COVID vaccine distribution gets off to a shaky start

A Happy New Year to all of you, readers.

It’s good to be back in your inbox after the holiday break. It feels a little strange given the events of the past 24 hours. But a pandemic doesn’t stop for a political news cycle, however bleak. In fact, it’s inextricably linked to the decisions of our leaders.

I don’t just mean political leaders, though they play a critical role which they’ve often bungled, including with the current pace of COVID vaccine distribution. We’re beginning to see the last mile problems, the ultimate delivery of a product to a person, which come with such an ambitious vaccination campaign.

Earlier today, the American Hospital Association (AHA) put it bluntly in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “There was great celebration in America’s hospitals and health systems last month as we administered the first vaccines to our … Read the rest

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Investors still engage in racist redlining. Why haven’t we done something about it?

I am a Black woman of multiethnic, including white, heritage working in the tech startup world. From this statement alone, it’s obvious I don’t fit the typical mold of Silicon Valley. My background doesn’t either. I spent part of my youth in foster care and was a liberal arts major at UC–Berkeley. 

In college, I became an activist and noticed how many social justice issues were, at their core, economic issues. Entrepreneurship seemed like a possible solution. Though I had no role models or mentors in tech who looked like me, I was determined to get as high up this ladder as possible, with the intention of opening doors for others. 

I started my first company as an undergrad to bootstrap my education. Running a company and learning about investment rules, it didn’t take long to discover that the startup world and financial industry were plagued by the same sexism … Read the rest

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Macy’s is closing 45 stores in the first wave of its turnaround plan

Almost a year ago, Macy’s announced an ambitious turnaround plan to modernize itself that included shedding about a quarter of its big department stores.

Now, the retailer has announced the first tranche of those closings in a move that is gaining urgency because of the pandemic’s impact on its business. Macy’s will soon close 45 of the 125 stores it said last February it would eventually shutter as part of its “Polaris” plan.

Most of the stores being closed are in weak malls from which shoppers have long since defected and which have become an albatross for Macy’s. The chain now wants to focus on its best stores in the highest-caliber “A and B malls,” its e-commerce business, and in the coming years, on new, smaller stores—a format it is currently testing.

“As previously announced, Macy’s Inc. is committed to rightsizing our store fleet by concentrating our existing retail locations … Read the rest

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Shonda Rhimes’s ‘Bridgerton’ series is a major hit for Netflix

“Bridgerton,” a period drama from producer Shonda Rhimes, is on pace to be one of the biggest hits in Netflix’s history.

The series will be seen by 63 million households in its first four weeks, marking the fifth-largest debut of any show on the service, Netflix said Monday. If the program stays on its current trajectory, it will narrowly eclipse “The Queen’s Gambit” as Netflix’s most-watched show in recent months. Still, it will fall short of the Spanish crime series “Money Heist” and the documentary “Tiger King” as the most-watched programs released in 2020.

The show’s popularity helps validate Netflix’s costly move to lure Rhimes away from her longtime home at Walt Disney Co. It committed more than $100 million to persuade Rhimes, the creator of “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” to join the company. She serves as executive producer of “Bridgerton,” which is based on novels by Julia Quinn about … Read the rest

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Why the U.S. needs a national climate investment fund

In recent weeks, we have witnessed the power of innovation to solve catastrophic problems. Most notably, we have seen the extraordinary human accomplishment of delivering vaccines within a year to counter the novel coronavirus, COVID-19—an achievement that was accelerated by the U.S. government’s Project Warp Speed. 

What many people may be less aware of is that across America and other global innovation centers, companies are striving to harness that same power to tackle climate change. Businesses of all sizes are toiling away to deliver products that together could dramatically increase the likelihood that our planet remains comfortably habitable. To cite some examples:

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A brief history of Bitcoin bubbles

It’s been a breakout year for Bitcoin. In 2020 a wave of interest from mainstream investors and institutions helped push the price of the virtual currency from $7,200 in January to above $29,000 on December 31 (and then on past $32,700 by early January 2021). But the innovative digital asset, maintained by a decentralized swarm of so-called miners, has a long history of volatility. Most observers expect some retrenchment of that rally sooner or later.

For insight into why (or maybe when) a slump is likely, it’s worth looking back at Bitcoin’s many “bubble” periods: stretches when the price increased dramatically in a short amount of time, then fell, in most cases, even more sharply. “Bubble,” of course, has negative connotations, implying popular delusions and the madness of crowds. But there’s a growing understanding that financial bubbles can also be generated by temporary overoptimism about real innovation that can … Read the rest

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2020 was the year of the ‘net zero by 2050’ commitment. Will 2021 be the year we get the details?

The coronavirus pandemic overshadowed nearly everything in 2020, but alongside the pyrotechnics of an extraordinary U.S. election and the resurgence of social justice activism, at least one more big-picture issue came to the fore: this was the year the “net zero by 2050” climate commitment went mainstream.

The promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible within three decades, and offset any emissions that remained, now serves as a benchmark for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement: to keep global temperatures from rising less than 2°C, and ideally below 1.5°C, within this century.

The pledge to reach the target by 2050 or earlier was already gaining momentum by the end of 2019 among corporations and countries alike, including the U.K., Amazon, and Nestlé. 2020 was on track to be a landmark year for action on climate change. The COP26 conference in Glasgow, originally set for … Read the rest

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S&P 500 rallies to close the year at a record high

U.S. stocks climbed to a record high on the year’s final trading day amid thin trading. The dollar eked out an advance.

The S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average turned positive in the afternoon and ended at all-time highs. Volume was about 15% below average on the S&P. Financial companies were among the best performers, while energy producers slumped. European stocks dipped. Markets in Japan, Germany and South Korea were shut for New Year’s Eve.

In Asia, China’s benchmark CSI 300 Index closed at a five-year high as officials gave the green light to its first coronavirus vaccine for general public use and data showed a steady economic recovery. The offshore yuan strengthened to the highest since June 2018.

The S&P 500 ended the year up more than 16%, leaving equities at rich valuations amid expectations that widespread vaccine distribution in 2021, central bank support and government aid will … Read the rest

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Why Sen. Hawley’s objection matters—even if he can’t stop Biden from being President

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri announced on Wednesday that he will object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College when Congress meets for a joint session next week. The move will force a vote in both the Senate and House following a floor debate, which some Republican lawmakers are keen to avoid.

The vote itself is all but determined already, as a successful challenge would have to win in both the Senate and House—the latter of which Democrats control. Biden will still be certified the winner of the election and take office on Jan. 20 as planned. But Hawley’s challenge, and the debate it triggers, will force some Republicans to express their thoughts on President Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud. That could put the party in an awkward position going forward.

According to Hawley, some states, including key battleground state Pennsylvania, “failed to … Read the rest

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Only 2.1 million Americans have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine

President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and predicted that “things will get worse before they get better” when it comes to the pandemic.

“We need to be honest — the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,” Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday.

His comments come as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 336,000 Americans, with experts warning holiday travel and gatherings could precipitate yet another spike in virus cases even as the virus has already been surging in states nationwide.

Biden encouraged Americans to “steel our spines” for challenges to come and predicted that “things are going to get worse before they get better.”

He also went after the Trump Administration over their vaccination efforts, warning that the project, dubbed … Read the rest

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