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Fervor Over Coinbase I.P.O. Spreads: Live Business Updates

Coinbase, a company that allows people and companies to buy and sell various digital currencies, begins publicly trading on Wednesday, after its shares received a reference price of $250 each on Tuesday evening.

Coinbase, which makes money through transaction fees, estimated it took in $1.8 billion in revenue in the first three months of the year as crypto prices have soared. On Wednesday, the fervor continued: Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency which started as a joke, jumped to a new high (albeit just 14 cents), and Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, climbed above $64,000 to its own record high.

Shares in blockchain-linked companies also rose in premarket trading. Riot Blockchain shares rose nearly 5 percent. Shares in Bit Digital, a Chinese bitcoin mining company, rose nearly 25 percent in premarket trading in the United States.

  • Global stocks crept higher on Wednesday as company earnings started to pour in. The S&P 500 was set to open 0.1 percent higher, futures indicated, after reaching a record high on Tuesday.

  • Shares in JPMorgan Chase dipped 0.4 percent in premarket trading after the bank reported its best first quarter on record, but said demand for loans was “challenged.” Shares in Goldman Sachs rose 0.3 percent in premarket trading after reporting investment banking revenue that beat analyst expectations.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index was 0.2 percent higher. One of the biggest gainers on the index was SAP, the German software company. Its shares rose 4 percent after the company said revenue from its cloud business was growing and upgraded its forecast for full year earnings.

  • Shares in easyJet, the low-cost airline, rose 3.6 percent after it said it expected to increase flights from May and reported earnings for the six months through March that were better than analysts expected.

  • Shares in Tesco, the large British grocer, fell as much as 4.4 percent after the company reported a 20 percent decline in pretax profit because of the extra cost of operating stores and warehouses safely during the pandemic. The grocer also said it expected sales to decline as pandemic restrictions ease, but that this would improve profit margins.

  • Shares in Discovery, the American media company, fell in premarket trading as Credit Suisse continued to sell stocks tied to Archegos Capital Management, Bloomberg reported.

  • Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage points, to 1.63 percent.

  • Oil prices climbed higher. Futures for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 1.6 percent to $61.10 a barrel.

Brian Armstrong, co-founder and chief executive of Coinbase, at the company’s office in San Francisco in 2017.
Credit…Michael Short/Bloomberg

Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, is set to begin trading on the Nasdaq on Wednesday — and probably at a much higher valuation than the $65 billion preliminary estimate set last night. Here’s what you need to know about crypto’s move into the mainstream.

The company is the first major crypto business to trade publicly in the U.S. Its size means that its stock is likely to be held by mainstream index funds, giving average investors (indirect) exposure to the world of crypto. “Hopefully Coinbase going public and having its direct listing is going to be viewed as kind of a landmark moment for the crypto space,” Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s chief executive, told Andrew in a CNBC interview.

  • Even at $65 billion, Coinbase’s market value will exceed that of the stock exchanges its shares will trade on: Nasdaq’s market cap is $26 billion, while ICE, the parent company of the N.Y.S.E., is valued at $67 billion. And by the way, Goldman Sachs’s market value is $111 billion.

  • Coinbase is profitable, taking in $322 million last year — and an estimated $800 million in the first quarter this year alone. It also made significantly more revenue from trades (0.6 percent) than did the Nasdaq (0.009 percent) and ICE (0.011 percent).

  • Coinbase benefited hugely from a run-up in cryptocurrencies’ prices in recent months, and the company warned in its prospectus that its business was “substantially dependent on the prices of crypto assets and volume of transactions conducted on our platform.”

  • Skeptics think competition will eventually bring Coinbase’s fat margins down, though Mr. Armstrong asserted that he didn’t seen any sign of that happening yet. “Longer term, yes, I do think there could be fee compression, just like in every other asset class,” he told CNBC.

Digital currency, once mocked as a tool for criminals and reckless speculators, is sliding into the mainstream. On Wednesday, Coinbase, a start-up that allows people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, goes public on Nasdaq, marking the biggest step yet toward wider acceptance.

From Crypto Art to Trading Cards, Investment Manias Abound

Each market frenzy seems crazier than the last. But all have the same roots.

Why an Animated Flying Cat With a Pop-Tart Body Sold for Almost $600,000

A fast-growing market for digital art, ephemera and media is marrying the world’s taste for collectibles with cutting-edge technology.

Coinbase Users Say Crypto Start-Up Ignored Their Pleas for Help

As Coinbase prepares to be the first major cryptocurrency company to go public, it is struggling with basic customer service, users said.

Cryptocurrency Start-Up Underpaid Women and Black Employees, Data Shows

An analysis of internal pay data at the San Francisco company Coinbase shows disparities that were much larger than those in the tech industry.

Satoshi Tsunakawa, the chairman of Toshiba, in 2017. He will succeed Nobuaki Kurumatani, the company’s chief executive and president, whose departure was announced Wednesday.
Credit…Toru Hanai/Reuters

Toshiba announced on Wednesday the resignation of its top executive, Nobuaki Kurumatani, a move that comes as the Japanese conglomerate faces a potential buyout and a shareholder-initiated investigation into its management practices.

The board appointed Satoshi Tsunakawa — the current chairman and previous president — to replace Mr. Kurumatani, the company said in a brief statement. It did not explain the reason for the change.

Toshiba, once among the crown jewels of Japanese industry, a maker of products ranging from personal printers to railroad locomotives, has struggled in recent years, overshadowed by the legacy of a major accounting scandal and its acquisition of the American nuclear power company Westinghouse, which declared bankruptcy in 2017.

Seeking to rebuild, Toshiba looked for a new leader from outside its own ranks, and in 2018 it appointed Mr. Kurumatani, an executive with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity company based in Europe, as chief executive. It was an unusual decision for a company that had long been headed by company insiders. Last year, he was appointed president, solidifying his control over the firm.

During a news conference Wednesday, board member Osamu Nagayama deflected questions about the resignation, saying that Mr. Kurumatani, 63, had been considering the move for months and had come to the decision with his family. Unusually, Mr. Kurumatani did not make an appearance, but in a letter that was read aloud to reporters, he said he had chosen to resign after “achieving my mission to rebuild the company.”

The announcement on Wednesday followed months of unrest at Toshiba as disgruntled shareholders agitated for reforms aimed at improving the company’s performance and increasing its value.

Toshiba investors tried to shake up the company’s management at the annual general meeting last summer. But Mr. Kurumatani was re-elected — albeit with less than 60 percent of the vote — following a showdown that angered some key shareholders and raised questions about whether the company had inappropriately interfered in the decision.

Effissimo Capital Management, a Singapore-based hedge fund that holds about 10 percent of the company and had led the campaign to unseat its management team, subsequently called for an investigation into the outcome. Other shareholders agreed, voting, over management’s objections, to begin an independent inquiry in March.

Earlier this month, Toshiba announced that it had received a buyout offer from CVC Capital Partners for a reported $20 billion, a substantial premium on the company’s share price. The offer has raised questions of conflict of interest, as Mr. Kurumatani had previously served as president of CVC’s Japan office.

In recent years, Japanese companies have increasingly been the focus of activist investors from abroad, who believe that sclerotic management and opaque governance practices have prevented many of Japan’s blue chip firms from achieving their full value.

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.

Lemonade, which sells insurance to consumers online, went public in July. Individual investors make up about half of its shareholder base.
Credit…Associated Press

Dozens of companies are suddenly paying more attention to individual investors.

Small investors who buy single stocks have not been a major force in financial markets for the better part of half a century. They were growing in influence before the pandemic, partly because of the popularity of free trading apps such as Robinhood.

But with millions of Americans stuck at home during the pandemic, the trading trend escalated, Matt Phillips reports for The New York Times.

“Retail trading now accounts for almost as much volume as mutual funds and hedge funds combined,” Amelia Garnett, an executive at Goldman Sachs’s Global Markets Division, said on a recent podcast produced by the firm. “So, the retail impact is really meaningful right now.”

Tesla has long eschewed traditional communications with Wall Street. Ark Investment Management — the high-flying, tech-focused exchange-traded fund company run by the investor Cathie Wood — and Palantir Technologies, are also trying to reach small investors directly.

Before Lemonade, a company that sells insurance to consumers online, went public in July, it went on a traditional tour of Wall Street, meeting big investors and talking up its prospects. However, the company has since discovered that more than half of its shares are held by small investors, excluding insiders who own the stock, said Daniel Schreiber, its chief executive.

That has prompted a strategy adjustment. In addition to spending time communicating with analysts whose “buy” or “sell” ratings on the stock can move its price, Mr. Schreiber said, he has made a point of doing interviews on podcasts, websites and YouTube programs popular with retail investors.

“I think that they are, today, far more influential on, and command far more following in terms of stock buying or selling power than the mighty Goldman Sachs does,” Mr. Schreiber said. “And we’ve seen that in our own stock.”

  • The first woman to lead CBS News, Susan Zirinsky, is expected to announce that she is stepping down from the presidency of the network’s news division, possibly as soon as this week, a person with knowledge of the plan said on Tuesday. Ms. Zirinsky is expected to sign a production deal with the network’s parent company, ViacomCBS, to work on broadcast, cable and streaming programs, according to the person with knowledge of the details of her departure. Ms. Zirinsky, 69, was appointed in January 2019.

  • Epic Games, the video game developer that produced the hit game Fortnite, said Tuesday that it had raised $1 billion in funding, valuing the company at $28.7 billion. Sony, the creator of the PlayStation game console, invested $200 million, Epic said, and Appaloosa Management, Baillie Gifford and Fidelity Management were also among the investors. Epic’s most recent funding round came last summer, when it raised $1.78 billion to value the company at $17.3 billion. Sony invested $250 million at the time.

East Austin, Texas, in February, when a huge storm left more than $10 billion in losses that insurers could dispute.
Credit…Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

Two months after the storm crippled large swaths of Texas, insurers are sketching out a legal strategy to pin the costs on utilities and power companies that they say failed to adequately prepare for bitterly cold weather.

At stake could be more than $10 billion in insured losses for insurers and their business partners, as well as almost-certain premium increases for property owners if the insurers have to pay for the damage themselves, Mary Williams Walsh reports for The New York Times.

  • The insurers say the power companies and utilities failed to prepare for a major winter storm, even though past cold snaps and climate-change data had made the danger clear.

  • In 1989 and 2011, wintry weather caused so much damage that state and federal regulators spent months investigating the causes and issued detailed recommendations for hardening the electrical system against storms. “It doesn’t look like anybody did anything,” said Lawrence T. Bowman, a lawyer in Dallas who represents insurers in liability disputes.

But decades of deregulation have made the state’s power grid a dizzying web of companies that could make determining fault tricky. Insurers will also have to show that the damage was the result of “gross negligence.” And there are dozens of small companies in the supply chain — some of which have gone bankrupt since the storm — that interact with one another in myriad ways.

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With 100 Days Till Olympics, Japan Confronts a New Virus Wave

Organizers marked 100 days until the start of the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday with a subdued ceremony amid tougher restrictions and growing questions over the event as Japan endures another surge of coronavirus infections.

The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, pledged that officials would do everything to deliver a “memorable tournament.” Wearing a mask and gloves, she unveiled statues of the Olympic mascots inside Tokyo government headquarters while a video link showed another group of officials unveiling a monument of the Olympic rings atop fog-shrouded Mount Takao, 30 miles west of the capital.

But parts of Tokyo and other municipalities remain under a quasi-state of emergency ordered last week to stem what officials describe as Japan’s fourth wave of infections. Japan has recorded nearly 3,200 infections a day over the last week, according to a New York Times database — few by the standards of the United States and Europe, but a worryingly high number for Asia.

The host nation is also lagging in vaccinations: Shots for those 65 and just began on Monday. So far, Japan has inoculated only frontline medical workers, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and it will be far from fully vaccinated by July 23, when the Games are scheduled to begin.

earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011, as well as the world’s recovery from the pandemic. But the Games, originally scheduled for last year, are marching on despite more than 70 percent of the Japanese public saying they should be delayed again or called off entirely.

Organizers announced last month that international spectators would be barred, although thousands of athletes from over 200 nations are expected to compete. The ceremonial torch relay has been making its way across Japan with little fanfare; its two-day leg in Osaka this week was diverted off public roads and took place in an empty park.

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Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, raises $1 billion in a funding round.

Epic Games, the video game developer that produced the hit game Fortnite, said Tuesday that it had raised $1 billion in funding, valuing the company at $28.7 billion.

Sony, the creator of the PlayStation game console, invested $200 million, Epic said, and Appaloosa Management, Baillie Gifford and Fidelity Management were also among the investors.

Epic’s most recent funding round came last summer, when it raised $1.78 billion to value the company at $17.3 billion. Sony invested $250 million at the time.

Epic, based in Cary, N.C., was founded in 1991 by Tim Sweeney, the company’s chief executive. It found success with Unreal Engine, a platform other developers could use to create games, and with the Gears of War video game franchise in the mid-2000s. Tencent, the Chinese internet giant, owns a 40 percent stake in the company.

most popular video games, and spawned a new generation of livestreaming. It made gamers who broadcast their play of Fortnite, like Tyler Blevins — known as Ninja — into wealthy celebrities.

Evan Van Zelfden, the managing director for Games One, an advisory firm, said Epic’s latest funding round was another indicator of the success the gaming industry had seen since the pandemic forced people indoors and glued them to their screens.

He speculated that the eventual next stage for Epic could be an initial public offering, a move that would “break the market.”

Epic’s funding round comes as the company prepares to take Apple to court next month in a dispute over the App Store commission that Apple collects from app developers, including on purchases made within Fortnite when users are playing on their iPhones.

Last August, Epic encouraged Fortnite players to pay the company directly rather than go through Apple or Google, prompting the two companies to boot Fortnite from their respective app stores. Epic responded with lawsuits.

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Ready or Not, Hideki Matsuyama Is Now a National Hero in Japan

TOKYO — Hideki Matsuyama has never been a fan of the spotlight. Even as he rose to become Japan’s most successful male golfer, he did his best to avoid the attention lavished on the every move of other Japanese athletes who have shined on the global stage.

But with his win on Sunday at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., the glare will now be inescapable. His victory, the first by a Japanese man in one of golf’s major championships, is the fulfillment of a long-held ambition for the country, and it guarantees that he will be feted as a national hero, with the adoration and scrutiny that follows.

Japan is a nation of avid golfers, and the game’s status as the sport of choice for the Western business and political elite has given it a special resonance. Success in sports has long been a critical gauge of the country’s global standing, with the United States and Europe often the standard by which Japan measures itself.

“We have always dreamed of winning the Masters,” said Andy Yamanaka, secretary-general of the Japan Golf Association. “It’s a very moving moment for all of us. I think a lot of people cried when he finished.”

added its first official nament in Japan.

victory at Augusta, the expectations on Matsuyama will increase dramatically. Media attention is likely to reach a fever pitch in the coming weeks, and endorsement offers will flood in.

Although golf has dipped in popularity in Japan in recent years, sports analysts are already speculating that Matsuyama’s win could help fuel a resurgence in the game, which has had renewed interest as a pandemic-friendly sport that makes it easy to maintain a healthy social distance. The Tokyo Olympics this summer will also focus attention on the game.

Munehiko Harada, president of Osaka University of Sport and Health Sciences and an expert on sports marketing, said he hoped that Matsuyama would use his victory to engage in more golf diplomacy, and that it would ameliorate the anti-Asian rhetoric and violence that have flared during the pandemic.

“It would be great if the victory of Mr. Matsuyama would ease negative feelings toward Asians in the United States and create a kind of a momentum to respect each other,” he said, adding that he hoped President Biden would invite the golfer to the White House before a scheduled meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, this week.

In remarks to the news media, Suga praised Matsuyama’s performance, saying it “gave courage to and deeply moved people throughout Japan.”

The pressure is already on for Matsuyama to notch another victory for the nation.

“I don’t know his next goal, maybe win another major or achieve a grand slam, but for the Japan Golf Association, getting a gold medal at the Olympics would be wonderful news,” Yamanaka, the association’s secretary-general, said.

News reports have speculated that Matsuyama will be drafted to light the Olympic caldron at the Games’ opening ceremony in July.

Asked about the possibility at a news conference following his victory, Matsuyama demurred. Before he could commit to anything, he said, he would have to check his schedule.

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.

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The Symbol of Bessemer

Bessemer — the Alabama city where Amazon warehouse workers recently voted not to join a union — is named for Henry Bessemer, a British inventor who revolutionized steelmaking. When an Alabama businessman founded the city in 1887, he called it Bessemer in the hope that it would become a steel-industry center.

It did. Using iron ore and the other natural resources in Alabama, Bessemer’s steel mills thrived. They provided jobs that helped many workers build middle-class lives. They were typical of the broad-based American prosperity of the mid-20th century.

Today, those steel jobs are long gone, done in by technology and global competition. Bessemer no longer makes any steel. On the site of a former mill — one owned by U.S. Steel — is the giant Amazon warehouse that has been in the news because of the union vote.

Amazon soundly defeated the union’s organizing effort by emphasizing that it already paid well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. And that’s true: All of its employees make at least $15 an hour. The message resonated. Relative to other jobs they might find, Amazon workers decided they were already doing pretty well.

that were once available — factory jobs and others that allowed workers to rise up the economic ladder — Amazon jobs don’t look so appealing. Fifteen dollars an hour for a full-time worker translates to about $31,000 a year, less than half of U.S. median family income and low enough in many cases for a family to qualify for subsidized school lunches.

That is not the kind of pay that seems likely to help the country again build a growing, thriving middle class. And Amazon jobs are looking more and more like the future of the U.S. economy.

Amazon is the country’s fastest-growing company by many measures. Its founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest man. It employs about 1.3 million people worldwide, up from 750,000 only a year and a half ago. Among American companies, only Walmart has a larger work force.

Alec MacGillis, the author of an excellent new book about Amazon, called “Fulfillment,” points out that Amazon’s warehouse jobs have a lot in common with the industrial jobs of the past. They are among the main options for people who graduate from high school or community college without specific job skills. They are also physically demanding and dangerous.

MacGillis is careful to remind people about the injuries and deaths that came with old factory jobs, and he documents the similar risks that warehouse jobs can bring. Jody Rhoads was a 52-year-old mother and breast cancer survivor in Carlisle, Pa. Her neck was crushed by a steel rack while she was driving a forklift in an Amazon warehouse, killing her. (“We do not believe that the incident was work related,” an Amazon manager reported to the federal government, falsely suggesting her death was from natural causes.)

Spencer Cox, a former Amazon worker who’s now writing a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Minnesota about the company, told my colleague David Streitfeld, “Amazon is reorganizing the very nature of retail work — something that traditionally is physically undemanding and has a large amount of downtime — into something more akin to a factory, which never lets up.”

But for all of the similarities to factory work, Amazon jobs also have crucial differences. They are more isolating, as MacGillis explained to me. Rather than working in teams of people who are creating something, warehouse workers often work alone, interacting mostly with robots. Amazon jobs also pay less than many factory jobs did.

MacGillis tells the story of three generations of Bodani men who worked in the Sparrows Point steel mill, near Baltimore. The youngest, William Bodani Jr., was making $35 an hour in 2002 (about $52 in today’s dollars), along with bonuses. That’s enough for a solid middle-class income.

With the steel mill gone from Sparrows Point, Bodani instead took a job at the Amazon warehouse that occupies the same land. He was in his late 60s at the time and was making a fraction of what he once had.

It would be one thing if this sort of downward mobility were a reflection of the U.S. economy’s overall performance. But it’s not. Economic output is much higher, per person, than it was two decades ago and vastly higher than it was in Bessemer’s 20th century heyday. The bulk of the gains, however, have flowed to a narrow slice of workers — among the upper middle class and especially the affluent.

For many others, an Amazon job looks preferable to the alternatives, even if it is also part of the reason that so many American families are struggling.

the rapper DMX, who died on Friday.

Lives Lived: His famous clients included Marlon Brando, Magic Johnson, Morgan Freeman and Britney Spears. But he chose not to defend O.J. Simpson. Howard Weitzman has died at 81.

performing a song, often next to the singer. The best renditions don’t convey just the lyrics of a song; they convey its emotion.

writes in The Times. Deaf singers prepare by experiencing a song however they can. Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant, a deaf actor and dancer, tucked a small speaker into his clothes, so that he could feel the vibrations of “Midnight Train to Georgia” while recording an interpretation for a series of American Sign Language covers of seminal songs by Black women.

“Sometimes interpreters don’t show the emotions that are tied to the music,” Primeaux-O’Bryant said. “And deaf people are like, ‘What is that?’”

In the performance, Primeaux-O’Bryant tugged at an invisible whistle to correspond to the woo-woo of the band’s horns. To interpret a drawn-out “oh,” he used movements that gently extended the words, his hands fluttering into his lap.

For more: Watch a clip of Primeaux-O’Bryant’s performance here. And GQ profiled Matt Maxey, who translates Chance the Rapper at his concerts.

Saturday Night Live” reacted to the Derek Chauvin trial. Carey Mulligan hosted.

play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Where grizzlies might beat the heat (three letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. Sixty-six years ago today, a trial showed that Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was highly effective. The results received “fanfare and drama far more typical of a Hollywood premiere than a medical meeting,” The Times reported.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Europe’s vaccine rollout. On the Book Review podcast, Blake Bailey discusses his new biography of Philip Roth, and the debate over Roth’s legacy.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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Michigan’s governor, confronting a surge in virus cases, calls on Biden for more vaccines.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said Friday that she had urged President Biden to surge Covid-19 vaccines into her state, where a worst-in-the-nation outbreak has filled hospitals and forced some schools to close.

“I made the case for a surge strategy. At this point that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up,” Ms. Whitmer said, describing a Thursday evening call with the president. “Today it’s Michigan and the Midwest. Tomorrow it could be another section of our country.”

Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat whom the president considered as a potential running mate, took pains to praise aspects of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response at a Friday news conference. But Ms. Whitmer said a rapid influx of shots, particularly the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, was essential to tamping down case numbers even as she resisted additional restrictions on gatherings and businesses. Johnson & Johnson will send 86 percent fewer doses across the United States next week than are currently being allocated, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dealing a setback to a national vaccination campaign that has just found its footing.

“The Biden administration does have a strategy and by in large it is working,” Ms. Whitmer said. “As should be expected, though, in an undertaking of this magnitude, there are shortcomings and different points of view.”

Michigan is bad and getting worse. Hospitalizations have more than tripled in the last month and cases continue to spike. About 7,200 new cases are being reported each day, a sevenfold increase since late February. And 16 of the 20 metro areas with the country’s highest recent case rates are in Michigan.

Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University, said before the governor’s announcement on Friday that the state should reimpose restrictions that were loosened just before the most recent surge.

“What it looks like happened is she tried to be fair and meet us in the middle,” said Dr. Furr-Holden, who was appointed last year by Ms. Whitmer to the state’s Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. “And what I think we’ve learned — and I hope other states will get the message — is that there really isn’t a lot of middle ground here. We just have to tighten up and hold tight.”

But there is also a sense — articulated by Ms. Whitmer, politicians from both parties and even some public health officials — that pandemic fatigue and partisanship have limited the effectiveness that any new state mandates might have.

“It’s been a long time,” said Mayor Pauline Repp of Port Huron, where case rates are among the highest in the country. “It’s a long time to be restrictive and you get to the point where you kind of think, ‘Will life ever go back to normal?’”

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The New Taiwan Tensions

When Henry Kissinger secretly traveled to Beijing in 1971 to negotiate the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China, he came bearing multiple requests — about the Vietnam War, nuclear arms, the Soviet Union and more. Kissinger’s Chinese counterpart, Zhou Enlai, had only one focus: Taiwan.

The U.S. needed to recognize the government in Beijing, not Taipei, as the only legitimate China, and the United Nations needed to expel Taiwan, Zhou said. Kissinger agreed to those terms, and President Richard Nixon triumphantly visited China the next year.

Still, the U.S. did not abandon Taiwan. Even as it refused to recognize Taiwan, it continued selling arms to its government and implicitly warned Beijing not to invade. The policy is known as “strategic ambiguity,” and it has endured since the 1970s.

Now some U.S. officials and foreign-policy experts worry that it has become outdated, as my colleague Michael Crowley explains. They think that President Biden may need to choose between making a more formal commitment to Taiwan’s defense or tempting China to invade.

released a statement saying, “Similar exercises will be conducted on a regular basis in the future.” Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic has suggested that a Chinese invasion “could happen at any moment” and that Biden should be prepared.

A military conflict still seems unlikely. Then again, military conflicts often seem unlikely until the moment they begin.

China’s current leaders view Taiwanese reunification much as Zhou did in 1971: urgent and vital. “Fast forward half a century, and the same issue — Taiwan — remains Beijing’s No. 1 priority,” as Niall Ferguson of Stanford University writes in a Bloomberg Opinion piece. To Beijing, Taiwan continues to be a source of embarrassment, the island where the losers in the country’s civil war fled in 1949 and whose government is propped up by foreign powers.

Just as important, though, is what has changed in recent decades. China has transformed itself from a poor country that endured the chaos of civil war, famine and the Cultural Revolution during the 20th century into one of the world’s leading powers. It has become the only serious rival to the U.S., economically and militarily.

severe human rights violations. It has crushed dissent in Hong Kong over the past year. Taiwan remains the only part of greater China that’s outside of Beijing’s grip.

“Xi seems to see the U.S. as weakened and distracted,” Michael Crowley told me, “but also focusing more and more on the China threat — leading to concern that he may see a window of opportunity that moves him to action in the near future.”

Biden and his foreign-policy team have decided to take a fairly tough approach to China. They do not believe Donald Trump’s specific policies, like his tariffs, were effective, but Biden’s team has accepted Trump’s view that Barack Obama and his predecessors were too soft on China, mistakenly hoping it would become friendlier as it became richer.

Even within this hawkish framework, though, the most effective approach to Taiwan is not obvious. Some Americans — including Robert Gates, a former defense secretary; Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican; Barney Frank, a Democratic former House member; and Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations — argue that while “strategic ambiguity” worked when China was weak, it no longer does. Today, they say, the U.S. must provide clarity, to prevent a thriving, affluent democracy of 24 million people from being overrun.

Other experts argue that a formal change in U.S. policy would be so confrontational as to force Beijing to choose between humiliation and war. “For Taiwan, strategic ambiguity remains a relatively successful policy,” Lu Yeh-chung of National Cheng-chi University in Taipei told The Times. Advocates for the status quo say that China’s leaders understand that an invasion of Taiwan could bring global condemnation, tough economic sanctions and a needless risk to China’s continuing rise.

Michael Crowley’s news analysis or Niall Ferguson’s history-laden Bloomberg essay.

business is booming for interior decorators: “We work for the one-half of the one-half of the 1 percent.”

Lives Lived: After a failed documentary project, Sharon Matola found herself in Belize looking after a jaguar, two macaws and 18 other half-tamed animals. The zoo she established there became a popular attraction, and Matola an outspoken advocate for animals. She died at 66.

Tokyo Olympics are set to begin in July, with the Paralympics scheduled to start in August. Years of planning — and billions in television dollars — mean Olympic organizers are keen to hold the event without postponing again.

But polling in Japan has trended strongly against the Games, as Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida report in The Times. Thousands of athletes and other participants will be heading to Tokyo, and less than 1 percent of Japan’s population has been vaccinated, CNBC reports. The country’s experience of the pandemic has been comparatively mild, with the level of infections and deaths far below that of the United States or Europe. But that’s not guaranteed to continue.

Though organizers have said that vaccinations will not be mandatory, the International Olympic Committee will supply vaccines for any competitors who need them. Some countries, like India and Hungary, are prioritizing Olympic athletes for vaccinations at home. Organizers are also barring spectators from overseas, and cheering is forbidden at the Olympic torch relay, which kicked off in Fukushima Prefecture last month.

One thing that is staying the same: The Games will still be called Tokyo 2020, reflected in heaps of T-shirts, mugs, signage and other branded merchandise.

slice of Florida lime pie.

People in their 20s and 30s are turning to Botox. Why?

“Shiva Baby,” a tense comedy about a young woman at the shiva of a family friend, mixes “big laughs with gut-wrenching discomfort,” Jason Bailey writes in a review.

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For a U.K. Satirist and His Online Fans, Comedy Is Catharsis

LONDON — He is the hyperbolic news anchor with an agenda, the disgruntled Meghan Markle skeptic vying for Piers Morgan’s job, the British aristocrat insisting he is simply middle class — and those are just a few of the characters in Munya Chawawa’s arsenal.

But during a Zoom interview last month, Mr. Chawawa, 28, speaking from his London apartment in a neon hoodie, was exploring his own persona.

“I make content because I need to express how I’m feeling about the world,” he said of his comedy. “You have to have some form of catharsis when the world throws stuff at you, otherwise you’ll just go crazy.”

Mr. Chawawa’s dry sketches about racism, classism and everyday life in Britain had already found an audience before the pandemic. But in lockdown, his potent combination of singing, comedy acting and rapping has helped establish him as a sardonic voice of progressive young people in an increasingly diverse nation who are unimpressed by elitism and skeptical of the establishment.

appears in promotions for Netflix U.K.

In such a year, “humor has been a much-needed tonic,” Mr. Chawawa said. And the string of successes has fueled an ambitious goal: “I’m working toward being one of the country’s most respected satirists.”

Satire, to Mr. Chawawa — whose comedy heroes are John Oliver, Andy Zaltzman and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others — feels “like a superpower.” That’s not only because of the challenge of execution but also because of satire’s ability to extract humor from situations that are not supposed to be funny at all, he said.

“Anything you laugh at can’t haunt or hurt you as much as it used to do,” he said.

Given the state of the world today, there is plenty of material for him to work with.

When critics called food packages for poor children too meager, Mr. Chawawa was ready with a sketch about a wealthy lawmaker scrambling to respond: “We can’t feed them but we could put them in a film — ‘The Hungrier Games.’” He has parodied British journalists brainstorming headlines about the Duchess of Sussex using the game Cards Against Humanity (“Meghan Kidnapped Peppa Pig,”) and a security guard letting rioters into the U.S. Capitol upon hearing they are white: “You’re already wearing your pass! It’s called white privilege.”

debate over U.K. drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music that British authorities have tried to censor, blaming it for a rise in knife crimes in London.

For many young Black men and women, drill was an important form of self-expression, Mr. Chawawa said, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of life in a period of austerity. Mr. Chawawa said he was disturbed by the appropriation of the genre, with “posh white kids singing the lyrics” as it filtered into private schools.

Born in Derby, England, Mr. Chawawa spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, his father’s birthplace, before his family moved to a small village near Norwich, England. His first exposure to comedy was through his grandfather, whose jokes over the dinner table made him the center of attention.

In England, where his was one of the few families of color in the area, Mr. Chawawa stifled his natural extroversion, which had been encouraged in Zimbabwe. “Slowly, I stopped putting my hand up,” he said.

In college, he studied psychology but found himself spending all his time in the student radio hub. He also worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Norwich, where customers sometimes complimented his English. There, he picked up useful insights into the ways of the ultrawealthy. It struck him when he moved to London that this world could be a mine of comedy gold.

is real,” he said, grinning. He said he would welcome the opportunity for the character to “get some real cultural insights.”

For now, Mr. Chawawa is enjoying the chance to lean into that natural extroversion. “My dad always used to say to me, ‘When you were in Zimbabwe you were so bold.’” Being a satirist now, he added, is “a resurgence of the guy I used to be.”

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China’s Forced-Labor Backlash Threatens to Put N.B.A. in Unwanted Spotlight

U.S.-China tensions, human rights and business are once again meeting uncomfortably on the basketball court.

In China, local brands are prospering from a consumer backlash against Nike, H&M and other foreign brands over their refusal to use Chinese cotton made by forced labor. Chinese brands have publicly embraced the cotton from the Xinjiang region, leading to big sales to patriotic shoppers and praise from the Beijing-controlled media.

In the United States, two of those same Chinese brands, Li-Ning and Anta, adorn the feet of N.B.A. players — and those players are being rewarded handsomely for it. Two players reached endorsement deals with Anta in February. Another signed on this week. Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors already had a shoe deal with Anta that has been widely reported to be valued at up to $80 million.

Dwyane Wade, the three-time N.B.A. champion and retired Miami Heat player, has a clothing line with Li-Ning that is so successful he has recruited young players for the brand.

online, however.) Still, their full-throated support of Xinjiang could have reputational consequences for the American athletes.

once said he wanted to be the Michael Jordan of Anta. His teammate James Wiseman, as well as Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers, signed with Anta earlier this year, according to the sportswear brand’s social media account. Precious Achiuwa of the Heat announced this week that he was joining Anta.

Requests for comment from Mr. Thompson and other N.B.A. players also went unanswered.

Outside China, Xinjiang has become synonymous with repression. Reports suggest as many as one million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps. In March, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken accused China of continuing to “commit genocide and crimes against humanity” in the far northwestern region.

voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests on Twitter in 2019, Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center paused their partnerships with the team. The Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is the former Rockets player Yao Ming, also suspended its cooperation with the Rockets.

quickly denied. But the incident left a scar on the N.B.A.’s reputation for supporting free speech and severely limited its access to the Chinese market.

China Central Television, the state-run television network, stopped broadcasting N.B.A. games after Mr. Morey’s message on Twitter. Late last year, it briefly resumed coverage for Games 5 and 6 of the N.B.A. finals. A week later, Mr. Morey stepped down as general manager.

In a radio interview this week, Mr. Silver said that CCTV had stopped airing N.B.A. games again, but that fans could stream them through Tencent, the Chinese internet conglomerate. He said that the N.B.A.’s partnership with China was “complicated,” but that “doesn’t mean we don’t speak up about what we see are, you know, things in China that are inconsistent with our values.”

A spokesman for the league declined to comment for this article.

Money and a large China fan base are at stake for players like Mr. Thompson and the dozens of other American athletes who have been heavily promoted by Anta and Li-Ning. Mr. Thompson has had a partnership with Anta since 2014 that has given him a popular shoe line and sponsored tours in China.

More recent deals between the companies and N.B.A. players could face questions in coming weeks as tensions between the United States and China escalate. Jimmy Butler, a five-time all-star who plays for the Heat, and the Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet signed on with Li-Ning in November. Mr. Wade, the retired Heat player, helped CJ McCollum and D’Angelo Russell, two star guards, secure deals with Li-Ning through his sportswear line.

“My decision 7 years ago to sign with Li-Ning was to show the next generation that it’s not just one way of doing things,” Mr. Wade wrote on Twitter when he announced Mr. Russell’s contract in November 2019. “I had a chance to build a Global platform that gives future athletes a canvas to create and be expressive.”

Sopan Deb contributed reporting from New York, and Cao Li from Hong Kong.

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