sometimes disappeared for months or years in the Venezuelan justice system, and she worried that her partner was about to do the same.

Ms. Rosales’s lawyer, Venus Faddoul, exited the courthouse. No hearing today, she said. And it would probably be weeks before a judge took up the case.

Ms. Escobar collapsed, consumed by anger and anxiety. Soon, she was shaking violently and struggling to breathe.

“We are powerless,” she cried.

internet outrage that Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, took to Twitter to clarify that he had issued an arrest warrant for the accused rapist.

The authorities in Mérida soon released Ms. Rosales to await trial under house arrest.

Abortion rights activists last month met for hours with Mr. Rodríguez, the National Assembly president, where they proposed a change to the penal code, among other ideas.

The country’s influential association of Catholic bishops responded with a letter imploring the country to stick with the status quo.

Powerful international organizations, the association said, were trying to legalize abortion “by appealing to fake concepts of modernity, inventing ‘new human rights,’ and justifying policies that go against God’s designs.”

Ms. Rosales remains in legal limbo. Six months after her arrest, she has yet to have her first day in court. The accused person is still free.

“This goes beyond being a negligent state,” she said. “This is a state that is actively working against women.”

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Saudi Aramco Sells Oil Pipeline Stake for $12.4 Billion

BJ’s Wholesale Club, died unexpectedly on Thursday of “presumed natural causes,” according to a statement released Friday by the company. He was 49.

“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” said Christopher J. Baldwin, the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community.”

Mr. Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He was promoted to president in 2019 and became chief executive last year. Before joining BJ’s, he was a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company from 1996 to 2016. Mr. Delaney earned a master’s in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and attended the University of Massachusetts, where he pursued a double major in computer science and mathematics.

Mr. Delaney led the company through the unexpected changes in consumer demand spurred by the pandemic, with many customers stockpiling wholesale goods as they hunkered down at home. “2020 was a remarkable, transformative and challenging year that structurally changed our business for the better,” Mr. Delaney said in the company’s last quarterly earnings report.

The BJ’s board appointed Bob Eddy, the chief administrative and financial officer, to serve as the company’s interim chief executive. Mr. Eddy joined the company in 2007 and became the chief financial officer in 2011, adding the job of chief administrative officer in 2018.

“Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Mr. Baldwin said. He said that the company would announce decisions about its permanent executive leadership in a “reasonably short timeframe.”

BJ’s, based in Westborough, Mass., operates 221 clubs and 151 BJ’s Gas locations in 17 states.

Revolut’s office in London in 2018. The banking start-up is offering its workers the opportunity to work abroad for up to two months a year.
Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.

Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.

“Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.

Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a communications manager for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.

Revolut has been valued at $5.5 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable financial technology firms. It joins a number of companies that will allow more flexible working arrangements to continue after the pandemic ends. JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.

Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”

Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.

Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.

“There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”

Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.

After its initial public offering imploded, WeWork went public through a SPAC deal.
Credit…Kate Munsch/Reuters

After weeks of wading into the debate over how to regulate SPACS, the popular blank-check deals that provide companies a back door to public markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission is sending its first shot across the bow.

John Coates, the acting director of the corporate finance division at the S.E.C., issued a lengthy statement on Thursday about how securities laws apply to blank-check firms, the DealBook newsletter reports.

“With the unprecedented surge has come unprecedented scrutiny,” Mr. Coates wrote of the recent boom in blank-check deals.

In particular, he is interested in a crucial (and controversial) difference between SPACs and traditional initial public offerings: blank-check firms are allowed to publish often-rosy financial forecasts when merging with an acquisition target, while companies going public in an I.P.O. are not. Regulators consider such forecasts too risky for firms as yet untested by the public markets.

Investors raise money for SPACs via an I.P.O. of a shell company, and those funds are used within two years to merge with an unspecified company, which then also becomes a publicly traded company. Because the deal is technically a merger, it’s given the same “safe harbor” legal protections for its financial forecasts as a typical M.& A. deal. And that’s why there are flying-taxi companies with little revenue going public via a SPAC while promising billions in sales far in the future.

The S.E.C. thinks allowing financial forecasts for these deals might be a problem. They can be “untested, speculative, misleading or even fraudulent,” Mr. Coates wrote. And he concludes his statement by suggesting a major rethink of how the “full panoply” of securities laws applies to SPACs, which could upend the blank-check business model.

If the S.E.C. does not treat SPAC deals as the I.P.Os they effectively are, he writes, “potentially problematic forward-looking information may be disseminated without appropriate safeguards.”

The letter serves as a warning, but perhaps not much else — yet. Unless the S.E.C. issues new rules (as it did for penny stocks) or Congress passes legislation, SPAC projections will continue. But this strongly worded statement could moderate or even mute them.

“The S.E.C. has now put them on notice,” Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant of the agency, said.


Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes

Either side needed 1,521 votes to win.

A total of 505 ballots were challenged; 76 were void.·Source: National Labor Relations Board

Amazon beat back the unionization drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the counting of ballots in the closely watched effort showed on Friday.

A total of 738 workers voted “Yes” to unionize and 1,798 voted “No.” There were 76 ballots marked as void and 505 votes were challenged, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The union leading the drive to organize, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said most of the challenges were from Amazon.

About 50 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse cast ballots in the election. Either side needed to receive more than 50 percent of all cast ballots to prevail.

The ballots were counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.

The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote — “Yes” for a union or “No” — for nearly four hours on Thursday.

Sophia June and Miles McKinley contributed to this report.

A screenshot of a “vax cards” page on Facebook. 

Online stores offering counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards have mushroomed in recent weeks, according to Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.

The efforts are far from hidden, with Facebook pages named “vax-cards” and eBay listings with “blank vaccine cards” openly hawking the items, Sheera Frenkel reports for The New York Times.

Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards.

Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.

Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.

Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.

An empty conference room in New York, which is among the cities with the lowest rate of workers returning to offices.
Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

In only a year, the market value of office towers in Manhattan has plummeted 25 percent, according to city projections released on Wednesday.

Across the country, the vacancy rate for office buildings in city centers has steadily climbed over the past year to reach 16.4 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the highest in about a decade. That number could climb further if companies keep giving up office space because of hybrid or fully remote work, Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag report for The New York Times.

So far, landlords like Boston Properties and SL Green have not suffered huge financial losses, having survived the past year by collecting rent from tenants locked into long leases — the average contract for office space runs about seven years.

But as leases come up for renewal, property owners could be left with scores of empty floors. At the same time, many new office buildings are under construction — 124 million square feet nationwide, or enough for roughly 700,000 workers. Those changes could drive down rents, which were touching new highs before the pandemic. And rents help determine assessments that are the basis for property tax bills.

Many big employers have already given notice to the owners of some prestigious buildings that they are leaving when their leases end. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so.

The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a White House appearance on Thursday.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President Biden proposed a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.

The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.

Mr. Biden’s first spending request to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.

It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget request the White House will release this spring.

Among its major new spending initiatives, the plan would dedicate an additional $20 billion to help schools that serve low-income children and provide more money to students who have experienced racial or economic barriers to higher education. It would create a multi-billion-dollar program for researching diseases like cancer and add $14 billion to fight and adapt to the damages of climate change.

It would also seek to lift the economies of Central American countries, where rampant poverty, corruption and devastating hurricanes have fueled migration toward the southwestern border and a variety of initiatives to address homelessness and housing affordability, including on tribal lands. And it asks for an increase of about 2 percent in spending on national defense.

The request represents a sharp break with the policies of President Donald J. Trump, whose budget proposals prioritized military spending and border security, while seeking to cut funding in areas like environmental protection.

All told, the proposal calls for a $118 billion increase in discretionary spending in the 2022 fiscal year, when compared with the base spending allocations this year. It seeks to capitalize on the expiration of a decade of caps on spending growth, which lawmakers agreed to in 2010 but frequently breached in subsequent years.

Administration officials would not specify on Friday whether that increase would result in higher federal deficits in their coming budget proposal, but promised its full budget would “address the overlapping challenges we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.”

As part of that effort, the request seeks $1 billion in new funding for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws, including “increased oversight of high-income and corporate tax returns.” That is clearly aimed at raising tax receipts by cracking down on tax avoidance by companies and the wealthy.

Officials said the proposals did not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, which he introduced last week, or for a second plan he has yet to roll out, which will focus on what officials call “human infrastructure” like education and child care.

Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to White House requests. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.

Part of Saudi Aramco’s giant Ras Tanura oil terminal. The company said it would raise $12.4 billion from selling a minority stake in its oil pipeline business.
Credit…Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reached a deal to raise $12.4 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake in a pipeline-rights company.

The money will come from a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, a Washington-based investor in pipelines and other energy infrastructure.

Under the arrangement announced on Friday, the investor group will buy 49 percent of a new company called Aramco Oil Pipelines, which will have the rights to 25 years of payments from Aramco for transporting oil through Saudi Arabia’s pipeline networks.

Aramco is under pressure from its main owner, the Saudi government, to generate cash to finance state operations as well as investments like new cities to diversify the economy away from oil.

The company has pledged to pay $75 billion in annual dividends, nearly all to the government, as well as other taxes.

Last year, the dividends came to well in excess of the company’s net income of $49 billion. Recently, Aramco was tapped by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker, to lead a new domestic investment drive to build up the Saudi economy.

The pipeline sale “reinforces Aramco’s role as a catalyst for attracting significant foreign investment into the Kingdom,” Aramco said in a statement.

From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, the deal has the virtue of raising money up front without giving up control. Aramco will own a 51 percent majority share in the pipeline company and “retain full ownership and operational control” of the pipes the company said.

Aramco said Saudi Arabia would retain control over how much oil the company produces.

Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich neighbor, has struck similar oil and gas deals with outside investors.

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Amazon Union Votes Continue to Be Tallied: Live Updates

Unofficial Tally of Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes 1,608 yes votes are needed for the union to win today. The New York Times·As of 7:19 p.m. Hundreds of ballots have been contested, which could delay either side from reaching the threshold. One ballot was marked as void. The ballots were being counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote “Yes” for a union or “No” for nearly four hours on Thursday.Amazon and the union had spent more than a week in closed sessions, reviewing the eligibility of each ballot cast with the labor board, the federal agency that conducts union elections. The union said several hundred ballots had been contested, largely by Amazon, and those ballots were set aside to be adjudicated and counted only if they were vital to determining an outcome. If Amazon’s large margin holds steady throughout the count, the contested ballots are likely to be moot.The incomplete tally put Amazon on the cusp of defeating the most serious organized-labor threat in the company’s history. Running a prominent campaign since the fall, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union aimed to establish the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States. The result will have major implications not only for Amazon but also for organized labor and its allies.

Labor organizers have tapped into dissatisfaction with working conditions in the warehouse, saying Amazon’s pursuit of efficiency and profits makes the conditions harsh for workers. The company counters that its starting wage of $15 an hour exceeds what other employers in the area pay, and it has urged workers to vote against unionizing.

Amazon has always fought against unionizing by its workers. But the vote in Alabama comes at a perilous moment for the company. Lawmakers and regulators — not competitors — are some of its greatest threats, and it has spent significant time and money trying to keep the government away from its business.

The union drive has had the retailer doing a political balancing act: staying on the good side of Washington’s Democratic leaders while squashing an organizing effort that President Biden has signaled he supported.

Labor leaders and liberal Democrats have seized on the union drive, saying it shows how Amazon is not as friendly to workers as the company says it is. Some of the company’s critics are also using its resistance to the union push to argue that Amazon should not be trusted on other issues, like climate change and the federal minimum wage.

Sophia June contributed to this report.

Revolut’s office in London in 2018. The banking start-up is offering its workers the opportunity to work abroad for up to two months a year.
Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.

Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.

“Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.

Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a communications manager for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.

Revolut has been valued at $5.5 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable financial technology firms. It joins a number of companies that will allow more flexible working arrangements to continue after the pandemic ends. JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.

Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”

Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.

Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.

“There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”

Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.

A screenshot of a “vax cards” page on Facebook. 

Online stores offering counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards have mushroomed in recent weeks, according to Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.

The efforts are far from hidden, with Facebook pages named “vax-cards” and eBay listings with “blank vaccine cards” openly hawking the items, Sheera Frenkel reports for The New York Times.

Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards.

Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.

Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.

Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.

An empty conference room in New York, which is among the cities with the lowest rate of workers returning to offices.
Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

In only a year, the market value of office towers in Manhattan has plummeted 25 percent, according to city projections released on Wednesday.

Across the country, the vacancy rate for office buildings in city centers has steadily climbed over the past year to reach 16.4 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the highest in about a decade. That number could climb further if companies keep giving up office space because of hybrid or fully remote work, Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag report for The New York Times.

So far, landlords like Boston Properties and SL Green have not suffered huge financial losses, having survived the past year by collecting rent from tenants locked into long leases — the average contract for office space runs about seven years.

But as leases come up for renewal, property owners could be left with scores of empty floors. At the same time, many new office buildings are under construction — 124 million square feet nationwide, or enough for roughly 700,000 workers. Those changes could drive down rents, which were touching new highs before the pandemic. And rents help determine assessments that are the basis for property tax bills.

Many big employers have already given notice to the owners of some prestigious buildings that they are leaving when their leases end. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so.

The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.

A closed restaurant and pastry store in Tucson, Ariz. The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, said the economic recovery from the pandemic has been “uneven and incomplete.”
Credit…Rebecca Noble for The New York Times

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Online Scammers Have a New Offer For You: Vaccine Cards

SAN FRANCISCO — On Etsy, eBay, Facebook and Twitter, little rectangular slips of paper started showing up for sale in late January. Printed on card stock, they measured three-by-four inches and featured crisp black lettering. Sellers listed them for $20 to $60 each, with a discount on bundles of three or more. Laminated ones cost extra.

All were forgeries or falsified copies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards, which are given to people who have been inoculated against Covid-19 in the United States.

“We found hundreds of online stores selling the cards, potentially thousands were sold,” said Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.

The coronavirus has made opportunists out of many people, like those who hoarded bottles of hand sanitizer at the start of the pandemic or those who cheated recipients out of their stimulus checks. Now online scammers have latched onto the latest profit-making initiative: the little white cards that provide proof of shots.

Airlines and other companies have recently said they may require proof of Covid-19 immunization so that people can safely travel or attend events.

The cards may also become central to “vaccine passports,” which offer digital proof of vaccinations. Some tech companies developing vaccine passports ask people to upload copies of their C.D.C. cards. Los Angeles also recently began using the C.D.C. cards for its own digital proof of immunization.

Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards. The officials said they were monitoring the activity and were concerned that unvaccinated people would misuse the cards to attend large events, potentially spreading the virus and prolonging the pandemic.

“We’re seeing a huge market for these false cards online,” said Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, whose office has investigated fraud related to the virus. “This is a dangerous practice that undermines public health.”

The C.D.C. said it was “aware of cases of fraud regarding counterfeit Covid-19 vaccine cards.” It asked people not to share images of their personal information or vaccine cards on social media.

Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.

The C.D.C. introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.

Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.

“My body my choice,” wrote one commenter in a Facebook post last month. Another person replied, “can’t wait to get mine too, lol.”

Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.

One Etsy seller, who declined to be identified, said she had sold dozens of fake vaccine cards for $20 each recently. She justified her actions by saying she was helping people evade a “tyrannical government.” She added that she did not plan to get inoculated.

Vaccine proponents say they have been troubled by the proliferation of forged and stolen cards. To hold those people accountable, Savannah Sparks, a pharmacist in Biloxi, Miss., began posting videos on TikTok last month naming the sellers of falsified vaccine cards.

In one video, Ms. Sparks explained how she had tracked down the name of a pharmacy technician in Illinois who had nabbed several cards for herself and her husband and then posted about it online. The pharmacy technician had not disclosed her identity, but had linked the post to her social media accounts, where she used her real name. The video has 1.2 million views.

“It made me so mad that a pharmacist was using her access and position this way,” Ms. Sparks said. The video drew the attention of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, which said it reported the video to a state board for further investigation.

Ms. Sparks said her work had drawn detractors and vaccine opponents, who have threatened her and posted her home phone number and address online. But she was undeterred.

“They should be first in line advocating for people to get vaccinated,” she said of pharmacists. “Instead, they’re trying to use their positions to spread fear and help people circumvent getting the vaccine.”

Mr. Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general, said in addition to violating federal copyright laws, the sale of counterfeit and stolen cards most likely broke civil and consumer protection laws that mandate that an item can be used as advertised. The cards could also violate state laws regarding impersonation, he said.

“We want to see them stop immediately,” Mr. Shapiro said of the fraudsters. “And we want to see the companies take serious and immediate action.”

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Here Are The High Costs of the Airline Bailouts

Major U.S. airlines have received more than $50 billion in grants in multiple rounds of taxpayer-funded bailouts during the pandemic. As travel begins to rebound and the stock market cruises to record highs, Andrew asks in his latest column: Was the rescue worth it?

The good news: The bailouts probably saved as many as 75,000 jobs and kept the airlines from declaring bankruptcy.

The bad news: Taxpayers probably overpaid, with the original grant of $25 billion implying that each job cost the equivalent of more than $300,000. (That price grew with subsequent bailouts.)

throw money at everything these days, and the Fed’s stimulus kept the credit markets open.

  • U.S. airlines were able to issue more than $30 billion in bonds last year, in some cases backed by their loyalty programs.

  • Boeing and Carnival Cruise Line also raised billions in debt from private investors.

We’ll never know what would have happened without the bailouts. The airlines say the government grants were crucial: As American Airlines put it, they “saved thousands of airline jobs, preserved the livelihoods of our hard-working team members and helped position the industry to play a central role in the nation’s recovery.”

  • There are conditions attached to the rescues, including halting share buybacks and limiting C.E.O. pay. But other things, like stock warrants issued to the government, are worth a small fraction of the grants the airlines received (unlike the majority equity stake that the government took when it rescued G.M. as part of its bankruptcy in 2009).

The debate about the appropriateness of the bailouts is just beginning, Andrew writes. “After the banking crisis of 2008 led to bailouts, the recriminations began when firms like Goldman Sachs had a banner year in the aftermath — and paid bankers record bonuses.” Will the same thing happen to the airlines?

Uber will classify British drivers as “workers.” The ride-hailing service’s decision will entitle more than 70,000 drivers to a minimum wage, vacation pay and access to a pension plan, but stops short of making them employees. It comes in response to a British Supreme Court ruling last month.

Wall Street firms plan for in-office workers. JPMorgan Chase expects summer interns in New York and London to work at the office. And Ralph Schlosstein, the co-C.E.O. of Evercore, told Bloomberg Television that he hoped to have some summer trainees “at least be partly in the office.”

its process for reviewing deals involving drug makers, following an investigation by Representative Katie Porter, Democrat of California, into the impact of consolidation. It’s the latest sign of the Biden administration’s stance on antitrust.

Treasury Department opens a racial equity review. It will examine its policies in an effort to ensure economic fairness, a priority of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The review will be led by Adewale Adeyemo once he is confirmed as deputy Treasury secretary.

The buyer of Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion is revealed. Michael Daffey, a former Goldman Sachs executive, paid $51 million for the residence after racking up big gains on Bitcoin.

Amalgamated Bank, the New York-based lender with a history of supporting progressive causes, plans to announce this morning that it will endorse H.R. 40, legislation calling for a federal commission to study the lingering effects of slavery — and the merits of providing reparations.

The lender came to support the bill after racial justice protests last year. Lynne Fox, Amalgamated’s chair and interim C.E.O., told DealBook that the protests convinced the bank’s leaders that they needed to address structural racism with “systemic changes” to society. The bank, which has $6 billion in assets, has previously embraced policies that it said would help reduce gun-related violence.

A bank’s support is symbolically important, Ms. Fox said: “We acknowledge — and I think others in the financial industry need to acknowledge — the deep-rooted connections between the American financial sector and the slave economy.” Bank executives have noted that their firms’ histories have included financing slaveholders, and admitted more recently to racial discrimination against employees and customers. Lenders are under increasing pressure to promote racial equity, including by shareholders.

Amalgamated has moved to address racial equity within its walls, Ms. Fox said. Those steps include reviewing wage policies, forming an employee-led committee to review policies and practices, and providing antiracism training. In its statement endorsing H.R. 40, Amalgamated pledged to do more: “We believe the commission created through H.R. 40 is an important first step towards achieving racial justice. The work shouldn’t stop there.”


the addition of LeBron James as a co-owner of Fenway Sports Group — the owner of the Red Sox, the English Premier League’s Liverpool soccer club and more — grabbed headlines yesterday, an investment in the group by RedBird Capital Partners may be more noteworthy.

RedBird paid $750 million for an 11 percent stake in F.S.G., at a $7.3 billion valuation. That’s a huge gain for F.S.G.’s existing leaders, John Henry and Tom Werner, who paid just over $1 billion for the Red Sox and Liverpool. It will bring on board Gerry Cardinale, the head of RedBird and a former Goldman Sachs deal maker.

The funds could help the group make big purchases. The Boston Globe reports that F.S.G.’s wish list includes an N.F.L. or N.B.A. team, as well as a sports betting company.

Mr. James is getting a 1 percent stake in F.S.G. without paying a dime, Axios’s Dan Primack reports. The Times notes that the N.B.A. star already had a relationship with F.S.G.: Its affiliate, Fenway Sports Management, gained Mr. James’s global marketing rights in a 2011 deal that gave him a stake in Liverpool.


Work woes may hasten a manager’s demise, according to an academic study on C.E.O. stress, aging and death. The research found that anxiety at work affects an executive’s longevity and looks, and there’s a lesson for all workers, Marius Guenzel of Wharton, one of the authors, told DealBook.

entering and exiting office, showing the aging effects of a very stressful job.

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Republican Attorneys General Press Biden Over Restrictions on State Aid in Stimulus Plan

WASHINGTON — Twenty-one Republican attorneys general pressed the Biden administration on Tuesday to clarify a provision in the $1.9 trillion economic aid package that the president signed into law last week, warning that its restrictions on state efforts to cut taxes could be “the greatest attempted invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic.”

The seven-page letter was signed by a host of Republican officials, including the attorneys general of Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Utah. They take issue with a restriction that lawmakers included in a $350 billion relief effort for state, local and tribal governments that prevents them from using the federal funds “to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue” as a result of tax cuts. These governments have suffered revenue hits and laid off more than a million public employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

The law requires repayment to the federal government of any money that violates those conditions.

In their letter, the Republican officials asked Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, to clarify how expansively her department would interpret that portion of the law. Does it simply prohibit states from using the federal dollars to offset new tax cuts, or instead prohibit them from cutting taxes for any reason, even if those cuts were in the works before the law passed? The officials said the broader restriction would be damaging and most likely unconstitutional.

“This language could be read to deny states the ability to cut taxes in any manner whatsoever — even if they would have provided such tax relief with or without the prospect of Covid-19 relief funds,” the attorneys general wrote. “Absent a more sensible interpretation from your department, this provision would amount to an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion on the separate sovereignty of the states through federal usurpation of essentially one half of the state’s fiscal ledgers” — their ability to collect revenues.

Oklahoma, for example, has already passed an income-tax cut through its House of Representatives, including an expansion of the state’s earned-income tax credit that is meant to help low-income workers, Mike Hunter, the state’s attorney general, said in a statement on Tuesday. “But,” he warned, “the federal stimulus bill might prohibit Oklahoma from providing this economic relief without losing its share of federal funding.”

A White House spokesman declined on Tuesday evening to comment on the letter. A Treasury Department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Republican lawmakers in Washington and around the country previously raised concerns over the provision.

“We were planning on giving — reducing the sales tax on used cars, that is low-income and middle-income,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “And now we’re worried about whether that’s going to be prohibited under this bill. The language seems to indicate it is.”

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