LONDON — Long before newspapers and cable television, it was town criers, with their ringing bells and cries of “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” in village squares across Britain who let people know there was news — from plagues to wars to who had done what in the royal family.
But a clear ringing voice, an important quality for the criers of old, will be of no use to those competing in the British Town Crier Championships, which will be held silently for the first time. Entrants will be judged instead on written proclamations of no more than 140 words, known as a “cries.” Each cry must end with the words “God Save the Queen.”
“We can’t have a normal competition,” said Paul Gough, the current champion who is helping to organize the event and is the town crier for the borough of Nuneaton and Bedworth, adding that coronavirus lockdowns made proclaiming to crowds impossible. (Last year the competition was simply canceled.) This year’s format, he said, will give those without the strongest voices, “an opportunity for them to compete on a very level playing field.” Entrants submitted their written cries early this month. A winner is to be announced in mid-May.
In years past, town criers traveled from across the country to whatever town had been selected to host the championship. Wearing flamboyant 18th-century costumes, they represented their respective boroughs and towns by extolling their virtues delivering cries on a particular theme. This year’s theme is nature and the environment.
judged on their delivery — sustained volume, clarity, diction, accuracy — and on the content of the cry and their presentation.
But this year, silence — and the written word — are golden. Mr. Gough said the event will be a fund-raiser for Shout, a mental health help line that also depends on writing — it helps people through texting.
Competitors have taken to the new rules with good humor, and a bit of disappointment.
“What happens if I’m not chosen because they don’t like the way it reads?” said Michael Wood, a three-time national champion and the town crier for the county of East Riding of Yorkshire. “It’s a pity because I don’t have a chance to sell it.” Much of the skill in town crying, he explained, is using the physicality of body movements along with voice to hold an audience’s attention.
Still, this year’s revised competition will make people work to write better cries, Mr. Wood said. And it preserves one thing that helped distinguish a winner in the past: “Always, humor,” he said, which is perhaps a prerequisite for becoming a town crier. “You would have to have a sense of humor to be stood up there in the first place in modern times in period costume.”
Though the silent contest is a solid Plan B, Alistair Chisholm, a national champion from Dorchester, said he was disappointed to miss the competition’s social aspect. “We use this expression, ‘We’re going to return to normality,’” he said. “I’m not sure there’s too much normality about the world of town crier. We’re all slightly oddball and eccentric, but we are very social people and we do like to gather.”
the role was first recognized here as early as 1066, with the appearance of two bellmen in the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts events leading up to the Norman Conquest. Men were also directed to proclaim the authority of William the Conqueror after he invaded England.
“We were the original newscasters,” said Mr. Gough. For many people who could not read and write, criers were the only way of knowing what was going on.
Mr. Wood said, “As long as there as been a rock to stand on or a pair of shoulders or a tree to climb, there’s always been somebody to shout an announcement in a village or town square.”
Other groups, like the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers, have also tried to adapt competitions during Covid times — hosting a virtual Zoom competition last June. An entrant from Australia participated at night, though he was spared from ringing the bell for fear of waking the household, said Jane Smith, the group’s secretary.
“You just shout at your computer screen in your garden,” Ms. Smith, a town crier for Bognor Regis, said. “It was an interesting exercise for sure.”
But the spirit of the competition remains the verbal delivery of proclamations: something Ms. Smith said she was sure would return once the pandemic ended. “There’s going to be lots of people shouting and ringing bells and proclaiming that everything is coming to an end, and we’re able to go out and meet people again.”
On Tuesday, 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 an industrywide debate about banker burnout, especially in the junior ranks.
The country’s largest bank has tried similar moves before. Mr. Casey spoke with the DealBook newsletter about the company’s latest plan — and whether this one will stick.
Burnout became the buzz on Wall Street after a group of 13 anonymous first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs described how frequent 100-hour weeks were taking a toll on their mental and physical health.
To help alleviate that level of exhaustion among its own ranks, JPMorgan is bringing on more workers to help cope with heavy deal volume, which generated $3 billion in investment banking fees in the first quarter, up nearly 60 percent from the previous year. It has already hired 65 analysts and 22 associates this year and plans to add another 100 junior bankers and support staff, “If we can find them, as quickly as we can,” Mr. Casey said.
rolled out 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 managers’ performance evaluations and — crucially — compensation.
One thing the bank won’t be doing: offering one-time checks or free Peloton exercise bikes to staff after a big rush, like at some other banks. “It’s not a money problem,” Mr. Casey said. “If we just cut the junior bankers a check now,” he said, “then that would be the excuse that everybody says, ‘Well, OK, the problem is fixed.’ No, it’s not.”
And some other things won’t change. Banking is a client-service job, so 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.
As to how the bank will measure the success of these policies, “Ask me what our turnover ratio has gone to and I will tell you,” Mr. Casey said. What’s the target? “Lower.”
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)
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U.S. economy. It might also help set expectations for the stock market, after a big rally already this year.
The consensus among 76 economists polled by Bloomberg is that gross domestic product will expand by 6.2 percent in 2021, which would make it the best year for economic growth since 1984. And sentiment among analysts covering the stock market is almost universally bullish, given that strong economic tailwind.
“You’d almost have to be self-deceiving to expect U.S. companies overall to underperform consensus, given how the macro backdrop is driving revenues so well,” wrote John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management.
The expectations for profit growth are even more elevated for the current quarter: Analysts expect that the three months ending in June will see companies in the S&P 500 notch a 54-percent rise in profits, compared with the prior year.
That increase, of course, reflects a rebound from the worst of the pandemic-bred downturn. But it also is a result of “economic re-acceleration, and a rebound in commodity prices,” said Jonathan Golub, a stock market analyst at Credit Suisse.
Of course, if everyone is expecting such a surge in profits, the good news could already be fully incorporated into stock prices — and that means anything short of perfect results would make for a difficult stretch for stocks.
That has certainly been the case with some of the banks that reported earnings last week. Shares of Morgan Stanley, for example, dropped 2.8 percent on Friday even though the bank reported record revenue and profit.
The S&P 500 is already up more than 11 percent in 2021, and hit yet another record high on Friday.
That could mean the market is due for a pullback anyway. The index is relatively expensive by metrics such as the price-to-earnings ratio, which compares stock prices as a share of expected corporate profits over the next 12 months.
The S&P 500 is trading at nearly 23 times expected earnings. That’s roughly the valuation the index has held for most of the past year, but it’s very high by historical standards.
Over the last 20 years, the S&P 500 has traded at an average of 16 times expected earnings.
By comparison, a valuation of 23 times expected earnings is closer to where stock market valuations stood at the tail-end of the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. When that ended, the S&P 500 fell roughly 50 percent before it hit bottom.
The Dutch bank ABN Amro said Monday that it would pay a $580 million fine to settle money laundering charges, prompting a former ABN manager to resign his new job as chief executive of Danske Bank after acknowledging he was a target in a related criminal investigation.
The resignation of Chris Vogelzang is an embarrassment for Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, which hired him in 2019 to rebuild trust following a money laundering scandal there. Before becoming chief executive of Danske, Mr. Vogelzang had been a member of the management board of ABN Amro responsible for retail and private banking services.
Mr. Vogelzang acknowledged that Dutch authorities considered him a suspect in the investigation that led ABN Amro to agree to pay 480 million euros to settle money laundering charges. In numerous cases, according to a report by Dutch authorities, ABN Amro ignored warning signs that some clients were criminals using it as a conduit for dirty money.
Mr. Vogelzang said in a statement that he was “surprised” to learn that Dutch authorities consider him a suspect. During his time at ABN Amro, he said, “I managed my management responsibilities with integrity and dedication.”
Noting that Danske Bank remains under “intense scrutiny” because of money laundering at its former unit in Estonia, Mr. Vogelzang said he did “not want speculations about my person to get in the way of the continued development of Danske Bank.”
Danske named Carsten Egeriis, previously the bank’s chief risk officer, to succeed Mr. Vogelzang.
Gerrit Zalm, a member of Danske’s board who was chief executive of ABN Amro from 2009 to 2017, will also resign, the bank said. It did not give a reason.
Danske Bank admitted in 2018 that its headquarters and its Estonian branch, which it has since closed, failed for years to prevent suspected money laundering involving thousands of customers.
In the ABN Amro case, Dutch authorities found that the bank failed to act on obvious signs of illicit activity, including large cash transactions. In several cases, authorities said, the bank continued to serve clients whose criminal activities had been reported by the media, or who had a known history of fraud.
“As a bank we do not merely have a legal, but also a moral duty to do our utmost to protect the financial system against abuse by criminals,” Robert Swaak, the ABN Amro chief executive, said in a statement. “Regretfully, I have to acknowledge that in the past we have been insufficiently successful in properly fulfilling our important role as gatekeeper.”
More people are flying every day, as Covid restrictions ease and vaccinations accelerate. But dangerous variants have led to new outbreaks, raising fears of a deadly prolonging of the pandemic.
To understand how safe it is to fly now, The Times enlisted researchers to simulate how air particles flow within the cabin of an airplane, and how potential viral elements may pose a risk.
For instance, when a passenger sneezes, air blown from the sides pushes particles toward the aisle, where they combine with air from the opposite row. Not all particles are the same size, and most don’t contain infectious viral matter. But if passengers nearby weren’t wearing masks, even briefly to eat a snack, the sneezed air could increase their chances of inhaling viral particles.
How air flows in planes is not the only part of the safety equation, according to infectious-disease experts. The potential for exposure may be just as high, if not higher, when people are in the terminal, sitting in airport restaurants and bars or going through the security line.
“The challenge isn’t just on a plane,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist specializing in infection prevention. “Consider the airport and the whole journey.”
Members of the National Association of Realtors — the nation’s largest industry group, numbering 1.4 million real estate professionals — are challenging a moratorium on evictions put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both the Alabama and the Georgia Associations of Realtors sued the federal government over the matter, and the national association is paying for all of the legal costs. A hearing is scheduled for April 29, Ron Lieber reports for The New York Times.
The N.A.R. spends more money on federal lobbying than any other entity, according to the Center for Responsive for Politics. To puzzle out its actions and advocacy, let’s first be crystal clear about what the N.A.R. is and whose interests it serves. As its own chief executive boasted to members in 2017, it’s really the National Association for Realtors, not of them.
And of those million-plus members, according to the association, about 38 percent own at least one rental property. The N.A.R. isn’t shy about this, stating on the lobbying section of its website that it wants to “protect property interests.”
Why would it do this? The N.A.R. expert on the topic was unable to schedule a phone call, according to a spokesman.
But if you’re selecting a listing agent for your house from among their members, ask that person about this issue if you’re curious or concerned. Many of them have no idea what the N.A.R. is advocating on their behalf.
Here come the lobbyists.
The cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, the asset manager Fidelity, the payments company Square and the investment firm Paradigm have established a new trade group in Washington: The Crypto Council for Innovation. The group hopes to influence policies that will be critical for expanding the use of cryptocurrencies in conjunction with traditional finance, Ephrat Livni reports in the DealBook newsletter.
Cryptocurrencies are still mostly held as speculative assets, but some experts believe Bitcoin and related blockchain technologies will become fundamental parts of the financial system, and the success of businesses built around the technology may also invite more attention from regulators.
“We’re going to increasingly be having scrutiny about what we’re doing,” Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s chief executive, said on CNBC. “We’re very excited and happy to play by the rules,” he added, but regulation of crypto should be on a “level playing field with traditional financial services.”
Here are four of the issues that will keep crypto lobbyists busy:
The Crypto Council’s first commissioned publication is an analysis of Bitcoin’s illicit use, and it concludes that concerns are “significantly overstated” and that blockchain technology could be better used by law enforcement to stop crime and collect intelligence.
New anti-money-laundering rules passed this year will significantly expand disclosures for digital currencies. The Treasury Department has also proposed rules that would require detailed reporting for transactions over $3,000 involving “unhosted wallets,” or digital wallets that are not associated with a third-party financial institution, and require institutions handling cryptocurrencies to process more data.
When is a digital asset a security and when is it a commodity? Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are released via a decentralized network generally qualify as commodities and are less heavily regulated than securities, which represent a stake in a venture. Tokens released by people and companies are more likely to be characterized as securities because they more often represent a stake in the issuer’s project.
The Chinese government is already experimenting with a central bank digital currency, a digital yuan. China would be the first country to create a virtual currency, but many are considering it. Some crypto advocates worry that China’s alacrity in the space threatens the dollar, national security and American competitiveness.
European stocks were mixed on Monday, and U.S. stock futures drifted lower, at the beginning of a week when hundreds of public companies will report earnings, including Coca-Cola, Netflix and United Airlines.
The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.1 percent, pushing further into record territory. The European index has climbed for the past seven weeks. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 hit a record on Friday after a string of strong economic reports and company earnings. On Monday, futures indicated it would open about 0.4 percent weaker.
European government bond yields climbed higher on Monday as investors awaited the European Central Bank’s latest monetary policy decisions, which will be announced on Thursday. Last month, the central bank said it would quicken the pace of its asset purchases to tamp down an increase in bond yields.
Elsewhere in markets
Peloton shares dropped nearly 6 percent in premarket trading after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an “urgent warning” about the exercise equipment company’s treadmill. The agency said users with small children at home should stop using the machine after reports of injuries and one fatality.
Coinbase shares slipped nearly 4 percent in premarket trading with other crypto-related stocks. Over the weekend, the price of Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, plummeted by more than $7,000, or about 9 percent.
GameStop shares rose 6 percent in premarket trading as the video game retailer announced that its chief executive would be stepping down by the end of July. The company, which was at the center of a retail trading frenzy earlier this year, has been shaken up by the incoming chairman, Ryan Cohen, who is an activist investor in the company pushing for a digital turnaround.
Oil prices were slightly lower. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, fell 0.3 percent to just below $63 a barrel.
The U.S. dollar fell against other major currencies, including a 0.4 percent drop against both the euro and the British pound. It was also 0.6 percent weaker against the Japanese yen.
The White House has signaled that Mr. Biden will announce more ambitious plans for reducing emissions domestically, after four years in which his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, disparaged the issue.
“We’ve seen commitments before where everybody falls short,” Mr. Kerry said. “I mean, frankly, we’re all falling short. The entire world right now is falling short. This is not a finger-pointing exercise of one nation alone.”
Mr. Kerry met in Shanghai with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, over three days, in talks that at one point went late into the night. Mr. Kerry said they stayed focused on climate change and did not touch on increasingly rancorous disputes over issues like China’s political crackdown in Hong Kong and its threats toward Taiwan.
On Friday, even as the two envoys met, the State Department sharply criticized prison sentences handed down in Hong Kong to prominent pro-democracy leaders, including Jimmy Lai, a 72-year-old newspaper tycoon. On the same day, China warned the United States and Japan against “collusion” as Mr. Biden met at the White House with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, with China’s rising ambitions one of the major issues on the table.
Chinese officials and the state news media noted Mr. Kerry’s visit but markedly played it down, focusing instead on Mr. Xi’s meetings. But in the joint statement with the United States, the Chinese government pledged to do more on climate, though without detailing any specific steps.
The statement said that both countries would develop “long-term strategies” to reach carbon neutrality — the point when a country emits no more carbon than it removes from the atmosphere — before the next international climate conference in November, in Glasgow.
In a joint statement after the White House meetings between Mr. Biden and Mr. Suga, the United States and Japan said they intended to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 by promoting renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and storage, and through innovations in capturing and recycling carbon from the atmosphere.
Safety worries about the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines in the United States and Europe have reverberated around the world, undercutting faith in two sorely needed shots and threatening to prolong the coronavirus pandemic in poorer countries that cannot afford to be choosy about vaccines. With new infections surging on nearly every continent, signs that the vaccination drive is in peril are emerging, most disconcertingly in the continent of Africa.
In many African countries, vaccination campaigns have been hindered by factors like science skepticism, limited or no efforts to educate the public, inefficient distribution systems and concerns over the extremely rare but serious cases of blood clots being investigated among a small number of people who received the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Those two vaccines, which require less stringent refrigeration, are crucial to efforts to immunize populations in poorer countries.
But in Malawi, some people are asking doctors how to flush the AstraZeneca vaccine from their bodies. In South Africa, health officials have stopped giving the Johnson & Johnson shot, two months after dropping the AstraZeneca vaccine because it was less effective against the dominant variant there.
Across the continent, public confusion over whether to get inoculated — and if so when and where to do so — has contributed to the expiration of doses. South Sudan saw 59,000 unused doses expire this month, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses have gone unused.
Pew Research Center — accounting for a majority of the 54 million who slipped out of the middle class worldwide. A second wave of Covid-19 is threatening the dreams of millions more looking for a better life.
Keeping the middle seats vacant during a flight could reduce passengers’ exposure to airborne coronavirus by 23 to 57 percent, researchers reported in a new study. This reduction in risk stemmed from increasing the distance between an infectious passenger and others as well as from reducing the total number of people in the cabin. But the study may have overestimated the benefits of empty middle seats because it did not take into account mask-wearing by passengers.
More exercise means less risk of developing severe Covid, according to a compelling new study of physical activity and coronavirus hospitalizations. The study found that those who had been the most active before falling ill were the least likely to be hospitalized or die as a result of their illness.
It took barely two months after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 for the United States mission to point itself toward defeat.
“Tomorrow the Taliban will start surrendering their weapons,” the Taliban’s spokesman, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, announced on Dec. 7, 2001. “I think we should go home.”
But the United States refused the group’s surrender, vowing to fight on to shatter the Taliban’s influence in every corner of the country.
That same week, Washington oversaw an international agreement to establish a new government in Afghanistan that would be “by some accounts the most centralized in the world,” said Frances Z. Brown, an Afghanistan expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
announced he is ending after 20 years of war.
wrote in 2019.
And it meant that when the Americans did leave, Ms. Mukhopadhyay warned, “the incentives for Afghan power brokers to go it alone and engage in predatory, even cannibalistic behavior, may prove irresistible.”
The United States and China do not agree on much nowadays, but on climate change both countries are publicly pledging to do more to fight global warming. The problem will be working together on it.
On Thursday, President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, met in Shanghai with his counterpart to press China on reducing its carbon emissions, at a time when an emboldened Communist Party leadership has become increasingly dismissive of American demands.
In Beijing’s view, the United States still has much ground to recover after walking away from the Paris climate agreement, the 2015 accord to address the catastrophic effects of warming.
Mr. Biden’s commitments to now make climate change a top priority are, to officials in Beijing, merely catching up to China after its leader, Xi Jinping, last year pledged to accelerate the country’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
article on Wednesday before Mr. Kerry’s visit.
A main purpose of Mr. Kerry’s travels to China and elsewhere has been to rally support for Mr. Biden’s virtual climate summit of dozens of world leaders next week. Mr. Xi has not yet accepted the invitation, but he will join a similar conference on Friday with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
rivalry over technology could spill into climate policy, where innovations in energy, batteries, vehicles and carbon storage offer solutions for reducing emissions. Already, American lawmakers are demanding that the United States block Chinese products from being used in the infrastructure projects that Mr. Biden has proposed.
“If there is a serious lack of basic trust, strategic and political, between China and the U.S., that will inevitably hold back deepening cooperation in the specialized sphere of climate change,” Zou Ji, the president of Energy Foundation China, who has advised Chinese climate negotiators, wrote recently in a Chinese foreign policy journal.
Cooperation between the United States, the worst emitter of greenhouse gases historically, and China, the worst in the world today, could spur greater efforts from other countries. China accounts for 28 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions; the United States, in second place, emits 14 percent of the global total.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and other American officials have said they are prepared to cooperate with the Chinese government on issues like climate, even as they confront it others, including the crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and the menacing military operations against Taiwan and in the South China Sea.
It is not clear that Mr. Xi’s government is prepared to compartmentalize in the same way. Officials have indicated that the souring of relations has spoiled the entire range of issues between the two countries.
“Chinese-U.S. climate cooperation still faces many internal and external constraints and difficulties,” said a study released this week by the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
resume the role of China’s climate envoy.
Both he and Mr. Kerry — a former secretary of state and Senate colleague of Mr. Biden’s — have high-level support from the leaders who appointed them, making them powerful voices in the political bureaucracies they must confront at home.
Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, who closely follows Chinese climate policy. “His position has the aura of having been installed from the top.”
The Chinese climate official also oversaw a study from Tsinghua University last year that he has indicated helped shape Mr. Xi’s goals to achieve net carbon neutrality for China before 2060.
video talk late last month with António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, Mr. Xie said that wealthy countries should deliver on promises of financial support to help poorer countries cope with global warming and acquire emissions-reducing technology.
official Chinese summary of the meeting. He also appeared to gently suggest that the Biden administration should not assume that it naturally belonged at the head of the table.
“We welcome the United States’ return to the Paris Accord,” Mr. Xie said, “and look forward to the United States striving to catch up and exercise leadership.”
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting. Claire Fu contributed research.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the bank said, “We publicly made our own strong statement last month about the critical importance of every citizen being able to exercise their fundament right to vote.”
That statement for release on Wednesday came together over the past week and a half, after the Black executives who spoke out received an outpouring of support.
About 10 days ago, Mr. Chenault and Mr. Frazier conferred with three other Black executives — William M. Lewis Jr., the chairman of investment banking at Lazard; Clarence Otis Jr., a former chief executive of Darden Restaurants; and Charles Phillips, a former chief executive of Infor — about what next steps they could take. Within days, they had a draft of the statement and were sharing it with other executives.
Last Wednesday, Mr. Frazier and Mr. Chenault spoke with members of the Business Roundtable, an influential lobbying group that includes the chief executives of many of the company’s biggest companies. Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., also spoke to the group.
Then on Thursday, someone from Mr. McConnell’s staff, at the group’s invitation, briefed its members on the details of the Georgia law, several people familiar with the situation said.
The next day, members of the Business Roundtable had a regularly scheduled meeting at which the executives discussed the voting issue. On that call, Dan Schulman, the chief executive of PayPal, encouraged other executives to sign the statement.
And on Saturday, Mr. Chenault and Mr. Frazier spoke on a Zoom meeting with more than 100 executives that was organized by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale professor who regularly gathers business leaders to discuss politics. At that meeting, Mr. Chenault read the statement and invited executives on the call to add their names to the list of signatories.
WASHINGTON — President Biden’s decision to pull all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 was rooted in his belief that there is no room for continuing 20 years of failed efforts to remake that country, especially at a moment when he wants the United States focused on a transformational economic and social agenda at home and other fast-evolving threats from abroad.
Though Mr. Biden would never use the term, getting out of Afghanistan is part of his own version of “America First,” one that differs drastically from how his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, used the phrase. His years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as vice president convinced him that the United States-led effort in Afghanistan was destined to collapse of its own weight.
Time and again during the Obama administration, Mr. Biden lost arguments to reduce the American presence to a minimal counterterrorism force. But after less than three months as president, Mr. Biden came to the determination that only a full withdrawal — with no link to political conditions on the ground — would wrench America’s attention away from the conflict of the past two decades in favor of the very different kinds he expects in the next two.
He has defined his presidency’s goals as releasing the country from the grip of a virus that is morphing into new variants, seizing an opportunity to bolster economic competitiveness against China and proving to the world that American democracy can still rise to great challenges.
annual worldwide threat assessment published by his intelligence chiefs on Tuesday morning, as word of his decision leaked, explicitly warned that “the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay” if the American-led coalition withdraws. Administration officials said that raised the specter of something akin to the 1975 fall of Saigon, after the United States gave up on another ill-considered war.
But Mr. Biden’s decision makes clear his belief that contending with a rising China takes precedence over the idea that with just a few more years in Afghanistan, and a few more billions of dollars, the United States could achieve with a few thousand troops what it could not achieve with hundreds of thousands and the more than $2 trillion already poured into two decades of warfighting and nation building.
After Mr. Biden declared at a news conference last month that “We’ve got to prove democracy works,” he went on to describe a foreign policy that was focused on restoring America’s reputation for getting big things done. “China is outinvesting us by a long shot,” the president noted, “because their plan is to own that future.”
Indeed, no one celebrated the American involvement in Afghanistan, or Iraq, more than the Chinese — conflicts that kept Americans up at night worrying about casualties and taking control of distant provinces, while Beijing focused on spreading its influence in regions of the world where America was once the unquestioned dominant power.
Afghanistan’s stability deeply in jeopardy. If there is no terrorist attack launched from Afghan territory again, no echo of Sep. 11, 2001, Mr. Biden may well have been judged to have made the right bet.
In the end, the argument that won the day is that the future of Kenosha is more important than defending Kabul. And if Mr. Biden can truly focus the country on far bigger strategic challenges — in space and cyberspace, against declining powers like Russia and rising ones like China — he will have finally moved the country out of its post-9/11 fixation, where counterterrorism overrode every other foreign policy and domestic imperative.
That would be a real change in the way Americans think about the purpose of the country’s influence and power, and the nature of national security.