Russia scrambles to avoid a return to Soviet-era scarcity
Plagued by heavy economic sanctions and increasingly isolated from Western suppliers, Russia is scrambling to keep its factories and businesses running and avoid a return to Soviet-era scarcity. The economic toll, though difficult to quantify, has been widely felt, from its biggest businesses to its small shops and workers.
As the central bank slashed interest rates, its chairwoman, Elvira Nabiullina, warned that the coming months would be “difficult for businesses and citizens” as the fallout worsens for the Russian economy over three months after the invasion of Ukraine. Shortages will most likely worsen as sanctions turn Russia into an economic pariah.
Basic items, including paper and buttons, are in short supply. Consumer goods prices soared, with the inflation rate hitting 17.8% last month before falling slightly. Sales in the energy sector are expected to fall as European customers begin to turn away from Russian oil. And the airlines, cut off from Western manufacturers, are looking for spare parts.
Quoteable: “I call what’s happening now a horrible experience,” said Ivan Fedyakov, who runs Infoline, a market research firm in Russia. “It has never happened in modern history when such a large and deeply integrated country would be so quickly and abruptly isolated from the global economy.”
Back to basics: Russian automaker Avtotor has announced a lottery for free 10-acre plots – and the ability to buy seed potatoes – so its workers can grow their own food amid “the difficult economic situation”. The company announced the giveaway after Western sanctions hampered production at its Kaliningrad assembly plant.
In other wartime news:
Call for police responsibility in Uvalde school shooting
Parents and witnesses to the Robb Elementary School massacre in Southwest Texas this week are asking why armed personnel did not arrest the gunman, who entered the school unimpeded and remained at inside for more than an hour before the police killed him.
Police accounts have changed but today officials said officers responded ‘within minutes’ and two officers were shot dead as they tried to enter a classroom where the gunman was already shooting. Officials said they believe most, if not all, of the 21 victims were shot within minutes of the gunman entering the school.
But some witnesses said they urged police to storm the school sooner. Others saw officers handcuff a relative who tried to get inside. Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter was killed, was outside during the attack. “They said they rushed and all that,” he said, speaking to law enforcement. “We haven’t seen that.”
Victims : Jackie Cazares and Annabelle Rodriguez were cousins in the same class. Eva Mireles, one of the teachers killed, “brought the neighborhood together”. And Joe Garcia, the husband of Irma Garcia, the other teacher killed, died yesterday of a heart attack. The couple were married for 24 years and had four children.
Policy: The Times asked the 50 Republican senators about their position on gun legislation.
Conservatives aim for higher prices
Under pressure from a scathing report on the lockdown parties in Downing Street, and with his party trailing in the opinion polls, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, has unveiled an aid package worth of billions of pounds and aiming to deal with the worst pressure on British incomes in a generation.
Inflation in Britain is hitting double digits and the economy is on the verge of recession. The package would help all UK households, but especially those who find it hardest to pay soaring gas and electricity bills.
Critics accused Johnson of rushing the announcement to distract from the “Partygate” scandal that threatened to end his career. Downing Street yesterday apologized for misleading reporters by denying parties had taken place, and three other Tory lawmakers called on Johnson to resign.
Succession: There is no obvious successor to Johnson, especially as the popularity of one of the main candidates, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has slipped in recent months following a furor on the his wife’s tax arrangements.
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One cone to rule them all
As the realm of ice cream has expanded – more flavors, more toppings – the world of cones has only gotten smaller. Joy Baking Group, the world’s largest maker of ice cream cones, has cornered the market by betting on one basic premise: when it comes to cones, people don’t want creativity; they want familiarity.
Joy manufactures 41.3% of cones sold in US stores; it’s probably more, since it also makes house-brand cones. About 60-70% of cones sold in restaurants are Joy’s, according to a consultant for ice cream parlors. Its nearest competitor, Keebler, controls 14.5% of store sales.
At Joy’s flagship 530,000 square foot factory in western Pennsylvania, the giant spinning ovens that look like a partnership between NASA and Dr. Seuss operate 24 hours a day. Huge barrel-shaped vats hold the pale batter for the cones – mostly flour, water and sugar, as well as tapioca flour for the cake cones.
“The problem with ice cream is that for pretty much everyone, it’s so tied to nostalgia,” said Susan Soorenko, owner of Moorenko’s, a Washington-area ice cream shop. For many Americans, these moments are tied to joy cones. And even if another worthy contender does show up, “it’s okay,” she said. “Because it competes with a memory.”