U.S. Life Expectancy Plunged Again In 2021, Down Nearly A Year

U.S. life expectancy rose for decades, but progress stalled before the pandemic and then declined during the pandemic.

U.S. life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2021, falling by nearly a year from 2020, according to a government report being released Wednesday.

In the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the estimated American lifespan has shortened by nearly three years. The last comparable decrease happened in the early 1940s, during the height of World War II.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials blamed COVID-19 for about half the decline in 2021, a year when vaccinations became widely available but new coronavirus variants caused waves of hospitalizations and deaths. Other contributors to the decline are longstanding problems: drug overdoses, heart disease, suicide and chronic liver disease.

“It’s a dismal situation. It was bad before and it’s gotten worse,” said Samuel Preston, a University of Pennsylvania demographer.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live, given death rates at that time. It is “the most fundamental indicator of population health in this country,” said Robert Hummer, a University of North Carolina researcher focused on population health patterns.

U.S. life expectancy rose for decades, but progress stalled before the pandemic.

It was 78 years, 10 months in 2019. In 2020, it dropped to 77 years. Last year, it fell to about 76 years, 1 month.

The last time it was that low was in 1996.

Declines during the pandemic were worse for some racial groups, and some gaps widened. For example, life expectancy for American Indian and Alaskan Native people saw a decline of more than 6 1/2 years since the pandemic began, and is at 65 years. In the same span, life expectancy for Asian Americans dropped by about two years, and stands at 83 1/2.

Experts say there are many possible reasons for such differences, including lack of access to quality health care, lower vaccination rates, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst.

The new report is based on provisional data. Life expectancy estimates can change with the addition of more data and further analysis. For example, the CDC initially said life expectancy in 2020 declined by about 1 year 6 months. But after more death reports and analysis came in, it ended up being about 1 year 10 months.

But it’s likely the declines in 2020 and 2021 will stand as the first two consecutive years of declining life expectancy in the U.S. since the early 1960s, CDC officials said.

Findings in the report:

—Life expectancy for women in the United States dropped about 10 months, from just under 80 years in 2020 to slightly more than 79 in 2021. Life expectancy for men dropped a full year, from about 74 years to 73.

—COVID-19 deaths were the main reason for the decline. The second largest contributor was deaths from accidental injuries — primarily from drug overdoses, which killed a record-breaking 107,000 Americans last year.

—White people saw the second-biggest drop among racial and ethnic groups, with life expectancy falling one year, to about 76 years, 5 months. Black Americans had the third largest decline, falling more than eight months, to 70 years, 10 months

—Hispanic Americans had seen a huge drop in life expectancy in 2020 — four years. But in 2021, life expectancy for them dropped by about two months, to about 77 years, 7 months. Preston thinks good vaccination rates among Hispanics played a role.

The report also suggests gains against suicide are being undone.

U.S. suicides rose from the early 2000s until 2018. But they fell a little in 2019 and then more in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Experts had wondered if that may have been related to a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters in which people band together and support each other.

The new report said suicide contributed to the decline in life expectancy in 2021, but it did not provide detail. According to provisional numbers from a public CDC database, the number of U.S. suicides increased last year by about 2,000, to 48,000. The U.S. suicide rate rose as well, from 13.5 per 100,000 to 14.1 — bringing it back up to about where it was in 2018.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

If you need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. 

Source: newsy.com

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China’s Options for Punishing Taiwan Economically are Limited

In retaliation for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week, China conducted large-scale military exercises around the self-governing island democracy and suspended some trade between the sides.

The exercises led to a few shipping disruptions, but they did not affect traffic at Taiwanese or Chinese ports, analysts say. And the trade bans were notable mainly for what they did not target: Taiwan’s increasingly powerful semiconductor industry, a crucial supplier to Chinese manufacturers.

The bans that Beijing did impose — on exports of its natural sand to Taiwan, and on imports of all Taiwanese citrus fruits and two types of fish — were hardly an existential threat to the island off its southern coast that it claims as Chinese territory.

Taiwanese pineapples, wax apples and grouper fish, among other products.

a self-governing island democracy of 23 million people, as its territory and has long vowed to take it back, by force if necessary. The island, to which Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese forces retreated after the Communist Revolution of 1949, has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.

“The political message is greater than the economic hit,” said Chiao Chun, a former trade negotiator for the Taiwanese government.

Even though about 90 percent of Taiwan’s imported gravel and sand comes from China, most of that is manufactured. China accounted for only about 11 percent of Taiwan’s natural sand imports in the first half of this year, according to the Bureau of Mines.

The two types of Taiwanese fish exports that China restricted last week — chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel — are collectively worth about $22 million, less than half the value of the Taiwanese grouper trade that was banned earlier this year. They are also less dependent on the Chinese market.

As for Taiwan’s half-a-billion-dollar citrus industry, its shipments to China account for only 1.1 percent of the island’s total agricultural exports, according to Taiwan’s Agriculture Council. A popular theory is that Beijing singled out citrus farmers because most orchards are in southern Taiwan, a stronghold for the governing political party, the Democratic Progressive Party, a longtime target of Beijing’s anger.

Future bans may become more targeted to punish industries in counties that are D.P.P. strongholds, said Thomas J. Shattuck, an expert on Taiwan at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. There may also be less retaliation against counties run by the Kuomintang opposition party “in an attempt to put a finger on the scale for Taiwan’s local, and even national, elections,” he added.

increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life. One producer, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, makes roughly 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors, and sells them to both China and the West.

simulated a blockade of Taiwan.

Even though some of the exercises took place in the Taiwan Strait, a key artery for international shipping, they did not disrupt access to ports in Taiwan or southern China, said Tan Hua Joo, an analyst at Linerlytica, a company in Singapore that tracks data on the container shipping industry. He added that port congestion would build only if the strait was completely blocked, port access was restricted or port operations were hampered by a labor or equipment shortage.

“None of these are happening at the moment,” he said.

Vessels that chose to avoid the Taiwan Strait last week because of the Chinese military’s “chest beating” activities would have faced a 12- to 18-hour delay, an inconvenience that would generally be considered manageable, said Niels Rasmussen, the chief shipping analyst at Bimco, an international shipping association.

If Beijing were to escalate tensions in the future, it would indicate that it was willing to put at risk China’s own economy as well as its trade and relations with Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States, Mr. Rasmussen said by phone from his office near Copenhagen.

“That’s just difficult to accept that they would take that decision,” he added. “But then again, I didn’t expect Russia to invade Ukraine.”

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Experimental chewing gum reduces Omicron in saliva; sexual dysfunction, hair loss among long COVID symptoms

July 26 (Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Experimental chewing gum reduces Omicron particles in saliva

An experimental chewing gum that “traps” SARS-CoV-2 particles in saliva holds promise for curbing transmission of new variants of the virus, according to new data, as researchers prepare to launch the first human trial.

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The gum contains copies of the ACE2 protein found on cell surfaces, which the coronavirus uses to break into cells and infect them. In test-tube experiments using saliva from individuals infected with the Delta or Omicron variants, the virus particles attached themselves to the ACE2 “receptors” in the chewing gum and the viral load fell to undetectable levels, researchers reported in Biomaterials. In the clinical trial, COVID-19 patients will each chew four ACE2 gum tablets each day for four days. The “viral trap” ACE2 proteins in the gum are carried within engineered lettuce cells. A second experimental chewing gum made with bean powder instead of lettuce cells not only traps SARS-CoV-2 particles in lab experiments but also influenza strains, other coronaviruses that cause common colds, and potentially other oral viruses such as human papillomavirus and herpesvirus, according to the paper.

“Because nasal transmission is negligible when compared to oral transmission… chewing ACE2 gum and swallowing ACE2 protein should minimize infection, protect COVID-19 patients and prevent transmission,” said research leader Dr. Henry Daniell of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Long COVID symptoms include sexual dysfunction, hair loss

Add loss of hair and libido to the symptoms associated with long COVID, UK researchers warn.

They compared nearly half a million people who recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infections before the middle of April 2021, without having been hospitalized, with nearly two million uninfected people of similar age, gender and health status. Overall, 62 persistent symptoms were significantly associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection after 12 weeks, the researchers reported on Monday in Nature Medicine. Among the most common were shortness of breath, smell distortions, chest pain and fever, but the study also identified memory problems, inability to perform familiar movements or commands, bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations, and limb swelling as being more common in people with long COVID. Compared to the uninfected group, those in the infected group were nearly four times more likely to report hair loss and more than twice as likely to report ejaculation difficulty or reduced libido. The odds of developing long COVID were higher in younger people, females, and racial minorities, the researchers found.

“This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policy makers throughout the pandemic, that the symptoms of long COVID are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions,” study leader Dr. Shamil Haroon of the University of Birmingham said in a statement.

Faster PCR equipment being designed for local settings

New technology for performing the gold-standard test for SARS-CoV-2 infection weighs just 2 pounds (0.9 kg) and gives results in 23 minutes rather than the usual 24 hours, according to researchers.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, testing is rarely done at point-of-care settings like doctors’ offices or pharmacies, because the traditional equipment is bulky and expensive and requires trained operators. PCR involves thermal cycling, a process of heating and cooling that creates the conditions necessary for identifying genetic material from the virus in the sample. The new prototype employs smaller optical components and a new way to heat the sample: so-called plasmonic thermocycling, which uses infrared radiation of metallic nanoparticles to generate heat from inside the vial instead of using standard heating methods from the outside. “The method could rapidly detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA from human saliva and nasal specimens with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, as well as two distinct SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the researchers reported on Monday in Nature Nanotechnology.

The smaller, faster devices “should really move the needle on delivering rapid and accurate molecular clinical diagnostics in decentralized settings,” said study coauthor Mark Fasciano of biotech startup Rover Diagnostics, which is developing the technology in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University. “Thermal cycling… can now be sped up and clinicians and patients alike won’t have to wait so long for results.”

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Reporting Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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The Effect Of Transgender Athlete Bans On Youth Sports

The criticism of transgender women participating in and winning sports competition can have an effect on the mental health of all ages of athletes.

As much of the nation prepares to go back to school, new laws banning transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports teams are moving from debates at the statehouse to taking effect on the field in states like Tennessee, Indiana, South Dakota and Utah.

This is a sensitive subject, and this story includes discussions about mental illness and suicide, as well as transphobic concepts and misgendering of transgender people.

These new state-level bans fit into a broader trend that has been at just about all levels of athletics — from state legislatures to international sports governing bodies, where new laws and rules have been written to exclude transgender people from sports that line up with their gender.

So now that these laws are actually taking effect, what will the impact be for the athletes and the sports they play?

Starting with international sports, although the International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics since 2004, it took until last year’s Tokyo Olympics for there to even be any openly transgender athletes competing in any sport at the Olympics.

Although one transgender athlete assigned female at birth won a gold medal with Canada’s women’s soccer team, no transgender athlete has medaled in an individual competition.

If you’re an athlete, transitioning can take a toll on your body — something that transgender athlete performance researcher and distance runner Joanna Harper saw both in her research and firsthand. 

“One of the most important things in my development was the change in speed that I experienced after I started hormone therapy in August of 2004,” Harper said. “Within nine months of starting hormone therapy, I was running 12% slower, and that’s the difference between serious male distance runners and serious female distance runners.”

But as transgender women participate and win sports competitions, it’s gotten some people upset and claiming they have an unfair advantage. 

There isn’t much evidence out there yet that quantifies how much of an advantage transgender women athletes may have, but she told us that regardless of gender at the highest levels of competition, there’s nuance and a middle ground here that can vary depending on the sport.

“The fact that we don’t know the magnitude of that advantage, which is also extremely important because we allow advantages in sport, what we don’t allow is overwhelming advantage,” Harper said. “For instance, we let left-handed baseball players play against right handed baseball players, even though they have numerous advantages, but we don’t let heavyweight boxers get into the ring with with flyweight boxers.”

Policies have often varied sport to sport to ensure transgender athletes can compete but without the potentially overwhelming advantage of naturally higher testosterone, which can allow some transgender athletes to compete but exclude others, including intersex women who actually aren’t transgender. 

Many sports governing bodies or leagues have required testosterone levels to be below certain levels or requiring a certain amount of time to pass after transitioning, and transgender athletes themselves have proposed middle ground options. After Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu started to play on a women’s team after her transition, she suggested quotas limiting the number of transgender women per team.

But even though the IOC put out a call earlier this year for sports governing bodies to make transgender athlete policies with inclusion in mind, most of the recent sporting rule changes have headed more toward exclusion.

Lia Thomas, the transgender female swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania set records at the Ivy League women’s swimming competitions and won the NCAA Division I championship in the 500-yard freestyle. Swimming’s international governing body FINA issued new, stricter rules in June banning transgender women who transitioned after the age of 12 from competing, just a few months after Thomas’ success led to outcry from some swimmers and media voices. Other sports are expected to follow FINA’s lead and exclude most Transgender women.

Thomas has still faced hate and vitriol online, even as she’s now banned from swimming at NCAA or international women’s swimming competitions. But while Thomas won one major competition, she wasn’t dominating and was still trailed behind the best cisgender swimmers.

The NCAA record in the women’s 500-yard freestyle was set by multi-time Olympic gold medal winner Katie Ledecky, who swam it in 4 minutes and 24.06 seconds in 2017.

Meanwhile, Thomas’ championship winning time in 2022 was more than nine seconds slower, at 4 minutes and 33.24 seconds.

It’s not just swimming where transgender athletes, especially those who win in women’s sports, face attacks.

Veronica Ivy is a competitive track cyclist and a transgender woman. She earned a PhD in philosophy and has done years of research on the ethics around transgender inclusion in sports.

She also received hateful messages after winning an age group championship in 2019, but she sees sports as her outlet.

“Facetiously, one of my favorite mugs says, ‘I ride to burn off the crazy,'” Ivy said. “It is a way that I manage things like depression and anxiety and the PTSD I get from people harassing me and sending me death threats.”

That contention over trans inclusion can seep down to lower levels of sports, and that can have an effect on younger athletes.

“Sports are absolutely vital for kids to feel included, to feel a sense of community, to develop critical life skills like leadership, like ability to communicate with folks who are different from you,” said Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally. “There are so many very clear benefits of sports participation for youth that are in hundreds of studies.”

Lieberman is a three-time national champion muay thai fighter. They had personal childhood experience with inclusion in sports making a difference.

“Sports was one of the only places where I felt like myself, where the bullying stopped, where everything just fell away for a moment and I could be in my body,” Lieberman said. “I could be connected with my peers and feel like I was just like any other kid.”

That inclusion can make all the difference for transgender youth, who report higher rates of anxiety, depression and mental health issues. A 2022 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that 86% of transgender youth surveyed reported being suicidal, and more than half, 56%, reported they previously tried committing suicide.

But even as youth sports come with lower stakes, Republican legislators see transgender athletes as a threat.

“This is fundamentally about fairness,” State Rep. Ryan Dotson, (R) Kentucky, said. “It ensures that both biological females and biological males have a level playing field. We don’t want to deprive any of the females of these opportunities.”

Kentucky passed legislation banning transgender girls from competing in youth sports over the Democratic governor’s veto. Since the ban took effect, at least one female athlete hasn’t been able to compete.

As of July, 18 states, including Kentucky, have passed similar bills. Republican governors in Indiana and Utah also saw legislators override them.

But in Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox issued a statement along with his veto pointing out that out of 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, four are transgender, and only one transgender student played in girls’ sports.

In Kansas, Republican legislators were blocked from implementing a ban on transgender athletes. Stephanie Byers, a Democratic state representative in Kansas who is the first Native American transgender state legislator, voted and testified against the bill. She told Newsy that in Kansas, where the same commission governs both athletic and non-athletic school competitions, the only person seeking recognition as a transgender girl, wasn’t even looking to compete in a sport.

“So in the state of Kansas, it’s estimated there are 37,000 girls in athletics and the high school level here in the state,” Byers said. “The number of people that had applied to the Kansas State High School Activities Association for a variance on gender — this year we’re seven, six for trans guys. One was a trans girl, and that one trans girl that applied for the variance. I know it wasn’t because of athletics, it was because of other activities that are sponsored by the Kent State as collective association.”

This all fits into a broader context. Transgender people aren’t just being targeted by laws about sports. 27 states considered laws limiting transgender people’s access to healthcare in 2020 and 2021, including Arkansas and Alabama, which enacted their bans into law.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state to investigate parents who help their transgender children get health care as potential child abusers.

In Florida, the Parents Rights in Education bill often labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, took effect this July and leads to school districts facing the risk of lawsuits if transgender identities are discussed in the classroom before fourth grade. 

Transgender athletes and advocates say laws like this or athlete bans can dehumanize transgender people and that so many of these laws or efforts to debate transgender inclusion can be addressed by remembering the human effects.

“To take that away from fragile children is so unbelievably cruel, in my view,” Ivy said. “I do believe that these people passing these laws, the cruelty is the point. They don’t care about protecting women’s sport; they just want to be cruel to trans kids.”

These laws can affect transgender people off the field too. 

“Even that kid has no want whatsoever to ever be in athletics,” Byers said. “They still feel these things because it’s still attacking somebody like them, so that trans girl that nobody knows about, who’s not even had the courage to sit down and talk with their parents or they live in a household, that that there’s no support going to be there no matter what. They’re the ones that feel this to.”

Source: newsy.com

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Elon Musk Agrees to Buy Twitter

Twitter, which went public in 2013, has also had a tumultuous corporate history. It has repeatedly dealt with board dysfunction and drama with its founders, and was courted by other interested buyers in the past, including Disney and Salesforce. In 2020, the activist investment firm Elliott Management took a stake in Twitter and called for Jack Dorsey, one of its founders, to resign as chief executive. Mr. Dorsey stepped down last year.

“This company is very much undermonetized, especially compared to other platforms and competitors like Facebook,” said Pinar Yildirim, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. “If you look at it from a point of pure business value, there’s definitely room for improvement.”

In a statement, Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, said that the board had “conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process” on Mr. Musk’s bid and that the deal would “deliver a substantial cash premium” for shareholders.

Regulators are unlikely to seriously challenge the transaction, former antitrust officials said, since the government most commonly intervenes to stop a deal when a company is buying a competitor.

The deal came together in a matter of weeks. Mr. Musk, who also leads the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket maker SpaceX, began buying shares of Twitter in January and disclosed this month that he had amassed a stake of more than 9 percent.

That immediately set off a guessing game over what Mr. Musk planned to do with the platform. Twitter’s executives initially welcomed him to the board of directors, but he reversed course within days and instead began a bid to buy the company outright.

Any agreement initially appeared unlikely because the entrepreneur did not say how he would finance the deal. Twitter’s executives appeared skeptical, too, given that it was difficult to discern how much Mr. Musk might be jesting. In 2018, for example, he tweeted that he planned to take Tesla private and inaccurately claimed that he had “funding secured” for such a deal.

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Robert Malone Spreads Falsehoods About Vaccines. He Also Says He Invented Some.

“And almost without exception, these influencers feel that they have been wronged by mainstream society in some way,” Mr. Brooking added.

Dr. Malone earned a medical degree from Northwestern University in 1991, and for the next decade taught pathology at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Maryland. He then turned to biotech start-ups and consulting. His résumé says he was “instrumental” in securing early-stage approval for research on the Ebola vaccine by the pharmaceutical company Merck in the mid-2010s. He also worked on repurposing drugs to treat Zika.

In extended interviews at his home over two days, Dr. Malone said he was repeatedly not recognized for his contributions over the course of his career, his voice low and grave as he recounted perceived slights by the institutions he had worked for. His wife, Dr. Jill Glasspool Malone, paced the room and pulled up articles on her laptop that she said supported his complaints.

The example he points to more frequently is from his time at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. While there, he performed experiments that showed how human cells could absorb an mRNA cocktail and produce proteins from it. Those experiments, he says, make him the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology.

“I was there,” Dr. Malone said. “I wrote all the invention.”

What the mainstream media did instead, he said, was give credit for the mRNA vaccines to the scientists Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, because there “is a concerted campaign to get them the Nobel Prize” by Pfizer and BioNTech, where Dr. Kariko is a senior vice president, as well as the University of Pennsylvania, where Dr. Weissman leads a laboratory researching vaccines and infectious diseases.

But at the time he was conducting those experiments, it was not known how to protect the fragile RNA from the immune system’s attack, scientists say. Former colleagues said they had watched in astonishment as Dr. Malone began posting on social media about why he deserved to win the Nobel Prize.

The idea that he is the inventor of mRNA vaccines is “a totally false claim,” said Dr. Gyula Acsadi, a pediatrician in Connecticut who along with Dr. Malone and five others wrote a widely cited paper in 1990 showing that injecting RNA into muscle could produce proteins. (The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work by injecting RNA into arm muscles that produce copies of the “spike protein” found on the outside of the coronavirus. The human immune system identifies that protein, attacks it and then remembers how to defeat it.)

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Why Tesla Soared as Other Automakers Struggled to Make Cars

For much of last year, established automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor operated in a different reality from Tesla, the electric car company.

G.M. and Ford closed one factory after another — sometimes for months on end — because of a shortage of computer chips, leaving dealer lots bare and sending car prices zooming. Yet Tesla racked up record sales quarter after quarter and ended the year having sold nearly twice as many vehicles as it did in 2020 unhindered by an industrywide crisis.

Tesla’s ability to conjure up critical components has a greater significance than one year’s car sales. It suggests that the company, and possibly other young electric car businesses, could threaten the dominance of giants like Volkswagen and G.M. sooner and more forcefully than most industry executives and policymakers realize. That would help the effort to reduce the emissions that are causing climate change by displacing more gasoline-powered cars sooner. But it could hurt the millions of workers, thousands of suppliers and numerous local and national governments that rely on traditional auto production for jobs, business and tax revenue.

Tesla and its enigmatic chief executive, Elon Musk, have said little about how the carmaker ran circles around the rest of the auto industry. Now it’s becoming clear that the company simply had a superior command of technology and its own supply chain. Tesla appeared to better forecast demand than businesses that produce many more cars than it does. Other automakers were surprised by how quickly the car market recovered from a steep drop early in the pandemic and had simply not ordered enough chips and parts fast enough.

G.M. and Stellantis, the company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, all sold fewer cars in 2021 than they did in 2020.

Tesla’s production and supply problems made it an industry laughingstock. Many of the manufacturing snafus stemmed from Mr. Musk’s insistence that the company make many parts itself.

Other car companies have realized that they need to do some of what Mr. Musk and Tesla have been doing all along and are in the process of taking control of their onboard computer systems.

Mercedes, for example, plans to use fewer specialized chips in coming models and more standardized semiconductors, and to write its own software, said Markus Schäfer, a member of the German carmaker’s management board who oversees procurement.

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

It also helps that Tesla is a much smaller company than Volkswagen and Toyota, which in a good year produce more than 10 million vehicles each. “It’s just a smaller supply chain to begin with,” said Mr. Melsert, who is now chief executive of American Battery Technology Company, a recycling and mining firm.

recall more than 475,000 cars for two separate defects. One could cause the rearview camera to fail, and the other could cause the front hood to open unexpectedly. And federal regulators are investigating the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system, which can accelerate, brake and steer a car on its own.

“Tesla will continue to grow,” said Stephen Beck, managing partner at cg42, a management consulting firm in New York. “But they are facing more competition than they ever have, and the competition is getting stronger.”

The carmaker’s fundamental advantage, which allowed it to sail through the chip crisis, will remain, however. Tesla builds nothing but electric vehicles and is unencumbered by habits and procedures that have been rendered obsolete by new technology. “Tesla started from a clean sheet of paper,” Mr. Amsrud said.

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Jobless for a Year? Employment Gaps Might Be Less of a Problem Now.

Some employers regard applicants with long periods of unemployment unfavorably, research shows — even if many are reluctant to admit it.

“Employers don’t often articulate why but the idea, they believe, is that people who are out of work are damaged in some way, which is why they are out of work” said Peter Cappelli, the director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Some economists believe the pandemic’s unique effects on the economy may have changed things. Notably, the pandemic destroyed millions of jobs seemingly all at once, especially in the travel, leisure and hospitality industries. Many people could not, or chose not to, work because of health concerns or family responsibilities.

“For people who were just laid off because of Covid, will there be a stigma? I don’t really think so,” Mr. Cappelli said.

Although monthly job-finding rates plummeted for both the short- and long-term unemployed during the early part of the pandemic, the rate for the long-term jobless has since rebounded to roughly the same level as before the pandemic, according to government data. While that does not imply the employment-gap stigma has disappeared, it suggests it is no worse than it has been.

That was what Rachel Love, 35, found when she applied for a job at Qwick.

After Ms. Love was furloughed, and then laid off from her sales job at a hotel in Dallas last year, she kept hoping that her former company would hire her back. She had been unemployed for about a year when she came to terms with the idea of getting a new job and became aware of a business development position at Qwick.

Interviewers did not press her about why she had been out of work for so long. “I hope now, just with everything going on, I think people can look at the résumé and look at the time frame and maybe just infer,” said Ms. Love, who began working remotely for Qwick in June.

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Congress Faces Renewed Pressure to ‘Modernize Our Antitrust Laws’

WASHINGTON — When the nation’s antitrust laws were created more than a century ago, they were aimed at taking on industries such as Big Oil.

But technology giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, which dominate e-commerce, social networks, online advertising and search, have risen in ways unforeseen by the laws. In recent decades, the courts have also interpreted the rules more narrowly.

On Monday, a pair of rulings dismissing federal and state antitrust lawsuits against Facebook renewed questions about whether the laws were suited to taking on tech power. A federal judge threw out the federal suit because, he said, the Federal Trade Commission had not supported its claims that Facebook holds a dominant market share, and he said the states had waited too long to make their case.

The decisions underlined how cautious and conservative courts could slow an increasingly aggressive push by lawmakers, regulators and the White House to restrain the tech companies, fueling calls for Congress to revamp the rules and provide regulators with more legal tools to take on the tech firms.

David Cicilline, a Democrat of Rhode Island, said the country needed a “massive overhaul of our antitrust laws and significant updates to our competition system” to police the biggest technology companies.

Moments later, Representative Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, agreed. He called for lawmakers to adapt antitrust laws to fit the business models of Silicon Valley companies.

This week’s rulings have now put the pressure on lawmakers to push through a recently proposed package of legislation that would rewrite key aspects of monopoly laws to make some of the tech giants’ business practices illegal.

“This is going to strengthen the case for legislation,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “It seems to be proof that the antitrust laws are not up to the challenge.”

introduced this month and passed the House Judiciary Committee last week. The bills would make it harder for the major tech companies to buy nascent competitors and to give preference to their own services on their platforms, and ban them from using their dominance in one business to gain the upper hand in another.

including Lina Khan, a scholar whom President Biden named this month to run the F.T.C. — have argued that a broader definition of consumer welfare, beyond prices, should be applied. Consumer harm, they have said, can also be evident in reduced product quality, like Facebook users suffering a loss of privacy when their personal data is harvested and used for targeted ads.

In one of his rulings on Monday, Judge James E. Boasberg of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said Facebook’s business model had made it especially difficult for the government to meet the standard for going forward with the case.

The government, Judge Boasberg said, had not presented enough evidence that Facebook held monopoly power. Among the difficulties he highlighted was that Facebook did not charge its users for access to its site, meaning its market share could not be assessed through revenue. The government had not found a good alternative measure to make its case, he said.

He also ruled against another part of the F.T.C.’s lawsuit, concerning how Facebook polices the use of data generated by its product, while citing the kind of conservative antitrust doctrine that critics say is out of step with the technology industry’s business practices.

The F.T.C., which brought the federal antitrust suit against Facebook in December, can file a new complaint that addresses the judge’s concerns within 30 days. State attorneys general can appeal Judge Boasberg’s second ruling dismissing a similar case.

fined Facebook $5 billion in 2019 for privacy violations, there were few significant changes to how the company’s products operate. And Facebook continues to grow: More than 3.45 billion people use one or more of its apps — including WhatsApp, Instagram or Messenger — every month.

The decisions were particularly deflating after actions to rein in tech power in Washington had gathered steam. Ms. Khan’s appointment to the F.T.C. this month followed that of Tim Wu, another lawyer who has been critical of the industry, to the National Economic Council. Bruce Reed, the president’s deputy chief of staff, has called for new privacy regulation.

Mr. Biden has yet to name anyone to permanently lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division, which last year filed a lawsuit arguing Google had illegally protected its monopoly over online search.

The White House is also expected to issue an executive order this week targeting corporate consolidation in tech and other areas of the economy. A spokesman for the White House did not respond to requests for comment about the executive order or Judge Boasberg’s rulings.

Activists and lawmakers said this week that Congress should not wait to give regulators more tools, money and legal red lines to use against the tech giants. Mr. Cicilline, along with Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the judge’s decisions on Facebook show “the dire need to modernize our antitrust laws to address anticompetitive mergers and abusive conduct in the digital economy.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust, echoed their call.

“After decades of binding Supreme Court decisions that have weakened our antitrust policies, we cannot rely on our courts to keep our markets competitive, open and fair,” she said in a statement. “We urgently need to rejuvenate our antitrust laws to meet the challenges of the modern digital economy.”

But the six bills to update monopoly laws have a long way to go. They still need to pass the full House, where they will likely face criticism from moderate Democrats and libertarian Republicans. In the Senate, Republican support is necessary for them to overcome the legislative filibuster.

The bills may also not go as far in altering antitrust laws as some hope. The House Judiciary Committee amended one last week to reinforce the standard around consumer welfare.

Even so, Monday’s rulings have given the proposals a boost. Bill Baer, who led the Justice Department antitrust division during the Obama administration, said it “gives tremendous impetus to those in Congress who believe that the courts are too conservative in addressing monopoly power.”

Facebook and the tech platforms might like the judge’s decisions, he said, “but they might not like what happens in the Congress.”

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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