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Gig companies know plenty about having employees

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Gig-economy companies have long argued that their workers place high value on the freedom to choose their own hours. But many of these firms either used to schedule workers for shifts — or still do, to some extent.

Why it matters: The companies are fighting efforts to force them to reclassify workers as employees, arguing that a rigid work model is incompatible with their operations.

State of play: Grocery delivery company Instacart currently has part-time employees in a number of markets across the country, who focus on assembling orders inside stores, a practice it first introduced in 2015.

  • Nevertheless, the company also has what it calls “full-service shoppers,” who assemble orders inside a store and also deliver them to customers. These workers are currently independent contractors who can work whenever they choose (within grocery store hours, of course).

Some other delivery companies, like Doordash and GrubHub, currently have shift systems for drivers in many or all their markets.

  • Their work schedules are more flexible than those of many hourly employees. But the practice shows that delivery companies, whose operations are largely shaped by the schedules of restaurants, aren’t strangers to arranging their workforces into schedules and predicting staffing needs.
  • Even Lyft has some experience with this from its earliest days, when drivers would sign up for shifts and be guaranteed a certain level of hourly earnings. Lyft says its goal then was to align supply and demand, but the system was phased out in 2014 as its business grew.

Similarly, both Uber and Lyft instituted forms of short shifts and staffing prioritizations for drivers in New York City last year to comply with a new set of rules. (These practices have been suspended during the pandemic given low ride demand.)

  • Because of minimum earnings and efficiency requirements, the companies ended up limiting how many drivers can be on the road at any given time.
  • Yes, but: Lyft says the rules resulted in 10,000 fewer drivers in the city and a 63% drop in hours for part-time drivers. Uber has similarly said that reclassifying drivers in California would mean it would need a much smaller number of drivers.

Be smart: There are other big reasons gig economy companies don’t want to take on their drivers and delivery people as regular employees: That would require the employers to provide benefits, pay overtime, and pay their half of the Social Security payroll tax.

The bottom line: Creating the systems needed for employing their workers might not be as foreign to the gig economy companies as it might seem.

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Google Fiber gears up for a trial run of its 2-Gig tier

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While it may not exactly be “Déjà vu all over again”—to partially quote Yogi Berra—Google Fiber is gearing up for a 2 Gbps offering

In a Monday blog post, Google Fiber said it was teeing-up the new “2-Gig” tier for a trial run with select subscribers in Nashville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama next month as part of its Trusted Tester program.

In 2010, Google shook up the telecommunications industry when it first announced its plan to deploy a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet service with speeds of up to a 1 gigabit per second, which was 100 times faster than the average speeds of that era.

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While at the time cable operators and other service providers downplayed the need for 1-gigabit services, Google Fiber jumpstarted a rush to deploy the faster speed to residential and business customers. Today, 1G speeds are a almost table stakes across Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications and AT&T, and other ISPs.

RELATED: CableLabs sticks a fork into DOCSIS 4.0 specification

At last year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, cable operators outlined their vision for delivering 10-gigabit data speeds, which includes the cable industry’s DOCSIS 4.0 specifications. DOCSIS 4.0 was designed to hit downstream speeds of up to 10 Gbps, which is twice the download speed of DOCSIS 3.1, and an upstream of up to 6 Gbps (quadruple the DOCSIS 3.1 upstream speed.)

 Google Fiber’s 2-Gig service costs $100 per month, which is $30 more than its 1-Gig service. It comes with a new Wi-Fi router and Wi-Fi mesh extender.

Google Fiber’s Amalia O’Sullivan, director of product management, said in Monday’s blog that the 2-Gig service will also be trialed in other Google Fiber cities late this fall. The 2-G service will also take a trial run Google Fiber Webpass, which is available in nine U.S. cities.

“This year has made this need for more speed and bandwidth especially acute, as many of us are now living our entire lives — from work to school to play — within our homes, creating unprecedented demand for internet capacity,” O’Sullivan said in her blog. “Google Fiber networks are designed so there’s plenty of capacity to allow our customers, with the right in-home hardware, to reach 2 Gig (and even faster) speeds. Our approach to network design allows us to keep our customers connected to the fastest speeds available.”

After the 2-Gig service passes muster with Google’s voluntary testers, it will be rolled across Google Fiber’s Nashville and Huntsville networks later this year, with plans to launch the service across most of the Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass cities early next year.

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GiG signs with Casino Win in Hungary

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GiG signs with Casino Win in Hungary


18 September 2020




(PRESS RELEASE) — Gaming Innovation Group Inc. has today signed a long term contract with Casino Win, one of Hungary’s leading land-based casino operators, for the provision of GiG’s platform, front-end development and managed services to launch their digital operation in the regulated Hungarian market.

Casino Win has been present in the Hungarian gambling market since 2016, and has always prioritized their players to ensure that they receive the highest possible levels of service, coupled with the latest gambling equipment and technology to provide the best gaming experience there is. To complement their successful land-based operations, Casino Win is now taking their operation to the next level by entering the online space.

Online licenses in Hungary are only available to land-based operators who have physical locations within the country. At present there are only four operators in Hungary of which two are already online, with Casino Win becoming the third in H1 2021. Casino Win own three casinos in leading locations across Hungary and offer an extensive selection of slots games as well as roulette, blackjack and poker.

The agreement is based on a combination of fixed fees and revenue share structure. The casino offering is expected to go live in H1 2021, and this partnership is expected to make a positive contribution to GiG’s revenues from the second half of 2021. The term of the contract is for an initial three year period.

Mr. Zsolt Kruppa Managing Director of Casino Win says: “Gaming Innovation Group is known in the iGaming industry as a reliable and trustful company with a history of success working with land-based operators like ourselves. We are pleased to have them supporting our digital transformation and online player acquisition strategy as we expand into the regulated Hungarian online market. We believe that by joining our efforts we can transfer the feel and look of our casino’s into an online offering that both caters for our current players as well as attracts new ones. We are looking forward to a long lasting and mutually beneficial partnership.”

Richard Brown, Chief Executive Officer of GiG says, “We are very pleased to move into the regulated Hungarian market supporting Casino Wins expansion into online. They have a proven track record of success and have some of the market-leading land-based operations. We believe that this, in conjunction with GiG’s tailored online offering will lead to further success for the companies, while providing Casino Win’s customer base a seamless, high quality retail and digital experience.”

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GOP Rep takes side gig on Covid-19 trial board

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With Zachary Brennan, David Lim, Susannah Luthi and Lauraine Genota

— Exclusive: GOP Rep takes side gig on Covid-19 trial board raising ethics questions.

The unanswered distribution questions even after an ambitious federal plan.

Lawmakers enter the 340B fray — and PhRMA responds.

It’s Tuesday, welcome back to Prescription Pulse. Tragic news for my Covid-era diet. Send your favorite ice cream, pharma tips and news to [email protected] or @owermohle. Loop in David Lim ([email protected] or @davidalim) and Zachary Brennan ([email protected] or @ZacharyBrennan)!

GOP REP TAKES SIDE GIG ON COVID-19 TRIAL BOARD Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican and medical doctor, has broken with the scientific mainstream on masks during the coronavirus pandemic, and is now joining the hunt for coronavirus treatments with an unpaid side gig overseeing a drug company trial, Zachary Brennan scooped.

Harris is one of three members of the data and safety monitoring board for the trial run by NeuroRx, a small Delaware company whose CEO and founder has longstanding ties to the congressman.

The arrangement doesn’t appear to run afoul of House ethics rules because Harris is not being paid by NeuroRx and does not own a stake in the company. But several bioethicists questioned his lack of experience in evaluating data from drug trials, and said that his close ties to NeuroRx CEO Jonathan Javitt could complicate matters if problems arose with the company’s study.

Harris’ role is an unusual one: Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told POLITICO that he’d never heard of a sitting member of Congress serving on a data monitoring committee for any drug.

Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said “it’s concerning” that Harris is involved with a company regulated by FDA, given his position on the House appropriations subcommittee that controls the agency’s purse. “FDA officials may feel nervous about holding the company to high standards if a member of their appropriations subcommittee is involved in the trial,” he said.

In a statement, Harris — an anesthesiologist who still practices part-time — brushed aside any suggestion that he is not qualified to serve on the data board. “I have a Master of Health Science degree from the Hopkins school of public health, which involves training in biostatistics (that’s a matter of public record, which you probably already knew),” he said.

THE UNANSWERED DISTRIBUTION QUESTION — States ultimately tasked with leading the vaccine distribution effort are already confronting a host of logistical and supply chain challenges that could dash the Trump administration’s hopes of quickly distributing a vaccine once it’s approved, write Rachel Roubein and Dan Goldberg.

States are also missing out on desperately sought federal funding to hire and train staff to administer the shots, as they’re also trying to amass basic supplies. Some states may also rely on a new, untested federally designed system to track who’s getting shots and manage supplies.

In short, state officials overseeing the largest and most complex vaccination campaign in history say the effort will require a level of careful coordination with the federal government that’s been lacking during the pandemic.

The plan: CDC on Wednesday released a 57-page interim playbook meant to help states write their distribution plans, but the agency also acknowledged there are “many unknowns and unanswered questions at this time.”

The timeline: Federal officials laid out an optimistic timeline for vaccines to be ready during the fourth quarter of 2020 in a “constrained” phase, when they will be provided to high-priority populations like health care workers.

The cost: Federal officials said the goal is to deliver any vaccine with no upfront cost to providers or out-of-pocket spending for Americans.

CAPUTO: THE RISE AND FALL, THE REMNANTS — HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo’s decision this week to take medical leave capped a five-month run that saw him rapidly expand his influence within the health department … only to have it all unravel over the last eight days, POLITICO’s Dan Diamond, Adam Cancryn and Sarah report.

He had broad authority. Caputo found jobs for at least four close friends and associates across the health agencies.

One of them was John “Wolf” Wagner. The Caputo ally, who has no scientific background, took over FDA’s press shop and subsequently instructed staff to give reporters only brief “top line” responses to questions and resisted requests for FDA spokespeople to speak directly with the press on a wide range of topics, said a current and a former FDA official.

Another was Paul Alexander. The part-time professor at McMaster University sought to direct NIAID Director Anthony Fauci’s messages about coronavirus’ risk to children, hydroxychloroquine and testing, I reported last week. Dan scooped that Caputo and Alexander also tried to edit CDC’s weekly reports on the virus and public health.

What happens next? “He is single-handedly blocking the only window that this administration has that light can shine through,” one HHS official said shortly before the department announced that Caputo would go on a 60-day medical leave.

Want more? Dan joined POLITICO Dispatch host Jeremy Siegel to discuss the hectic week. But first: Dan gets a text from Caputo. Listen to the podcast.

LAWMAKERS JUMP INTO THE 340B FRAY — The hospital standoff with pharma over the 340B drug discount program landed in Congress this week, as hundreds of lawmakers rushed to join hospitals in demanding a federal crackdown on manufacturers that have started to limit the drugs sold to hospitals at a steep discount, Susannah Luthi writes.

In question: Steps that five major companies took over the summer to rein in the number of drugs they dispense at the discount. Eli Lilly stopped offering the discounted price on any drugs except insulin — as long as the pharmacy doesn’t charge patients or insurance companies for dispensing. Merck is asking for claims data on patients, while AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Novartis are starting similar policies.

What’s happening now: The Health Resources and Services Administration, the tiny health agency in charge of 340B, says it’s still weighing whether these recent policies violate the law establishing the program, which says that any participating drug company has to offer its covered medicines at or below a certain price, and whether sanctions like fines may need to be levied.

The HRSA spokesperson added that manufacturers refusing “to honor contract pharmacy orders” could block access to prescriptions for vulnerable people who live in remote areas and depend on contract pharmacies.

“While PhRMA supports the original intent of the 340B program, we are concerned by the mounting evidence showing the program has strayed off course and is not helping needy patients,” the lobby said in a statement. PhRMA added that it can’t comment on specific companies’ actions, but “we agree with this Administration’s recent statements regarding the rule of law and status of agency guidance.”

BIDEN: ‘I DON’T TRUST TRUMP,’ AS OTHER DEMS ARE CAUTIOUS — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday sharply questioned the Trump administration’s process for approving a coronavirus vaccine, while expressing broad confidence in vaccines and the scientists who create, study and vet them, reports Alice Miranda Ollstein.

“I trust vaccines, I trust the scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” he said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., following a nearly two-hour briefing from his team of health experts.

Trump quickly hit back, accusing Biden of “promoting his anti-vaccine theories” during a White House briefing later that day.

Other Democrats tread lightly. While most Democrats are withholding judgment for now, Republicans have accused several who raised concerns of undermining public confidence in the effort to inoculate Americans against the coronavirus, Alice writes with POLITICO’s James Arkin.

Experts caution that candidates across the political spectrum should avoid talking about a vaccine at all to avoid further politicization.

What if they’re asked on the campaign trail? “They should talk about the importance of letting the science community speak and not having politicians drive the conversation,” advised Ashish Jha, an adjunct professor of global health at Harvard. “Deeply politicizing this as a ‘Trump vaccine’ won’t be helpful.”

DEMS REJECT KODAK INTERNAL REVIEW — House Democrats are dismissing an internal review initiated by Eastman Kodak’s board that claimed there was no evidence of illegal insider stock transactions around a planned $765 million government loan to launch pharmaceutical production, Zachary Warmbrodt writes.

House coronavirus subcommittee Chair Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the report “raises more questions than it answers” about the Trump administration’s efforts to provide the loan despite the photography company’s lack of experience in the field and about windfalls gained by the company’s leaders.

…Just the beginning. The inspector general for the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., the agency that announced it was considering providing the loan in July, has agreed to review the deal. The agency has put the loan on hold as it addresses “recent allegations of wrongdoing.”

FDA CAUTIONS APPLE WATCH SHOULDN’T BE USED TO MONITOR COVID — Apple unveiled blood oxygen monitoring capabilities in its newest version of the Apple Watch, but the feature should only be used for general wellness purposes, FDA says.

Sumbul Ahmad Desai, Apple’s vice president of health, described blood oxygen levels as a way for customers to monitor respiratory health earlier this week, but did specify that the product is only supposed to be used for “fitness and wellness purposes.”

FDA told POLITICO its medical device center has not cleared or approved the Apple product for medical purposes. “The Apple Watch 6 should not be used to monitor oxygen saturation of COVID patients or suspected COVID patients at home,” an FDA spokesperson told POLITICO.

MAINE FAILED TO INVOICE REBATESHHS’ Office of the Inspector General found that Maine didn’t always comply with federal Medicaid requirements for invoicing manufacturers for rebates for physician-administered drugs. Maine claimed more than $100 million for physician-administered drugs paid between January 2012 and December 2016, with the federal share tallying almost $70 million. One of OIG’s recommendations is that Maine refund the federal government $4 million for claims for single-source physician-administered drugs and $276,000 for claims for top-20 multiple-source physician-administered drugs.

NEW YORK TAKES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST J&J — New York’s Department of Financial Services filed charges and initiated administrative proceedings against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries. New York alleges that the company fraudulently mischaracterized the safety and efficacy of opioid drugs in order to expand the market. The state says J&J violated two state insurance laws. The charges come amid an ongoing DFS investigation into the opioid crisis. A hearing will take place on Jan. 25.

OXFAM: RICH COUNTRIES BOUGHT UP VAX SUPPLIES — Rich countries representing 13 percent of the world’s population have already bought more than half of the promised doses of leading coronavirus vaccine candidates, according to an Oxfam analysis published Wednesday.

“Supply deals have already been agreed for 5.3 billion doses, of which 2.7 billion (51 percent) have been bought by developed countries including the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong & Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel, as well as the European Union,” Oxfam said.

The remaining 2.5 billion doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries such as India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, reports Carmen Paun.

It’s happened before. Rich countries buying up most of the vaccine supplies is a scenario that played out in the swine flu pandemic a decade ago, writes Carmen.

This time the World Health Organization and the international vaccine alliance Gavi are trying to avoid that by getting everyone to procure vaccines through COVAX, a mechanism by which rich countries pay for their own vaccine doses and donate money for developing countries’ doses. But the U.S. refused to join, and China has been vague about committing.

Many states either don’t release or have incomplete data on the rapid antigen tests that are now considered key to containing the coronavirus, and officials are worried that could leave the country “blind to the pandemic.” Read more from KHN.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit patients with sickle cell particularly hard. The pandemic has halted clinical trials and introduction of new drugs, and it has made accessing care for sickle cell more difficult. Read more from STAT.

FDA released comparative data on the performance of more than 55 authorized coronavirus tests against a standardized reference panel.

Diagnostics manufacturer Thermo Fisher Scientific announced this week it is spending $140 million to boost consumable laboratory plastics needed to conduct Covid-19 testing.

The FDA’s Circulatory System Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee will meet Oct. 27, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 6 pm.

The FDA is proposing to reclassify cytomegalovirus deoxyribonucleic acid quantitative assay devices from a class III device into a class II to provide patients more timely access to these devices.

BioNTech will get up to €375 million (or about $444 million) from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to support the company’s development of Covid-19 vaccines.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, said in a statement that the Trump administration’s vaccine plan is “still missing far too many pieces.”



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