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Feeling the inflation heat: Aussies to cut back spending by 30 pct on dining and drinking in coming months

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Feeling the inflation heat: Aussies to cut back spending by 30 pct on dining and drinking in coming months

Australians are getting ready to dramatically cut the frequency of their visits to restaurants, pubs, and cafés, as well as the amount of money they spend there, according to new research by SevenRooms. 

The ‘Cost of Living’ research found that as much as 30 per cent of hospitality spending could be lost over the coming months. In addition, 82 per cent of Australians believe the present cost-of-living crisis has already affected their spending patterns, and another 13 per cent think it will do so in the near future. 

The target of their budget cuts will be the hospitality industry in particular. Three-quarters (78 per cent) of Australians will visit restaurants, cafes, and bars less -and 79 per cent said they’d spend less when they do see – due to the cost-of-living pressure.

The report adds that the average Australian spent $129 per month visiting or getting takeout from restaurants, bars, and cafes before the cost of living crunch. However, they are only spending $91 today, a decrease of $38 and over a third (29 per cent) of what they were.

Cost-of-living crisis

The cost-of-living crisis was the defining issue in the previous Federal Election, and now, interest rate increases, the prospect of global inflation, and the latest Covid-19 spike are all putting a substantial strain on household budgets. According to the study, which sought to assess the impact of economic headwinds on the hospitality business, the already troubled industry may face a lean spring.

Furthermore, according to new ANZ Plus data, the growing cost of living significantly impacts how Australians spend and save, with seven out of ten cutting back on their expenditure.

The study also revealed a concerning picture for Australians and their financial management, with only 26 per cent stating they feel in charge of their finances and 32per cent particularly highlighting their failure to keep to a budget.

Retail sales hit a new high

According to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, retail sales in Australia continued to reach new highs in June, with $34.2 billion spent in brick-and-mortar stores and online. This represents a 12 per cent rise from a year ago and a 0.2per cent increase from May 2022. 

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However, Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, issued a warning that while sales volumes are still high, they are also related to the rising consumer prices we are witnessing throughout the economy and are not always a complete indicator of company health.

“It’s an incredibly challenging environment for businesses right now, with several cost pressures associated with fuel, energy, supply chains and rent, along with labour cost increases and skill shortages preventing retailers from trading at their full potential,” Mr Zahra said.

Incentivising loyalty 

When customers are hesitant to visit and spend money in restaurants, bars, and cafés, establishments must find ways to incentivise loyalty by providing meaningful experiences to their existing clients. According to the study, Australians would be more loyal if they: 

According to the study, Australians would be more loyal if they: Received personalised offers based on a past visit, such as a restaurant or bar discount, a complementary dish/cocktail, and so on (33 per cent). Received dining credits for reaching a new loyalty tier, such as $100 tier achievement, free dinners, and so on. (31 per cent of the total) Received additional loyalty points, such as 2x points per dollar, bonus points, and so on. (28 per cent of the total).

“After two years in which they had to use every once of their resilience, innovation and adaptability, there are concerning times ahead for Australia’s restaurants, bars and cafes,” comments Paul Hadida, General Manager APAC at SevenRooms.

“We’re now feeling the medium- to long-term impacts of the pandemic, and many Aussies plan to cut back their expenditure on eating and drinking out. It puts a  fresh burden on tens of thousands of businesses who are also contending with rising Covid-19 case numbers and historic staff shortages. 

“However, even in the wake of rising food prices and cost-of-living pressures, Australian consumers say there are plenty of ways venues can incentivse their loyalty. Whether its complimentary drinks, personalised offers or loyalty points, there are opportunities for venues to be strategic to keep their businesses busy and customers engaged and loved.

“While it might be a lean spring for some, there are ways to minimise the impact ahead, exceed consumer demands and grow towards the summer and the industry’s traditional peak season.”

To learn more about SevenRooms, visit sevenrooms.com.

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

LONDON (AP) — Amazon won’t have to pay about 250 million euros ($273 million) in back taxes after European Union judges ruled in favor of the U.S. e-commerce giant Thursday, dealing a defeat to the 27-nation bloc in its efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance.

The ruling by the EU’s top court is final, ending the long-running legal battle over tax arrangements between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government and marking a further setback for a crackdown by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

The Court of Justice backed a 2021 decision by judges in a lower court who sided with Amazon, saying the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had not proved its case that Amazon received illegal state support.

“The Court of Justice confirms that the Commission has not established that the tax ruling given to Amazon by Luxembourg was a State aid that was incompatible with the internal market” of the EU, the court said in a press release.

Amazon welcomed the ruling, saying it confirms that the company “followed all applicable laws and received no special treatment.”

“We look forward to continuing to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe,” the company said in a statement.

The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications.”

The case dates back to 2017, when Vestager charged Amazon with unfairly profiting from special low tax conditions since 2003 in tiny Luxembourg, where its European headquarters are based. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits in the EU were not taxed, she said.

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The EU has taken aim at deals between individual countries and companies used to lure foreign multinationals in search of a place to establish their EU headquarters. The practice led to EU states competing with each other and multinationals playing them off one another.

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.

Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.

The recall comes after a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.

The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”

The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.

But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Tesla’s automated systems have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.

The recall covers models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year. The update was to be sent to certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it later.

Shares of Tesla slid more than 3% in earlier trading Wednesday but recovered amid a broad stock market rally to end the day up 1%.

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The attempt to address the flaws in Autopilot seemed like a case of too little, too late to Dillon Angulo, who was seriously injured in 2019 crash involving a Tesla that was using the technology along a rural stretch of Florida highway where the software isn’t supposed to be deployed.

“This technology is not safe, we have to get it off the road,” said Angulo, who is suing Tesla as he recovers from injuries that included brain trauma and broken bones. “The government has to do something about it. We can’t be experimenting like this.”

Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on City Streets.

The software update will limit where Autosteer can be used. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” the recall documents said.

Depending on a Tesla’s hardware, the added controls include “increasing prominence” of visual alerts, simplifying how Autosteer is turned on and off, and additional checks on whether Autosteer is being used outside of controlled access roads and when approaching traffic control devices. A driver could be suspended from using Autosteer if they repeatedly fail “to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility,” the documents say.

According to recall documents, agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about the fixing the monitoring system. Tesla did not concur with NHTSA’s analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.

Auto safety advocates for years have been calling for stronger regulation of the driver monitoring system, which mainly detects whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. They have called for cameras to make sure a driver is paying attention, which are used by other automakers with similar systems.

Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicle safety, called the software update a compromise that doesn’t address a lack of night vision cameras to watch drivers’ eyes, as well as Teslas failing to spot and stop for obstacles.

“The compromise is disappointing because it does not fix the problem that the older cars do not have adequate hardware for driver monitoring,” Koopman said.

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Koopman and Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contend that crashing into emergency vehicles is a safety defect that isn’t addressed. “It’s not digging at the root of what the investigation is looking at,” Brooks said. “It’s not answering the question of why are Teslas on Autopilot not detecting and responding to emergency activity?”

Koopman said NHTSA apparently decided that the software change was the most it could get from the company, “and the benefits of doing this now outweigh the costs of spending another year wrangling with Tesla.”

In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation remains open “as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

Autopilot can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane, but is a driver-assist system and cannot drive itself, despite its name. Independent tests have found that the monitoring system is easy to fool, so much that drivers have been caught while driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.

In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said Autopilot’s controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.

Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self Driving system are meant to help drivers who have to be ready to intervene at all times. Full Self Driving is being tested by Tesla owners on public roads.

In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is stronger when Autopilot is engaged.

NHTSA has dispatched investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were running on an automated system. At least 17 people have been killed.

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The investigations are part of a larger probe by the NHTSA into multiple instances of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.

In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla shouldn’t be calling the system Autopilot because it can’t drive itself.

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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.

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Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers

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Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.

It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.

The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.

There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:

1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.

2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.

3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.

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4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.

5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.

6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.

 

We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.

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