American town printing its own currency on ‘thin planks of wood’

Mayor Wayne Fournier holds $25 in wooden money, in Tenino, Washington. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

American town printing its own currency on ‘thin planks of wood’

  • The money is being given as a grant to locals who demonstrate they have been economically harmed by the pandemic

NEW YORK: Tenino had become a ghost town, and small businesses were struggling to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic, so local officials revived an unconventional idea from the last century: Printing the town’s own currency on thin planks of wood.

“There was no trading, no selling and the city streets were dead. They looked the same at 3 p.m. as they did at 3 a.m.,” said Wayne Fournier, mayor of the town of 1,800 people in Washington state, in the northwestern United States.

“We were getting a lot of calls from businesses saying they were not sure if they would be able to hang on,” he told AFP.

The town’s museum had a printing press, so it was put to use to make $10,000 worth of bills on wooden rectangles, each nominally worth $25.

They feature a portrait of President George Washington and bear a Latin inscription that translates as “We’ve got it under control.”

The money is being given as a grant to locals who demonstrate they have been economically harmed by the pandemic. Each resident is allowed up to $300 per month. Known as “Tenino dollars,” “COVID dollars” or, sometimes, “Wayne dollars” after the mayor himself, the bills are traded at almost all shops in the town at a fixed rate equivalent to $1.

The currency is good only inside the town limits.

The idea is not new: Town officials last tried it during an even worse period of economic devastation, the Great Depression in the 1930s.

A national scarcity of dollars at the time prompted officials in Tenino to print money on spruce bark. “The concept became 1930s viral,” Fournier said, with other communities, businesses and chambers of commerce eager to emulate the town’s example.

Media attention piqued the curiosity of investors, and over the years the wooden currency became a collector’s item sold on eBay and Amazon.

The contemporary version of wooden currency, like the previous edition, aims to help the town through an economic crisis that forced businesses to close nationwide.

“It’s more of an advertisement for the town itself,” said Chris Hamilton, the manager of the town’s main grocery store. “It brings a lot of people into town that may not even know about Tenino and want to check this place out that makes its own money.

“They might stop off here, buy an ice cream or go down the street and buy a hamburger.”

Similar complementary currencies exist elsewhere in the US and Europe, aimed not at replacing the national money but supporting the local economy — a key distinction since American authorities take a dim view of anyone trying to create a bill to compete with the dollar.

The US Treasury declined to comment on its position regarding local currencies.


Huawei: Smartphone chips running out under US sanctions

Updated 08 August 2020

Huawei: Smartphone chips running out under US sanctions

  • Huawei is at the center of US-Chinese tension over technology and security
  • Washington cut off Huawei’s access to US components and technology last year

BEIJING: Chinese tech giant Huawei is running out of processor chips to make smartphones due to US sanctions and will be forced to stop production of its own most advanced chips, a company executive says, in a sign of growing damage to Huawei’s business from American pressure.
Huawei Technologies, one of the biggest producers of smartphones and network equipment, is at the center of US-Chinese tension over technology and security. The feud has spread to include the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok and China-based messaging service WeChat.
Washington cut off Huawei’s access to US components and technology including Google’s music and other smartphone services last year. Those penalties were tightened in May when the White House barred vendors worldwide from using US technology to produce components for Huawei.
Production of Kirin chips designed by Huawei’s own engineers will stop Sept. 15 because they are made by contractors that need US manufacturing technology, said Richard Yu, president of the company’s consumer unit. He said Huawei lacks the ability to make its own chips.
“This is a very big loss for us,” Yu said Friday at an industry conference, China Info 100, according to a video recording of his comments posted on multiple websites.
“Unfortunately, in the second round of US sanctions, our chip producers only accepted orders until May 15. Production will close on Sept. 15,” Yu said. “This year may be the last generation of Huawei Kirin high-end chips.”
More broadly, Huawei’s smartphone production has “no chips and no supply,” Yu said.
Yu said this year’s smartphone sales probably will be lower than 2019’s level of 240 million handsets but gave no details. The company didn’t immediately respond to questions Saturday.
Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former military engineer, denies accusations it might facilitate Chinese spying. Chinese officials accuse Washington of using national security as an excuse to stop a competitor to US tech industries.
Huawei is a leader among emerging Chinese competitors in telecoms, electric cars, renewable energy and other fields in which the ruling Communist Party hopes China can become a global leader.
Huawei has 180,000 employees and one of the world’s biggest research and development budgets at more than $15 billion a year. But, like most global tech brands, it relies on contractors to manufacture its products.
Earlier, Huawei announced its global sales rose 13.1 percent over a year ago to $65 billion in the first half of 2020. Yu said that was due to strong sales of high-end products but gave no details.
Huawei became the world’s top-selling smartphone brand in the three months ending in June, passing rival Samsung for the first time due to strong demand in China, according to Canalys. Sales abroad fell 27 percent from a year earlier.
Washington also is lobbying European and other allies to exclude Huawei from planned next-generation networks as a security risk.
In other US-Chinese clashes, TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is under White House pressure to sell the video app. That is due to fears its access to personal information about millions of American users might be a security risk.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced a ban on unspecified transactions with TikTok and the Chinese owner of WeChat, a popular messaging service.