loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation costs and toys.

Americans found themselves with a lot of money in the bank, and as they spent that money on goods, demand collided with a global supply chain that was too fragile to catch up.

Virus outbreaks shut down factories, ports faced backlogs and a dearth of truckers roiled transit routes. Americans still managed to buy more goods than ever before in 2021, and foreign factories sent a record sum of products to U.S. shops and doorsteps. But all that shopping wasn’t enough to satisfy consumer demand.

stop spending at the start of the pandemic helped to swell savings stockpiles.

And the Federal Reserve’s interest rates are at rock bottom, which has bolstered demand for big purchases made on credit, from houses and cars to business investments like machinery and computers. Families have been taking on more housing and auto debt, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows, helping to pump up those sectors.

But if stimulus-driven demand is fueling inflation, the diagnosis could come with a silver lining. It may be easier to temper consumer spending than to rapidly reorient tangled supply lines.

People may naturally begin to buy less as government help fades. Spending could shift away from goods and back toward services if the pandemic abates. And the Fed’s policies work on demand — not supply.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Bosses Have a New Headache: How Long Should Sick Workers Isolate?

Barbara Sibley’s four New York restaurants had already weathered the city’s initial Covid-19 wave, the prevaccine surge last winter and this summer’s Delta spike when last weekend it finally happened: Fearing an outbreak and struggling with staffing after one of her workers got sick with Covid, she temporarily shut down one of her locations.

That was only the start of Ms. Sibley’s worries. She also had to weigh how long the employee, who was fully vaccinated, should isolate before returning to the job. And the messaging from public health experts was not clear-cut.

In the early days of the pandemic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that most people who tested positive for the coronavirus isolate for 14 days. It later reduced its recommended isolation period to 10 days. But these policies were based on data from unvaccinated individuals and were implemented before the widespread availability of rapid tests. An increasing number of health and policy professionals now suggest that vaccinated people can end their isolation after five to seven days, so long as they are not symptomatic and they test negative.

On Thursday, the C.D.C. reduced, in some circumstances, the number of days it recommends that health care workers who test positive for the coronavirus isolate themselves, but it did not address other businesses.

said on Friday that fully vaccinated critical workers could return to work five days after testing positive, so long as they have no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving and they have had no fever for 72 hours. Those workers will also have to wear a mask, she said.

Omicron has intensified staffing shortages across industries, and the spike in cases has disrupted travel during the holidays, stranding thousands of customers and underscoring the economic toll of employees needing to isolate. Already, some economists are warning about the potential impact that shutdowns can have on consumer spending.

Delta Air Lines asked the C.D.C. on Tuesday to cut isolation time to five days for fully vaccinated people, warning that the current 10-day period may “significantly impact” operations. It was followed by JetBlue and Airlines for America, a trade group that represents eight airlines.

eliminated weekly testing for vaccinated players who are asymptomatic, with its chief medical officer saying the pandemic had reached a stage in which it’s unnecessary for vaccinated players to sit out if they feel healthy.

canceled performances through Christmas. CityMD, the privately owned urgent care clinic, temporarily shut 19 sites in New York and New Jersey because of staffing shortages. At least a dozen New York restaurants have temporarily closed in response to positive tests.

“I think lots of companies are looking at a lot of disruption in the next month and trying to put in policies right now, because they know their employees are going to get infected in very high numbers,” said Dr. Jha.

The United States might take direction from policy shifts abroad. Britain said on Wednesday that it was reducing to seven from 10 the days that people must isolate after showing Covid-19 symptoms.

After the British government lifted nearly all its pandemic restrictions in July, hundreds of thousands of workers were pinged by the National Health Service’s track-and-trace app and told to isolate because they had been exposed to the coronavirus. Businesses complained of being short-staffed, and economists said the “pingdemic” may have slowed economic growth in July.

In the United States, new tools to help manage through the pandemic are on the way.

The Food and Drug Administration this week authorized two pills to treat Covid, from Pfizer and Merck. Those treatments have been shown to stave off severe disease and have potential to reduce transmission of the virus, though supply of both pills, especially Pfizer’s, will be limited in the next few months.

President Biden said on Tuesday that he planned to invoke the Defense Production Act to buy and give away 500 million rapid antigen tests, a crucial tool in detecting transmissibility, though those tests will not be available for weeks or longer.

If a combination of the antiviral pills and rapid tests is able to get individuals back to work faster, “that’s a big economic point,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research.

Molly Moon Neitzel, who owns an ice cream business in Seattle with just over 100 employees, said she had kept guidelines for isolation conservative.

“I’m on the side of protecting people over getting them back to work right now,” she said, adding that if it were summer and her business were busier, she might consider a shorter isolation period. “It’s the slowest time of the year for an ice cream company, so that is in my favor.”

Some public health experts worry that if the C.D.C. shortens its guidelines on isolating, employers could pressure workers to get back before they’re fully recovered.

“What I don’t want to see happen is for this to be used as an excuse to force people to come back while they are unwell,” Dr. Ranney of Brown said.

And even with clearer guidelines, putting policies in place can be tricky. While some experts suggest different isolation rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, some companies do not yet have a system for tracking which of their workers have gotten a vaccine. The question of whether the C.D.C. will change its definition of fully vaccinated to include booster shots adds another layer of complexity.

It’s not just sick employees who may have to stay home: Companies are also grappling with whether vaccinated workers should quarantine after exposure to someone with Covid-19, which C.D.C. guidelines do not require.

“It becomes a challenge for employers to choose between providing a safer environment and keeping staff intact, or going with the C.D.C. guidance,” said Karen Burke, an adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management.

But almost two years into the pandemic, that’s the position that employers continue to find themselves in, amid an ever-flowing cascade of new data, guidelines and considerations.

“Every moment, you’re making life or death decisions,” Ms. Sibley said. “That’s not what we signed up for.”

Rebecca Robbins contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Facebook Debates What to Do With Its Like and Share Buttons

SAN FRANCISCO — In 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

But the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

“The mechanics of our platform are not neutral,” they concluded.

hide posts they do not want to see and turning off political group recommendations to reduce the spread of misinformation.

But the core way that Facebook operates — a network where information can spread rapidly and where people can accumulate friends and followers and Likes — ultimately remains largely unchanged.

Many significant modifications to the social network were blocked in the service of growth and keeping users engaged, some current and former executives said. Facebook is valued at more than $900 billion.

“There’s a gap between the fact that you can have pretty open conversations inside of Facebook as an employee,” said Brian Boland, a Facebook vice president who left last year. “Actually getting change done can be much harder.”

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

post this month, Mr. Zuckerberg said it was “deeply illogical” that the company would give priority to harmful content because Facebook’s advertisers don’t want to buy ads on a platform that spreads hate and misinformation.

“At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted,” he wrote.

When Mr. Zuckerberg founded Facebook 17 years ago in his Harvard University dorm room, the site’s mission was to connect people on college campuses and bring them into digital groups with common interests and locations.

Growth exploded in 2006 when Facebook introduced the News Feed, a central stream of photos, videos and status updates posted by people’s friends. Over time, the company added more features to keep people interested in spending time on the platform.

In 2009, Facebook introduced the Like button. The tiny thumbs-up symbol, a simple indicator of people’s preferences, became one of the social network’s most important features. The company allowed other websites to adopt the Like button so users could share their interests back to their Facebook profiles.

That gave Facebook insight into people’s activities and sentiments outside of its own site, so it could better target them with advertising. Likes also signified what users wanted to see more of in their News Feeds so people would spend more time on Facebook.

Facebook also added the groups feature, where people join private communication channels to talk about specific interests, and pages, which allowed businesses and celebrities to amass large fan bases and broadcast messages to those followers.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has said that research on users’ well-being led to investments in anti-bullying measures on Instagram.

Yet Facebook cannot simply tweak itself so that it becomes a healthier social network when so many problems trace back to core features, said Jane Lytvynenko, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center, who studies social networks and misinformation.

“When we talk about the Like button, the share button, the News Feed and their power, we’re essentially talking about the infrastructure that the network is built on top of,” she said. “The crux of the problem here is the infrastructure itself.”

As Facebook’s researchers dug into how its products worked, the worrisome results piled up.

In a July 2019 study of groups, researchers traced how members in those communities could be targeted with misinformation. The starting point, the researchers said, were people known as “invite whales,” who sent invitations out to others to join a private group.

These people were effective at getting thousands to join new groups so that the communities ballooned almost overnight, the study said. Then the invite whales could spam the groups with posts promoting ethnic violence or other harmful content, according to the study.

Another 2019 report looked at how some people accrued large followings on their Facebook pages, often using posts about cute animals and other innocuous topics. But once a page had grown to tens of thousands of followers, the founders sold it. The buyers then used the pages to show followers misinformation or politically divisive content, according to the study.

As researchers studied the Like button, executives considered hiding the feature on Facebook as well, according to the documents. In September 2019, it removed Likes from users’ Facebook posts in a small experiment in Australia.

The company wanted to see if the change would reduce pressure and social comparison among users. That, in turn, might encourage people to post more frequently to the network.

But people did not share more posts after the Like button was removed. Facebook chose not to roll the test out more broadly, noting, “Like counts are extremely low on the long list of problems we need to solve.”

Last year, company researchers also evaluated the share button. In a September 2020 study, a researcher wrote that the button and so-called reshare aggregation units in the News Feed, which are automatically generated clusters of posts that have already been shared by people’s friends, were “designed to attract attention and encourage engagement.”

But gone unchecked, the features could “serve to amplify bad content and sources,” such as bullying and borderline nudity posts, the researcher said.

That’s because the features made people less hesitant to share posts, videos and messages with one another. In fact, users were three times more likely to share any kind of content from the reshare aggregation units, the researcher said.

One post that spread widely this way was an undated message from an account called “The Angry Patriot.” The post notified users that people protesting police brutality were “targeting a police station” in Portland, Ore. After it was shared through reshare aggregation units, hundreds of hate-filled comments flooded in. It was an example of “hate bait,” the researcher said.

A common thread in the documents was how Facebook employees argued for changes in how the social network worked and often blamed executives for standing in the way.

In an August 2020 internal post, a Facebook researcher criticized the recommendation system that suggests pages and groups for people to follow and said it can “very quickly lead users down the path to conspiracy theories and groups.”

“Out of fears over potential public and policy stakeholder responses, we are knowingly exposing users to risks of integrity harms,” the researcher wrote. “During the time that we’ve hesitated, I’ve seen folks from my hometown go further and further down the rabbit hole” of conspiracy theory movements like QAnon and anti-vaccination and Covid-19 conspiracies.

The researcher added, “It has been painful to observe.”

Reporting was contributed by Davey Alba, Sheera Frenkel, Cecilia Kang and Ryan Mac.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Risk of Nuclear War Over Taiwan in 1958 Said to Be Greater Than Publicly Known

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

WASHINGTON — When Communist Chinese forces began shelling islands controlled by Taiwan in 1958, the United States rushed to back up its ally with military force — including drawing up plans to carry out nuclear strikes on mainland China, according to an apparently still-classified document that sheds new light on how dangerous that crisis was.

American military leaders pushed for a first-use nuclear strike on China, accepting the risk that the Soviet Union would retaliate in kind on behalf of its ally and millions of people would die, dozens of pages from a classified 1966 study of the confrontation show. The government censored those pages when it declassified the study for public release.

The document was disclosed by Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked a classified history of the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers, 50 years ago. Mr. Ellsberg said he had copied the top secret study about the Taiwan Strait crisis at the same time but did not disclose it then. He is now highlighting it amid new tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan.

has been known in broader strokes that United States officials considered using atomic weapons against mainland China if the crisis escalated, the pages reveal in new detail how aggressive military leaders were in pushing for authority to do so if Communist forces, which had started shelling the so-called offshore islands, intensified their attacks.

leaving them in the control of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Republic of China forces based on Taiwan. More than six decades later, strategic ambiguity about Taiwan’s status — and about American willingness to use nuclear weapons to defend it — persist.

The previously censored information is significant both historically and now, said Odd Arne Westad, a Yale University historian who specializes in the Cold War and China and who reviewed the pages for The New York Times.

“This confirms, to me at least, that we came closer to the United States using nuclear weapons” during the 1958 crisis “than what I thought before,” he said. “In terms of how the decision-making actually took place, this is a much more illustrative level than what we have seen.”

Drawing parallels to today’s tensions — when China’s own conventional military might has grown far beyond its 1958 ability, and when it has its own nuclear weapons — Mr. Westad said the documents provided fodder to warn of the dangers of an escalating confrontation over Taiwan.

Gen. Laurence S. Kutner, the top Air Force commander for the Pacific. He wanted authorization for a first-use nuclear attack on mainland China at the start of any armed conflict. To that end, he praised a plan that would start by dropping atomic bombs on Chinese airfields but not other targets, arguing that its relative restraint would make it harder for skeptics of nuclear warfare in the American government to block the plan.

“There would be merit in a proposal from the military to limit the war geographically” to the air bases, “if that proposal would forestall some misguided humanitarian’s intention to limit a war to obsolete iron bombs and hot lead,” General Kutner said at one meeting.

like Neil Sheehan of The Times.

in 2017, when he published a book, “Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” One of its footnotes mentions in passing that passages and pages omitted from the study are available on his website.

But he did not quote the study’s material in his book, he said, because lawyers for his publisher worried about potential legal liability. He also did little else to draw attention to the fact that its redacted pages are visible in the version he posted. As a result, few noticed it.

One of the few who did was William Burr, a senior analyst at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, who mentioned it in a footnote in a March blog post about threats to use nuclear weapons in the Cold War.

Mr. Burr said he had tried more than a decade ago to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a new declassification review of the study — which was written by Morton H. Halperin for the RAND Corporation — but the Pentagon was unable to locate an unabridged copy in its files. (RAND, a nongovernmental think tank, is not itself subject to information act requests.)

Mr. Ellsberg said tensions over Taiwan did not seem as urgent in 2017. But the uptick in saber-rattling — he pointed to a recent cover of The Economist magazine that labeled Taiwan “the most dangerous place on Earth” and a recent opinion column by The Times’s Thomas L. Friedman titled, “Is There a War Coming Between China and the U.S.?” — prompted him to conclude it was important to get the information into greater public view.

Michael Szonyi, a Harvard University historian and author of a book about one of the offshore islands at the heart of the crisis, “Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line,” called the material’s availability “hugely interesting.”

Any new confrontation over Taiwan could escalate and officials today would be “asking themselves the same questions that these folks were asking in 1958,” he said, linking the risks created by “dramatic” miscalculations and misunderstandings during serious planning for the use of nuclear weapons in 1958 and today’s tensions.

Mr. Ellsberg said he also had another reason for highlighting his exposure of that material. Now 90, he said he wanted to take on the risk of becoming a defendant in a test case challenging the Justice Department’s growing practice of using the Espionage Act to prosecute officials who leak information.

Enacted during World War I, the Espionage Act makes it a crime to retain or disclose, without authorization, defense-related information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary. Its wording covers everyone — not only spies — and it does not allow defendants to urge juries to acquit on the basis that disclosures were in the public interest.

Using the Espionage Act to prosecute leakers was once rare. In 1973, Mr. Ellsberg himself was charged under it, before a judge threw out the charges because of government misconduct. The first successful such conviction was in 1985. But it has now become routine for the Justice Department to bring such charges.

Most of the time, defendants strike plea deals to avoid long sentences, so there is no appeal. The Supreme Court has not confronted questions about whether the law’s wording or application trammels First Amendment rights.

Saying the Justice Department should charge him for his open admission that he disclosed the classified study about the Taiwan crisis without authorization, Mr. Ellsberg said he would handle his defense in a way that would tee the First Amendment issues up for the Supreme Court.

“I will, if indicted, be asserting my belief that what I am doing — like what I’ve done in the past — is not criminal,” he said, arguing that using the Espionage Act “to criminalize classified truth-telling in the public interest” is unconstitutional.

View Source

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Vaccinations Rise in the E.U. After a Long, Slow Start

Vaccinations are picking up pace in the European Union, a stunning turnaround after the bloc’s immunization drive stalled for months.

On average over the last week, nearly three million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were being administered each day in the European Union, a group of 27 nations, according to Our World in Data, a University of Oxford database. Adjusted for population, the rate is roughly equivalent to the number of shots given each day in the United States, where demand has been falling.

The E.U. vaccination campaign, marred by disruptions in supplies of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, pivoted last month to rely heavily on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Last month, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said that Pfizer had agreed to an early shipment of doses that she said should likely allow the bloc to reach its goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer. The European Union is also on the verge of announcing a deal with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 2022 and 2023 that will lock in 1.8 billion doses for boosters, variants and children’s vaccines.

customer than an investor.

“I think it is overdue that the E.U. has stepped up their vaccination campaign,” said Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“I think in the context of the rate of deaths we’ve seen and new cases we’ve seen in the E.U., it is absolutely vital that we get the vaccine to people there very, very quickly,” she added.

The E.U.’s increase underscores the global disparities in vaccination efforts.

About 83 percent of Covid shots have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3 percent of doses have been given in low-income countries. In North America, more than 30 percent of people have received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data. In Europe, the figure is nearly 24 percent. In Africa, it’s slightly more than one percent.

waiving intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines, which would need approval from the World Trade Organization. And even then, experts warn that pharmaceutical companies around the world would need technological help to make the vaccines and time to ramp up production.

European leaders like Ms. von der Leyen and President Emmanuel Macron have made it clear they think President Biden should take a different approach, and instead lift export restrictions on vaccines, which the United States has employed to keep most doses for use domestically. “We call upon all vaccine-producing countries to allow export and to avoid measures that disrupt the supply chains,” Ms. von der Leyen said in a speech last week.

But the matter is not so absolute, said Dr. Thomas Tsai, a professor who researches health policy at Harvard University. “What’s really needed is an all-of-the-above approach,” he said. Waiving patents is a big long-term step, he said, but lifting export bans would provide help sooner.

“There is a need to move toward a more comprehensive strategy” in vaccinating the world, Dr. Tsai said. “We need that same sort of Warp Speed type of commitment. It’s an investment.”

View Source

After a Year of Loss, South America Suffers Worst Death Tolls Yet

If the world doesn’t stop the region’s surging caseload, it could cost us all that we’ve done to fight the pandemic, said one health official.

Julie Turkewitz and


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — In the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, the mayor is warning residents to brace for “the worst two weeks of our lives.”

Uruguay, once lauded as a model for keeping the coronavirus under control, now has one of the highest death rates in the world, while the grim daily tallies of the dead have hit records in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru in recent days.

Even Venezuela, where the authoritarian government is notorious for hiding health statistics and any suggestion of disarray, says that coronavirus deaths are up 86 percent since January.

As vaccinations mount in some of the world’s wealthiest countries and people cautiously envision life after the pandemic, the crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse, potentially threatening the progress made well beyond its borders.

abandoned on sidewalks and new burial grounds cut into thick forest. Yet even after a year of incalculable loss, it is still one of the most troubling global hot spots, with a recent surge in many countries that is even more deadly than before.

longest schools closures and largest economic contractions in the world.

Inequality, a longstanding scourge that had been easing before the pandemic, is widening once again, and millions have been tossed back into the precarious positions they thought they had escaped during a relative boom. Many are venting their anger in the streets, defying official pleas to stay home.

“They’ve taken so much from us that we’ve even lost our fear,” read a sign held by Brissa Rodríguez, 14, at a protest with thousands of others in Bogotá on Wednesday.

recent essay. “I want to think that the worst is over. But that turns out, I believe, to be counter-evident.”

devastated by the virus in mid-2020. But the second wave there was worse than the first.

While the data is far from conclusive, initial studies indicate that P.1 is more transmissible than the initial virus, and is associated with a higher death rate among younger patients and patients without pre-existing conditions. It can also reinfect people who have already had Covid, though it’s unclear how often that occurs.

37 countries, but appears to have spread most thoroughly through South America, said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University.

Across the region, doctors say that the patients coming into hospitals are now far younger and far sicker than before. They’re also more likely to have had the virus already.

In Peru, the National Health Institute documented 782 cases of likely reinfection in the first three months of 2021 alone, a surge from last year. Dr. Lely Solari, an infectious disease doctor with the institute, called this “a very significant underestimate.”

Official daily death tolls have exceeded previous records in recent days in most of South America’s biggest countries. Yet scientists say that the worst is yet to come.

Our World in Data, a project at the University of Oxford. Several of its neighbors have achieved half that, or less.

the first in the world to record more than 100 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

The actual death toll is far higher, because many of the dead have not been included in the official count of coronavirus patients.

government study in the capital, Lima, found that 40 percent of residents had coronavirus antibodies. Officials said the population had reached such a high level of immunity that a second wave might not be so bad. The government opted not to impose a lockdown during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

jumped the line to get vaccinated first. More recently, multiple government agencies have begun investigating whether some health workers have asked for bribes in exchange for access to scarce hospital beds.

“It was that or let her die,” said Dessiré Nalvarte, 29, a lawyer who said she helped pay about $265 to a man who claimed to be the head of the intensive care unit at a hospital in order to get treatment for a family friend who had become sick.

The crisis has plunged nations like Peru into grief, ripping at the social fabric. This month, thousands of poor and newly poor Peruvians began to occupy empty swaths of land in southern Lima, with many saying that they were doing so because they had lost their livelihoods amid the pandemic.

Rafael Córdova, 50, a father of three, sat on a square drawn in the sand that marked his claim to land overlooking the Pan-American Highway and the Pacific Coast.

Before the pandemic, he explained, he was supervisor in the human resources department of a local municipality, and had a grip — or so he thought — on stability.

Then, in May, he became sick with Covid and was fired. He believes his bosses let him go because they feared that he would sicken others, or that his family would blame them if he died.

He now struggles to pay for minutes on the one family phone so that his children can do class work. Meals are small. Debts are mounting. “Today I went to the market and bought a bag of fish bones and made soup,” he said.

He says he has lost an aunt, a sister-in-law and a cousin to Covid, as well as friends. In June, his wife, who had also had Covid, gave birth to twins prematurely. One daughter died days after birth, he said, and the second died about a month later. He had no money for a proper burial.

“I left the hospital with my daughter in a black plastic bag and got in a taxi and went to the cemetery,” he said. “There was no Mass, no wake. No flowers. Nothing.”

When he heard about the occupation, he said he was three months behind on rent and feared eviction. So he made a run for the hill, pitching a tent that became his new home.

“The only way they’ll get us out of here,” he said, “is if we’re dead.”

A week later, the police arrived, set off tear gas — and booted him and thousands of others from their camp.

Reporting was contributed by Isayen Herrera in Caracas, Venezuela; Sofía Villamil in Bogotá, Colombia; and Daniel Politi in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

View Source

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.

View Source

Biden Seeks $80 Billion to Beef Up I.R.S. Audits of High-Earners

WASHINGTON — President Biden, in an effort to pay for his ambitious economic agenda, is expected to propose giving the Internal Revenue Service an extra $80 billion and more authority over the next 10 years to help crack down on tax evasion by high-earners and large corporations, according to two people familiar with the plan.

The additional money and enforcement power will accompany new disclosure requirements for people who own businesses that are not organized as corporations and for other wealthy people who could be hiding income from the government.

The Biden administration will portray those efforts — coupled with new taxes it is proposing on corporations and the rich — as a way to level the tax playing field between typical American workers and very high-earners who employ sophisticated efforts to minimize or avoid taxation.

Mr. Biden plans to use money raised by the effort to help pay for the cost of his “American Families Plan,” which he will detail before addressing a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

$2.3 trillion infrastructure package, is expected to cost at least $1.5 trillion and will include universal prekindergarten, a federal paid leave program, efforts to make child care more affordable, free community college for all and tax credits meant to fight poverty.

The administration also aims to pay for the plan by raising the top marginal income tax rate for wealthy Americans to 39.6 percent from 37 percent and raising capital gains tax rates for those who earn more than $1 million a year. Mr. Biden will also seek to raise the tax rate on income that people earning more than $1 million per year receive through stock dividends, according to a person familiar with the proposal.

Administration officials have privately concluded that an aggressive crackdown on tax avoidance by corporations and the rich could raise at least $700 billion on net over 10 years. The $80 billion in proposed funding would be an increase of two-thirds over the agency’s entire funding levels for the past decade.

The administration is expected to portray the $780 billion it expects to collect through enhanced enforcement as conservative. That figure includes only money directly raised by enhanced tax audits and additional reporting requirements, and not any additional revenue from people or companies choosing to pay more taxes after previously avoiding them.

Previous administrations have long talked about trying to close the so-called tax gap — the amount of money that taxpayers owe but that is not collected each year. This month, the head of the I.R.S., Charles Rettig, told a Senate committee that the agency lacked the resources to catch tax cheats, costing the government as much as $1 trillion a year. The agency’s funding has failed to keep pace with inflation in recent years, amid budget tightening efforts, and its audits of rich taxpayers have declined.

whose research with the Harvard University economist Lawrence H. Summers suggests that the United States could raise as much as $1.1 trillion over a decade via increased tax enforcement.

Mr. Summers praised Mr. Biden’s expected plan in an email late Monday. “This is the broadly right approach,” he said. “Deterioration in I.R.S. enforcement effort and information gathering is scandalous. The Biden plan would make the American tax system fairer, more efficient and, I’m confident, raise more revenue than official scorekeepers now forecast — likely a trillion over 10 years.”

Mr. Biden’s efforts would incorporate some of Ms. Sarin and Mr. Summers’s suggestions, including investing heavily in information technology improvements to help the agency better target its audits of high-earners and companies.

They would also provide a dedicated funding stream to the agency, to enable officials to steadily ramp up their enforcement practices without fear of budget cuts, and to signal to potential tax evaders that the agency’s efforts will not be soon diminished. Mr. Biden would also add new requirements for people who own so-called pass-through corporations or hold their wealth in opaque structures, reminiscent of a program established under President Barack Obama that helps the agency better track possible tax evasion by Americans with overseas holdings.

Fred T. Goldberg Jr., an I.R.S. commissioner under President George H.W. Bush, called Mr. Biden’s plan “transformative” for combining those efforts.

“Information reporting, coupled with restoring enforcement efforts, is key to improve in compliance,” Mr. Goldberg said in an email. “Audits alone will never do the trick.”

He added: “None of this happens overnight. A decade of stable funding is necessary to recruit and train talent and build on the necessary technology — not only for compliance purposes but to meet the quality of services that the vast majority complaint taxpayers expect and deserve.”

View Source

Jordan’s Ex-Crown Prince Vows to Defy Efforts to Silence Him

The former crown prince of Jordan vowed on Monday to defy the orders of the government and his half brother, King Abdullah II, to stop communicating with the world even as he remained under what he described as house arrest in his home.

“I’m not going to obey when they say you can’t go out, you can’t tweet, you can’t communicate with people,” the former crown prince, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, said in an audio message posted to Twitter by his supporters.

The government has accused Prince Hussein of destabilizing the “security and stability” of Jordan, a vital American ally in the Middle East. The Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, suggested on Sunday that the prince was involved in a failed palace coup that had foreign backing.

The bitter family feud and public airing of palace intrigue has been a blow to Jordan’s image as an island of stability in a volatile region.

defending himself in a video released on Saturday.

He denied involvement in any plot against King Abdullah, though he did condemn the government as corrupt, incompetent and authoritarian.

View Source