 14% CAGR over the past 10 years. Its five-year average return on equity is 11.3%.

With an already dominant market share in Canada, Intact Financial now has an extensive presence in the United Kingdom and Ireland through the acquisition of RSA. Its in-house claims expertise and scale have led to its above average financial growth for all these years. Of the $ 20 billion in annual premiums generated by Intact, 66% comes from Canada, 25% from the UK and Ireland, and the rest from the US.

Intact has increased its dividends every year since 2004 and is currently earning 2.3%. If you are looking for stable, low-risk returns over a long period of time, Intact might be a good choice.

BRP

Revenge shopping and travel could lead to increased discretionary spending by consumers in full reopenings next year. And one of the beneficiaries of this trend could be the recreational vehicle manufacturer. BRP (TSX: DOO) (NASDAQ: DOOO).

Can-Am and Sea-Doo maker BRP has already seen encouraging growth in demand as travel restrictions eased somewhat in recent quarters. In addition, its recent Sea-Doo Switch launch has already generated a lot of interest among customers. The company expects Switch can be a game-changer in the fast-growing pontoon segment.

BRP management expects normalized earnings growth of 67% to 81% for fiscal 2022 compared to 2021. The stock is currently trading 11 times its earnings and appears undervalued from the historical average. Also, such steep growth at the discounted valuation looks like a good deal.

BRP operates in a niche power sports vehicle market in more than 130 countries. It has returned 350% over the past five years, notably beating the markets at large.


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Which utility stock is a better buy? http://louthonline.com/which-utility-stock-is-a-better-buy/ Wed, 29 Dec 2021 16:27:54 +0000 http://louthonline.com/which-utility-stock-is-a-better-buy/

Brookfield Infrastructure Corporation, based in New York (BIPC) owns and operates regulated natural gas transmission networks in Brazil. The company is also engaged in the regulated distribution of gas and electricity in the United Kingdom. In comparison, Archaea Energy Inc. (LFG), headquartered at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, is a producer of renewable natural gas in the United States. The company develops, builds and operates RNG facilities to capture waste emissions and convert them into low-carbon fuel.

The utilities sector was negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, as demand for utilities from industrial and commercial establishments declined due to trade restrictions, operational shutdowns and imposed lockdowns by the government. However, increased investment in renewable energy generation capacities and rapid digital transformation are expected to drive the growth of the utility market. Also, within the $ 1,000 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, $ 550 billion is intended to stimulate the growth of the utility sector in the years to come. According to a Research and Markets report, the global utility market is expected to grow at a 7% CAGR by 2025. Therefore, we believe BIPC and LFG should benefit.

LFG shares have gained 80.3% over the past nine months, while BIPC has generated negative returns. Additionally, BIPC’s 15.4% gains over the past month compare to LFG’s negative returns. Additionally, BIPC is the clear winner with gains of 16.9% over LFG’s negative returns over the past three months.

But which of these two titles is the best buy now? Let’s find out.

Latest developments

On November 3, Sam Pollock, CEO of BIPC, said: “The successful acquisition of Inter Pipeline marked a significant milestone for Brookfield Infrastructure, and the third quarter results were supported by its initial contribution, as well as a strong organic growth within our core business. . Looking ahead, we are confident in our ability to capitalize on new large-scale investment opportunities in our target sectors and geographies. “

On November 15, 2021, LFG announced that its subsidiary Archaea Holdings, LLC had entered into a long-term GNR purchase and sale agreement with Northwest Natural Gas Company, a subsidiary of NW Natural Holdings (NWN). Nick Stork, Co-Founder and CEO of LFG, said: “This agreement, our first with a U.S. utility, demonstrates the strength of our business offerings and demonstrates our ability to help utilities deliver options to low carbon emissions to their customers and achieve their goals. sustainability goals.

Recent financial results

BIPC’s revenue increased 18.6% year-on-year to $ 414 million for its fiscal third quarter ended September 30, 2021. EBITDA rose 18.3% year-on-year to $ 149 million, while its net profit was $ 213 million, from a loss of $ 222 million in the previous year quarter.

LFG’s total revenue and other income increased 529.5% year-on-year to $ 11.99 million for its fiscal third quarter, ended September 30, 2021. However, its operating loss increased by 1 499.8% year-on-year to $ 9.42 million, while its net loss amounted to $ 21.34 million, representing an increase of 3,445% year-over-year .

POWR odds

BIPC has an overall rating of B, which is equivalent to a purchase in our property POWR odds system. In comparison, LFG has an overall F rating, which translates into a strong sale. POWR scores are calculated by considering 118 separate factors, each factor being weighted to an optimal degree.

BIPC has a B rating for growth. In contrast, LFG has a C rating for growth. Additionally, BIPC has a quality B rating, while LFG has an F quality rating.

Out of 58 actions in the Utilities – Domestic industry, the BIPC is ranked first. In comparison, LFG is ranked last.

Beyond what I stated above, we also rated stocks for value, momentum, stability, and sentiment. Click here to see all BIPC ratings. Also get all LFG odds here.

The winner

The utility industry is expected to grow steadily with increasing government investment and technological advancements. While BIPC and LFG both stand to benefit, we believe it is best to bet on BIPC now due to its superior financial position.

Our research shows that the chances of success increase when investing in stocks with an overall strong buy or buy rating. See all other top rated stocks in utilities – domestic industry here.


BIPC shares were trading at $ 67.38 per share on Wednesday morning, down $ 0.43 (-0.63%). Year-to-date, BIPC is down -3.09%, compared to a 29.31% increase in the benchmark S&P 500 over the same period.

About the Author: Nimesh Jaiswal

Nimesh Jaiswal’s a passionate interest in the analysis and interpretation of financial data led him to a career as a financial analyst and journalist. The importance of financial statements in driving a stock’s price is the key approach he takes while advising investors in his articles. Following…

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Covid News: Omicron did not influence the least vaccinated US counties http://louthonline.com/covid-news-omicron-did-not-influence-the-least-vaccinated-us-counties/ Mon, 27 Dec 2021 22:33:12 +0000 http://louthonline.com/covid-news-omicron-did-not-influence-the-least-vaccinated-us-counties/

Credit…David Zalubowski / Associated press

Flight disruptions in the United States continued on Monday as many people made their first trip in nearly two years, and Dr.Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, said again raised the possibility of a vaccination requirement for air travel.

At least 2,600 more flights were canceled on Monday, including around 1,000 US flights, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus sends daily workloads to parts of the United States reaching levels above the winter pandemic peak last.

While cancellations made up only a small percentage of all flights, the problem threatened to spread to the vacation week.

“When you make vaccination a requirement, it is another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Dr Fauci told MSNBC on Monday. “If you want to do this with domestic flights, I think that’s something that should be seriously considered.”

Over the holiday weekend, airlines canceled thousands of flights as the Omicron variant hit flight crews. In total, about 2,300 US flights were canceled on Saturday and Sunday over Christmas weekend, with more than 3,500 more on the ground around the world, according to FlightAware, which provides aviation data. As of Sunday alone, more than 1,300 US flights and nearly 1,700 additional flights around the world were canceled.

While some of the groundings were caused by bad weather and maintenance issues, several airlines acknowledged that the current wave of coronavirus cases had contributed significantly. A spokesperson for JetBlue said the airline had “seen an increasing number of Omicron sickness calls.”

As of Sunday, 12% of JetBlue flights, 6% of Delta Air Lines flights, 5% of United Airlines flights and 2% of American Airlines flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.

Stock prices of United, Delta, American and Southwest – the four largest US carriers – were slightly lower on Monday.

Travel has rebounded sharply this year, worsening the situation at airports: About two million people passed through checkpoints every day last week, according to the Transportation Security Administration, and on Sunday. The numbers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were much higher than last year, and some numbers even exceeded those of the same days two years ago, when virtually no American was aware that a virus was starting. to travel to the other side of the world.

The Omicron variant, which is now responsible for more than 70 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States, has already helped push daily US case averages above 200,000 for the first time in close of 12 months, according to The New York Times coronavirus tracker.

A business group of airlines has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shorten the recommended isolation period for fully vaccinated employees who test positive to a maximum of five days, instead of 10 days, before they can return with a negative test.

“Quick and secure adjustments by the CDC would ease at least some of the staffing pressures and set up airlines to help millions of travelers returning from vacation,” said Derek Dombrowski, a spokesperson for JetBlue. .

The flight attendants union, however, argued that reductions in recommended isolation times should be decided “by public health professionals, not the airlines.”

Some of the delays this weekend had little to do with the pandemic. Alaska Airlines has had only a few cancellations related to the crew’s exposure to the coronavirus, spokeswoman Alexa Rudin said. Yet it canceled 170 flights in the two days, according to FlightAware, including 21% of its Sunday flights, due to unusually cold and snowy weather in the Pacific Northwest, which affected its hub, the international airport of Seattle-Tacoma.

The pandemic has also caused a shortage of train and bus workers nationwide. In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also facing a slight increase in positive cases among its staff, who are 80 percent vaccinated. He said Monday’s metro service was operating on a regular schedule, with a few exceptions.

“Anything we can do as passengers to help minimize the risk to transit workers will help reduce the spread,” said Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Citizens’ Standing Advisory Committee to the MTA, a group monitoring. “The MTA is doing what it can with the resources at its disposal.”

Danny Pearlstein, spokesperson for the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group, said: “I feel like the MTA is making the most of a bad situation again.”


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