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In Belarus, Lukashenko Bets on No Coronavirus Lockdown

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Belarus is one of the only European countries that has not implemented strict coronavirus containment measures. Its daily rate of new cases is now among the highest in Europe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The country has conducted its fair share of diagnostic tests—more than 240,000, or around 2.5 percent of its citizens. Belarus has officially confirmed 21,101 cases and 121 deaths as of May 8.

But health care professionals suggest that the number of deaths in Belarus has been intentionally underreported, with independent media outlets and social media users reporting that hospitals are under pressure to register deaths from COVID-19 as cases of pneumonia or heart failure. “The Health Ministry is hiding the real number of cases and especially the real number of deaths,” said Alexander Loban, an ophthalmologist. “Additionally, the ministry doesn’t want to cross the psychological threshold of 1,000 new cases a day.”

The Belarusian regime isn’t known for its transparency. In power for 25 years, President Aleksandr Lukashenko runs the country with an iron fist and oversees a repressive state apparatus. In recent months, he has downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus, calling it a “psychosis.” On April 21, Lukashenko attributed deaths in the Mogilev region, south of the capital of Minsk, to chronic diseases rather than to COVID-19. The president continued to play hockey on an amateur team amid the crisis. In March, he challenged a journalist in a crowded arena: “There are no viruses here. Did you see any of them flying around?” (A player on Lukashenko’s team later tested positive.)

Lukashenko’s “don’t panic” policymaking and absolute power are an insidious combination. Belarus almost equals Germany in its number of intensive care unit beds per capita. With its obedient citizens and extensive free public health care system, it could have been a role model in flattening the curve. So why does Lukashenko keep downplaying the coronavirus?

[Mapping the Coronavirus Outbreak: Get daily updates on the pandemic.]

The president wants to project himself as in control and demonstrate that the coronavirus shouldn’t interrupt Belarusians’ lives—nor the country’s fragile economy. He is also campaigning for reelection, scheduled for Aug. 9—a plan that did not account for the coronavirus. “Lukashenko wants to show he’s a strongman, and it’s difficult for him to acknowledge he was wrong,” said Andrei Yeliseyeu, the research director of the EAST Center, a think tank focused on Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries. In denying the threat of the virus, he is “moving forward with a narrative that other officials have to follow.”

So even though the coronavirus may soon reach its peak in Belarus, commemorations of the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender in World War II on May 9 have been kept on the national agenda. The official obstinance echoes the May 1 parade held by the Soviet authorities in Belarus in 1986—in total denial of the Chernobyl explosion five days earlier.

But with 80 percent of the Belarusian population now online, it is hard to hide the pandemic. The Health Ministry’s response has been strikingly different from the president’s. The ministry reports on the situation daily—though its own messaging has been overshadowed by Lukashenko’s televised statements. “The Ministry of Health is working hard to ensure that stricter measures to contain the epidemic are taken,” Yuri Tsarik, the head of Russia studies at the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, said in an email. But Lukashenko has “severely limited the powers of the ministry expected to ‘treat the patients’ instead of promoting a lockdown,” he wrote.

Some authorities—out of step with Lukashenko—have taken precautions. The Belarusian national train service rearranged passenger seats to enable social distancing. The Health Ministry has discouraged people from attending Mass—though Lukashenko himself attended an Orthodox Easter Mass on April 19.

Knowing Lukashenko wouldn’t act to slow the spread of the coronavirus, members of the public did not wait to enact their own proactive containment measures. The private sector has largely switched to remote work. Fewer people are on the streets or public transport, and those who do venture out wear face masks. Some bars and restaurants have closed on their own. Unfortunately, at-risk older adults are the most likely to watch state television channels, which broadcast misleading or conflicting messages about the coronavirus and how to contain it.

The response of Belarusian civil society organizations has been applauded by the Health Ministry and WHO. “Of course the spread of the coronavirus depends on the authorities, but it depends a lot on all of us,” said Andrej Stryzhak, a volunteer for #ByCovid19, a grassroots support group that has raised more than $210,000 for personal protective equipment for health care workers across the country. It has shared its database of needs across the sector with the Health Ministry.

Having tamped down the Belarusian opposition for years, Lukashenko is certain of another landslide victory in this year’s election. No election held since 1996 has been free or fair. While he may be unaccountable to his public, he is still dependent on his neighbor, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Belarus has long relied on Russian energy subsidies to prop up its ailing economy. But Russia’s invasion of their mutual neighbor Ukraine in 2014 prompted Lukashenko to rethink that dependence, and he began to make overtures toward the West. To tighten the screws on Minsk—an important buffer between Russia and Europe—Moscow is looking to dust off a 20-year-old “union state” treaty signed by the two countries that would see them form a supranational union, undermining Belarus’s sovereignty.

“A potential serious epidemiological situation on the eve of the elections would pose a big risk for the political and internal situation,” Yeliseyeu said. “If Russia deals more successfully with the epidemic, the Kremlin could try to play this card too to push its ‘integration’ project ahead with Belarus.”

Lukashenko is also diminishing the coronavirus threat to shield the precarious Belarusian economy, which is highly dependent on Russian markets. Without a full lockdown, the economy faces a crisis: It has suffered from a dispute with Russia over crude oil, which Belarus used to import at a subsidized rate to refine and sell on the European market. The value of the Belarusian ruble has plunged as oil prices crashed, increasing hardship.

Belarus already has extremely low unemployment benefits—less than $23 per month. “A proper lockdown would mean that thousands of people would lose their salaries,” said Lev Lvovskiy, a senior research fellow at BEROC, a Belarusian think tank. And Belarus doesn’t have any emergency state funds to support the unemployed, meaning that in the case of a lockdown there would be little additional financial aid.

So Lukashenko insists that the economy should run without interruption. “We are in a more complicated situation than Russia,” he said on April 17. “They are on vacation, but their pipelines continue operating. Even though the price [of oil] has fallen, the foreign currency continues to come into the country. We do not have such a safety net.” And because of its bad credit rating, Belarus cannot access international loans at a preferential rate. “Other post-Soviet countries either usually have some savings for emergencies, like Kazakhstan or Russia, or some can borrow at a better rate, such as Ukraine,” Lvovskiy said.

But increased social distancing measures short of a lockdown aren’t likely to have any further negative effect on the economy. And Belarus still may decide to implement them as the coronavirus crisis worsens. “The authorities are just losing time,” Yeliseyeu said. “They will have to accept measures later anyway as the situation escalates.”

An online survey taken in Belarus between March 20 and April 5 showed that 86 percent of respondents disapproved of Lukashenko’s response to the coronavirus. But discontent alone will not change the nature of his regime. The president’s iron grip has not eased since 1994, and there are no opposition representatives in the rubber-stamp National Assembly. While the awakening of Belarusian civil society is remarkable, it is likely to disappear again when the coronavirus outbreak slows. “It’s like during natural disasters, we work on adrenaline. Then everything is likely to vanish,” Stryzhak said.

It seems the political structure Lukashenko has built will resist the growing discontent, but it could face severe pressure if the death toll is devastating and cracks appear in the establishment. Putin, who has silently waged an economic war against Lukashenko, is also looming—and he could interfere if the coronavirus further weakens Belarus.

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What Does an Extended Car Warranty Cover?

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If you purchased a brand-new car, then you’re covered under the manufacturer’s warranty until a certain mileage point or age limit. What happens after you’ve met these limits? For those who want extra coverage on their vehicles, extended warranties can be an option for used cars.

Understanding Extended Warranties

What Does an Extended Car Warranty Actually Cover?If something happens to your vehicle that your insurance company doesn’t cover and the car’s manufacturer warranty is expired, you’re left to foot the cost of repairs. For this reason, many borrowers consider buying an extended warranty for their used vehicles.

An extended warranty, also called a vehicle service contract, is essentially additional coverage on your car, and the name is somewhat inaccurate. Extended warranties don’t “extend” the original warranty offered by the manufacturer. They’re actually third-party service contracts that cover certain vehicle repairs for a set amount of time and/or mileage.

For those who rely on their cars heavily day-to-day, service contracts can offer some peace of mind when you’re driving a used vehicle. Extended warranty coverage varies greatly, and no two offered by dealerships are likely to be the same.

To see what an extended warranty truly covers, ask for a list of the inclusions and exclusions from the finance and insurance (F&I) manager at the dealer where you’re purchasing your used car.

What Vehicle Service Contracts May Cover

Many service contracts can mimic the manufacturer’s original warranty. Some cover the transmission and engine, and associated parts of these two key systems like seals and gaskets. Some extended warranties can cover most parts of your vehicle, including the key components (like the engine and transmission) and things like air conditioning and maybe even the power seats.

As a good rule of thumb, these things typically aren’t covered under extended warranties:

  • Regular maintenance
  • Brakes, clutches, windshield wipers, and lights
  • Regular wear and tear (like interior damage)
  • Body damage (dents)
  • Modifications
  • Tires

Keep in mind that most extended warranty claims come with deductibles, and there tend to be rules and exclusions that don’t come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Often, the dealership where you purchased the car and service contract requires that you go to their service center to repair your vehicle under the warranty.

On top of that, some extended warranties require that you pay for the repairs up front and then file a claim to be reimbursed for the cost later. Be sure to read all the fine print of a service contract, and feel free to ask lots of questions. You’re the one spending the money on it, after all!

When to Buy an Extended Warranty

Manufacturer warranties can last for a number or years, or up to a certain mileage. New cars often come with bumper-to-bumper coverage for around three years or 36,000 miles, as well as a powertrain warranty that’s normally good for around 10 years or 100,00 miles.

If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, check to see if it’s still covered under its manufacturer warranty before you consider buying an extended warranty.

In most cases, if the car you’re purchasing is outside of the original new vehicle warranty, the F&I manager offers you a service contract when you’re wrapping up your contract. F&I managers typically have a whole menu of options that you can consider adding to your auto loan.

Before you decide on an extended warranty, or any of the dealer add-ons available, make sure to ask questions about the contracts offered and the details about what they cover. If you decide to take one, the costs are usually then rolled right into your car loan payment.

Ready to Start Car Shopping?

When you’re buying a used vehicle, there’s a higher risk of something going wrong with it down the line. This is always a possibility with any car you’re fixing to buy, but with a used one, it can be hard to tell what the vehicle has truly been through. It’s even harder to predict what could happen in the future.

Extended warranties and cars can be long-term commitments, and it can feel like a hassle to find the right dealership for your situation. When you have less than perfect credit, finding the dealer that’s signed up the right lenders can be even more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be!

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve cultivated a network of dealerships that work with bad credit borrowers. Instead of driving all over town and hoping to find a dealer for your credit, fill out our free auto loan request form, and we’ll do the looking for you. We’ll search for a dealership in your local area that has the lending resources you need.

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Cheapest car insurance in Colorado 2020

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Many drivers wonder how they can get the cheapest car insurance without sacrificing decent coverage. While car insurance rates in Colorado are slightly above the national average, drivers in the state still have plenty of options for affordable coverage.

The cheapest car insurance companies in Colorado

Colorado drivers pay an average of $1,050 per year for auto insurance. The three cheapest auto insurance carriers in Colorado are Geico, Progressive and State Farm.

Geico

Geico has a reputation for offering some of the lowest rates in the auto insurance industry while still providing decent customer service — the company tied for tenth place in claims satisfaction in a 2020 J.D. Power study.

Not only does Geico have some of the lowest rates on the market, but it also has one of the most extensive lists of discounts available. The company offers its customers 16 ways to save on their insurance premiums. Discounts include those for vehicle safety equipment, driver safety, driver education, customer loyalty and membership with certain organizations or employers.

Progressive

Progressive is one of the largest auto insurance carriers in Colorado, writing more than 10% of premiums in the state. Progressive is known for offering low-cost insurance policies. More specifically, the company has a reputation for offering affordable policies to high-risk drivers, such as those with poor driving histories or bad credit.

In addition to its low premiums, Progressive also offers a generous list of discounts. With 13 discounts available, most customers can likely find one that applies to them. Progressive has other tools that make it stand out from the crowd. The company’s price comparison tool allows prospective customers to pull quotes from multiple companies at once, not just from Progressive. The company also offers its famous Name Your Price Tool, which customizes a policy for drivers based on the premium they want to pay.

State Farm

State Farm is the top provider of car insurance in Colorado in terms of market share. Not only does the company write the most policies, but it also offers them at low prices. State Farm also offers 13 discounts customers can use to reduce their premiums even more. One of the company’s featured discounts is its Drive Safe & Save program, which reduces a driver’s premium based on their driving record.

Another advantage is that, according to a study by the Consumer Federation of America, State Farm is the only major insurance provider that doesn’t increase a customer’s premiums after a not-at-fault accident.

Affordable coverage for Colorado drivers

Colorado state law requires that drivers carry liability insurance, including bodily injury and property damage coverage. The state requires the following minimum coverages:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death to any one person in an accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident
  • $15,000 for property damage in any one accident

These minimum coverages will compensate any other drivers in an accident where the insured is at fault. Purchasing only the minimum coverage will result in the lowest premium rates.

While sticking to the minimum coverages will save you the most money on your monthly premiums, drivers may opt to purchase more coverage to avoid bigger financial losses in case of an accident. Colorado’s minimum coverage requirements only include liability. In the event of an accident, your insurer will only cover the other driver’s losses. Your policy won’t cover any damage to your vehicle or person.

How to get cheap car insurance in Colorado

While it’s your insurance provider that sets your premiums, there are plenty of things you can do to find the cheapest car insurance available to you:

  • Shop around: Rates can vary significantly by individual and from one company to the next. Ultimately, each person should shop around for the company that offers the lowest rate for their unique situation.
  • Increase your deductibles: There’s typically a direct relationship between your insurance deductibles and your premiums. The higher the deductibles, the lower the premiums, and vice versa. If you’re comfortable with paying a higher cost in an accident, opting for higher deductibles can reduce your monthly expense.
  • Bundle your policies: Nearly every insurance company offers a multi-policy discount for customers with two or more policies with the same company. By bundling your auto insurance with your homeowners or renters insurance, you can save money on your premium.
  • Pay your full premium up-front: Insurance companies default to charging customers a monthly rate, but policies typically cover a period of six months. Most carriers offer a discount when you pay your full premium up-front. If you switch providers during your policy, insurers will usually refund the unused premium.
  • Take advantage of discounts: All of the largest insurance carriers offer discounts for their auto policies. Some of the most commonly available include good driver discounts, good student discounts, and discounts for vehicle safety features. Some discounts apply automatically to your policy if you qualify, while others you have to opt-in to.

Frequently asked questions

What determines someone’s car insurance premiums?

Many factors can impact the car insurance rates you’re eligible for. Factors that can increase or decrease your policy include:

  • Driving record: Those with accidents or violations on their driving record can expect to pay more for car insurance than if they had a clean driving record.
  • Age: Insurance rates tend to drop after someone turns 25, as older drivers tend to have fewer accidents.
  • Gender: Women tend to be safer drivers and have cleaner driving records. As a result, they may pay lower premiums.
  • Credit: Studies have linked credit to driving history — those with poor credit are more likely to file claims. As a result, poor credit tends to result in higher premiums.
  • Vehicle: Carriers may offer lower rates to those with safer cars and those that are more affordable to repair.
  • Coverage amount: You can expect your rates to increase in correlation with the amount of coverage you purchase.
  • Location: Living in an area with a high crime rate can increase your premiums.

How do Colorado’s car insurance premiums compare with the rest of the country?

According to 2017 data, Colorado ranks 15th in the nation for the most expensive car insurance. Insurance prices have been steadily increasing in the state for several years. Suspected causes of the spike include increased hailstorms and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

How quickly can I get car insurance in Colorado?

With most of the major insurance carriers, you can purchase an auto policy that is effective immediately, as long as you have the right documentation. It might be worth waiting, though — some companies offer a discount for drivers who sign up for their policy a certain number of days before it goes into effect.

What is the best car insurance in Colorado?

According to data from J.D. Power, American Family and Geico are the top-ranking car insurance companies in Colorado when it comes to customer satisfaction. Colorado drivers also have plenty of other excellent car insurance companies to choose from, depending on what factors are most important to them in a carrier.

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How Brooks Running overcame fraud and boosted customer experience| Tech Spotlight

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Rich Stuppy, chief customer experience officer at Kount, shares how running sneaker retailer Brooks Running dealt with fraud and improved the customer experience at the same time.

What began in a small factory in 1914 in Philadelphia, Brooks Running has grown to be a global enterprise. Now with customers in more than 50 countries, the running shoe innovator has evolved from a company specializing in ballet and bath shoes, at its inception, to a business with the prime focus is making the perfect running shoe — featuring options that are wildly popular among both elite and casual runners.

As Brooks puts it, running is its thing. Fraud, on the other hand, is not.

E-commerce growth brings chargebacks and fraud

As Brooks’ popularity grew, so did revenue channels, which included e-commerce.

With a rise in digital transactions came challenges the retailer was not prepared for — overwhelming fraud. In 2017, fraudulent websites were stealing credit card information from unsuspecting customers and using the Brooks website as part of a drop-shipping scheme.

The number of chargebacks Brooks began to experience became overwhelming. It eventually got so bad credit card companies were threatening to prohibit Brooks from accepting their credit cards. Brooks’ top priority went from perfecting the running shoe to reducing its chargeback rate to protecting its payment processing capabilities.

Hunting for proactive protection without customer friction

While the fraud prevention team reacted quickly to new evidence of fraud, “we just didn’t know how to deal with it,” said Chad Funk, Brooks’ fraud specialist. Like many other merchants, Brooks’ first defense against chargebacks was a “manual review” of transactions — a slow process with high operational costs.

Brooks knew it needed technology to detect and stop fraud and reduce manual reviews without sacrificing good orders. After a careful search, Brooks selected Kount’s platform given its AI-driven, all-in-one fraud detection built on a network of trust and risk data called the Identity Trust Global Network.

Linked by Kount’s adaptive AI, the Identity Trust Global Network analyzes trust and risk signals from 32 billion annual interactions to stop chargebacks and fraud in real time.

Relying on Kount’s data and automation, Brooks quickly slashed its chargeback rate by 92%, eliminating the threat of fraud monitoring programs while accepting more good orders.

Brooks is not only reducing false positives, but improving the customer experience by providing a seamless journey for VIP customers, like those involved in a special “Pro” program.

“When somebody’s in our Pro program and I can see the amount that the cart is worth and the amount that was paid, I know this person is part of a discount program — I know this order is just fine,” said Funk.

From fighting fraud to enhancing the customer experience

Using Kount’s networked data, from over 250 countries across the globe, Brooks’ next step in the fraud journey was to expand sales into new regions. This opened up a major new opportunity, as Brooks began to accept international credit cards which they had previously declined.

The results didn’t disappoint. Simply opening up the international revenue stream contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line.

With growing revenue streams, and a manual review rate below 2%, Brooks again shifted focus, fine-tuning policies to improve the customer experience in order to build long-term revenue.

Much like its running shoes, the Brooks’ fraud prevention strategy is focused on perfection: both in protection and in exceptional customer experiences.

Rich Stuppy is chief customer experience officer at Kount.

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