The share of people living in poverty in the United States fell to a record low last year as an enormous government relief effort helped offset the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression.
In the latest and most conclusive evidence that poverty fell because of the aid, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday that 9.1 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line last year, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That figure — the lowest since records began in 1967, according to calculations from researchers at Columbia University — is based on a measure that accounts for the impact of government programs. The official measure of poverty, which leaves out some major aid programs, rose to 11.4 percent of the population.
The new data will almost surely feed into a debate in Washington about efforts by President Biden and congressional leaders to enact a more lasting expansion of the safety net that would extend well beyond the pandemic. Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan, which is still taking shape, could include paid family and medical leave, government-supported child care and a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit.
Liberals cited the success of relief programs, which were also highlighted in an Agriculture Department report last week that showed that hunger did not rise in 2020, to argue that such policies ought to be expanded. But conservatives argue that higher federal spending is not needed and would increase the federal debt while discouraging people from working.
difficult to assess changes in health coverage last year. Census estimates conflicted with other government counts, and officials acknowledged problems with data collection during the pandemic.
federal supplement to state unemployment benefits lapsed. She fell behind on bills, setting in motion events that ultimately left her family homeless for two months this year.
New aid programs adopted this year, including the expanded Child Tax Credit, helped Ms. Long, who moved into a new home last month. She said she had noticed improvements in her children, particularly her 5-year-old son.
“It was bad, but it could have been so much worse, and we have come out the other side once again unbroken,” Ms. Long said.
By the government’s official definition, the number of people living in poverty jumped by 3.3 million in 2020, to 37.2 million, among the biggest annual increases on record. But economists have long criticized that definition, which dates to the 1960s, and said it did a particularly poor job of reflecting reality last year.
7.5 million people lost unemployment benefits this month after Congress allowed expansions of the program to lapse.
Jen Dessinger, a photographer who lives in New York City and Los Angeles, said work dried up abruptly at the start of the pandemic. A freelancer, she didn’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits but eventually received help under a federal program created last year to help people who fell outside the regular system.
Now that program has ended in the middle of another surge in coronavirus cases. Ms. Dessinger said a single positive coronavirus case could shut down a photo shoot. “It’s made it a more desperate situation,” she said.
Democrats on Tuesday said experiences like Ms. Dessinger’s showed both the potential for government aid to protect people from financial ruin, and the need for a more expansive, permanent safety net that can support people in bad and good times.
A White House economist, Jared Bernstein, said on Tuesday that the new poverty data should encourage lawmakers to enact the $3.5 trillion Democratic measure that includes much of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, which the administration argues will create more and better-paying jobs.
“It’s one thing to temporarily lift people out of poverty — hugely important — but you can’t stop there,” said Mr. Bernstein, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. “We have to make sure that people don’t fall back into poverty after these temporary measures abate.”
“reckless taxing and spending spree.”
Conservative policy experts said that although some expansion of government aid was appropriate during the pandemic, those programs should be wound down, not expanded, as the economy healed.
“Policymakers did a remarkable job last March enacting CARES and other legislation, lending to businesses, providing loan forbearance, expanding the safety net,” Scott Winship, a senior fellow and the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative group, wrote in reaction to the data, referring to an early pandemic aid bill, which included around $2 trillion in spending. “But we should have pivoted to other priorities thereafter.”
Jason DeParle and Margot Sanger-Katz contributed reporting.
Even as the United States finalizes its departure from Afghanistan, it faces a dilemma there as wrenching as any during the 20-year war: how to deal with the new Taliban government.
The question is already manifest in the debate over how deeply to cooperate against a mutual enemy, the Islamic State branch in the region, known as ISIS-K.
Another: Whether to release $9.4 billion in Afghan government currency reserves that are frozen in the United States. Handing the Taliban billions would mean funding the machinery of its ultraconservative rule. But withholding the money would all but ensure a sudden currency crisis and halt on imports, including food and fuel, starving Afghan civilians whom the United States had promised to protect.
These are only the beginning. Washington and the Taliban may spend years, even decades, pulled between cooperation and conflict, compromise and competition, as they manage a relationship in which neither can fully tolerate nor live without the other.
already seeking from the United States.
Washington, for its part, sees Afghanistan as a potential haven for international terrorists, a center of geopolitical competition against its greatest adversaries and the site of two looming catastrophes — Taliban rule and economic collapse — that could each ripple far beyond the country’s borders.
At home, President Biden already faces a backlash over Afghanistan that would be likely to intensify if he were seen as enabling Taliban rule. But he may find that securing even the most modest American aims in the country requires tolerating the group that now controls it.
His administration got a taste of this new reality last week, when American forces evacuating Kabul relied on Taliban fighters to help secure the city’s airport.
testing quiet, mostly tacit coordination.
The United States has a long history of working with unsavory governments against terrorist groups.
But such governments have routinely exploited this to win American acquiescence, and even assistance, in suppressing domestic opponents they have labeled extremists.
This dynamic has long enabled dictators to disregard American demands on human rights and democracy, confident that Washington would tolerate their abuses as long as they delivered on terrorism matters.
less extreme opposition groups.
It may ultimately be a question of whether Washington prefers an Afghanistan divided by civil war — the very conditions that produced the Taliban and now ISIS-K — or one unified under the control of a Taliban that may or may not moderate itself in power.
A Diplomatic Dance
The Taliban, desperate for foreign support, have emphasized a desire to build ties with Washington.
The longer the United States holds out recognition, formal or informal, the more incentive the Taliban have to chase American approval. But if Washington waits too long, other powers may fill the diplomatic vacuum first.
Iran and China, which border Afghanistan, are both signaling that they may embrace the Taliban government in exchange for promises related mostly to terrorism. Both are eager to avoid an economic collapse or return to war on their borders. And they are especially eager to keep American influence from returning.
“Beijing will want to extend recognition to the Taliban government, likely after or at the same time that Pakistan does so but before any Western country does,” Amanda Hsiao, a China analyst for the International Crisis Group, wrote in a recent policy brief.
Iran has already begun referring to the “Islamic Emirate,” the Taliban’s preferred name for its government. Iranian missions remain open.
eased. But the former enemies have drawn much closer over one issue that is not likely to apply in Afghanistan, extensive trade, and another that is — opposition to China.
Many Afghans fear that American recognition, even indirect, could be taken as a blank check for the group to rule however it wants.
Still, some who are fiercely opposed to both the Taliban and the American withdrawal have urged international engagement.
“Everyone with a stake in the stability of Afghanistan needs to come together,” Saad Mohseni, an Afghan-Australian businessmen behind much of the country’s media sector, wrote in a Financial Times essay.
their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.
Neither engagement nor hostility is likely to transform the group’s underlying nature. And even when engagement works, it can be slow and frustrating, with many breakdowns and reversals on a road to rapprochement that might take decades to travel.
The Other Looming Catastrophe
Perhaps the only scenario as dire as a Taliban takeover is one that is all but assured without American intervention: economic collapse, even famine.
Afghanistan imports much of its food and fuel, and most of its electricity. Because it runs a deep trade deficit, it pays for imports mostly through foreign aid, which amounts to nearly half of the country’s economy — and has now been suspended.
The country holds enough currency reserves to finance about 18 months of imports. Or it did, until the U.S. froze the accounts.
As a result, Afghanistan may soon run out of food and fuel with no way to replenish either.
“Acute famines generally result from shortages of food triggering a scramble for necessities, speculation and spikes in food prices, which kill the poorest,” a Columbia University economist, Adam Tooze, wrote last week. “Those are the elements we can already see at work in Afghanistan.”
As the United States learned in 1990s Somalia, flying in food does not solve the problem and may even worsen it by putting local farmers out of business.
according to Save the Children, a charity. The group also surveyed some of the thousands of families displaced from rural areas to Kabul and found that many already lack the means to buy food.
It is difficult to imagine a harder sell in Washington than offering diplomatic outreach and billions of dollars to the group that once harbored Al Qaeda, barred women from public life and staged public executions.
Republicans are already seizing on the chaos of the withdrawal to criticize Mr. Biden as soft on adversaries abroad.
He may also face pressure from Afghan émigrés, a number of whom already live in the United States. Diasporas, like those from Vietnam or Cuba, tend to be vocally hawkish toward the governments they fled.
The administration, which is pursuing an ambitious domestic agenda in a narrowly divided Congress, may be hesitant to divert more political capital to a country that it sees as peripheral.
Still, Mr. Biden has seemed to relish rejecting political pressure on Afghanistan. Whether he chooses to privilege geopolitical rivalry, humanitarian welfare or counterterrorism in Afghanistan, he may find himself doing so again.
SAN ANTONIO HUISTA, Guatemala — An American contractor went to a small town in the Guatemalan mountains with an ambitious goal: to ignite the local economy, and hopefully even persuade people not to migrate north to the United States.
Half an hour into his meeting with coffee growers, the contractor excitedly revealed the tool he had brought to change their lives: a pamphlet inviting the farmers to download an app to check coffee prices and “be a part of modern agriculture.”
Pedro Aguilar, a coffee farmer who hadn’t asked for the training and didn’t see how it would keep anyone from heading for the border, looked confused. Eyeing the U.S. government logo on the pamphlet, he began waving it around, asking if anyone had a phone number to call the Americans “and tell them what our needs really are.”
soared in 2019 and is on the upswing once more.
have risen, malnutrition has become a national crisis, corruption is unbridled and the country is sending more unaccompanied children to the United States than anywhere else in the world.
That is the stark reality facing Ms. Harris as she assumes responsibility for expanding the same kind of aid programs that have struggled to stem migration in the past. It is a challenge that initially frustrated her top political aides, some of whom viewed the assignment from Mr. Biden as one that would inevitably set her up for failure in the first months of her tenure.
Her allies worried that she would be expected to solve the entire immigration crisis, irked that the early reports of her new duties appeared to hold her responsible for juggling the recent surge of children crossing the border without adults.
linked to drug traffickers and accused of embezzling American aid money, the leader of El Salvador has been denounced for trampling democratic norms and the government of Guatemala has been criticized for persecuting officials fighting corruption.
Even so, Ms. Harris and her advisers have warmed to the task, according to several people familiar with her thinking in the White House. They say it will give her a chance to dive squarely into foreign policy and prove that she can pass the commander-in-chief test, negotiating with world leaders on a global stage to confront one of America’s most intractable issues.
critics denounced as unlawful and inhumane. Moreover, members of the current administration contend that Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze a portion of the aid to the region in 2019 ended up blunting the impact of the work being done to improve conditions there.
But experts say the reasons that years of aid have not curbed migration run far deeper than that. In particular, they note that much of the money is handed over to American companies, which swallow a lot of it for salaries, expenses and profits, often before any services are delivered.
Record numbers of Central American children and families were crossing, fleeing gang violence and widespread hunger.
independent studies have found.
“All activities funded with U.S.A.I.D.’s foreign assistance benefit countries and people overseas, even if managed through agreements with U.S.-based organizations,” said Mileydi Guilarte, a deputy assistant administrator at U.S.A.I.D. working on Latin America funding.
But the government’s own assessments don’t always agree. After evaluating five years of aid spending in Central America, the Government Accountability Office rendered a blunt assessment in 2019: “Limited information is available about how U.S. assistance improved prosperity, governance, and security.”
One U.S.A.I.D. evaluation of programs intended to help Guatemalan farmers found that from 2006 to 2011, incomes rose less in the places that benefited from U.S. aid than in similar areas where there was no intervention.
Mexico has pushed for a more radical approach, urging the United States to give cash directly to Central Americans affected by two brutal hurricanes last year. But there’s also a clear possibility — that some may simply use the money to pay a smuggler for the trip across the border.
The farmers of San Antonio Huista say they know quite well what will keep their children from migrating. Right now, the vast majority of people here make their money by selling green, unprocessed coffee beans to a few giant Guatemalan companies. This is a fine way to put food on the table — assuming the weather cooperates — but it doesn’t offer much more than subsistence living.
Farmers here have long dreamed of escaping that cycle by roasting their own coffee and selling brown beans in bags to American businesses and consumers, which brings in more money.
“Instead of sending my brother, my father, my son to the United States, why not send my coffee there, and get paid in dollars?” said Esteban Lara, the leader of a local coffee cooperative.
But when they begged a U.S. government program for funding to help develop such a business, Ms. Monzón said, they were told “the money is not designed to be invested in projects like that.”
These days, groups of her neighbors are leaving for the United States every month or two. So many workers have abandoned this town that farmers are scrambling to find laborers to harvest their coffee.
One of Ms. Monzón’s oldest employees, Javier López Pérez, left with his 14-year-old son in 2019, during the last big wave of Central American migration to the United States. Mr. López said he was scaling the border wall with his son when he fell and broke his ankle.
“My son screamed, ‘Papi, no!’ and I said to him, ‘Keep going, my son,’” Mr. López said. He said his son made it to the United States, while he returned to San Antonio Huista alone.
His family was then kicked out of their home, which Mr. López had given as collateral to the person who smuggled him to the border. The house they moved into was destroyed by the two hurricanes that hit Guatemala late last year.
Ms. Monzón put Mr. López in one of her relatives’ houses, then got the community to cobble together money to pay for enough cinder blocks to build the family a place to live.
While mixing cement to bind the blocks together, one of Mr. López’s sons, Vidal, 19, confessed that he had been talking to a smuggler about making the same journey that felled his father, who was realistic at the prospect.
“I told him, ‘Son, we suffered hunger and thirst along the way, and then look at what happened to me, look at what I lost,’” Mr. López said, touching his still-mangled ankle. “But I can’t tell him what to do with his life — he’s a man now.”
This morning, I am going to tell you another story about the C.D.C. and its approach to Covid-19 behavioral guidelines. It’s a story that highlights the costs of extreme caution.
When Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, appeared before a Senate committee this month and defended the agency’s description of how often Covid-19 is transmitted outdoors, she cited a single academic study.
She was responding to a question from Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who had asked why some C.D.C. guidelines seemed inconsistent with the available data. Collins quoted from that day’s edition of this newsletter and argued that the C.D.C. was exaggerating the risk of outdoor activities by claiming that “less than 10 percent” of Covid transmission occurred outside.
Anything close to 10 percent would mean that outdoor infections were a huge problem. Yet the true share appears to be closer to 0.1 percent.
a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The study was “a meta-analysis,” she explained, which means it synthesized data from other studies. “The topline result of all studies that were included in the systematic review said less than 10 percent of cases were transmitted outdoors,” she said.
Her answer made the study sound definitive. Walensky did not mention any other studies or offer any logical argument for why she believed outdoor transmission was a significant risk. She implied that the C.D.C. was simply listening to The Journal of Infectious Diseases, which, as she noted, is a top journal.
Later that day, one of the study’s authors posted several messages on Twitter, and the story got more complicated.
‘An amazing resource’
The tweets came from Dr. Nooshin Razani, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. In them, she emphasized that the study’s results suggested that the share of Covid occurring outdoors was “much lower than 10 percent.” The central message of the paper, Razani wrote, was the relative safety of the outdoors:
in her testimony, had used the two terms interchangeably.)
Singapore construction workers who probably transmitted it in enclosed spaces.)
The actual share occurring outdoors is “probably substantially less than 1 percent,” Razani told me. “The outdoors is an amazing resource,” she added. “What we really should be focused on is how to transition more activities to be outdoors.”
Masks for all campers
Yet the C.D.C.’s guidance continues to treat outdoor activities as a major risk — as if the truth were closer to 10 percent than 0.1 percent.
The agency advises unvaccinated people to wear masks outdoors much of the time, and many communities still impose strict guidelines on outdoor activities. The C.D.C. has also directed virtually everyone attending summer camp this year — counselor or camper, vaccinated or not — to wear a mask at almost all times. The camp guidelines use the word “universal.”
It’s true that for many people, masks are a minor nuisance. For others, though, masks bring real costs. Some children find it harder to breathe while wearing one during, say, a game of soccer or tag. Many adults and children find it more difficult to communicate. That’s especially true for people without perfect hearing and for young children, both of whom rely heavily on facial movements to understand others.
has written, is often “like talking on your phone in a zone with weak cell service.”
No free lunch
For unvaccinated adults indoors or in close conversation outdoors, the costs of a mask are vastly lower than the risks from Covid. But the trade-offs are different in most outdoor settings, and they are different for children. The Covid risks for children are similar to those from a normal flu (as these charts show).
There does not appear to be much scientific reason that campers and counselors, or most other people, should wear a mask outdoors all summer. Telling them to do so is an example of extreme caution — like staying out of the ocean to avoid sharks — that seems to have a greater cost than benefit.
The C.D.C., as I’ve written before, is an agency full of dedicated people trying their best to keep Americans healthy. Walensky, a widely admired infectious-diseases expert, is one of them. Yet more than once during this pandemic, C.D.C. officials have acted as if extreme caution has no downsides.
Everything has downsides. And it is the job of scientific experts and public-health officials to help the rest of us think clearly about the benefits and costs of our choices.
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baked feta pasta and dalgona coffee — as well as a new generation of cooking stars who are largely self-taught, preparing meals in their home kitchens.
Within 24 hours of posting his first TikTok in 2019, Eitan Bernath, now 19, had tens of thousands of followers. His upbeat and approachable food videos have since earned him over a million more, and he has three full-time employees, as well as a gig as a resident culinary expert on “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
Other up-and-coming food creators are making six figures through the app and sponsorships, often using TikTok fame to launch cookware lines, cookbooks and more.
Read Taylor Lorenz’s full story. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer
This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
For nearly four decades, William R. Harris devoted his career to safeguarding his fellow citizens.
As an international lawyer and a sought-after consultant, he drafted treaties to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reduce the risk of accidental war. He modeled a framework for the government to continue functioning during a national catastrophe. He helped extend Daylight Saving Time to conserve fuel and focused officials on protecting the electrical grid from digital sabotage.
He practiced what he preached, too, making sure to get his first vaccination for the coronavirus in early February, as soon as he was eligible and the vaccine was available. He completed the regimen by the end of the month.
In late March, though, his family said, he received a jarring diagnosis: Covid-19. Mr. Harris also had chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and family members said that a few weeks after learning that he had Covid, he read an article in a scientific journal suggesting that the vaccine might not be fully effective for people with that type of leukemia.
The New York Times last month.
No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and some so-called breakthrough infections can be expected, even in healthy people who have been fully vaccinated. But those cases are rare. As of April 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 9,245 breakthrough cases, out of 95 million fully vaccinated Americans; 132 people died.
In a eulogy on Facebook, Mr. Harris’s daughter Darcy R. Harris described him this way: “As an international lawyer and policy wonk, his work spanned arms control treaties and verification, energy policy, space law. He was a consummate researcher, an early adopter, an innovator. On top of that, he was always working for free and helping others out.”
Dr. William A. Horwitz and Dr. Henriette Klein, both of whom were professors of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.
He attended the Dalton School in Manhattan and, after graduating from the Choate School, now Choate Rosemary Hall, in Wallingford, Conn., earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard College in 1962 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1966.
In 1968, he married Elizabeth Jones. Along with his wife and their daughter Darcy, he is survived by another daughter, Rebecca Harris Deane; a son, William Proctor Harris; four grandchildren; and his sister, Susan Harris Molnar.
That’s changing. The Biden administration and its allies are pushing the notion that caring for children — and the sick and the elderly — is just as crucial to a functioning economy as any road, electric grid or building. It’s human infrastructure, they argue, echoing a line of thought long articulated by feminist economists (and often ignored).
President Biden included money for home-based care for the elderly and the disabled under the umbrella of infrastructure, as part of a $2 trillion package he proposed in March. The next month, he proposed more funding for paid family leave, universal pre-K and $225 billion for child care.
The ambitious legislation is going to face huge hurdles in Congress, but Dr. Folbre, now 68, is both cautiously optimistic and heartened by the culture shift: “I often say to myself I’m glad I lived this long so I can say maybe I had a point.”
Every snag in the system
Mariel Mendez and her husband, David, each the first in their immigrant families to earn college degrees and find rewarding careers, assumed they’d rely on high-quality child care to make everything work. She holds a master’s in public health from Columbia University and works at a nonprofit near Kent, Wash., where they live; he has a master’s in education policy and works as a coach for elementary school teachers.
Yet, now they’re debating if one of them should stop working altogether.
Over the past year, the Mendezes have cycled through four different child-care arrangements for Milea, their 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, starting with an overcrowded center they felt was unsafe, then a back-and-forth with an in-home day care struggling to survive through the pandemic, and a stressful marathon at home managing remote work and never-ending toddler duty.
“We’re starting to think for our mental health and for our relationship as a family, does it make more sense for one of us to step down, shift to part time?” said Ms. Mendez, 28, who is expecting another baby in June. The prospect of an infant, a full-time job and a still uncertain child-care arrangement is overwhelming. “I never thought I’d be here. That we would all be here,” she said.
But in a sense it was inevitable that they would be, since they were headed toward a cliff — with no bridge spanning it.
As American companies prepare to bring large numbers of workers back to the office in the coming months, executives are facing one of their most delicate pandemic-related decisions: Should they require employees to be vaccinated?
Take the case of United Airlines. In January, the chief executive, Scott Kirby, indicated at a company town hall that he wanted to require all of his roughly 96,000 employees to get coronavirus vaccines once they became widely available.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Kirby said, before urging other corporations to follow suit.
It has been four months. No major airlines have made a similar pledge — and United Airlines is waffling.
herd immunity has slipped as the pace of vaccinations has slowed.
But making vaccinations mandatory could risk a backlash, and perhaps even litigation, from those who view it as an invasion of privacy and a Big Brother-like move to control the lives of employees.
survey of 1,339 employers conducted by Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, 44 percent of U.S. respondents said they planned to mandate vaccinations for their companies. In a separate poll of 446 employers conducted by Willis Towers Watson, a risk-management firm, 23 percent of respondents said they were “planning or considering requiring employees to get vaccinated for them to return to the worksite.”
two hours of pay for each dose they receive, while emphasizing it would not make doses mandatory. Target is offering a $5 coupon to all customers and employees who receive their vaccination at a CVS at Target location.
Supreme Court ruled about a century ago that states could require vaccinations for children attending public school. And universities like Rutgers have instituted mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations.
But the pandemic brings up a host of complications that companies typically prefer to avoid, involving the private lives, religious preferences and medical histories of employees, such as whether an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding or immuno-compromised, information they may not want to reveal.
Major union groups, like the A.F.L.-C.I.O., have not aggressively pushed the issue either. They are facing dueling forces — standing up for individual worker’s rights on the one hand and protecting one another on the other. Unions have also been arguing for stronger workplace safety measures, efforts that could be complicated by companies’ arguing that mandatory vaccinations reduce the need for such accommodations. The return to work protocols negotiated between the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and Hollywood’s unions, for instance, will not include mandatory vaccinations.
“There are going to be some people who may have legitimate reasons for not getting the vaccine or for not wanting to talk about it,” said Carrie Altieri, who works in communications for IBM’s People and Culture business. “It’s not an easy issue at this point.” IBM is working with New York State on a digital passport linking a person’s vaccination records to an app to show businesses, like performance venues, that may require vaccination. It is not, though, requiring vaccinations for its employees.
already struggling to hire workers, mandating vaccinations could make hiring even more difficult. And there are questions of logistics and execution. How can companies confirm the veracity of those who say they’ve been vaccinated?
Companies may need to hire additional staff, potentially with medical training, to handle such tasks, which could saddle businesses — particularly small ones — with burdensome costs.
Vivint, a home security company based in Utah with 10,000 employees, began offering vaccines in its on-site clinic this week, after the state approved the company to distribute 100 shots a week to its staff. It paid $3,000 for the necessary medical-grade freezer.
“We’re not requiring employees to get vaccinated, but we’re highly encouraging it,” said Starr Fowler, senior vice president for human resources. “For a lot of our employees, particularly those that are younger, the easier that we make it for them, the more likely they’re going to do it.”
Salesforce is introducing a policy in certain U.S. offices, including Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, where up to 100 fully vaccinated employees can volunteer to work on designated floors. The New York Stock Exchange issued a memo to trading firms saying they would be allowed to increase their staff on the floor, provided all the employees have been vaccinated.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance in December stating that employers were indeed legally permitted to require employees to be vaccinated before they return to offices. But the threat of litigation still looms.
plans to open its offices on May 17 on a voluntary basis, said it strongly encouraged vaccines for employees — barring any religious or health restrictions — but would not require them. A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, which has not guided employees either way, declined to comment.
One potential path for companies seeking a middle ground is to mandate the shots only for new hires. Still, there is a fine line between encouraging and requiring shots — sometimes resulting in conflicting messages to employees.
The investment bank Jefferies sent a memo to employees in early February stating “verification of vaccination will be required to access the office.” On Feb. 24 came a follow-up memo. “We did not intend to make it sound as if we are mandating vaccines,” it said.
Reporting was contributed by Rebecca Robbins, Sapna Maheshwari, Kellen Browning, Niraj Chokshi and Eshe Nelson.
A better approach would be for a trusted figure to address the root cause of the hesitancy — fear, mistrust, misconceptions, ease of access or a desire for more information, said Mary Politi, an expert in health decision making and health communication at Washington University in St. Louis.
People often need to see others in their social circle embracing something before they are willing to try it, Dr. Politi said. Emphasizing the benefits of vaccination to their lives, like seeing a family member or sending their children to school, might be more motivating than the nebulous idea of herd immunity.
“That would resonate with people more than this somewhat elusive concept that experts are still trying to figure out,” she added.
Though children spread the virus less efficiently than adults do, the experts all agreed that vaccinating children would also be important for keeping the number of Covid cases low. In the long term, the public health system will also need to account for babies, and for children and adults who age into a group with higher risk.
Unnerving scenarios remain on the path to this long-term vision.
Over time, if not enough people are protected, highly contagious variants may develop that can break through vaccine protection, land people in the hospital and put them at risk of death.
“That’s the nightmare scenario,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University.
How frequent and how severe those breakthrough infections are have the potential to determine whether the United States can keep hospitalizations and deaths low or if the country will find itself in a “mad scramble” every couple of years, he said.
“I think we’re going to be looking over our shoulders — or at least public health officials and infectious disease epidemiologists are going to be looking over their shoulders going: ‘All right, the variants out there — what are they doing? What are they capable of?” he said. “Maybe the general public can go back to not worrying about it so much, but we will have to.”
Andrew here. Yesterday’s guilty verdict against George Floyd’s murderer, a former Minneapolis police officer, was a symbol of something profound: a demonstrable shift in the way this country, increasingly supported by business, has strived for civil rights.
As we ponder the meaning of this decision, it is worth recalling a moment in 1965, in the middle of that era’s civil rights movement.
A Wall Street bond firm, C.F. Securities, told Alabama that it would “no longer buy or sell bonds issued by the state or any of its political subdivisions.” Gov. George C. Wallace, who objected to desegregation, had said the state shouldn’t pay for the National Guard to protect Martin Luther King Jr. and protesters in the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
The investment firm’s executive vice president, Donald E. Barnes, wrote to the governor that his failure “to protect the citizens of Alabama in their exercise of constitutional rights” amounted to “discouragements to Alabama’s economic future.” He insisted that the move was based on economic risk, but the letter made clear it was about more than that.
paid time off on Juneteenth; the N.B.A. emblazoned the words “Black Lives Matter” on courts; Netflix steered its cash into local banks that serve Black communities; Wall Street banks announced programs worth billions to support Black communities; and just last week, in perhaps the greatest demonstration of the new responsibility business is feeling, 700 companies and executives signed a letter opposing laws that make it harder for people to vote.
“The murder of George Floyd last Memorial Day felt like a turning point for our country. The solidarity and stand against racism since then have been unlike anything I’ve experienced,” Brian Cornell, the C.E.O. of Target, wrote in a note to employees of the Minneapolis-based retailer yesterday. “Like outraged people everywhere, I had an overwhelming hope that today’s verdict would provide real accountability. Anything short of that would have shaken my faith that our country had truly turned a corner.”
You know what? Justice is good for business.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The European Super League has collapsed. Plans to create a closed competition of top soccer clubs fell apart yesterday when six English teams withdrew, bowing to outrage from fans and threats by lawmakers. Shortly after, an official at the Super League said the project had been suspended, ending an effort to upend soccer’s multibillion-dollar economics.
outweigh a small risk of blood clots, but wants a warning added. U.S. regulators will decide whether to end a pause on the vaccine in the coming days.
Goldman Sachs releases worker diversity data. The Wall Street bank disclosed for the first time how many of its senior U.S. executives are Black: 49 out of more than 1,500. Banks agreed last year to publish more information about their work forces; Morgan Stanley has an even smaller share of Black executives than Goldman.
Apple’s new products raise competition concerns. The tech giant unveiled new iPads and iMacs, and a revamped podcast app. But its new AirTags, which attach to items to help find them, was criticized by the C.E.O. of Tile, which makes a similar product. Apple also said it would roll out new iOS privacy features — criticized by Facebook and other app makers — next week.
Understanding the ‘antimonopolist’ Lina Khan
Lina Khan’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission is one of the clearest signs of progressive influence in the Biden administration. A Columbia University scholar who worked on a major congressional report about Big Tech and antitrust last year, Ms. Khan is a star in the constellation of competition law experts known as “antimonopolists.” Her confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee is today.
power of internet giants, which could win her some conservative support. Having a “strong” perspective probably isn’t an obstacle to confirmation, Mr. Hoffman said.
“Antimonopoly is more than antitrust,” Ms. Khan wrote in 2018. It shifts away from a “consumer” take on mergers managed by antitrust agencies to a broader approach using “policy levers” across the government and keeps workers, voters, the environment and more in mind.
Big Tech will be a likely focus at the hearing. But this would be a “disservice” to Ms. Khan, according to Mr. Hoffman. “At the F.T.C., a lot of the agenda is reactive,” he said. Companies file merger paperwork and regulators respond, whatever the industry. Ms. Khan has a broad perspective on competition law, Mr. Hoffman said, and today would be “a fair time” to ask what “objective standards” she’d apply.
“You have to have some morals.”
— Ari Emanuel, the outspoken C.E.O. of the entertainment conglomerate Endeavor, speaking in a New Yorker profile about returning an investment from Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Separately, Endeavor disclosed yesterday that it hopes to be valued at more than $10 billion in an I.P.O.
These ‘Roaring Twenties’ have railroad battles, too
Canadian National Railway yesterday offered to buy Kansas City Southern for $33.7 billion, topping a $29 billion bid last month by its rival Canadian Pacific. They’re jockeying over the chance to create the first railroad connecting major ports from Canada to Mexico. The bidding war reflects bullishness about an industry poised for growth if a post-pandemic boom ushers in this generation’s “Roaring Twenties.”
antitrust concerns made the counterbid “illusory and inferior.” Kansas City Southern said it would evaluate the new bid in accordance with its agreement with its original suitor.
mixed reception from freight shippers, who suffered in the last round of consolidation. And we haven’t yet heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar, who heads the antitrust subcommittee and represents key industrial interests in Minnesota.
Giving Coinbase a run for its (digital) money
The public listing of Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the U.S., generated a wave of excitement that competitors aim to ride. Among them is Binance.US, the third-ranked domestic crypto exchange, which yesterday named Brian Brooks — formerly Coinbase’s chief counsel and most recently acting U.S. comptroller of the currency — as C.E.O., beginning in May. “There’s a lot of buzz about my former employer, which is well-deserved,” Mr. Brooks told DealBook about Coinbase. “But it’s in everybody’s best interest if there’s more competition.”
Mr. Brooks’ first task is building trust with regulators. He says “managing reputation” is his biggest concern. Binance has shifted its operations throughout Asia since it was founded in 2017, and some say it played fast and loose with rules. The C.F.T.C. was reportedly investigating the company for allowing U.S.-based customers to trade crypto derivatives, which is banned (the agency declined to comment). Mr. Brooks insists he did “a lot” of due diligence on his new employer and dismisses “loose talk” about the exchange flouting regulations.
Binance’s group C.E.O., CZ Zhao, says he embraces regulation. Hiring Mr. Brooks is one way the company is trying to make the point. Binance also hired Max Baucus, the former Montana senator and ambassador to China, last month, along with other former regulators.
Binance.US sees potential to lead in undeveloped areas of the American crypto landscape, like derivatives and lending. Mr. Brooks said the company can learn from competitors like Coinbase and Kraken — and challenge them. That is, if he can convince regulators to bless its efforts to bring crypto into the financial mainstream, a preoccupation of players across the industry.
JPMorgan wants to end banker burnout, for real this time
Yesterday, JPMorgan Chase’s co-heads of investment banking, Jim Casey and Viswas Raghavan, announced policies aimed at improving working conditions amid record deal volume and banker burnout. The company has attempted similar things before. DealBook spoke with Mr. Casey about the latest plan — and whether this one will stick.
JPMorgan has recently hired 65 analysts and 22 associates, and plans to add another 100 junior bankers and support staff, Mr. Casey said. It’s targeting bankers at rival firms, as well as lawyers and accountants interested in a career switch.
similar efforts to protect junior bankers’ hours in 2016, but “it wasn’t stringently enforced,” Mr. Casey said. Why not? “Laziness.” This time, junior bankers’ hours and feedback will figure in senior manager performance evaluation and compensation.
“It’s not a money problem,” Mr. Casey said, so there won’t be one-time checks or free Pelotons after a rush.Junior bankers will get their share of the record $3 billion in fees JPMorgan earned in the first quarter.
Some things won’t change. Because banking is a client-service job, managers sometimes have limited control over workloads and hours. “You might do 100 deals a year, but that client only does one deal every three years,” Mr. Casey said.
How the bank will measure success: “Ask me what our turnover ratio has gone to and I will tell you,” Mr. Casey said. The goal, he said, is “lower.”
THE SPEED READ
Politics and policy
Senator Bernie Sanders is co-sponsoring a bill that would impose a financial transaction tax on Wall Street to drastically expand tuition-free access to community colleges and trade schools. (CNBC)
Twelve megadonors accounted for nearly $1 of every $13 raised by federal candidates and political groups since 2009, a new study found. (NYT)
Best of the rest
The Sacklers, the family that founded the maker of OxyContin, are worth about $11 billion, according to documents released by a Congressional committee. (WSJ)
“Behind the Mysterious Demise of a $1.7 Billion Mutual Fund.” (WSJ)
Amazon is opening a hair salon in London. It isn’t called Prime Cuts. (WaPo)
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pandemic abruptly slowed the global march of coal. But demand for the world’s dirtiest fuel is forecast to soar this year, gravely undermining the chances of staving off the worst effects of global warming.
Burning coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, and, after a pandemic-year retreat, demand for coal is set to rise by 4.5 percent this year, mainly to meet soaring electricity demand, according to data published Tuesday by the International Energy Agency, just two days before a White House-hosted virtual summit aimed at rallying global climate action.
“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” Fatih Birol, the head of the agency, said in a statement.
dropped to its lowest level in a decade in 2019. And, over the last 20 years, more coal-fired power plants have been retired or shelved than commissioned. The big holdouts are China, India and parts of Southeast Asia, but, even there, coal’s once-swift growth is nowhere as swift as it was just a few years ago, according to a recent analysis.
In some countries where new coal-fired power plants were only recently being built by the gigawatts, plans for new ones have been shelved, as in South Africa, or reconsidered, as in Bangladesh, or facing funding troubles, as in Vietnam. In some countries, like India, existing coal plants are running way below capacity and losing money. In others, like the United States, they are being decommissioned faster than ever.
where coal use is growing, the pace of growth is slowing.
In South Africa, after years of lawsuits, plans to build a coal-fired power station in Limpopo Province were canceled last November.
In Kenya, a proposed coal plant has languished for years because of litigation. In Egypt, a planned coal plant is indefinitely postponed. In Bangladesh, Chinese-backed projects are among 15 planned coal plants that the government in Dhaka is reviewing, with an eye to canceling them altogether.
Pakistan, saddled by debts, announced a vague moratorium on new coal projects. Vietnam, which is still expanding its coal fleet, scaled back plans for new plants. The Philippines, under pressure from citizens’ groups, hit the pause button on new projects.
“Broadly speaking, there’s growing opposition against coal and a lot more scrutiny right now,” said Daine Loh, a Southeast Asia power sector energy specialist at Fitch Solutions, an industry analysis firm. “It’s a trend — moving away from coal. It’s very gradual.”
Money is part of the problem. Development banks are shying away from coal. Japan and Korea, two major financiers of coal, have tightened restrictions on new coal projects. Japan is still building coal plants at home, rare among industrialized countries, though Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in October that his country would aspire to draw down its emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Australia continue to mine their abundant coal deposits. Perhaps most oddly, Britain, which is hosting the next international climate talks, is opening a new coal mine.
And then there are the world’s biggest coal consumers, China and India.
China’s economy rebounded in 2020. Government stimulus measures encouraged the production of steel, cement and other industrial products that eat up energy. Coal demand rose. The capacity of China’s fleet of coal-fired power plants grew by a whopping 38 gigawatts in 2020, making up the vast majority of new coal projects worldwide and offsetting nearly the same amount of coal capacity that was retired worldwide. (One gigawatt is enough to power a medium-sized city.)
Coal’s future in China is at the center of a robust debate in the country, with prominent policy advisers pressing for a near-moratorium on new coal plants and state-owned companies insisting that China needs to burn more coal for years to come.
to remain open, and it is seeking private investors to mine coal. If India’s economy recovers this year, its coal demand is set to rise by 9 percent, according to the I.E.A.
But even India’s coal fleet isn’t growing as fast as it was just a few years ago. On paper, India plans to add some 60 gigawatts of coal power capacity by 2026, but given how many existing plants are operating at barely half capacity, it’s unclear how many new ones will ultimately be built. A handful of state politicians have publicly opposed new coal-fired power plants in their states.
How much more coal India needs to burn, said Ritu Mathur, an economist at The Energy & Resources Institute in New Delhi, depends on how fast its electricity demand grows — and it could grow very fast if India pushes electric vehicles. “To say we can do away with coal, or that renewables can meet all our demand,” Dr. Mathur said, “is not the story.”
nearly one-fourth of all energy worldwide.
Its proponents argue that gas, which is less polluting than coal, should be promoted in energy-hungry countries that cannot afford a rapid scale-up of renewable energy. Its critics say multibillion dollar investments in gas projects risk becoming stranded assets, like coal-fired power plants already are in some countries; they add that methane emissions from the combustion of gas are incompatible with the Paris Agreement goal of slowing down climate change.
in Vietnam. Gas demand is growing sharply in Bangladesh, as the government looks to shift away from coal to meet its galloping energy needs. Ghana this year became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to import liquefied natural gas. And the U.S. Agency for International Development has been promoting gas as a way to electrify homes and businesses across Africa.
And there’s the rub for the Biden administration: While it has set out to be a global climate leader, it has not yet explained its policy on advancing gas exports — particularly on the use of public funds to build gas infrastructure abroad.
“There’s fairly strong consensus around coal. The big question is around gas,” said Manish Bapna, acting president of the World Resources Institute. “The broader climate community is starting to think about what a gas transition looks like.”
Julfikar Ali Manik and Hiroko Tabuchi contributed reporting.