programs intended to speed $25 billion for emergency housing relief passed last year.

Watchdog groups are wary that speed could sacrifice accountability.

Under Mr. Trump, the Office of Management and Budget, which is responsible for setting policy in federal agencies, refused to comply with all the reporting requirements in the 2020 stimulus that called for it to collect and release data about businesses that borrowed money under the small-business lending programs.

To some observers, Mr. Biden’s budget office has not moved quickly enough to reverse the Trump-era policy. Instead, Mr. Sterling’s team is working on a complex set of benchmarks — tailored to individual programs included in the $1.9 trillion relief bill — which will be released one by one in the coming months.

stymied by disagreements about a program to prop up struggling state and local governments.

Its legally mandated report to Congress was delayed for weeks, and a member of the panel, Bharat Ramamurti, accused his Republican colleagues of stalling the group’s work. Mr. Ramamurti has since left to work for the Biden administration, and the five-person panel now has three commissioners and no chair. Its latest report was only 19 pages.

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Violence in Israel Challenges Biden’s ‘Stand Back’ Approach

At a briefing on Monday, Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, was asked about a tweet by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, who said that the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, in a defense of the proposed evictions, had endorsed “ethnic cleansing.” Mr. Price said the claim was “not something that our analysis supports.”

Some analysts said that even if Mr. Biden shared the assessment that more pressure on Israel’s government would be effective, he might be wary of further exacerbating tensions with Israeli leaders anxious about his top priority in the Middle East: an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Mr. Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have long opposed.

Mr. Biden also took office at a moment of enormous political flux, with Israel in the midst of several failed efforts to form a lasting government and the Palestinians headed toward elections — since postponed, another source of the current unrest — that complicated efforts to devise a clear U.S. policy. Mr. Netanyahu is struggling to hold on to power, and U.S. officials say the influence of Mr. Abbas over Palestinian protests and violence, driven by militants and social media, is close to zero.

Mr. Biden also has memories from his days as vice president of Mr. Obama’s call for an Israeli settlement freeze and territorial concessions, which had little effect on policies over the long term but drew fierce political blowback from Republicans and some Democrats who said Mr. Obama failed to understand Israel’s security needs.

Republicans continue to exploit tensions in the Democratic Party over Israel policy. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump issued a statement charging that Mr. Biden’s “lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies.” But it was unclear what support Mr. Trump felt the United States was not providing, given that his own statement of support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” matched Biden administration talking points.

Many Democrats, including Biden officials speaking privately, say that Mr. Trump is a key cause of the current problems. Halie Soifer, the chief executive of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said that Mr. Trump, who fulsomely supported Mr. Netanyahu’s pro-settlement policies and defied warnings of Palestinian unrest in moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, “was willing to intervene in Israeli domestic politics and elections to pursue his political agenda, regardless of its impact on the region or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Ms. Soifer said that Mr. Biden deserved credit for being a supporter, during the Obama administration, of Israel’s so-called Iron Dome antirocket system, which has been defending Israeli cities from incoming fire.

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When Covid Hit, China Was Ready to Tell Its Version of the Story

But Mr. Rigoni, whose company is owned by Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said he didn’t think China’s mix of media and state power was unique. “It’s not the only country where the main TV and radio programs are controlled by the government or the parliament,” he said.

And the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, Anthony Bellanger, said in an email that his view of the report is that while “China is a growing force in the information war, it is also vital to resist such pressures exerted by the U.S., Russia and other governments around the world.”

But there’s little question of which government is more committed to this campaign right now. A report last year by Sarah Cook for the Freedom House, an American nonprofit group that advocates political freedom, found that Beijing was spending “hundreds of millions of dollars a year to spread their messages to audiences around the world.”

The United States may have pioneered the tools of covert and overt influence during the Cold War, but the government’s official channels have withered. The swaggering C.I.A. influence operations of the early Cold War, in which the agency secretly funded influential journals like Encounter, gave way to American outlets like Voice of America and Radio Liberty, which sought to extend American influence by broadcasting uncensored local news into authoritarian countries. After the Cold War, those turned into softer tools of American power.

But more recently, President Donald J. Trump sought to turn those outlets into blunter propaganda tools, and Democrats and their own journalists resisted. That lack of an American domestic consensus on how to use its own media outlets has left the American government unable to project much of anything. Instead, the cultural power represented by companies like Netflix and Disney — vastly more powerful and better funded than any government effort — has been doing the work.

And journalists around the world expressed skepticism of the effectiveness of often ham-handed Chinese government propaganda, a skepticism I certainly shared when I recycled a week’s worth of unread editions of China Daily sent to my home last week. The kind of propaganda that can work inside China, without any real journalistic answer, is largely failing to compete in the intense open market for people’s attention.

“China is trying to push its content in Kenyan media, but it’s not yet that influential,” said Eric Oduor, the secretary general of the Kenya Union of Journalists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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U.S. and Iran Want to Restore the Nuclear Deal. They Disagree Deeply on What That Means.

President Biden and Iran’s leaders say they share a common goal: They both want to re-enter the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump scrapped three years ago, restoring the bargain that Iran would keep sharp limits on its production of nuclear fuel in return for a lifting of sanctions that have choked its economy.

But after five weeks of shadow boxing in Vienna hotel rooms — where the two sides pass notes through European intermediaries — it has become clear that the old deal, strictly defined, does not work for either of them anymore, at least in the long run.

The Iranians are demanding that they be allowed to keep the advanced nuclear-fuel production equipment they installed after Mr. Trump abandoned the pact, and integration with the world financial system beyond what they achieved under the 2015 agreement.

The Biden administration, for its part, says that restoring the old deal is just a steppingstone. It must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting missiles and support of terrorism — and making it impossible for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb for decades. The Iranians say no way.

financial restrictions that go beyond that deal — mostly involving conducting transactions with Western banks — because it would create what one senior administration official called a “ripe circumstance for a negotiation on a follow-on agreement.”

The Iranians refuse to even discuss a larger agreement. And American officials say it is not yet clear that Iran really wants to restore the old deal, which is derided by powerful hard-liners at home.

campaign of sabotage and assassination to cripple the Iranian program — and perhaps the negotiations themselves. So it was notable that the director of the Mossad, who has led those operations, was recently ushered into the White House for a meeting with the president. After an explosion at the Natanz nuclear plant last month, Mr. Biden told aides that the timing — just as the United States was beginning to make progress on restoring the accord — was suspicious.

The split with Israel remains. In the meetings in Washington last week — which included Mr. Blinken; the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns; and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan — Israeli officials argued that the United States was naïve to return to the old accord, which they think preserved a nascent nuclear breakout capability.

Mr. Biden’s top aides argued that three years of “maximum pressure” on Iran engineered by Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had failed to break its government or limit its support of terrorism. In fact, it had prompted nuclear breakout.

told the BBC.

Iran wants more sanctions lifted than the United States judges consistent with the deal, while insisting on keeping more of its nuclear infrastructure — in particular advanced centrifuges — than that deal permits. Instead, Iran argues that the International Atomic Energy Agency should simply inspect the new centrifuges, a position that is unacceptable to Washington.

While the talks continue, Iran is keeping up the pressure by adding to its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and the equipment to make it, all in violation of the deal.

Both Iran and the United States are working under delicate political constraints. Even as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has supported the Vienna talks, Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif are mocked by powerful conservatives who do not trust Washington and who expect to capture the presidency.

For his part, Mr. Biden must contend with a Congress that is highly skeptical of a deal and largely sympathetic to the concerns of Israel.

increasing enrichment to just short of bomb grade in small quantities and barring international inspectors from key sites in late February — Mr. Zarif insists that these moves are easily reversible.

American intelligence officials say that while Iran has bolstered its production of nuclear material — and is probably only months from being able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one or two bombs — even now, there is no evidence Iran is advancing on its work to fashion a warhead. “We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a report last month.

scandal over Mr. Zarif, whose criticism of internal decision-making recently leaked, apparently in an effort to damage his reputation and any chance he had to run for the presidency.

Ayatollah Khamenei refuted the criticism without naming Mr. Zarif, but he said the comments were “a big mistake that must not be made by an official of the Islamic Republic” and “a repetition of what Iran’s enemies say.”

At the same time, by downplaying Mr. Zarif’s role, the supreme leader reaffirmed his support for the talks while also sheltering them from criticism by hard-liners, said Ellie Geranmayeh of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and David E. Sanger from Washington. Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.

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The Stock Market Loves Biden More Than Trump. So Far, at Least.

From the moment he was elected president in 2016 through his failed campaign for re-election, Donald J. Trump invoked the stock market as a report card on the presidency.

The market loved him, Mr. Trump said, and it hated Democrats, particularly his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. During the presidential debate in October, Mr. Trump warned of Mr. Biden: “If he’s elected, the market will crash.” In a variety of settings, he said that Democrats would be a disaster and that a victory for them would set off “a depression,” which would make the stock market “disintegrate.”

So far, it hasn’t turned out that way.

To the extent that the Dow Jones industrial average measures the stock market’s affection for a president, its early report card says the market loves President Biden’s first days in office considerably more than it loved those of President Trump.

Mr. Biden would get an A for this early period; Mr. Trump would receive a B for the market performance during his first days as president, though he would get a higher mark for much of the rest of his term.

signs that the United States is recovering briskly from the pandemic, early returns for Mr. Biden’s actual time in office have also been exceptional. The stock market’s rise from its close on Inauguration Day to its close on Thursday marked the best start for any presidency since that of another Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson.

For those too young to remember the awful day of Nov. 22, 1963, Johnson, the vice president, was sworn in as president that afternoon after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Measuring stock market performance from the end of the day they were all sworn into office allows us to include Johnson as well as Theodore Roosevelt, who became president on Sept. 14, 1901, after President William McKinley died of gunshot wounds.

The Republican Party has long claimed that it is the party of business, and that Republican rule is better for stocks. But the historical record demonstrates that the market has generally performed better under Democratic presidents since the start of the 20th century.

Over all, the market under President Biden ranks third for all presidents during a comparable time in office since 1901, according to a tally through Thursday (the Biden administration’s 109th day) by Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group.

These are the top performers:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, inaugurated March 4, 1933: 78.1 percent.

  • Johnson, inaugurated Nov. 22, 1963: 13.8 percent.

  • Mr. Biden, inaugurated Jan. 20, 2021: 10.8 percent.

  • William H. Taft, inaugurated March 4, 1909: 9.6 percent.

Note that three of the top four — Roosevelt, Johnson and Mr. Biden — were Democrats. That fits an apparent pattern. Since 1900, the median stock market gain for Democrats for the start of their presidencies is 7.9 percent; for Republicans, only 2.7 percent.

cited an investment analysis that suggested the stock market might perform quite well in a Biden presidency, despite Mr. Trump’s claims to the contrary. Those factors included more vigorous and efficient management of the coronavirus crisis, which would promote economic recovery and corporate profits; generous fiscal stimulus programs, with the possibility of colossal infrastructure-building; a return to international engagement accompanied by a reduction in trade friction; and a renewal of America’s global climate-change commitments.

So far, that analysis is holding up. But will it lead to strong returns through the Biden administration?

I have no idea. Alas, none of this tells us where the stock market is heading. All we know is that it has risen more than it has fallen over the long run, but has moved fairly randomly, day to day, and has sometimes veered into long declines. Another decline could happen at any time, regardless of what any president does.

The only approach to investing I’d actively embrace is passive: using low-cost stock and bond index funds to build a well-diversified portfolio and hang on for the long run. And I’d try to ignore the exhortations of politicians, especially those who would tie their own electoral fortunes to the performance of the stock market.

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Vaccine Patent Waivers Get a Boost From Biden

The board said the current, indefinite suspension isn’t appropriate. “In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the board wrote in its report.

The political reaction was as you’d expect. Trump put out a general statement, saying, “What Facebook, Twitter and Google have done is a total disgrace.” Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said Facebook should be broken up (as did many other conservatives). Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, called the decision “a minimal marker for truth and decency.”

Further reading:

Further listening:


Jason Fried, the C.E.O. of the software firm Basecamp, where a third of employees resigned after company executives banned political discussions in the workplace.


As Uber and Lyft recover from the pandemic slump in their ride-hailing businesses, they face two big challenges, both to do with their drivers.

Driver growth isn’t keeping pace with rider growth. About 940,000 more people took at least one Lyft trip in the first quarter than in the previous quarter, Lyft said in its latest earnings report on Tuesday. But rider growth began to outpace driver growth at the end of February, leading to higher rates for passengers (and higher pay for drivers). Uber, which is facing a similar problem, said last month that it would spend $250 million on incentives to lure drivers. It now has 3.5 million drivers on its platform, about 4 percent more than last quarter, but 22 percent fewer than a year ago.

The debate over how to classify gig workers isn’t settled. Last year’s passage of Prop. 22, which ensured gig workers would be classified as independent contractors in California, was a huge win for Uber and Lyft. But it only settled the question for California. Last week, Marty Walsh, the U.S. labor secretary, told Reuters that “a lot” of gig economy workers should be classified as employees instead of independent contractors. And yesterday, the Labor Department blocked a Trump-era rule that would have made it easier to classify Lyft and Uber drivers as contractors.


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Facebook Oversight Board Tells Zuckerberg He’s the Decider on Trump

When Mr. Zuckerberg first pitched the idea of a “Facebook Supreme Court” several years ago, he promoted it as a way to make the company’s governance more democratic, by forming an independent body of subject matter experts and giving them the power to hear appeals from users.

“I think in any kind of good-functioning democratic system, there needs to be a way to appeal,” Mr. Zuckerberg told Ezra Klein in a 2018 Vox podcast.

The oversight board also served another purpose. For years, Mr. Zuckerberg had been called in as Facebook’s policy judge of last resort. (In 2018, for example, he got personally involved in the decision to bar Alex Jones, the Infowars conspiracy theorist.) But high-profile moderation decisions were often unpopular, and the blowback was often fierce. If it worked, the oversight board would take responsibility for making the platform’s most contentious content decisions, while shielding Mr. Zuckerberg and his policy team from criticism.

It’s hard to imagine a dispute Mr. Zuckerberg would be more eager to avoid than the one about Mr. Trump. The former president rode Facebook to the White House in 2016, then tormented the company by repeatedly skirting its rules and daring executives to punish him for it. When they finally did, Republicans raged at Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants, accusing them of politically motivated censorship.

Facebook faced plenty of pressure in the other direction, too — both from Democrats and civil rights groups and from employees, many of whom saw Mr. Trump’s presence on Facebook as fundamentally incompatible with their goal of reducing harmful misinformation and hate speech. No matter what Mr. Zuckerberg and his team decided, they were sure to inflame the online speech wars and make more enemies.

Before the decision on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives did everything they could to convince a skeptical public that the oversight board would have real teeth. They funded the group through a legally independent trust, filled it with hyper-credentialed experts and pledged to abide by its rulings.

But for all its claims of legitimacy, the oversight board has always had a Potemkin quality to it. Its leaders were selected by Facebook, and its members are (handsomely) paid out of the company’s pockets. Its mandate is limited, and none of its rulings are binding, in any meaningful sense of that word. If Mr. Zuckerberg decided tomorrow to ignore the board’s advice and reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, nothing — no act of Congress, no judicial writ, no angry letter from Facebook shareholders — could stop him.

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U.S. Secretary of State Blinken Visiting Ukraine

LONDON — When Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrives in Ukraine early Thursday, he will encounter an all too familiar scene: a country struggling to defend itself from without and reconstruct itself from within.

It is little changed from the days when Mr. Blinken was a White House staffer in the Obama administration — and a warning that solutions might be years away still.

Mr. Blinken is the first senior Biden administration official to visit Kyiv, and his task when he meets with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will be to reassure him of American support against Russia’s ongoing aggression, which flared last month when Moscow built up more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border.

Russia began withdrawing those forces in late April but still has many of them and all their equipment in place. Moscow also continues to back a pro-Russian insurgency in a war in Ukraine’s east that has killed more than 13,000 people, according to the United Nations.

seeking evidence related to Mr. Giuliani’s role in the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in April 2019.

Although that saga is unlikely to be on the official agenda or to affect U.S. policy, it is a vivid reminder of the power of anti-reform figures in the country. Ukrainian associates of Mr. Giuliani pressed Mr. Giuliani to oust the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, because they viewed her as a threat to their business interests, American diplomats testified during the impeachment hearings in 2019.

Though Mr. Blinken is no stranger to Ukraine, having visited repeatedly during the Obama years, he will be joined by one of the government’s top experts and strongest defenders of the country, Victoria J. Nuland, who last week was confirmed as the State Department’s under secretary for political affairs, its No. 3 position.

As the department’s top official for Europe and Eurasia in the Obama administration, Ms. Nuland became a loathed figure in the Kremlin over her ardent support for Ukraine’s 2014 revolution. Russian officials bitterly recall how Ms. Nuland passed out food to protesters in Kyiv before they toppled Ukraine’s Russian-backed president, Viktor F. Yanukovych.

Ms. Nuland’s visit with Mr. Blinken comes a few weeks before President Biden is likely to meet with Mr. Putin during a trip to Europe. For now, Mr. Taylor said, that meeting in June serves as “a hostage” that may be preventing the Russian leader from sending troops across Ukraine’s border, though analysts remain divided about Mr. Putin’s motives in ordering the buildup. Some believe he may be simply trying to intimidate Mr. Zelensky and put Mr. Biden off balance.

Combat has been taking place within Ukraine for seven years, as government forces battle separatists armed and funded by the Kremlin, and a European-led peace process is deadlocked.

Mr. Biden himself has had extensive experience in Ukraine, having led the Obama administration’s actions there as vice president. On Tuesday, he said his “hope and expectation” was that he will meet with Mr. Putin during his trip to Europe, a meeting at which Ukraine is sure to be a central topic of discussion.

With an eye on Russia’s threats and meddling, Ukrainian officials have said they are eager for more security aid from the Biden administration, but it is far from clear whether that will be forthcoming.

Asked last week whether Mr. Blinken might come bearing such offers, Philip T. Reeker, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, pointed to $408 million in existing U.S. support, and said only, “I’m sure that will come up in our conversation.” Strong support exists in Congress for increasing that funding, Mr. Taylor noted.

During his visit, Mr. Blinken is expected to try to assess how much confidence to place in Mr. Zelensky, a former comedic actor elected in April 2019 with no political experience.

Just last month, President Volodymyr Zelensky donned a helmet and flak jacket to visit his soldiers in trenches at the front, showing defiance to the Russian military buildup. Praise and warm words of support flowed in from Ukraine’s Western allies.

In a statement, the State Department said Mr. Blinken would “reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. But he will also encourage continued progress in Ukraine’s institutional reform agenda, particularly anti-corruption action, with is key to securing Ukraine’s democratic institutions, economic prosperity and Euro-Atlantic future.”

In Kyiv, independent analysts have praised the tough-love policy.

“Biden is an opportunity Ukraine can use or lose,” Sergiy Sydorenko, editor of European Pravda, an online news outlet, said in an interview. “By the look of it, Biden really cares for democracy, and having a democratic Ukraine is vital for developments in the wider region, including Russia. But Biden’s support is not guaranteed.”

Anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine have been a mixed bag.

Earlier in his tenure, Mr. Zelensky’s political party and allies passed a law privatizing former collective farmland, a step toward unwinding corruption schemes in agriculture. He also formed an anti-corruption court, and this year, his government sanctioned oligarchs with ties to Russia.

But for Western donor nations that prop up the Ukrainian budget, a critical aspect of Mr. Zelensky’s presidency has been his relationship with an oligarch, Ihor Kolomoisky, whom Ukraine’s own banking regulators accuse of embezzlement. Mr. Kolomoisky denies the allegations.

In March, the Biden administration sanctioned Mr. Kolomoisky and members of his family, and the U.S. authorities have frozen or seized his commercial real estate assets, including an office tower in Cleveland.

Two years ago, a freshly installed Mr. Zelensky was put through the mangle of American politics. A hangover still lingers.

In a phone call in July 2019, while withholding military aid, President Trump asked him for the “favor” of investigating Mr. Biden, a political adversary, and members of his family. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Biden of wrongdoing when he was vice president in the Obama administration.

Untangling this situation became an early headache for Mr. Zelensky in the first months of his presidency.

With seemingly little choice and his country at war and in need of the military assistance, Mr. Zelensky leaned toward helping in the scheme to discredit Mr. Biden. But Mr. Zelensky’s plans to publicly announce the investigation in September in a CNN interview, something that would have sealed his support for Mr. Trump’s position, never came to fruition. By then, a C.I.A. whistle-blower’s warning about the scheme became public and Mr. Zelensky was spared the need to pick a side.

Mr. Zelensky insisted that he had tried to remain neutral throughout, and his aides note that he never publicly endorsed Mr. Trump’s dirt-digging effort.

They say they see no reason for Mr. Biden to hold a grudge.

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv.

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