As Scrutiny of Cryptocurrency Grows, the Industry Turns to K Street

The board of advisers at the digital chamber is stuffed with former federal regulators, including a former member of Congress and a recent chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, J. Christopher Giancarlo, who was named to the board of BlockFi, a financial services company that tries to link cryptocurrencies with traditional wealth managers.

Max Baucus, the Democratic former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Jim Messina, a former top Obama adviser, also have recently been named to senior industry posts.

Lobbying disclosure records show that at least 65 contracts as of early 2021 addressed industry matters such as digital currency, cryptocurrency or blockchain, up from about 20 in 2019. Some of the biggest spenders on lobbying include Ripple, Coinbase — the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States — and trade groups like the Blockchain Association.

The lobbying burst is one of several recent signs nationwide that the industry is becoming a bigger presence in the economy. FTX, the cryptocurrency trading firm, is spending $135 million to secure the naming rights to the home arena of the Miami Heat.

The billionaire Elon Musk, who hosted “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, was asked about Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency featuring the face of a Shiba Inu dog that was created as a joke but has recently surged in value. “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world,” Mr. Musk said, before adding, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” The price of Dogecoin plunged nearly 35 percent in the hours after the show aired.

With the industry’s hires of recent government officials, claims of conflicts of interest are already starting to emerge.

Jay Clayton, who was the S.E.C. chairman until December, is now a paid adviser to the hedge fund One River Digital Asset Management, which invests hundreds of millions in Bitcoin and Ether, two cryptocurrencies, for its clients. Mr. Clayton declined to comment.

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Three Months After Coup, Myanmar Returns to the ‘Bad Old Days’

Every night at 8, the stern-faced newscaster on Myanmar military T.V. announces the day’s hunted. The mug shots of those charged with political crimes appear onscreen. Among them are doctors, students, beauty queens, actors, reporters, even a pair of makeup bloggers.

Some of the faces look puffy and bruised, the likely result of interrogations. They are a warning not to oppose the military junta that seized power in a Feb. 1 coup and imprisoned the country’s civilian leaders.

As the midnight insects trill, the hunt intensifies. Military censors sever the internet across most of Myanmar, matching the darkness outside with an information blackout. Soldiers sweep through the cities, arresting, abducting and assaulting with slingshots and rifles.

The nightly banging on doors, as arbitrary as it is dreaded, galvanizes a frenzy of self-preservation. Residents delete their Facebook accounts, destroy incriminating mobile phone cards and erase traces of support for Myanmar’s elected government. As sleep proves elusive, it’s as if much of the nation is suffering a collective insomnia.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or an unregistered cellphone or a single note of foreign currency — could mean a prison sentence. Some of the military’s Orwellian diktats rivaled those of North Korea.

among them dozens of children.

rule by fear, it is also holding hostage a changed country. The groundswell of opposition to the coup, which has sustained protests in hundreds of cities and towns, was surely not in the military’s game plan, making its crackdown all the riskier. Neither the outcome of the putsch nor the fate of the resistance is preordained.

Myanmar’s full emergence from isolation — economic, political and social — only came five years ago when the military began sharing power with an elected government headed by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. A population that barely had any connection to the internet quickly made up for lost time. Today, its citizenry is well versed in social media and the power of protests tethered to global movements. They know how to spot a good political meme on the internet.

Their resistance to the coup has included a national strike and a civil disobedience movement, which have paralyzed the economy and roiled the government. Banks and hospitals are all but shut. Although the United Nations has warned that half the country could be living in poverty by next year because of the pandemic and the political crisis, the democratic opposition’s resolve shows no sign of weakening.

National Unity Government, a civilian authority set up after the elected leadership was expelled by the military. A popular tactic is to affix an image of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the coup leader, on the sole of a shoe, smashing his face into the ground with each step. During spot checks, the police now demand that people show their soles.

Ms. Thuzar Nwe says she wears her hair down to cover her tattoo, hoping the police won’t be too inquisitive.

“In Myanmar culture, if a woman has a tattoo, she’s a bad girl,” she said. “I broke the rules of culture. This revolution is a rare chance to eradicate dictatorship from the country.”

But the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, has built an entire infrastructure dedicated to one purpose: perpetuating its power for power’s sake.

Its bureaucracy of oppression is formidable. An army of informers, known as “dalan,” has reappeared, monitoring whispers and neighbors’ movements.

The blandly named General Administration Department, a vast apparatus that remained under military control even after the army had started sharing authority with the civilian government, is once again pressuring administrators to keep tabs on everyone’s political views. And local officials have taken to banging on doors and peering in homes, as a dreaded system of household registration is reintroduced.

revoked the publishing licenses of major private newspapers. Democracy will return soon, the military’s headlines insist. Banking services are running “as usual.” Health care with “modern machinery” is available. Government ministries are enjoying English-proficiency courses. Soft-shell crab cultivation is “thriving” and penetrating the foreign market.

acquiring Chinese-made weapons and Russian fighter jets. But its propaganda is stuck in a time warp from back when few challenged its narrative. There is no mention in its media of the military’s killing spree, the broken economy or the growing armed resistance. On Wednesday, the State Administration Council, as the junta calls itself, banned satellite T.V.

For all the fear percolating in Myanmar, the resistance has only hardened. On Wednesday, the National Unity Government said it was forming a “people’s defense force” to counter the Tatmadaw. Two days before, ethnic insurgents fighting in the borderlands shot down a Tatmadaw helicopter.

convince the military ranks that the coup was necessary, Tatmadaw insiders said. Sequestered in military compounds without good internet access, soldiers have little ability to tap into the outrage of fellow citizens. Their information diet is composed of military T.V., military newspapers and the echo chambers of military-dominated Facebook on the rare occasions they can get online.

Still, news does filter in, and some officers have broken rank. In recent weeks, about 80 Myanmar Air Force officers have deserted and are now in hiding, according to fellow military personnel.

“Politics are not the business of soldiers,” said an air force captain who is now in hiding and does not want his name used because his family might be punished for his desertion. “Now the Tatmadaw have become the terrorists, and I don’t want to be part of it.”

In the cities, almost everyone seems to know someone who has been arrested or beaten or forced to pay a bribe to the security forces in exchange for freedom.

Last month, Ma May Thaw Zin, a 19-year-old law student, joined a flash mob protest in Yangon, the country’s biggest city. The police, she said, detained several young women and crammed them into an interrogation center cell so small they barely had room to sit on the floor.

For a whole day, there was no food. Ms. May Thaw Zin said she resorted to drinking from the toilet. The interrogations were just her and a clutch of men. They rubbed against her and kicked her breasts and face with their boots, she said. On the fourth day, after men shoved the barrel of a pistol against the black hood over her head, she was released. The bruises remain.

Since she returned home, some family members have refused to have anything to do with her because she was caught protesting, Ms. May Thaw Zin said. Even if they hate the coup, even if they know their futures have been blunted, the instincts of survival have kicked in.

“They are afraid,” she said, but “I can’t accept that my country will go back to the old dark age.”

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Apple and Epic Trial Opens With a Tour of the Fortnite ‘Metaverse’

OAKLAND, Calif. — Cosmetics. Digital dances called “emotes” A currency called V-Bucks. Virtual concerts. Fortnite, the popular gaming platform, is more than just a game. It is a “metaverse,” full of virtual life, said Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic Games, the company that created Fortnite.

And Apple, he argued in federal court on Monday, wants an unfair cut of the money to be made in the Fortnite metaverse.

Mr. Sweeney offered a granular explanation of Fortnite to paint an expansive portrait of his company’s world on the first day of what is expected to be a three-week trial, pitting Epic against Apple in a fight over Apple’s App Store fees and other rules that could reshape the $100 billion app economy.

Epic sued Apple in August, arguing that Apple is unfairly leaning on its control of the App Store to extract an unfair cut of the money Epic makes from selling digital goods inside Fortnite.

antitrust claims by state and federal governments in the United States and Europe. Apple is also battling two potential class-action lawsuits from consumers and developers over its App Store fees.

Fortnite, Mr. Sweeney said, “is a phenomenon that transcends gaming,” he said. “Our aim of Fortnite is to build something like a metaverse from science fiction.”

Metaverse? A court reporter needed clarification. It’s a virtual world for socializing and entertainment, Mr. Sweeney said.

The legal arguments in the case center on the boundaries of the market the two companies are fighting over. Apple’s lawyers focused their opening statements on gaming, arguing that people can get access to Fortnite in many places other than the App Store, like gaming consoles.

an interview last year, is “completely unprecedented in human history.”

But Mr. Sweeney was so soft-spoken in his testimony on Monday, a court reporter had to repeatedly ask for clarification on gaming and technology terms. He wore a suit, ditching his usual, T-shirt and cargo shorts. He also wore a clear face shield.

In his testimony, Mr. Sweeney explained Epic’s decision to pursue the lawsuit. “I wanted to show the world through actions exactly what the ramifications of Apple’s policy were,” he said.

In a cross-examination, Richard Doren of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher hammered at Mr. Sweeney with a rapid series of yes-or-no questions to make the point that Epic also publishes Fortnite on other platforms, like gaming consoles — and that Epic is not complaining about them.

But Mr. Sweeney countered that the gaming consoles, which typically lose money on the hardware they sell and make it up on fees, have different business models from Apple’s and Google’s app stores, which are highly profitable.

Mr. Doren asked Mr. Sweeney if he knew that the actions Epic took last summer would cause Apple to kick his company’s app out of the App Store. He suggested that Mr. Sweeney had hoped Apple would cave in to the pressure because of Fortnite’s popularity.

“I hoped Apple would seriously reconsider its policy then and there,” Mr. Sweeney said. Apple did not, and Epic sued.

In the coming weeks, top Apple executives, including the chief executive, Tim Cook, and executives from Microsoft and Match Group are expected to testify.

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Corporate America Fights Anti-Asian Discrimination

Top business leaders and corporate giants are pledging $250 million to a new initiative and an ambitious plan to stem a surge in anti-Asian violence and take on challenges that are often ignored by policymakers, Andrew and Ed Lee report in The Times.

Donors are a who’s who of business leaders. Individuals who are collectively contributing $125 million to the newly created Asian American Foundation include Joe Bae of KKR, Sheila Lirio Marcelo of Care.com, Joe Tsai of Alibaba and Jerry Yang of Yahoo. Organizations adding another $125 million to the group include Walmart, Bank of America, the Ford Foundation and the N.B.A. The initiative has echoes of the recent effort by Black executives to round up corporate support to push back against bills that would restrict voting.

Anti-Asian hate crimes jumped 169 percent over the past year; in New York City alone, they have risen 223 percent. And Asian-Americans face the challenge of the “model minority” myth, in which they’re often held up as success stories. This shows “a lack of understanding of the disparities that exist,” said Sonal Shah, the president of the newly formed foundation. For example, Asian-Americans comprise 12 percent of the U.S. work force, but just 1.5 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officers.

The group’s mission is broad. It is aiming to reshape the American public’s understanding of the Asian-American experience by developing new school curriculums and collecting data to help influence public policy. But its political lobbying efforts may be challenged by the enormous political diversity among Asian-Americans, Andrew and Ed note.

nearly 402,000 cases on Saturday, a global record, and another 392,000 on Sunday. A business trade group is calling for a new national lockdown, despite the economic cost of such a move. The C.E.O. of India’s biggest vaccine manufacturer warned that the country’s shortage of doses would last until at least July.

Credit Suisse didn’t earn much for its Archegos troubles. The Swiss bank collected just $17.5 million in fees last year from the investment fund, despite losing $5.4 billion from the firm’s meltdown in March, according to The Financial Times.

Verizon sold AOL and Yahoo. The telecom giant divested its internet media business to Apollo Global Management for $5 billion, and will retain a 10 percent stake. It’s a sign that Verizon is giving up on its digital advertising ambitions and focusing on its mobile business.

A third of Basecamp employees quit after a ban on talking politics. At least 20 resigned after the software maker’s C.E.O., Jason Fried, announced a new policy preventing political discussions in the workplace. The company isn’t budging: “We’ve committed to a deeply controversial stance,” said David Hansson, Basecamp’s chief technology officer.

stormed the field yesterday, forcing the postponement of its highly anticipated match against Liverpool. They called for the ouster of the Glazer family, United’s American owners, over their support for the new competition meant mostly for European soccer’s richest teams.

At the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday, Warren Bufett and Charlie Munger spoke out on a typically broad range of topics, from investing regrets to politics to crypto. (They also picked fights with Robinhood and E.S.G. proponents, for good measure.) Buffett watchers also got their clearest hint yet as to who will succeed the Oracle of Omaha as Berkshire’s C.E.O. when the 90-year-old billionaire finally steps down.

It’s Greg Abel. CNBC confirmed with Buffett that Abel, the 59-year-old who oversees Berkshire’s non-investing operations, would take over as C.E.O. “If something were to happen to me tonight it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning,” Buffett said. Charlie Munger, Buffett’s top lieutenant, dropped a hint on Saturday, saying, “Greg will keep the culture.”

Buffett took on Robinhood. The Berkshire chief said the trading app conditioned retail investors to treat stock trading like gambling. “There’s nothing illegal about it, there’s nothing immoral, but I don’t think you’d build a society around people doing it,” Buffett said.

And Buffett got blowback on E.S.G. Berkshire shareholders followed his lead and rejected two shareholder proposals that would have forced the company to disclose more about climate change and work force diversity. But each proposal got support from a quarter of Berkshire shareholders, a relatively high percentage. And big investors spoke publicly about their backing for the initiatives: BlackRock, which owns a 5 percent stake in Berkshire, said the company hadn’t done enough on either front.

Other highlights from the Berkshire meeting:


— Intel C.E.O. Pat Gelsinger told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that in the future the semiconductor giant would focus less on buying its own shares and more on expanding production capacity to alleviate severe chip shortages.


an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal to tell executives about it. The Republican senator from Texas criticized company chiefs for what he said were ill-informed criticisms of Georgia’s new voting laws. “For too long, woke C.E.O.s have been fair-weather friends to the Republican Party: They like us until the left’s digital pitchforks come out,” Cruz wrote. These companies “need to be called out, singled out and cut off,” he added.

Cruz’s rejection may not make a big difference. After the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, many corporations pledged to withhold donations from lawmakers who voted against certifying the election results, at least for a period of time. Cruz, who is viewed as a key player in the efforts to reverse the vote, could be shut out for longer than others. But he’s not strapped for cash: He brought in more than $3 million in campaign funds in the three months after the riot, largely from individual donors.

It highlights a new schism between Republicans and corporate America. Those ties were already fraying under President Trump’s unpredictable administration. President Biden’s proposed tax hikes and regulatory push would have typically driven companies into the arms of Republican allies, but Cruz, for his part, said he’s no longer interested in what the corporate donors and lobbyists have to say. “This time,” he wrote, “we won’t look the other way on Coca-Cola’s $12 billion in back taxes owed. This time, when Major League Baseball lobbies to preserve its multibillion-dollar antitrust exception, we’ll say no thank you. This time, when Boeing asks for billions in corporate welfare, we’ll simply let the Export-Import Bank expire.”


meet in court for a trial that could have implications for the future of the App Store and the antitrust fight against Big Tech. DealBook spoke with Jack Nicas, a technology reporter for The Times, about what’s at stake.

Why is Epic suing Apple?

Many companies, including Spotify and Match Group, have complained loudly and publicly about the control that Apple has over the App Store, and the 30 percent commission it charges. Epic basically set some bait for Apple: It began using its own payment system in Fortnite, a very popular game, which meant Apple couldn’t collect its commission. It knew how Apple would react: Apple kicked Fortnite out of the App Store. Then Epic immediately sued Apple in federal court, and simultaneously launched a sophisticated PR campaign to paint Apple in a bad light. [Epic is suing Google for the same reason.]

Read the full report about the case from Jack and Erin Griffith.

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We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.

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Europe’s Economy Shrank in First Quarter, Revealing a Recession: Live Updates

United States disclosed that its economy expanded 1.6 percent over the same period, the European downturn presented a contrast of fortunes on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Propelled by dramatic public expenditures to stimulate growth, as well as swift increases in vaccination rates, the United States — the world’s largest economy — expanded rapidly during the first months of 2021. At the same time, the 19 nations that share the euro currency were caught in the second part of a so-called double-dip recession, reflecting far less aggressive stimulus spending and a botched effort to secure vaccines.

But figures for gross domestic product represent a snapshot of the past, and recent weeks have produced encouraging signs that Europe is on the mend. The alarming spread of Covid-19 in major economies like Germany and France has begun to trend downward, factories have revived production, while growing numbers of people are on the move in cities.

Even as the German economy diminished by 1.7 percent from January to March, Italy and Spain slipped by much smaller magnitudes — 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent respectively. The French economy grew by a modest 0.4 percent, though its prospects face a fresh challenge in the form of new pandemic restrictions imposed this month by the government.

The initial lockdowns last year punished Europe’s economies, bringing large swaths of commercial life to a halt. But the current restrictions are calibrated to reflect improved understanding of how the virus spreads. Rather than closing their doors altogether, restaurants in some countries are serving meals on patios and dispensing takeout orders. Roofers, carpenters and other skilled trades have resumed work, so long as they can stay outside.

“We have sort of learned to live with the pandemic,” said Dhaval Joshi, chief strategist at BCA Research in London. “We are adapting to it.”

Vaccination rates are increasing throughout Europe, a trend likely to be advanced by the European Union’s recent deal to secure doses from Pfizer.

Most economists and the European Central Bank expect the eurozone to expand at a blistering pace over the rest of 2021, yielding growth of more than 4 percent for the full year.

Still, even in the most hopeful scenario, Europe’s recovery is running behind the United States, a reflection of their differing approaches to economic trauma.

Since last year, the United States has unleashed additional public spending worth 25 percent of its national economic output for pandemic-related stimulus and relief programs, according to the International Monetary Fund. That compares to 10 percent in Germany.

But Europe also began the crisis with far more comprehensive social safety net programs. While the United States directed cash to those set back by the pandemic, Europe limited a surge in unemployment.

“Europe has more insurance schemes,” said Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at DNB Markets, an investment bank in Oslo. “You don’t fall as hard, but you don’t rebound that sharply either.”

Exxon reported a $2.7 billion profit in the first three months of the year, thanks to rising production and higher chemical prices.
Credit…Lee Celano/Reuters

Exxon Mobil and Chevron, the two biggest oil companies in the United States, on Friday reported their first quarterly profits after several quarters of losses, signaling that the energy industry is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic.

Oil prices have climbed in recent months and are now roughly where they were before the pandemic’s full force was felt. As a result, Exxon reported a $2.7 billion profit in the first three months of the year, compared with a loss of $610 million in the same period a year ago. Chevron said its profit was $1.4 billion, down from $3.6 billion a year earlier. Chevron this week raised its dividend by nearly 4 percent.

The American oil benchmark price, now around $64 a barrel, has tripled since last April. Natural gas prices have also strengthened during the recovery.

“The strong first quarter results reflect the benefits of higher commodity prices and our focus on structural cost reductions,” Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Only six months ago, many analysts warned that Exxon would have to cut its dividend, but now the shareholder payout appears safe because of rising production and higher chemical prices. Exxon this month reported yet another in a string of big oil discoveries off the coast of Guyana, one of its most important growth areas.

At Chevron, sales and other revenue in the quarter increased to $31 billion, $1 billion more than the year-ago quarter.

“Earnings strengthened primarily due to higher oil prices as the economy recovers,” said Mike Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive.

Both companies suffered losses from the severe Texas freeze in February. Exxon reported that lost sales and repairs cost the company nearly $600 million. Chevron said its results were weakened by $300 million in lost oil and refining production and repairs.

Volkswagen wanted to have a little fun when it introduced the all-electric ID.4 to the United States in March. The Securities and Exchange Commission wasn’t laughing.
Credit…Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

Volkswagen’s American unit was only kidding when it put out the word late in March that it was changing its name to “Voltswagen” to show its commitment to electric vehicles. To say the April Fool’s joke didn’t land is an understatement. Now the misfired marketing gag has prompted an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Volkswagen did not dispute reports in Der Spiegel and other German media that the S.E.C. was looking into whether the carmaker misled shareholders with the faux rebranding. Volkswagen in Germany declined to comment Friday.

Publicly listed companies are not supposed to fool their shareholders, even in jest. Some media reported the purported name change as fact until Volkswagen of America admitted it was all a joke.

German law also requires companies to be honest with their shareholders, but a spokeswoman for the stock market regulator, known as Bafin, said the agency saw no basis to investigate the Voltswagen issue.

It is unlikely that Volkswagen will face a serious penalty if the S.E.C. finds a violation, at least not compared to the tens of billions of dollars that an emissions scandal has cost the company since 2015. The gag does not appear to have had any influence on the price of Volkswagen shares, which rose for several days even after the company admitted it was all a ruse.

Like a comedian bombing onstage, the most painful consequence may be the humiliation.

Comments from Marin. J. Wash, the labor secretary, on gig workers sent shares of Uber, Lyft, Fiverr and DoorDash down sharply.
Credit…Pool photo by Pat Greenhouse/EPA, via Shutterstock

Martin J. Walsh, the labor secretary, said on Thursday that “in a lot of cases” gig workers in the United States should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. “In some cases they are treated respectfully and in some cases they are not, and I think it has to be consistent across the board,” he told Reuters.

Shares of Uber, Lyft, Fiverr and DoorDash fell sharply on the news. These companies’ business models depend on classifying workers as independent contractors, who are not entitled to labor protections like a minimum wage or overtime pay.

But how much control does Mr. Walsh have over how companies classify their employees?

There’s no single law that makes workers employees or contractors. The Labor Department can enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes the federal minimum wage and overtime pay. This law applies only to employees, and who should fall into that category has been the subject of a long-running debate.

In 2015, the Obama administration issued guidance that many interpreted to mean that app-based workers should be considered employees. It was rescinded by the Trump administration.

In 2021, the Trump administration issued a rule that would have made it easier for the same companies to classify workers as contractors. It was nixed by the Biden administration. Mr. Walsh’s comments suggest his interpretation will be similar to the Obama administration’s. And David Weil, reportedly President Biden’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, wrote the 2015 guidance.

New guidance wouldn’t change the law, but it could change how the Labor Department decides whether to bring lawsuits against gig economy companies. “It’s implicitly a sign to employers that you should comply with this interpretation or there’s a risk of enforcement,” Brian Chen, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, told the DealBook newsletter.

Although such guidance is nonbinding, Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School, said courts “tend to give it deference” when making decisions. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw specific action coming from the department sometime this year,” said William Gould, a Stanford law professor and the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

Ari Emanuel, the chief executive of the entertainment conglomerate Endeavor. “We’re platform agnostic, and we serve all parties,” he said of the streaming wars.
Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The Endeavor Group, the entertainment conglomerate run by the Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel, pulled its initial public offering at the last minute in 2019, amid lukewarm interest from investors. Last year posed its own difficulties, with a pandemic that hurt its live events business as well as its talent agency.

But Endeavor finally made its market debut on Thursday, closing the day with a market cap of more than $10 billion. Mr. Emanuel spoke with the DealBook newsletter about what changed — and what comes next.

On why the I.P.O. went ahead this time:

“There was confusion with regard to the U.F.C., so we cleaned that up,” Mr. Emanuel said about the mixed-martial arts league that Endeavor is acquiring full control of with proceeds from the offering. Debt was also a worry before, and the company’s leverage will be reduced with help from a $1.7 billion private placement, with Third Point and Elliot Management among the investors. S&P Global upgraded the company’s credit rating on Thursday.

Endeavor also used the pandemic period to restructure and consolidate, shifting further away from its talent agency roots. And Mr. Emanuel expects its events business, entertainment relationships and intellectual property will help feed a demand for “content in all forms” after the pandemic: “We’re the story about coming out.”

On Endeavor’s role in the streaming wars:

“We’re platform agnostic, and we serve all parties,” Mr. Emanuel said. The broadcasters are spending “huge” amounts to build out their streaming platforms. “I don’t have to do that,” he said. “I just have to supply it.”

On how he met Elon Musk, who is joining Endeavor’s board:

“I definitely cold called. That’s kind of in my nature,” Mr. Emanuel said. “We’ve represented him in some of his endeavors. And then over time, he and I became friendly.”

“He’s also a great entrepreneur, meaning he knows how hard it is to build and run a company,” he added, noting that they often call each other for advice.

On whether he has any concerns about putting Mr. Musk on the board given the Tesla chief’s run-ins with securities regulators:

“No.”

Receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine in Budapest.
Credit…Akos Stiller for The New York Times

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford brought in $275 million in sales from about 68 million doses delivered in the first three months of this year, AstraZeneca reported on Friday.

AstraZeneca disclosed the figure, most of which came from sales in Europe, as it reported its first-quarter financial results. It offers the clearest view to date of how much money is being brought in by one of the leading Covid vaccines.

AstraZeneca, which has pledged not to profit on its vaccine during the pandemic, has been selling the shot to governments for several dollars per dose, less expensive than the other leading vaccines. The vaccine has won authorization in at least 78 countries since December but is not approved for use in the United States.

The vaccine represented just under 4 percent of AstraZeneca’s revenue for the quarter; it was nowhere near the company’s biggest revenue generator. By comparison, the company’s best-selling product, the cancer drug Tagrisso, brought in more than $1.1 billion in sales in the quarter.

AstraZeneca has said it is planning to seek emergency authorization for its vaccine to be used in the United States, even as it has become clear that the doses are not needed. The Biden administration said this week that it would make available to the rest of the world up to 60 million doses of its supply of AstraZeneca shots, pending a review of their quality.

If the company does win authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it could help shore up confidence in a vaccine whose reputation been hit by concerns about a rare but serious side effect involving blood clotting. The F.D.A.’s evaluation process is considered the gold standard globally.

Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was authorized for emergency use at the end of February, reported last week that its vaccine generated $100 million in sales in the United States in the first three months of the year. The federal government is paying the company $10 a dose. Like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson has pledged to sell its vaccine “at cost” — meaning it won’t profit on the sales — during the pandemic.

Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna cost more, and neither company has said that it will forego profits. Pfizer has said that it expects its vaccine to bring in about $15 billion in revenue this year; Moderna said it anticipates $18.4 billion in sales.

Both companies are scheduled to report their first-quarter results next week.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

U.S. stocks fell in early trading on Friday, with the S&P 500 pulling back from a record high reached the day before, as traders closed positions for the end of the month and continued to react to company earnings.

Despite Friday’s decline, the S&P 500 is still on track for a gain of about 5 percent for April, its best monthly showing since November — when stocks rallied nearly 11 percent in the wake of the U.S. presidential election.

The benchmark stock index had hit a record after data showed the American economy grew strongly at the start of the year. Forecasters predict the economy will be back to its prepandemic size by the summer and will help drive global economic growth.

Oil prices fell, with futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropping more than 2 percent to $63.50 a barrel.

Tesla has been losing market share even as demand for rooftop solar power has grown.
Credit…Caleb Kenna for The New York Times

Tesla’s solar ambitions date to 2015 when it announced that it would sell panels and home batteries alongside its electric cars. A year later, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, promised that Tesla’s new shingles would turbocharge installations by attracting homeowners who found solar panels ugly.

After delays, Tesla began rolling out the shingles in a big way this year, but it is already encountering a major problem, Ivan Penn reports for The New York Times.

The company is hitting some customers with price increases before installation that are tens of thousands of dollars higher than earlier quotes, angering early adopters and raising big questions about how Tesla, which is better known for its electric cars, is running its once dominant rooftop solar business.

The shingles remain such a tiny segment of the solar market that few industry groups and analysts bother to track installations.

Tesla is not the only company to pursue the idea of embedding solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity, in shingles. Dow Chemical, CertainTeed, Suntegra and Luma, among others, have offered similar products with limited success.

But given Mr. Musk’s success with Tesla’s electric cars and SpaceX’s rockets, Tesla’s glass shingles attracted outsize attention. He promised that they would be much better than anything anybody else had come up with and come in a variety of styles so they could resemble asphalt, slate and Spanish barrel tiles to fit the aesthetic of each home.

During a quarterly earnings call on Monday, Mr. Musk insisted that demand for Tesla’s solar roofs “remains strong” even though the company had raised prices substantially. He described the last-minute increases as a teething problem.

Customers are unhappy with the growing pains. Dr. Peter Quint was eager to install Tesla’s solar shingles on his 4,000-square-foot home in Portland, Ore., until the company raised the price to $112,000, from $75,000, in a terse email. When he called Tesla for an explanation, he was put on hold for more than three hours.

“I said, ‘This isn’t real, right?’” said Dr. Quint, whose specialty is pediatric critical care. “The price started inching up. We could deal with that. Then this. At that price, in our opinion, it’s highway robbery.”

The average selling price of Ford models rose 8 percent in the first three months of 2021 compared with a year ago, to $47,858, according to the auto-sales data provider Edmunds.com.
Credit…Mohamed Sadek for The New York Times

In the first months of 2021, what was good for the auto industry was decidedly good for the American economy.

Spending on motor vehicles and parts rose almost 13 percent in the first quarter, making a big contribution to the increase in gross domestic product, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Strong sales of new and used vehicles were propelled by consumers who had delayed purchases earlier in the pandemic and by others who — because of the virus — wanted to rely less on public transit or shared transportation services like Uber.

Two rounds of stimulus payments since late December were a big factor. Low interest rates, readily available credit, rising home values and stock prices, and strong trade-in values for used models also eased the path for consumers.

In fact, demand in the first quarter was robust enough that the auto industry was able to post healthy results despite a shortage of computer chips that forced temporary shutdowns of many auto plants.

The number of new cars and light trucks sold increased 11 percent from the comparable period a year earlier, to 3.9 million, according to the auto-sales data provider Edmunds.com.

On Wednesday, Ford Motor reported it made a $3.3 billion profit in the quarter, its highest total since 2011. While it produced 200,000 fewer vehicles in the quarter than it had planned, the average selling price of Ford models rose to $47,858, 8 percent higher than in the first quarter a year ago, Edmunds reported.

The combination of strong consumer demand and tight inventories — partly a result of the chip shortage — has produced something of a dream scenario for auto retailers. At AutoNation, the country’s largest chain of dealerships, many vehicles are being sold near or at sticker price even before they arrive from the factory.

“I’ve never seen so much preselling of shipments,” said Mike Jackson, the chief executive. “These vehicles are coming in and going right out.”

In the first quarter, AutoNation’s revenue jumped 27 percent, to $5.9 billion, and the company reported $239 million in profit. That was a turnaround from a loss a year ago, when the pandemic crimped sales and forced AutoNation to close stores.

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Europe’s economy is expected to shrink while the U.S.’s grows.

European authorities will release data on Friday that is widely expected to show another economic downturn over the first three months of the year as the still-raging pandemic has prompted governments to extend lockdowns.

Coming a day after the United States disclosed that its economy expanded 1.6 percent over the same period — a robust 6.4 percent annualized rate — the expected European contraction presents a contrast of fortunes on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Propelled by dramatic public expenditures to stimulate growth, as well as swift increases in vaccination rates, the United States — the world’s largest economy — expanded rapidly during the first months of 2021. At the same time, the 19 nations that share the euro currency were likely caught in the second part of a so-called double-dip recession, reflecting far less aggressive stimulus spending and a botched effort to secure vaccines.

But economic growth figures represent a snapshot of the past, and recent weeks have produced encouraging signs that Europe is on the mend. Even as Covid-19 spreads alarmingly in major economies like Germany and France, factories have revived production, while growing numbers of people are on the move in cities.

European Union’s recent deal to secure doses from Pfizer.

In depriving households of the opportunity to spend, the pandemic has yielded savings — money that may surge into businesses as fear of the virus fades.

Most economists and the European Central Bank expect the eurozone to expand at a blistering pace over the rest of 2021, yielding growth of more than 4 percent for the full year.

International Monetary Fund. That compares to 10 percent in Germany.

But Europe also began the crisis with far more comprehensive social safety net programs. While the United States directed cash to those set back by the pandemic, Europe limited a surge in unemployment.

“Europe has more insurance schemes,” said Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at DNB Markets, an investment bank in Oslo. “You don’t fall as hard, but you don’t rebound that sharply either.”

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Extremists Find a Financial Lifeline on Twitch

Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, a podcaster who fought to overturn the 2020 presidential election, recently railed against mask mandates to her 4,000 fans in a live broadcast and encouraged them to enter stores maskless. On another day, she grew emotional while thanking them for sending her $84,000.

Millie Weaver, a former correspondent for the conspiracy theory website Infowars, speculated on her channel that coronavirus vaccines could be used to surveil people. Later, she plugged her merchandise store, where she sells $30 “Drain the Swamp” T-shirts and hats promoting conspiracies.

And a podcaster who goes by Zak Paine or Redpill78, who pushes the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, urged his viewers to donate to the congressional campaign of an Ohio man who has said he attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6.

Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms clamped down on misinformation and hate speech ahead of the 2020 election.

apps like Google Podcasts, where far-right influencers have scattered as their options for spreading falsehoods have dwindled.

Twitch became a multibillion-dollar business thanks to video gamers broadcasting their play of games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. Fans, many of whom are young men, pay the gamers by subscribing to their channels or donating money. Streamers earn even more by sending their fans to outside sites to either buy merchandise or donate money.

Now Twitch has also become a place where right-wing personalities spread election and vaccine conspiracy theories, often without playing any video games. It is part of a shift at the platform, where streamers have branched out from games into fitness, cooking, fishing and other lifestyle topics in recent years.

But unlike fringe livestreaming sites like Dlive and Trovo, which have also offered far-right personalities moneymaking opportunities, Twitch attracts far larger audiences. On average, 30 million people visit the site each day, the platform said.

stricter rules than other social media platforms for the kinds of views that users can express. It temporarily suspended Mr. Trump’s account for “hateful conduct” last summer, months before Facebook and Twitter made similar moves. Its community guidelines prohibit hateful conduct and harassment. Ms. Clemens said Twitch was developing a misinformation policy.

This month, Twitch announced a policy that would allow it to suspend the accounts of people who committed crimes or severe offenses in real life or on other social media platforms, including violent extremism or membership in a known hate group. Twitch said it did not consider QAnon to be a hate group.

Despite all this, a Twitch channel belonging to Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization, remained online until the middle of this month after The New York Times inquired about it. And the white nationalist Anthime Joseph Gionet, known as Baked Alaska, had a Twitch channel for months, even though he was arrested in January by the F.B.I. and accused of illegally storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Twitch initially said his activities had not violated the platform’s policies, then barred him this month for hateful conduct.

has said is dangerous. Last week, he referred to a QAnon belief that people are killing children to “harvest” a chemical compound from them, then talked about a “criminal cabal” controlling the government, saying people do not understand “what plane of existence they come from.”

Mr. Paine, who is barred from Twitter and YouTube, has also asked his Twitch audience to donate to the House campaign of J.R. Majewski, an Air Force veteran in Toledo, Ohio, who attracted attention last year for painting his lawn to look like a Trump campaign banner. Mr. Majewski has used QAnon hashtags but distanced himself from the movement in an interview with his local newspaper, The Toledo Blade.

Mr. Majewski has appeared on Mr. Paine’s streams, where they vape, chat about Mr. Majewski’s campaign goals and take calls from listeners.

“He is exactly the type of person that we need to get in Washington, D.C., so that we can supplant these evil cabal criminal actors and actually run our own country,” Mr. Paine said on one stream.

Neither Mr. Paine nor Mr. Majewski responded to a request for comment.

Joan Donovan, a Harvard University researcher who studies disinformation and online extremism, said streamers who rely on their audience’s generosity to fund themselves felt pressured to continue raising the stakes.

“The incentive to lie, cheat, steal, hoax and scam is very high when the cash is easy to acquire,” she said.

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Still Getting Your Head Around Digital Currency? So Are Central Bankers.

The question is whether the new technology is going to make the yuan an attractive alternative to other currencies. Chinese central bankers say it is not an effort to supplant the dollar, and Martin Chorzempa, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said digitization won’t fix issues that make the yuan unattractive as a reserve currency in the first place — like capital controls, which mean you can’t exchange it easily at all times.

Others worry that private-sector innovations like Bitcoin or “stablecoins,” which are backed by a bundle of assets or currencies, could become an attractive alternative to government-created cash if central banks don’t keep up.

Mr. Powell has argued that Bitcoin is more like gold than the dollar. It has value because it’s rare and people want to hold it, so it can even at times be traded for other goods and services, but it is not government-guaranteed money.

But global regulators did slow down Facebook’s stablecoin project, originally known as Libra and now called Diem, because they worried about the potential for money laundering and financial system disruption.

Mr. Powell said in testimony last year that Libra was “a bit of wake up call that this is coming fast and could come in a way that is quite widespread and systemically important fairly quickly,” highlighting the “importance of making quick progress.”

If tech companies come to dominate the payment system, that could create privacy and stability issues. In fact, China’s digital yuan was pursued partly in reaction to the rise and dominance of private-sector digital payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay.

A faster or instant payments system, like the FedNow instant payment technology that America’s central bank is now developing, could keep the Fed up-to-date without changing the system as much as a digital currency would. But digital dollar fans say the point is to prepare for the future — and the future might be central bank digital currency.

“Digital cash, if built in the right way, could be really groundbreaking,” said Neha Narula, who is the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is working with the Boston Fed on its project.

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Biden to Create Task Force to Help Workers Join Unions: Live Updates

Thodex trading platform shut down last week, more than 60 of its employees were arrested, and its chief executive left the country.

Vebitcoin was a relatively small operation and the losses from it are unlikely to be big, said Turan Sert, who advises BlockchainIST, a cryptocurrency research center affiliated with Bahcesehir University in Istanbul.

Ilker Bas, the chief executive of Vebitcoin, told police after his arrest that the platform has 90,000 registered users and had a trading volume of 600 million lira to 800 million lira, or $72 million to $96 million, per month, the private news agency Demiroren reported. Customer losses are probably much smaller, because the same assets are typically traded repeatedly during the course of a month.

“Due to the recent developments in the crypto money industry, our transactions have become much more intense than expected,” Vebitcoin said on its website. “We have decided to cease our activities in order to fulfill all regulations and claims.”

Cryptocurrency trading is little regulated in Turkey, and the number of platforms has proliferated because of the relatively low cost of setting up. Off-the-shelf trading software costs around $100,000, said Mr. Sert, who also advises Paribu, one of the largest cryptocurrency trading platforms.

Mr. Sert estimated that there were more than 90 platforms, mostly “very small mom-and-pop shops.”

The phenomenon is by no means limited to Turkey. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Dogecoin have attracted the attention of serious investors and become a hot topic on Wall Street. Coinbase, a U.S.-based cryptocurrency trading platform, sold shares to the public for the first time this month and is valued by the stock market at $58 billion. Regulators in the United States and other countries have struggled to keep up with the fast growth of digital money.

The Turkish Central Bank barred the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases this month, citing their riskiness and popularity with criminals, and signaled that more regulation of the sector is coming. The prospect of greater scrutiny could be prompting some platforms to shut down, Mr. Sert said.

Customers of Thodex may have lost $2 billion, a lawyer for the firm’s clients said last week, but Mr. Sert said that figure probably referred to the site’s trading volume and greatly overstated the potential losses. Many platforms exaggerate their trading volume to attract customers, he said.

The total losses to cryptocurrency investors, while devastating to some individuals, are not large enough to push Turkey’s already shaky economy into crisis, Mr. Sert said.

“I don’t think this will create any instability in the system,” he said.

The gap between executive compensation and average worker pay has been growing for decades. Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1.

The pandemic compounded these disparities, as hundreds of companies awarded their leaders pay packages worth significantly more than most Americans will make in their entire lives, David Gelles reports for The New York Times.

In the course of his reporting, corporate public relations teams employed various tactics to justify their bosses’ big paydays:

Technical glitches marred the Small Business Association’s first attempt at accepting applications for the grant program.
Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Music club operators, theater owners and others in the live-event market have been waiting nearly four months for a $16 billion federal grant fund for their industry to start taking applications. Their hopes were briefly raised two weeks ago when the program’s application website opened, then dashed as a technical malfunction prevented the site from accepting any applications.

Now, the Small Business Administration, the federal agency that runs the program, plans to try again on Monday at noon — but only after one last round of confusion and frustration.

Late Thursday, the agency announced that it would reopen its application system for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant on Saturday. After heavy pushback from angry applicants — especially Jewish business owners who do not use electronics on Saturdays in observation of the Sabbath — the agency changed course Friday night and rescheduled the reopening for Monday.

“We understand the challenges a weekend opening would bring, and to ensure the greatest number of businesses can apply for these funds, we decided to reschedule,” the agency said in a statement. “We remain committed to delivering economic aid to this hard-hit sector quickly and efficiently.”

The money will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis and is widely expected to run out fast. That means many applicants will feel pressure to submit paperwork as soon as the application system opens — even if it is at an inconvenient time.

Applicants were generally relieved by the shift to Monday, but annoyed by the whiplash.

“It’s been a mess on so many levels. I feel like they’re torturing us,” said Dani Zoldan, the owner of Stand Up NY, a comedy club in Manhattan. Mr. Zoldan is Jewish and had been vocal on Twitter about the obstacles of a Saturday start.

The National Independent Venue Association, an industry group that lobbied for the relief fund, said it endorsed the decision to postpone the start.

“While we’re all anxious to apply as soon as possible, we support the S.B.A.’s decision to reopen the portal Monday and encourage a fair and equitable process for all,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the group. “The S.B.A. has responded to our desperate need and we’re grateful for that.”

The Small Business Administration is also preparing to open a second grant program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which is a $28.6 billion support fund for bars, restaurants and food trucks. That program is planning a seven-day test to help the agency avoid the kind of technical problems that plagued the venue program.

A Meituan delivery worker in Shanghai. Last year the firm made more than 27 million food-delivery transactions per day.
Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

China’s fast-moving campaign to rein in its internet giants is continuing apace with an antitrust investigation into Meituan, a leading food-delivery app.

The investigation, which the country’s market regulator announced with a terse, one-line statement on Monday, focuses on reports that the company blocked restaurants and other merchants on its platform from selling on rival food-delivery sites.

Earlier this month, the regulator imposed a record $2.8 billion fine on the e-commerce titan Alibaba for exclusivity requirements of this sort. In a statement on Chinese social media, Meituan said that it would cooperate with the authorities and that its operations were continuing as usual.

Meituan is a powerhouse in China. It made more than 27 million food-delivery transactions a day last year and reported around $18 billion in revenue, making it larger than Uber by sales. Meituan’s main rival in takeout delivery in China is Ele.me, a service owned by Alibaba.

Alibaba has been an early major target in China’s efforts to curb what officials describe as unfair competitive practices in the internet industry. But Beijing has made clear that it will be keeping a much closer eye on all of the sector’s biggest and richest companies.

Meituan was one of 34 Chinese internet firms that were summoned to meet with the antitrust authority this month. The following day, the regulator began publishing on its website statements from the companies, Meituan included, in which they vowed to obey laws and regulations.

Bodies awaiting cremation on Friday in East Delhi.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

NEW DELHI — With a devastating second wave of Covid-19 sweeping across India and lifesaving supplemental oxygen in short supply, India’s government on Sunday said it had ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to take down dozens of social media posts critical of its handling of the pandemic.

The order was aimed at roughly 100 posts that included critiques from opposition politicians and calls for Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, to resign. The government said that the posts could incite panic, used images out of context and could hinder its response to the pandemic.

The companies complied with the requests for now, in part by making the posts invisible to those using the sites inside India. In the past, the companies have reposted some content after determining that it didn’t break the law.

The takedown orders come as India’s public health crisis spirals into a political one, and set the stage for a widening struggle between American social media platforms and Mr. Modi’s government over who decides what can be said online.

On Monday, the country reported almost 353,000 new infections and 2,812 deaths, marking the fifth consecutive day it set a world record in daily infection statistics, though experts warn that the true numbers are probably much higher. The country now accounts for almost half of all new cases globally. Its health system appears to be teetering. Hospitals across the country have scrambled to get enough oxygen for patients.

In New Delhi, the capital, hospitals this weekend turned away patients after running out of oxygen and beds. Last week, at least 22 patients were killed in a hospital in the city of Nashik, after a leak cut off their oxygen supplies.

Online photos of bodies on plywood hospital beds and the countless fires of overworked crematories have gone viral. Desperate patients and their families have pleaded online for help from the government, horrifying an international audience.

Mr. Modi has been under attack for ignoring the advice of experts about the risks of loosening restrictions, after he held large political rallies with little regard for social distancing. Some of the content now offline in India highlighted that contradiction, using lurid images to contrast Mr. Modi’s rallies with the flames of funeral pyres.

People waiting to get vaccinated in New Orleans this month.
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

More than five million Americans, or nearly 8 percent of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than double the rate among people who got inoculated in the first several weeks of the nationwide vaccination campaign.

Even as the country wrestles with the problem of millions of people who are wary about getting vaccinated at all, local health officials are confronting a new challenge of ensuring that those who do get inoculated are doing so fully, Rebecca Robbins reports for The New York Times.

The reasons that people are missing their second shots vary. In interviews, some said they feared the side effects, including flulike symptoms, which were more common and stronger after the second dose. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot.

Those attitudes were expected, but another hurdle has been surprisingly prevalent. A number of vaccine providers have canceled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn’t have the right brand in stock.

Walgreens, one of the biggest vaccine providers, sent some people who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second doses at pharmacies that had only the other vaccine on hand.

Several Walgreens customers said in interviews that they scrambled, in some cases with help from pharmacy staff members, to find somewhere to get the correct second dose. Others, presumably, simply gave up.

A makeshift ward for Covid-19 patients in Delhi. The rollout of vaccinations has been uneven around the world, allowing the disease to run rampant in some countries.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

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