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A chaotic ‘Borat’ sequel trailer is all about COVID-19 and the election

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Sacha Baron Cohen in the 2006 comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen in the 2006 comedy “Borat – Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Of Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan,” directed by Larry Charles.

Image: 20th Century Fox / Kobal / Shutterstock

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Borat is back…just in time for the U.S. election. Sacha Baron Cohen’s wildly popular 2006 character will return for a sequel that finds him once again enmeshed in American culture during the COVID-19 pandemic and leading up to Nov. 3, 2020.

Cohen released the trailer shortly after Amazon Prime was confirmed to distribute the film but with no specific date. The trailer shows Borat returning to the United States to find a husband for his daughter, and quarantining in the meantime with people who believe Democrats are deadlier than coronavirus.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm will stream on Amazon Prime Oct. 23.

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5 Strategies from Ancient Chinese Warfare to Help Us Thrive in Changing Times

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October 26, 2020 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Although there have been record-highs in the “frothy” stock market, entrepreneurs and around the country are seriously struggling. In the , as of September 13, 2020, total revenue decreased by 20.6 percent compared to January 2020

In addition, the number of small businesses still open decreased by 23.6 percent compared to January 2020, and restaurant diners are down 40 percent from last year. It appears that those stimulus checks went into stock on your Robinhood account and not your favorite sushi restaurant or local retailer.

Regardless, these percentage drops have made it abundantly clear that now is the time for everyone to take a step back and re-evaluate their business strategies. Because I’ve been in the space for more than 10 years, this seemed like the right time to pull out one of my favorite tools from the innovation toolbox — the 36 stratagems.

Kaihan Krippendorf, a best-selling author in the strategy and innovation space, put together a framework for coming up with new and strategies using tricks from ancient Chinese warfare.

Related: 10 Positive Leadership Books to Motivate and Inspire You During Difficult Times 

As I revisited them, I realized they couldn’t be more relevant today, so I picked five that are particularly applicable to business in the current era. Hopefully they’ll spark some innovation or help you reinvent your business — perhaps in a way you hadn’t considered before. 

1. Relax while the enemy exhausts himself (以逸待劳)

Reduce your overhead or move to a variable cost model to wait out the storm. Shut the doors for a while, take a vacation, rest up, conserve cash and plan your new strategy upon return. Reinventing your cost structures in your business could allow you to hang on to your cash reserves, help you refresh your mindset and plan while your competitors are burning cash by the day.

Here’s a good practical example of this stratagem: 

A restaurant closes down for three months and uses the time to complete renovations, redo the menu and prepare for an optimized takeout experience. All the while its biggest competitor across the street remains open and drains its cash reserves running business as usual. 

This strategy does have risks and implications, as you may have to lay off or furlough employees in the meantime, which is difficult but might help sustain your business in the long run. Further, you have to make sure that the hibernation time is used effectively. If the boards are on the windows but nothing is happening inside, you’re just wasting time with no end benefit. 

Related: New Survey Finds Nearly Half of Small-Business Owners Don’t See a Need for Physical Stores (Infographic)

2. Sacrifice the plum tree to gain the peach tree (李代桃僵)

This is what we call a “loss-leader strategy.” Typically, this involves a company selling a product or service for a reduced price knowing that it will bring greater dividends in the future. 

A recent example is Headspace, a mindfulness app, has been offering free subscriptions for a year to people who are currently unemployed (no verification required, just honor system rules). The idea here is that this will lead to many more subscribers for Headspace afterward, and it also does good for those who are struggling — it’s an investment worth making on multiple levels. 

3. Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat (顺手牵羊)

Use this as an opportunity to take a pole-position. There is a small window where you can reinvent your business to solve a problem created by a crisis before your competitors see it coming. Being a small business, you are more nimble and quick than the big guys. Spot an opportunity to solve a problem with your assets and unfair advantages.

There have been many instances of this stratagem being utilized (whether the business owners are aware of its origin or not) due to the pandemic. For example, a distillery and grill in Portland turned producer of hand sanitizer when restaurants began to close their doors, and an engineering and design company based in London pivoted to create modular outdoor spaces for socially distant seating and dining areas to help restaurants reopen. 

Both companies saw a hole in the market that they could fill and readjusted their business model to fill it. 

4. Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul (借尸还魂)

Take a concept from the past that is newly relevant again. My favorite example of this is the full-service gas station. People don’t want to touch gas pumps or leave their cars, so there is new value placed on amenities that were once viewed as outdated. 

And on a similar note, there’s already been a resurrection of drive-in movies and other live events like concerts and stand up comedy shows. Audience members can view their chosen from the comfort of their own vehicles just like the good old days of drive-ins. Instead of applause, audiences are flashing their lights and honking their horns. 

People are adapting to the moment we are in rather than fighting against the chaos. Think retro rather than archaic. 

Related: 4 Tips for Tapping Into the Niches Created by Covid-19

5. Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief (擒贼擒王)

As of July 2020, there were around 30 million unemployed persons in the U.S., and that number was on the rise. The first wave of layoffs was localized to the travel, service and retail, entertainment, and hospitality industries (among some others), but it is projected that six million more layoffs might be coming — and this time it will affect white-collar employees and potentially those in upper positions.  

This gives you an opportunity to snag the talent and leadership departing from companies at a colossal rate. It’s an opportunity we haven’t seen in over a decade of tight labor markets, and these leaders are looking for a place to land. Fresh faces in leadership bring about , and some other company’s loss could be your gain. 

Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you — move forward

Despite the hit to the broader SMB landscape, as you’ve read there are some great stories of strategy shifts that have helped some creative entrepreneurs not only survive, but thrive. 

On top of that, there are those riding the waves of unexpected changes, such as the influx of Zoom and other virtual meeting options, with humor and enthusiasm — including one company that is offering virtual tours of its farm and guest appearances by goats and other livestock during conference calls and online learning sessions (for a small fee of course). It might not be pilfering a goat per se, but it definitely embodies the concept of getting creative.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or lemon hand sanitizer if the situation calls for it. Volatility and change drive innovation; it’s been this way as long as great minds have been at work in the name of progress and technology. In fact, Isaac Newton formulated his theory of gravity when he was working from home due to the plague, which means the rest of us have no excuse.

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Japan’s New Leader Sets Ambitious Goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2050

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TOKYO — Japan will be carbon neutral by 2050, its prime minister said on Monday, making an ambitious pledge to sharply accelerate the country’s global warming targets, even as it plans to build more than a dozen new coal-burning power plants in the coming years.

The prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, laid out the goal during his first major policy speech since taking office in September, when Japan’s longest-serving leader, Shinzo Abe, abruptly resigned. The announcement came just weeks after China, Japan’s regional rival, said it would reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2060.

Addressing Japan’s Parliament, Mr. Suga called for the country to “be carbon neutral in 2050,” a declaration that drew loud applause from lawmakers. Achieving that goal will be good not only for the world, he said, but also for Japan’s economy and global standing.

“Taking an aggressive approach to global warming will bring about a transformation in our industrial structure and economic system that will lead to big growth” in the economy, he said, answering critics who have warned of the economic consequences.

ImagePrime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan giving his first policy speech during a special session at the lower house of Parliament in Tokyo on Monday.
Credit…Kazuhiro Nogi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It had previously said it would go carbon neutral “at the earliest possible date,” vowing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Japan now joins China, the largest polluter, and the European Union in promising to bring their net carbon emissions down to zero. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, made his country’s pledge last month during the United Nations General Assembly.

The two announcements from Asia’s largest economies reinforced just how much of an outlier the United States, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, has become after President Trump moved in 2017 to pull the country out of the Paris agreement. Joseph R. Biden Jr., his challenger in the presidential election, has vowed to restore the United States’ participation in the accord.

Japan’s decision was most likely driven by a combination of domestic and external political pressures, said Takeshi Kuramochi, a climate policy researcher at the NewClimate Institute in Germany.

While environmental groups have long argued that the country needed to speed up its progress on reducing emissions, momentum toward the move has been building in recent years, “especially in business and finance sectors,” Mr. Kuramochi said.

Mr. Suga probably also felt it was important not to cede leadership on the issue to China, he added. As a developed nation, Mr. Kuramochi said, it would be “somewhat embarrassing for Japan to have a net zero emissions timeline later than China.”

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

It is not clear whether Mr. Suga’s commitment is feasible, and he offered few specifics about how Japan would reach its goal, saying only that he would harness the power of “innovation” and “regulatory reform” to transform the country’s energy production and usage.

Achieving the new timeline will require a major overhaul of Japan’s infrastructure, which is highly dependent on carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels. The country has made steady progress in reducing its emissions, but still generated 1.06 billion tons of the gas in the one-year period that ended in March 2019, placing it among the top 10 per capita emitters.

“When you look at Japan as an economy, there’s a lot of considerations that have to go into formulating this ambitious goal,” said Jane Nakano, a senior fellow in the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It would require a much deeper look into the resources that Japan has, perhaps the way that different sectors have been operating,” she said, adding that “not just the government, but many business entities and industrial stakeholders” would also need to commit to achieving net zero by 2050.

By the early 2000s, Japan had made substantial progress in curbing carbon dioxide emissions through the use of nuclear power. But the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 led to a widespread shutdown of the country’s energy-producing reactors, which had generated roughly a third of Japan’s total power supply. Only a handful of the plants have since restarted.

Credit…Aaron Sheldrick/Reuters

Short on energy sources, Japan decided to reinvest in coal. It has planned or is in the process of building 17 new coal-burning power plants, even as other major economies are moving away from the power source.

Japan currently plans to reduce — but not eliminate — its dependence on coal, decreasing its contribution to the country’s electricity production from 32 percent in 2018 to 26 percent by 2030, partly by shutting down inefficient plants.

The country has also vowed to end contentious government subsidies for the export of coal-fired power technology to developing nations, where the use of coal for electricity continues to rise. Japan is currently supporting three such projects and says it will consider financing more only in “exceptional” cases.

Further efforts to decrease Japan’s domestic commitment to coal will likely meet powerful resistance from Japanese industry, which is still heavily dependent on the fuel. Still, Mr. Suga’s announcement may cause the country to rethink its commitment to coal in favor of cleaner, more diverse energy sources.

Japan is already considering a substantial increase in its supply of wind and solar power, and it is also looking at newer, less-established technologies, such as plants that burn ammonia or hydrogen.

Credit…Koji Sasahara/Marubeni Corp., via Associated Press

Restarting nuclear power plants may also be on the table, despite widespread public resistance to the idea. In his speech on Monday, Mr. Suga said that Japan would continue to develop nuclear power with “maximum priority on safety,” a remark that drew a round of boos and hisses from members of Parliament.

Some parts of the country will have a head start on Mr. Suga’s overall climate pledge. Movement toward the new goal had already started on the local level, where 150 municipal governments have pledged to be carbon neutral by midcentury.

Major corporations such as Toyota and Sony have committed to similar timelines for zeroing out their emissions.

But even if Japan achieves its goal, it will not by itself be enough to halt or even slow the current trend of global warming, a goal that requires a global effort.

Japan is already feeling the consequences of climate change. Rising temperatures across the country have contributed to deadly heat waves. And scientists say that global warming also contributed to the size and intensity of the devastating typhoons that struck the country last year.

Preventing a climate catastrophe will require “a transformation of the energy system that has underwritten modern society,” said Kentaro Tamura, director of Climate and Energy Area at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Kanagawa, Japan.

“There’s no question that having to make such a drastic change in the extremely short period of just 30 years is very difficult,” he said.

But, he added, “I’m optimistic.”

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How the Virus Slowed the Booming Wind Energy Business

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Even as businesses around the world shut down this spring, executives at EDF Renewables were hopeful they would finish installing 99 wind turbines in southern Nebraska before a year-end deadline. Then, in early April, the pandemic dealt a big blow to the company.

A manager at a factory that was building the giant cylinders on which the turbines sit had died of the coronavirus, shutting down the plant and delaying EDF’s work by five weeks. That and other setbacks — including construction workers at the site in Nebraska contracting the virus — have hampered EDF’s efforts to finish the $374 million project by the end of the year. A prolonged delay could increase costs, threatening the project’s financial viability.

The company’s struggles are emblematic of how the pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and imperiled tens of billions of dollars of investments and millions of jobs, with retail stores and oil and gas companies among those hit hardest. But EDF’s challenges show how the pandemic has walloped even thriving industries like renewable energy.

The American Wind Energy Association estimates that the pandemic could threaten a total of $35 billion in investment and about 35,000 jobs this year. The losses could grow if the coronavirus continues to disrupt the economy well into next year.

“Every part of the supply chain has been hit by this,” said John Hensley, the wind association’s vice president of research and analytics. “Certainly if we see major delays, it can take a major economic toll.”

Wind turbines provide more than 7 percent of U.S. electricity and are the largest carbon-free energy source after nuclear power plants. Nebraska gets about 20 percent of its electricity from wind, and when it is complete, EDF’s project will have the capacity to meet the electricity needs of about 115,000 homes.

The wind energy business was growing about 10 percent a year before the pandemic. But industry officials now fear that projects under construction might be postponed or canceled because of the pandemic. The industry had hoped Congress might provide aid to renewable energy, but it got little from the stimulus bills passed in the spring.

The industry did receive some help from the Treasury Department, which in May gave wind energy developers more time to complete construction in order to qualify for a federal tax credit. Businesses now have to finish projects they began in 2016 and 2017 within five years, up from four years previously. EDF began its project in 2016.

“Everybody is trying to figure out how everything is going to land,” said Benoit Rigal, a vice president of engineering and construction for EDF.

ImageSome of the components, like the towering cylinders on which turbines sit, are so large that they have to be delivered by truckers with special training and permits.

On March 13, EDF was preparing the site to receive three dozen blades that harness the wind. These are some of the first components the company had expected to arrive in the village of Milligan, Neb., less than an hour southwest of Lincoln.

But three days before the blades were scheduled to arrived, Dwynne Igau, an EDF planning and construction manager in charge of the project, received worrying news: one of her workers had taken ill. Ms. Igau quickly called off the delivery and ordered about 30 percent of her crew into quarantine.

The areas around Milligan experienced an early surge in coronavirus cases, driven in part by infections at meatpacking plants. Just a few hundred people live in the village, a railroad community incorporated in 1888 that is surrounded by rows of cornfields and is known as the “Hospitality Capital of Nebraska” because it has services like a salon and spa.

According to EDF, at least three workers tested positive for the virus this year. Several people who worked as contractors and equipment suppliers have also gotten sick.

“We didn’t really think it would spread that much and that fast,” said Gilles Gaudreault, transport and logistics manager who also oversees the project.

Normally, Ms. Igau would have been at the construction site to manage the work. But the pandemic had forced her to work from her home, in a suburb of Austin, Texas, more than 800 miles away. Ms. Igau also had to deal with an outbreak closer to home: Her daughter’s college roommate came down with the coronavirus, forcing the family to shuttle her daughter back and forth multiple times from Texas A&M University, about two hours away.

Ms. Igau had spent seven years leading project operations but had never encountered anything like this. It was the first time she lost access to her crew for days on end.

“There was so much uncertainty in the March, April time frame about what our deliveries would look like,” Ms. Igau said. “Would we have components in that time frame to start putting these components together?”

The blades that were delayed in mid-March were on their way from China and sat for days at a railway yard in central Nebraska. But that delay was hardly the last of Ms. Igau’s problems.

Another set of blades, from India, were delayed when the government there closed a factory because of a coronavirus outbreak. The plant eventually reopened, but the shutdown had a lasting impact, and the last seven of those blades just arrived at a Houston port last week.

Ms. Igau and EDF had to make numerous other changes at the construction site that also slowed work down. Crews of four or five workers could no longer pile into a pickup truck to drive around a work site. Each worker would have to drive on their own. Some inspections that were typically done by teams of workers would now require a drone to reduce the need for people to be close to each other.

A big weekly meeting on Wednesdays that used to involve some 300 people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a parking lot was scrapped. Instead, managers met with groups of 10 workers who were required to stay at least six feet apart. EDF also did away with daily 8 a.m. meetings in a manager’s trailer. Everybody was required to wear masks, in addition to gloves. And EDF started conducting regular temperature checks.

Just as the work crews were adjusting to those changes, EDF confronted yet another challenge: heavy rain that made it difficult for delivery crews and construction workers to move around.

“If you’re trying to receive components, you really have to have tiptop roads,” Ms. Igau said. “We had messy conditions and we had a number of people out.”

In the first week of April, EDF received word from the cylinder maker, which is based in Mexico, that a logistics manager had died from the coronavirus.

“That whole team was quarantined for two weeks,” Ms. Igau said, adding that for a time she couldn’t even get the contractor to confirm when “they would be able to return to work.”

She spent days looking for other suppliers and worrying that the setback would mean that the project would not be done by the end of the year. But few companies make the cylinders, which have to be strong enough to hold up heavy turbines and withstand stiff winds. There was little spare capacity available, and even had she found another factory, there was no guarantee she would have been able to arrange for transportation because the shipping routes had been disrupted by the pandemic, too.

“How will we finish by the end of the year?” Ms. Igau recalls asking herself. Another concern: What should she do with construction workers if there were no towers for them to erect?

Even once the cylinder factory was up and running again, new problems cropped up. The cylinders had been scheduled to be sent by rail. But the delay meant there was no space on a train heading in the right direction, so they would now have to be sent by truck.

The cylinders, which are generally as tall as a five-story building, require a special class of truck that can only be operated by drivers with special training and permits. The drivers are typically older than 50, which makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. In addition, most drivers and their trailers were already busy ferrying other massive cargo.

But it wasn’t just the cylinders that Ms. Igau had to worry about. She was also having trouble securing blades for her turbines.

Supplies of balsa wood, a major component of wind turbine blades, became scarce this spring because about 95 percent of it comes from Ecuador, which was overwhelmed by the pandemic. At one point, so many people were dying there that bodies wrapped in plastic bags lay in the streets.

With just over two months left in the year, the first five turbines started spinning last week, giving EDF some hope that it will meet its deadline. But the number of coronavirus cases are on the rise across the country, and flu season is beginning, leaving executives uncertain.

“Every day something could happen on site that means our entire team could go into quarantine,” Ms. Igau said. “I don’t know how we will finish by the end of the of the year.”

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