WASHINGTON — The Biden administration unveiled a tax plan on Wednesdaythat would increase the corporate tax rate in the U.S. and limit the ability of American firms to avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas.
Much of the plan is aimed at reversing a deep reduction in corporate taxes under President Donald J. Trump. A 2017 tax bill slashed the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and enacted a series of other provisions that the Biden administration says have encouraged firms to shift profits to lower-tax jurisdictions, like Ireland.
Some of the provisions in President Biden’s plan can be enacted by the Treasury Department, but many will require the approval of Congress. Already, Republicans have panned the proposals as putting the U.S. at a disadvantage, while some moderate Democrats have indicated they may also want to see some adjustments, particularly to the proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate.
Administration officials estimate the proposals will raise a total of $2.5 trillion in new tax revenue over a 15 year span. Analysts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model put the estimate even higher, estimating a 10-year increase of $2.1 trillion, with about half the money coming from the plan’s various changes to the taxation of multinational corporations.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The administration sees raising the rate as a way to increase corporate tax receipts, which have plunged to match their lowest levels as a share of the economy since World War II.
Ensure big firms pay at least 15 percent in taxes
Many large companies pay far less than the current tax rate of 21 percent — and sometimes nothing. Tax code provisions allow firms to reduce their liability through deductions, exemptions, offshoring and other mechanisms.
The Biden plan seeks to put an end to big companies incurring zero federal tax liability and paying no or negative taxes to the U.S. government.
the so-called global intangible low-taxed income (or GILTI) tax to 21 percent, which would narrow the gap between what companies pay on overseas profits and what they pay on earned income in the U.S.
And it would calculate the GILTI tax on a per-country basis, which would have the effect of subjecting more income earned overseas to the tax than under the current system.
Punish U.S. companies that headquarter in low-tax countries
A provision in the plan known as SHIELD (Stopping Harmful Inversions and Ending Low-tax Developments) is an attempt to discourage American companies from moving their headquarters abroad for tax purposes, particularly through the practice known as “inversions,” where companies from different countries merge, creating a new foreign firm.
Under current law, companies with headquarters in Ireland can “strip” some of the profits earned by subsidiaries in the United States and send them back to the Ireland company as payment for things like the use of intellectual property, then deduct those payments from their American income taxes. The SHIELD plan would disallow those deductions for companies based in low-tax countries.
Push for a global agreement to end profit shifting
The Biden administration wants other countries to raise their corporate tax rates, too.
The tax plan emphasizes that the Treasury Department will continue to push for global coordination on an international tax rate that would apply to multinational corporations regardless of where they locate their headquarters. Such a global tax could help prevent the type of “race to the bottom” that has been underway, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said, referring to countries trying to outdo one another by lowering tax rates in order to attract business.
Republican critics of the Biden tax plan have argued that the administration’s focus on a global minimum tax is evidence that it realizes that raising the U.S. corporate tax rate unilaterally would make American businesses less competitive around the world.
Replace fossil fuel tax subsidies with clean-energy incentives
The president’s plan would strip away longstanding subsidies for oil, gas and other fossil fuels and replace them with incentives for clean energy. The provisions are part of Mr. Biden’s efforts to transition the U.S. to “100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity” by 2035.
The plan includes a tax incentive for long-distance transmission lines, would expand incentives for electricity storage projects and would extend other existing clean-energy tax credits.
A Treasury Department report estimated that eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel companies would increase government tax receipts by over $35 billion in the coming decade.
“The main impact would be on oil and gas company profits,” the report said. “Research suggests little impact on gasoline or energy prices for U.S. consumers and little impact on our energy security.”
Doing away with fossil fuel subsidies has been tried before, with little success given both industry and congressional opposition.
Beef up the Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service has struggled with budget cuts and slim resources for years. The Biden administration believes better funding for the tax collection agency is an investment that will more than pay for itself. The plan released on Wednesday includes proposals to bolster the I.R.S. budget so it can hire experts to pursue large corporations and ensure they are paying what they owe.
The Treasury Department, which oversees the I.R.S., noted in its report that the agency’s enforcement budget has fallen by 25 percent over the last decade and that it is poorly equipped to audit complex corporate filings. The agency is also unable to afford engaging in or sustaining multiyear litigation over complex tax disputes, Treasury said.
As a result of those constraints, the I.R.S. tends to focus on smaller targets while big companies and the wealthiest taxpayers are able to find ways to reduce their tax bills.
The Biden administration unveiled its plan to overhaul the corporate tax code on Wednesday, offering an array of proposals that would require large companies to pay higher taxes to help fund the White House’s economic agenda.
The plan, if enacted, would raise $2.5 trillion in revenue over 15 years. It would do so by ushering in major changes for American companies, which have long embraced quirks in the tax code that allowed them to lower or eliminate their tax liability, often by shifting profits overseas. The plan also includes efforts to help combat climate change, proposing to replace fossil fuel subsidies with tax incentives that promote clean energy production.
Some corporations have expressed a willingness to pay more in taxes, but the overall scope of the proposal is likely to draw backlash from the business community, which has benefited for years from loopholes in the tax code and a relaxed approach to enforcement.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday that the plan would end a global “race to the bottom” of corporate taxation that she said has been destructive for the American economy and its workers.
global minimum tax to 21 percent and toughening it, to force companies to pay the tax on a wider span of income across countries.
That, in particular, has raised concerns in the business community, with Joshua Bolten, chief executive of the Business Roundtable, saying in a statement this week that it “threatens to subject the U.S. to a major competitive disadvantage.”
The plan would also repeal provisions put in place during the Trump administration that the Biden administration says have failed to curb profit shifting and corporate inversions, which involve an American company merging with a foreign firm and becoming its subsidiary, effectively moving its headquarters abroad for tax purposes. It would replace them with tougher anti-inversion rules and stronger penalties for so-called profit stripping.
The plan is not entirely focused on the international side of the corporate tax code. It tries to crack down on large, profitable companies that pay little or no income taxes yet signal large profits to companies with their “book value.” To cut down on that disparity, companies would have to pay a minimum tax of 15 percent on book income, which businesses report to investors and which are often used to judge shareholder and executive payouts.
One big beneficiary of the plan would be the Internal Revenue Service, which has seen its budget starved in recent years. The Biden administration’s proposal would beef up the tax collection agency’s budget so that it can step up enforcement and tax collection efforts.
While your travel plans may be on hold, you can pretend you’re somewhere new for the night. Around the World at Home invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture, all from the comfort of your home.
Over the course of the decade since I first visited, I have often imagined myself at home in New Orleans. I think of the syncopated shuffle of a snare drum, the simple pleasure of an afternoon walk with a to-go beer in hand and the candy-colored shotgun houses that sink into the ground at odd angles. And so it wasn’t a huge surprise when, at the beginning of 2021, I found myself packing up my life and moving to the Crescent City for a few months. Why not be somewhere I love at this difficult time, I thought? Why not live in my daydreams for a little while?
New Orleans is above all else resilient. Mardi Gras parades were canceled this year, though it didn’t stop New Orleanians from finding ways to celebrate (nothing ever will). In recent months, brass bands have taken to street corners in front of masked, socially distant spectators instead of packed night clubs. Strangers still chat you up about the Saints from their front porches. My visions of this city may still be filtered through the fuzzy lens of a visitor, but I know I’ll be pretending I’m still there long after I’m gone. Here are a few ways you can, too.
bounce, popularized by superstars like Big Freedia, the call-and-response songs of Mardi Gras Indians, and so much more. For an overview of the sounds of this loud, percussive city there is no better place to start than the wonderfully eclectic WWOZ, a community-supported radio station that has been on the air since 1980. Luckily, you can listen to it from anywhere online. It’s only a matter of time before you start getting to know the various D.J.s and tuning in for your favorites.
a show on WWOZ for more than 25 years, told me. “New Orleans is the reason for it all.” Soul Sister was one of a handful of local experts I consulted in putting together a playlist that will send you straight to New Orleans. Among her recommendations are a bounce classic by DJ Jubilee and the music of Rebirth Brass Band, which brings her back to afternoons spent celebrating on the street: “It reminds me of the energy and freedom of being at the second line parades on Sundays, dancing through all the neighborhoods nonstop for three or four hours,” she said.
Professor Longhair, for example, starts it off — recommended by Keith Spera who writes about music for the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. By the end of the playlist, you will undoubtedly agree with Mr. Spera’s assessment of New Orleans music: “There is no singular style of ‘New Orleans music’ — is it jazz? Rhythm & blues? Funk? Bounce? — but you know it when you hear it.”
Dooky Chase Cookbook, the collected recipes of Leah Chase, who died in 2019, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, an institution that has hosted civil rights leaders, presidents and countless regulars at its location in Treme, the neighborhood where jazz was born. Next, tap into the Cajun influence on the city with “Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou,” by Melissa M. Martin who oversees a restaurant of the same name in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. Ms. Martin recommends making her grandmother’s oyster soup. “I can picture her stirring a pot on Bayou Petit Caillou and seasoning a broth with salty Louisiana oysters, Creole tomatoes and salted pork,” Ms. Martin said. “The marriage of three ingredients transports me to the tiny fishing village I call home, where salt was and still is always in the air.”
Anthony Bourdain for encouraging her to keep it secret). But she has shared versions of her recipe, so you can try your hand at it at home. “That will get you pretty close to the real thing,” she said with a wink I could almost hear over the phone.
Free Tours by Foot, which has transferred their expertise to YouTube. You can now stroll the grandiose Garden District, pull away the sensationalism around New Orleans’ Voodoo traditions and take a deep dive into jazz history in Treme. “New Orleans is full of painful history, and it’s also known as one of the most fun cities in the world,” Andrew Farrier, one of the tour guides, said. “I think it’s useful for all of us to know how those two things can live so close to each other.”
New Orleans’ drinking scene extends far beyond the vortex of debauchery that is Bourbon Street. There are the classic New Orleans inventions, of course, like the Sazerac, but for something a little different, turn to one of the city’s most revered mixologists. Chris Hannah, of Jewel of the South, invented the Bywater as a New Orleanian spin on the Brooklyn. “Among the ingredient substitutions I swapped rum for rye as a cheeky nod to our age-old saying, ‘New Orleans is the northernmost tip of the Caribbean’,” Mr. Hannah said.
your quarantine pod and a “set-up” and you might just get close. What is a set-up, you ask? It’s a staple dive bar order that will get you a half-pint of your liquor of choice, a mixer and a stack of plastic cups. It’s also an often-overlooked part of New Orleans drinking culture, according to Deniseea Taylor, a cocktail enthusiast who goes by the Cocktail Goddess. “When you find a bar with a set-up, you are truly in Nola,” Ms. Taylor said. “First time I experienced a set-up, it was paired with a $5 fish plate, a match made in heaven.”
“The Yellow House,” a memoir by Sarah M. Broom, which the Times book critic Dwight Garner called “forceful, rolling and many-chambered.” Going further back in time, try “Coming Through Slaughter,” a fictionalized rendition of the life of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden by Michael Ondaatje.
If you are in the mood for a documentary, Clint Bowie, artistic director of the New Orleans Film Festival, recommends Lily Keber’s “Buckjumping,” which spotlights the city’s dancers. For something fictional, Mr. Bowie points to “Eve’s Bayou” directed by Kasi Lemmons. It’s hard to forget New Orleans is a city built on a swamp when you feel the crushing humidity or lose your footing on ruptured streets, and this movie will take you farther into that ethereal environment. “Set in the Louisiana bayou country in the ’60s, we could think of no better film to spark Southern Gothic daydreams about a visit to the Spanish moss-draped Louisiana swamps,” Mr. Bowie said.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In normal times, Ziad Hassan, a grocery store manager in Beirut, would get a daily email from his chain’s management telling him which prices needed to be adjusted and by how much.
But as Lebanon’s currency has collapsed, sending the economy into a tailspin, the emails have come as often as three times a day, ordering price increases across the store.
“We have to change everything,” an exasperated Mr. Hassan said, adding that his employees often weren’t even able to finish marking one price increase before the next one arrived. “It’s crazy.”
The country’s economic distress grew more acute last week as the Lebanese pound sank to 15,000 to the dollar on the black market — its lowest level ever — sucking value from people’s salaries as prices for once affordable goods soared out of reach. It has since rebounded to about 12,000.
A catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port in August, which killed 190 people and left a large swath of the capital in ruins, only deepened the misery.
In a country where most products are imported, the currency collapse has left no sector unaffected.
the United Nations said that more than 55 percent of Lebanon’s population had become poor, nearly double the number from the year before. Extreme poverty had increased threefold to 23 percent. And the situation has worsened since.
said in November that food prices in Lebanon had increased 423 percent since October 2019, the largest jump since monitoring began in 2007. Prices have continued to rise since, putting acute pressure on the poor.
designated in October to form a new government. But he has made little progress, despite 17 meetings to discuss political horse trading with President Michel Aoun. LastThursday, they agreed to meet again on Monday.
Jihad Sabat, 48, has watched the decline from the window of the Beirut butcher shop he has run since 1997. Over the last year, he said, the price of meat has kept rising while the number of customers has dwindled.
A pound of beef now costs more than three times what it would have before the crisis, he said — more than three times what it cost before the crisis. He has also seen a rise in people wanting to buy on credit and interested in taking bones to boil for soup.
“Meat has become a luxury,” he said.
He accused the country’s politicians of stealing the state’s money through corrupt schemes and criticized them for failing to stabilize the economy.
A friend hanging out in the shop interjected, “The problem is the people.” Mr. Sabat nodded.
“That’s an essential point,” he said. “If there were elections tomorrow, the same people would be back.”
In the grocery store, Mr. Hassan, the manager, said his branch sold less meat every month and more lentils, even though they, too, are imported and cost five times more than before the crisis.
Fights have broken out in the aisles over staples like rice, sugar and cooking oil subsidized by the government, he said. And it is common for customers to get sticker shock in the checkout lane when they realize they can afford only a few essentials.
“I don’t know how people keep going,” he said. “But it will eventually cause an explosion.”
largest known coronavirus outbreaks early in the pandemic, are now eligible for vaccines in at least 26 states, a New York Times survey found.
The expansion of vaccines to food processing workers comes amid rapid widening of eligibility, especially for essential workers at greater risk of contracting the virus. Almost every state is vaccinating some subset of frontline workers, but the list of eligible professions varies widely. In at least six states, food processing workers are eligible in certain counties but not in others.
Meat and poultry processing facilities have largely remained open even as large outbreaks infected thousands of workers and killed dozens in the first months of the pandemic. The virus started to spread rapidly in meatpacking facilities as assembly-line workers stood side by side in tight quarters.
A JBS USA pork production plant in Worthington, Minn., with more than 700 recorded coronavirus cases held a mass vaccination event on Friday. JBS USA, a subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the world’s largest meat-processing firm, has offered employees who receive the vaccine $100 incentives.
“There was a lot of skepticism among members, for a lot of different reasons,” said Matt Utecht, who represents the Worthington workers as president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 union. He said union representatives went to the facility repeatedly in recent months to share information about the vaccine, and signed up about 1,500 of the union’s roughly 1,850 members.
“It’s been a daily grind of educating, talking, communicating,” he said.
The production and distribution of vaccines has been steadily ramping up in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that about 79.4 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 43 million people who have been fully vaccinated. About 2.25 million doses are given each day on average, up from less than a million two months ago.
With demand for vaccines still outpacing supply, states have faced competing interests in deciding which groups to prioritize. Eligibility opened to many food processing workers in early March across much of the Midwest, where meatpacking and food production are a major part of the economy and often a source of employment for recent immigrants.
In Kansas, where food processing workers are now eligible for the vaccine, nearly 4,000 reported cases have been tied to outbreaks in meatpacking plants, more than in any other setting except long-term care centers and correctional facilities.
“This is a livelihood that supports a number of immigrant populations,” said Marci Nielsen, the Kansas governor’s chief adviser on Covid-19. “And it was very important for the governor to send out a signal that she wants to keep those families safe and to keep these industries open.”
— Bonnie G. Wong and Matt Craig
The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford provided strong protection against Covid-19 in a large clinical trial in the United States, completely preventing the worst outcomes from the disease while causing no serious side effects, according to results announced on Monday.
The findings, announced in a news release from AstraZeneca, may help shore up global confidence in the vaccine, which was shaken this month when more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, temporarily suspended the use of the shot over concerns about possible rare side effects.
The trial, involving more than 32,000 participants, was the largest test of its kind for the shot. The vaccine was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials. The trial also showed that the vaccine offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well-represented in earlier studies.
But the fresh data may not make much difference in the United States, where the vaccine is not yet authorized and may not be needed.
If AstraZeneca wins authorization for emergency use in the United States based on the new results, the vaccine is unlikely to become available before May, when federal officials predict that three manufacturers that already have authorization will be producing enough doses for all the nation’s adults.
AstraZeneca said on Monday that it would continue to analyze the new data and prepare to apply “in the coming weeks” for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. It already has approval in more than 70 countries, but clearance from American regulators, if the company can secure it, would bolster the vaccine’s reputation globally.
The interim results announced on Monday were based on 141 Covid-19 cases that had turned up in volunteers. Two-thirds of participants were given the vaccine, with doses spaced four weeks apart, and the rest received a saline placebo. Volunteers were recruited from Chile and Peru as well as the United States.
None of the volunteers who got the vaccine developed severe symptoms or had to be hospitalized, a major selling point for the shot. However, AstraZeneca did not disclose how many volunteers had developed severe Covid-19 or had to be hospitalized after receiving the placebo, making it difficult to know how statistically powerful those findings are.
With Ramadan less than a month away, some Muslim organizations in the United States have begun addressing a critical question: whether the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast prohibits Muslims from receiving vaccine injections during daylight hours.
The executive director of the Islamic Society of North America, Basharat Saleem, said that numerous scholars of Islamic law had been consulted on the matter.
“The answer is no,” he said. “It does not break the fast.”
The group joined with dozens of others last year in organizing a National Muslim Task Force on Covid-19, which has taken advisement from Muslim jurists. They were in general agreement, Mr. Saleem said, that getting a Covid-19 vaccine was acceptable during Ramadan or at any other time. A shot “will not invalidate the fast because it has no nutritional value and it is injected into the muscle,” the task force announced, a ruling that in the past has covered flu shots and other vaccinations.
Whether vaccinations are permitted during Ramadan is not only a concern among Muslims, and perhaps not even the chief one; there have been questions around the world as well about the presence of forbidden ingredients, such as pork products, in the vaccines. Some have also expressed misgivings about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine similar to those of some Catholic leaders, given that cells used in its development and production had a remote connection to abortion.
Muslim health care workers, even those who have been publicly urging people to get vaccinated, have acknowledged the ethical difficulties.
“These decisions are a matter of personal conscience,” said Dr. Hasan Shanawani, the president of American Muslim Health Professionals and a practicing pulmonologist in Michigan. But the preservation of life is one of the highest principles in Islam, he said, and given the current scarcity of vaccines in many places, the ethics, to him, were straightforward.
Declining a vaccine means “potentially putting all of us at risk,” said Dr. Shanawani, who has treated hundreds of Covid-19 patients over the past year. “Take the vaccine that’s available to you. God is the most forgiving.” When the present emergency has passed, he added, then a person can be more discriminating about which vaccine to take.
Haaris Ahmad, the president of a large and diverse mosque in the Detroit suburbs, said he had heard all of these concerns. He has assured members of the mosque that scholars are in broad agreement that a vaccination would not break the Ramadan fast, and he has also told people that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only readily available option, they should take it.
But he also acknowledged that people would rather not have to think about these things, especially during the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. So his mosque is hosting a vaccine clinic next Monday night, which would allow people to get in two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine just before Ramadan begins in mid-April. And while the event was initially advertised with general language about vaccines, Mr. Ahmad said, the latest flier includes more explicit guidance about what will not be on offer at the clinic: “NOTE,” it reads, “Not J&J.”
One day after the spring break oasis of South Beach descended into chaos, with the police struggling to control overwhelming crowds and making scores of arrests, officials in Miami Beach decided on Sunday to extend an emergency curfew for up to three weeks.
Officials went so far as to approve closing the famed Ocean Drive for four nights a week until April 12, including to pedestrians, during the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Residents, hotel guests and employees of local businesses are exempt.
The strip, frequented by celebrities and tourists alike, was the scene of a much-criticized skirmish on Saturday night in which police officers used pepper balls to disperse a large crowd of sometimes unruly and mostly unmasked revelers just hours after the curfew had been introduced.
The restrictions were a stunning concession to the city’s inability to control unwieldy crowds. The city and the state of Florida have aggressively courted visitors.
“I believe it’s a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic and people wanting to get out,” David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, said on Sunday. “And our state has been publicly advertised as being open, so that’s contributing to the issue.”
In an emergency meeting, the commission approved maintaining the curfew in the city’s South Beach entertainment district from Thursday through Sunday for three more weeks, which is when spring break typically ends. Bridges along several causeways that connect Miami Beach with the mainland will also continue to be shut during the curfew.
Law enforcement officials said many people had been drawn to the city for spring break this year because it has relatively few virus restrictions, mirroring the state at large. And hotel rooms and flights have been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.
Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.
JERUSALEM — Vaccinated Israelis are working out in gyms and dining in restaurants. They’re partying at nightclubs and cheering at soccer matches by the thousands.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking credit for bringing Israel “back to life,” as he calls it, and banking on the country’s giddy, post-pandemic mood of liberation to put him over the top in a close election on Tuesday.
But nothing is quite that simple in Israeli politics.
Even as most Israelis appreciate the government’s world-leading vaccination campaign, many worry that the grand social and economic reopening may prove premature and suspect that the timing is political.
Instead of a transparent reopening process led by public health professionals, “decisions are made at the last minute, at night, by the cabinet,” said Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health in Jerusalem. “The timing, right before the election, is intended to declare mission accomplished.”
The parliamentary election on Tuesday will be the country’s fourth in two years. Mr. Netanyahu is on trial on corruption charges and analysts say his best chance of avoiding conviction lies in heading a new right-wing government. He has staked everything on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
He takes personal credit for the country’s inoculation campaign, which has fully vaccinated about half the population of nine million — outpacing the rest of the world — and he has declared victory over the virus.
“Israel is the world champion in vaccinations, the first country in the world to exit from the health corona and the economic corona,” he said at a pre-election conference last week.
The vaccination campaign has been powered by early delivery of several million doses from Pfizer, and Mr. Netanyahu has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off that deal, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, has great affinity for Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from “South Park,” the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.
But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.
The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.
But this Western success has created stark inequity. Residents of wealthy and middle-income countries have received about 90 percent of the nearly 400 million vaccines delivered so far. Under current projections, many of the rest will have to wait years.
A growing chorus of health officials and advocacy groups worldwide are calling for Western governments to use aggressive powers — most of them rarely or never used before — to force companies to publish vaccine recipes, share their know-how and ramp up manufacturing.
The prospect of billions of people waiting years to be vaccinated poses a health threat to even the richest countries. One example: In Britain, where the vaccine rollout has been strong, health officials are tracking a virus variant that emerged in South Africa, where vaccine coverage is weak. That variant may be able to blunt the effect of vaccines, meaning even vaccinated people might get sick.
But on March 30, a U.S. patent is expected to be issued on a five-year-old invention in a National Institutes of Health lab that swaps a pair of amino acids in the coronavirus spike protein. This feat of molecular engineering is at the heart of at least five major Covid-19 vaccines, and the United States government will control that patent.
The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.
ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographs streamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.
For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as are the Colosseum or the Pantheon.
That may explain the media frenzy last week over the return of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being repaved — even though there was not much traffic to direct, because of the widespread lockdown that began last week in hopes of containing a surge in coronavirus cases.
“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.
In rain or sleet, or sweltering through Rome’s sultry summers, officers have directed traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal near the mouth of the Via del Corso, one of Rome’s main streets, for as long as anyone can remember. And the gestures they make with their white-gloved hands are things that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with the palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light.)
“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” Mr. Grillo said.
Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the tangle at the hub.
The coronavirus, once seemingly in retreat in India, is again rippling across the country. On Monday, the government reported almost 47,000 new cases, the highest number in more than four months. It also reported 212 new deaths from the virus, the most since early January.
The outbreak is centered in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub. Entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found there is more virulent, like variants found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
Officials are under pressure to aggressively ramp up testing and vaccination, especially in Mumbai, to avoid disruptions like the dramatic nationwide lockdown last year, which resulted in a recession.
But less than 3 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion has received a jab, including about half of health care workers.
The campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism. The government approved a domestically developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before its safety and efficacy trials were even over, though preliminary findings since then have suggested it works.
The other jab available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in some countries after a number of patients reported blood clots and strokes, though most have since reversed course and scientists haven’t found a link between the shots and the patients’ conditions.
In other developments around the world:
The leading opposition candidate for president in the Republic of Congo died while being transferred to France for treatment for Covid-19, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a spokesman. The candidate, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, had been hospitalized in the capital, Brazzaville, after becoming ill in the final days of the campaign. In a video that circulated on social media over the weekend, he warned supporters that he was “fighting death” but asked them to “stand up and vote for change.” The election was on Sunday, and the incumbent, President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, is expected to extend his 36 years in power.
Norway reported on Sunday that two more people had died after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, bringing the country’s total number of such deaths to four. The Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a statement that it “cannot rule out that these cases may be related to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” although the European Medicines Agency, the continent’s top drug regulator, said last week that it considered the vaccine safe. Denmark reported over the weekend that two people had experienced brain hemorrhages after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of whom died.
The Philippines reported record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus infections over the weekend, leading the government to place metropolitan Manila and four surrounding provinces under the second-highest level of lockdown for the next two weeks. On Saturday, officials reported 7,999 cases, the most the country has had in a single day. President Rodrigo Duterte approved restrictions including a ban on all mass gatherings and a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Nonessential travel to or from the area is banned. The restrictions will disrupt in-person religious services for Holy Week, a popular travel period, for the second year in a row.
Health officials in South Africa say the country has sold its unused doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 14 other states in the African Union, Reuters reported on Sunday. It paused the use of the vaccine last month after a small trial showed it offered only minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant local variant of the virus. At the time, South Africa had received one million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, with 500,000 more pending.
To many Canadians, it seemed decidedly unneighborly. Canada’s initial coronavirus vaccination program moved at a stately pace over the winter, while inoculations in the United States raced ahead. But Washington was unwilling to share any of its stockpile of tens of millions of doses of a vaccine it had yet to approve for use by Americans.
Last week, that shifted. After weeks of suggesting that any vaccine diplomacy was well into the future, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that the United States was planning to share 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and 2.5 million doses with Mexico.
The White House announcement seemed to catch Ottawa officials off guard. Hours passed before Anita Anand, the cabinet minister responsible for buying vaccines, issued a statement that read more like an insurance policy than a note of thanks.
“After numerous discussions with the Biden administration, Canada is in the process of finalizing an exchange agreement,” it read in part.
Ms. Anand and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had little more to add on Friday afternoon, saying only that the talks were still underway and that the details would come later.
From Ms. Psaki’s remarks, it appears that the United States will officially just be lending Canada and Mexico the vaccines. It is unclear whether they will ultimately have to be replaced in kind or if the loan will be of the forgivable nature. She also said that the United States might soon share surpluses of other vaccines.
Melanie Allen, a high school English teacher, was in a bind. She works in one state and lives in another. And both denied her a Covid-19 vaccine.
Ms. Allen, who lives in Chatham, N.H., but works in Maine, said she was told that she was not eligible for a vaccine by officials in both states. Although teachers are now eligible for vaccination in every state, her New Hampshire residency blocked her from receiving the vaccine in Maine, she said.
And in New Hampshire, she was told she is not eligible because she does not teach in the state and, at 45, does not meet the age requirement.
And so, she waited.
On Friday, Ms. Allen finally got her first shot after a health center in Maine decided to vaccinate teachers no matter where they lived.
“Even though the states haven’t officially changed their tune,” she said, “it was heartening to see that the local community was stepping in to make sure the right thing happened.”
About half of the states have residency requirements for vaccinations, though most allow out-of-state workers to receive a shot if they meet other eligibility conditions, said Jennifer Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues.
Connecticut, for example, allows workers who live in other states to receive the vaccine if they can prove that they work in an approved industry.
States including Florida and New Hampshire limited the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to residents in hopes of stemming complaints of “vaccine tourism,” where a person could drive across a state line for a shot that they would not be eligible for back home.
Although most states allow nonresident workers to be inoculated, Ms. Kates said people living in one state and working in another might run into snags as they navigate the scheduling process.
“When you have such a patchwork of requirements,” Ms. Kates said, “it’s like a puzzle, and people who really want to get vaccinated are trying to figure how they can get that last piece of the puzzle.”
Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died by suicide on Thursday after suffering from post-Covid-19 symptoms, the company and his family said in a statement. He was 65.
“After a battle with post-Covid-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week,” the statement said.
His body was found in a field on his property near Louisville, Ky., the Kentucky State Police told The Louisville Courier Journal. The State Police and the Oldham County coroner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Mr. Taylor, who was also the chairman of the company’s board of directors, founded Texas Roadhouse in 1993. He sought to create an “affordable, Texas-style” restaurant but was turned down more than 80 times as he tried to find investors, according to a biography provided by the company.
Eventually, he raised $300,000 from three doctors from Elizabethtown, Ky., and sketched out the design for the first Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin for the investors.
The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Clarksville, Ind., in 1993. Three of the chain’s first five restaurants failed, but it went on to open 611 locations in 49 states, and 28 international locations in 10 countries.
Until his death, Mr. Taylor had been active in Texas Roadhouse’s operations, the company said. He oversaw decisions about the menu, selected the murals for the restaurants and picked songs for the jukeboxes.
Greg Moore, the lead director of the company’s board, said in a statement that Mr. Taylor gave up his compensation package during the coronavirus pandemic to support frontline workers in the company.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
In the year since the pandemic began, people learned to be together while apart and navigated the pain of feeling apart while together. Screens — small and large — became crucial links to the rest of the world.
Activities and routines that commanded crowds — visiting museums, attending concerts, working out, learning, traveling, partying — ceased or found a new life online. Holidays usually celebrated by family gatherings became fraught with consequences.
Memories of a prepandemic world, where people could stand shoulder to shoulder with faces bare, began to feel like dreams — as did moments of unexpected connection.
Couples in quarantine learned a lot about their significant others. In some instances, these revelations were not happy ones: Lawyers and mediators saw an increase in clients looking to divorce as soon as courts reopened.
In other cases, being confined together made couples stronger. Engagements and pregnancy announcements seemed to pop up constantly on social media. And there were plenty of weddings.
For many of those who were single, dating felt impossible in the early months of the pandemic. Sex toy sales increased. Eventually, emotional and physical needs began to weigh heavy, and people across the country found ways to meet and hook up within the confines of their comfort.
In search of safety, stability and support, adult children moved in with parents and parental figures, sometimes without a fixed departure date. In doing so, they rediscovered one another, and experienced the joys of bonding and the suffocation of constant proximity.
Though some Americans were able to hole up at home, their kitchen tables and couches converted into makeshift offices, others continued to work in public spaces. Delivery drivers dealt with health risks, theft and assault. Airline workers who weren’t furloughed had to confront passengers who refused to wear masks.
But things have opened up, slowly, over the past few months, as cases have fallen and people have become inoculated. Last week, President Biden promised that there would be enough vaccine doses for every American adult by May, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated people can begin gathering indoors again — a sign that people will soon be finding their way back to one another.
In the hustle to score an elusive vaccine appointment, the leftover dose has become the stuff of pandemic lore.
Extra shots — which must be used within hours once taken out of cold storage — have been doled out to drugstore customers buying midnight snacks, people who are friends with nurses and those who show up at closing time at certain grocery stores and pharmacies. At some larger vaccination sites, the race to use every dose sets off a flurry of end-of-the-day phone calls.
In every case, if the leftover dose does not find an available arm, it must go into the trash.
Now, a New York-based start-up is aiming to add some order to the hunt for leftover doses. Dr. B, as the company is known, is matching vaccine providers who find themselves with extra vaccines to people who are willing to get one at a moment’s notice.
Since the service began last month, more than 500,000 people have submitted a host of personal information to sign up for the service, which is free to join and is also free to providers. Two vaccine sites have begun testing the program, and the company said about 200 other providers had applied to participate.
Dr. B is just one attempt at coordinating the chaotic patchwork of public and private websites that allow eligible people to find vaccine appointments. And while it does not solve the broader structural issues around vaccine distribution, if it scales up the way some hope that it will, it could serve as a model for a better, more equitable way of scheduling vaccinations.
“Ultimately, patients need this vaccine, and there’s providers who need help getting it to the people of priority,” Cyrus Massoumi, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Dr. B, said in an interview. “That’s my motivation.”
Mr. Massoumi said he was financing the project out of his own pocket and had no plans to collect revenue. The company is named after his grandfather, who was nicknamed Dr. Bubba and became a doctor during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
The service suffers, however, from some of the same barriers that have marred vaccination efforts so far. Although signing up is simple, doing so requires an internet connection as well as ready access to a cellphone. Because of the last-minute nature of leftover doses, participants must have flexible schedules and access to transportation.
“It’s still heavily internet dependent, so it will depend on who hears about it,” said Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “It seems he’s trying to solve a problem and do some good, but I’m sad that governments — counties, cities, national organizations — didn’t prepare for this and then didn’t react more quickly to give advice and guidance.”
Amazon. AMZN 1.55% com said it is hiring 1,500 people in Saudi Arabia this year, becoming the latest tech giant to beef up inside the kingdom as pandemic-fed demand for online services rises in the Arab world’s largest economy.
The hiring is a small move for a company with over a million permanent employees around the world. Still, it comes as other tech companies deepen their footprint in the kingdom, which has had a mixed record luring foreign partners to help it wean its economy off oil.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google and China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. have recently announced partnerships with Saudi state-owned companies to host cloud centers. Huawei Technologies Co. has said it would open its largest flagship store outside China in Riyadh.
Amazon’s modest bet is also notable coming after a feud between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spilled into public in recent years. Critical columns written by Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Washington Post, which Mr. Bezos bought in 2013 as a personal investment, sowed frustration in Riyadh.
Mr. Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi operatives in 2018. The U.S. last month declassified a report that accused the prince of approving the killing. Prince Mohammed has said he took responsibility for the killing because it happened on his watch, but denied ordering it.
In 2019, Mr. Bezos suggested a possible Saudi government link to a leak of embarrassing personal photos, an allegation Saudi Arabia has denied. The Wall Street Journal reported the brother-in-law of Mr. Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez leaked the photos. Mr. Sanchez has denied that.
This year Mr. Bezos said he would step down as CEO later this year but stay on at Amazon as executive chairman.
In 2018, before the murder, Amazon was in talks to build data centers in Saudi Arabia that would have given Amazon more access to the Middle Eastern market and aided the prince’s efforts to cultivate new, non-oil industries. The plan hasn’t yet moved forward.
The Khashoggi murder sparked intense international criticism of Saudi Arabia and prompted many businesses to cut ties for a time. Now, some Western firms are starting to consider investing again.
Tech companies, in particular, are returning, said Sam Blatteis, who previously led Google’s government relations in the Persian Gulf region. “The virus is moving tech from the periphery to center stage” of the kingdom’s business-transformation plans, said Mr. Blatteis, who now runs MENA Catalysts, a consulting firm advising foreign companies.
The closure of many malls and shops and the need to stay at home has driven e-commerce sales of basic items such as food and increased the consumption of online entertainment. Warner Music Group Corp. has agreed to buy a stake in Saudi-owned Rotana Music to take advantage of the region’s demographics, the companies said last month.
Amazon didn’t provide financial details of its expansion when it announced the new jobs on Wednesday. It said it was bolstering its fulfillment network’s storage capacity and increasing its delivery network area.
“These new investments reiterate our commitment to Saudi Arabia, contributing to the local economy through the creation of new job opportunities.” said Prashant Saran, Amazon’s operations director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Our investments in technology and infrastructure align with Saudi’s digital transformation goals.”
Amazon launched its Prime service in Saudi Arabia in January. Last June it rebranded Souq.com, a regional competitor it acquired in 2017, as Amazon.sa. The company didn’t immediately comment further on its Saudi business. Mr. Bezos didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Saudi Arabia combines a large revenue base as the world’s largest oil exporter with a young population of nearly 35 million. Almost three-quarters of Saudis are connected to social media—higher than rates in the U.S. and China, according to German online database Statista. That has revived appetite from big technology companies who had often shunned the kingdom following an international outcry over Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.
In January, Saudi Arabia said Chinese smartphones company Huawei had agreed to open its largest flagship store outside China, in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. And in late December, Google signed up to host cloud centers with state-run oil monopoly Saudi Arabian Oil Co., days before Alibaba joined for the same service with government-owned Saudi Telecom Co., or STC. South Korea’s electronic giant Samsung has set up a data-focused training center in collaboration with the crown prince’s personal foundation, Misk.
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LYON — Grégory Doucet, the mild-mannered Green party mayor of Lyon, hardly seems a revolutionary. But he has upended France by announcing last month that elementary school lunch menus for 29,000 Lyonnais children would no longer include meat.
An outrage! An ecological diktat that could signal the end of French gastronomy, even French culture! Ministers in President Emmanuel Macron’s government clashed. If Lyon, the city of beef snouts and pigs’ ears, of saucisson and kidneys, could do such a thing, the apocalypse was surely imminent.
“The reaction has been quite astonishing,” Mr. Doucet, 47, said.
He is a slight man whose mischievous mien and goatee gives him the air of one of Dumas’s three musketeers. A political neophyte elected last year, he clearly finds it a little ludicrous that he, an apostle of less, should end up with more, sitting beneath a 25-foot ceiling in a cavernous mayor’s office adorned with brocade and busts of his forbears. That tweaking a local school menu has split the nation leaves him incredulous.
“My decision was purely pragmatic,” he insisted, eyes twinkling — a means to speed up lunches in socially distanced times by offering a single menu rather than the traditional choice of two dishes.
Not so, thundered Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister. He tweeted that dropping meat was an “unacceptable insult to French farmers and butchers” that betrays “an elitist and moralist” attitude. Julien Denormandie, the agriculture minister, called the mayor’s embrace of the meatless lunch “shameful from a social point of view” and “aberrational from a nutritional point of view.”
All of which prompted Barbara Pompili, the minister of ecological transition, to speak of the “prehistoric” views, full of “hackneyed clichés,” of these men, in effect calling two of her cabinet colleagues Neanderthals.
This heated exchange over little illustrated several things. Mr. Macron’s government and party, La République en Marche, remain an uneasy marriage of right and left. The rising popularity of the Greens, who run not only Lyon but also Bordeaux and Grenoble, has sharpened a cultural clash between urban environmental crusaders and the defenders of French tradition in the countryside.
Not least, nothing gets the French quite as dyspeptic as disagreement over food.
The mayor, it must be said, made his move in a city with an intense gastronomic tradition. At the Boucherie François on the banks of the Rhône, a centennial establishment, Lyon’s culture of meat is on ample display. The veal liver and kidneys glistened; cuts of roast beef wrapped in pork fat abounded; the heads of yellow and white chickens lolled on a counter; the saucissons, some with pistachio, took every cylindrical form; the pastry-wrapped pâté showed off a core of foie gras; and pigs’ trotters and ears betrayed this city’s carnivorous inclinations.
“The mayor made a mistake,” said François Teixeira, a butcher who has worked at François for 19 years. “This is not good for Lyon’s image.”
Certainly, the mayor’s decision came at a sensitive moment. The right in France has expressed indignation that the country is being force-marched, through politically correct environmental dogmatism, toward a future of bicycles, electric cars, veganism, locavores, negative planet-saving growth and general joylessness — something at a very far cry from stuffing goose livers for personal delectation.
Last year, Pierre Hurmic, the Green party mayor of Bordeaux, touched a nerve when he rejected the city’s traditional Christmas tree because it’s “a dead tree.” Mr. Doucet’s culinary move was part of “an ideological agenda,” the right-wing weekly Valeurs Actuelles proclaimed in a cover story. “The canteens of Lyon were just a pretext.”
Mr. Doucet, who describes himself as a “flexitarian,” or someone who favors vegetables but also eats a little meat, argues that the Education Ministry forced his hand. By doubling social distancing at schools to two meters, or more than six feet, it obliged the mayor to accelerate lunch by offering just one dish.
“There’s a mathematical equation,” he said. “You have the same number of tables, but you have to put fewer children at them, and you can’t start the lunch break at 10 a.m.”
But why nix meat? The mayor, who has a 7-year-old in elementary school, rolled his eyes. “We have not gone to a vegetarian menu! Every day, the children can eat fish or eggs.” Because a significant number of students already did not eat meat, he said, “we just took the lowest common denominator.”
It was not, Mr. Doucet said, an ideological decision, even if he aims over his six-year term to adjust school menus toward “a greater share of vegetable proteins.”
The mayor continued: “Most of the time these days there’s not much choice. You don’t have the choice to go to a museum, or to the theater, or to the cinema. It’s indecent for the right-wing opposition to say that I am trampling on our liberties in the context of a state of emergency.”
Mr. Macron has adopted a balancing act between his embrace of a Green future and, as he put it last year, his rejection of “the Amish model” for France. The president tries to differentiate rational from punitive or extreme environmentalism.
The president, casting his net wide as usual ahead of regional elections in June, wants to appeal to conservative farmers while attracting some of the Green vote. During a recent visit to a farm, he attacked attempts to forge a new agriculture based on “invective, bans and demagoguery.” In an apparent allusion to the Lyon fiasco, he has said “good sense” should prevail in balanced children’s diets and noted that, “We lose a lot of time in idiotic divisions.”
His government has proposed a Constitutional amendment, the first since 2008, that, if approved in a referendum, would add a sentence to the effect that France “guarantees the preservation of the environment and biological diversity and fights against climate change.”
The right has expressed opposition to the change. It still has to be reviewed by the right-leaning Senate. Another bill sets out possible reforms for a greener future that include banning advertisements for fossil fuels and eliminating some short-haul domestic flights.
Mr. Doucet is unimpressed. “Macron is not an ecologist. He is a modern conservative. He knows there’s a problem, so he is ready to make some changes, but he does not measure the size of the problem. Can you tell me one strong step he has taken?”
For now, the meatless Lyon school lunches are still being served. Children seem just fine. On Friday, a Lyon administrative court rejected an attempt by some parents, agricultural unions and local conservative politicians to overturn the mayor’s decision, ruling that the “temporary simplification” of school menus did not pose a health risk to children.
Mr. Doucet says that when the health crisis eases, but not before, he will be able to offer a choice of school menus again, including meat. Meanwhile, Mr. Denormandie, the agriculture minister, has asked the prefect in the Lyon area to look into the legality of dropping meat.
“Mr. Denormandie’s accusation that we are antisocial is a lie,” Mr. Doucet told me. “He said we were denying meat to the poorest people with the most precarious existences, which is false. He should have been fired at once.”
Boris Charetiers, a member of a parents’ association, said the mayor was being closely watched. “We are vigilant,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a definitive decision. Our children cannot be hostages to ecological political conviction.”
As for Mr. Teixeira, the butcher, he cast his eye appreciatively over the vast selection of meat. “We have canine teeth for a reason,” he said.
Nebraska’s governor Pete Ricketts railed Monday against a proclamation by the governor of neighboring Colorado that encourages people to avoid meat for one day a week, calling it a “direct attack on our way of life” and signing a pro-meat declaration of his own.
Ricketts surrounded himself with top officials from Nebraska’s meat, agricultural and restaurant industries as he declared Saturday “Meat on the Menu Day” in Nebraska.
The day was chosen to coincide with Colorado’s “MeatOut Day”, a non-binding proclamation signed by governor Jared Polis late last month and backed by an animal rights group.
Ricketts said meat is a nutritious, protein-rich food source and noted that beef production is Nebraska’s largest industry.
“That is a direct attack on our way of life here in Nebraska,” said Ricketts, a Republican, at a news conference in an Omaha meat shop.
Steve Wellman, Nebraska’s department of agriculture director, said agriculture supports one out of every four jobs in state and generates $21bn each year. Meat products alone generate about $12bn annually, and the industry has continued to grow, he said.
“When agriculture does well, Nebraska does well,” Wellman said. “Agriculture is the heart and soul of Nebraska, and our 45,700 farm and ranch families keep our state going year after year.”
“MeatOut Day” was started in 1985 by the Farm Animal Rights Movement and seeks to encourage non-vegetarians to consider a plant-based diet. The move by Polis, a Democrat who eats meat, has faced criticism from his state’s ranching industry as well as some local governments and conservative groups in Colorado.
The Farm Animal Rights Movement argues that vegan diets promote health and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
But meat is a big deal in Nebraska, a state that proclaims May as “Beef Month” each year and sells “Beef State” license plates to motorists.
“If you were to get rid of beef in our country, you would be undermining our food security, an important part of a healthy diet, and also destroying an industry here in our state that’s very important,” Ricketts said.
Activists haven’t sought any similar measures in Nebraska, but Ricketts said he wanted to push back preemptively against their ideas “to make sure they don’t get any traction”.
Ansley Fellers, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, said the state’s meat producers play a critical role in supplying meat globally as well as to local, independent grocers.
“The agricultural industry is so important to the state, and the retail industry benefits in so man ways,” she said.
Ricketts has taken issue with Nebraska’s western neighbor before, most notably for Colorado’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana.
Nebraska is one of three conservative states that doesn’t allow marijuana in any form. Ricketts, an outspoken critic of the drug, has pointed to teen suicides and emergency room visits in Colorado to argue against legalization in Nebraska.