39.87 0.00 (0.00%)
After hours: 4:15PM EDT
|Bid||39.79 x 900|
|Ask||39.81 x 800|
|Day's range||39.29 - 39.93|
|52-week range||26.13 - 40.22|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||0.86|
|PE ratio (TTM)||46.91|
|Earnings date||05 Aug 2020 - 10 Aug 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||0.24 (0.61%)|
|Ex-dividend date||07 Apr 2020|
|1y target est||33.10|
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting social media companies was challenged in court by a non-profit group that claims the edict violates free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.The Center for Democracy and Technology sued in Washington federal court Tuesday, claiming the order is an unconstitutional retaliation against Twitter and that it seeks to discourage other companies and individuals from disagreeing with the government.Trump’s order, issued on Thursday, is intended to undermine the legal protections enjoyed by social media companies including Twitter and Facebook. He asked federal regulators to look at provisions, contained in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, that insulate the companies from liability for content posted by users.The order followed on the heels of Twitter’s decision to add fact-check labels to two of Trump’s tweets. Twitter also restricted a post by the president suggesting that protesters who engaged in looting would be met with violence. Legal observers have said Trump lacks the power to modify Section 230 by executive order.The Center for Democracy and Technology asked the judge to find the order violates the First Amendment and to issue an order blocking government officials from following it.The Justice Department declined to comment, according to spokeswoman Brianna Herlihy.The case is Center for Democracy and Technology v. Trump, 20-cv-01456, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).(Adds Justice Department no comment)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Tensions between Twitter Inc. and Donald Trump soared after the social-media platform warned users that the president broke its rules against violent speech, prompting critics to accuse the company of unfairly censoring one of its most prominent users.On Friday Twitter slapped a rule-violation notice on a Trump tweet warning protesters in Minnesota that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Earlier this week Twitter added a fact-check label to two Trump posts that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting. Infuriated, Trump responded with an executive order Thursday that aims to curb some of the legal protections social media sites have regarding content on their sites.Twitter has long faced calls to both clean up the toxic culture on its site and to remove Trump, who has tweeted falsehoods and misleading information to his 80 million followers. After years of largely staying on the sidelines, the company has recently become more active in policing commentary from public officials.The shift has inevitably outraged many of Trump’s supporters, who claim the site is biased against conservative voices. Twitter’s crackdown also opens it up to charges that its fact-checking is inconsistent. On Friday, just hours after Trump’s Minnesota tweet was flagged, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission challenged Twitter over a bellicose posting from Iran’s top leader asking if it also violated the company’s rules.“Serious question for @Twitter: Do these tweets from Supreme Leader of Iran@khamenei_ir violate ‘Twitter Rules about glorifying violence?’” Ajit Pai said in a tweet. He attached screen shots of May 22 tweets from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei predicting the eventual elimination of Israel.Some of Twitter’s initial flags on officials’ posts were related to misinformation about Covid-19 that the company deemed potentially harmful. Racial violence is another area open to abuse on the site and a topic Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey has taken personally. In 2014 he marched in protests and documented rising tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black man.Trump’s tweet early Friday referred to increasingly violent protests in Minneapolis over the killing in police custody of George Floyd, who was black. The authorities on Friday charged police officer Derek Chauvin with Floyd’s murder, according to the Associated Press.The president used Twitter to assail Minneapolis’s mayor, Jacob Frey, as weak and said he had told Minnesota Governor Tim Walz that “the military is with him all the way, ” and that if there was any difficulty, “we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”Twitter obscured the offending message on Trump’s profile with the following warning: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”The official White House Twitter account later retweeted Trump’s post about looting and shooting. It also was marked with a warning.“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts,” Twitter said in a statement on its @TwitterComms account. It said the company had kept Trump’s tweet live “because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”The president’s tweets about the situation in Minneapolis prompted a strong response from other Twitter users, but those replies have since been hidden or removed by the company. The options to reply and like the tweet have also been disabled, while the retweet and quote-tweet functions have been left active.VIOLENCE SPREADSThe Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. called Twitter’s move “perhaps the bravest and riskiest thing that any tech giant has ever done.”Following up from his executive order, Trump on Friday morning called on lawmakers on Capitol Hill to revoke Twitter’s liability shield under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which allows companies like Twitter and Facebook Inc. to display content that’s controversial, offensive and libelous without fear of lawsuits.Dorsey this year survived a skirmish with activist investor Elliott Management Corp., partly with an agreement to appoint Elliott representative Jesse Cohn and Egon Durban of the private equity firm Silver Lake to its board. He also agreed to meet certain performance-improvement metrics. Paul Singer, who founded Elliott in 1977, is often described as a megadonor to the Republican party.As part of the agreement, Cohn and Durban said they would recuse themselves of any direct or indirect influence on the content of the Twitter platform, including its policies, rules or enforcement decisions. The company said in a statement at the time that both Elliott and Silver Lake said they were doing so to emphasize the importance of maintaining the independence and impartiality of the Twitter platform and its rules and enforcement.Protests have been gathering force across the country following the death of Floyd, who died when a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck in an encounter that was captured on video. The event set off scattered looting and demonstrations in Minneapolis, culminating in the burning of a police station on Friday. Demonstrators have gathered in cities from New York to Los Angeles, to Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky, to call attention to the killings of black men and women at the hands of police. Some of the gatherings were peaceful, but others were marked by violence, including in Columbus, Ohio, where crowds surged up the steps of the State Capitol and broke windows, according to the New York Times.Trump’s shooting and looting tweet echoed remarks in the late 1960s by the controversial and tough-talking Miami Police Chief Walter Headley. “We haven’t had any serious problems with civil uprising and looting because I’ve let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Headley said in 1967.Trump later attempted to explain the earlier tweet, saying on Twitter, “looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.” He continued in another tweet, “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media.”The spreading violence was another sign of simmering tensions in the U.S., where much of the country has been on lockdown for more than two months and unemployment has reached historic highs. Some see Trump’s reaction to Twitter as a tactic to deflect attention from the country’s woes in the months leading up to the presidential election this fall.“This is a fight he wants. Not only on Twitter, but on mail-in ballots,” said California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking on The View Friday morning. “It’s a deflecting tool, but it’s also a mobilizing tool for his base. We have to walk through this next process of how we respond with those eyes wide open and that in mind.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Stocks were supposed to be mired in a bear market after they plunged in March as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered business and sent U.S. unemployment to its highest rate since the Great Depression.Even a 62% recovery by the S&P 500 Index by the middle of May failed to comfort experts like billionaire money managers Stan Druckenmiller and David Tepper , who characterized stocks as the worst investments of their careers. They weren't alone; amid an estimated 47% collapse in gross domestic product, fewer than a quarter of respondents to an Evercore ISI survey said they expected the next 10% move in the market to be higher.So far, though, stocks have held their own as economic indicators sagged, regaining 37% of their value from the low point in mid-March. “The stock market looks increasingly divorced from economic reality,” a New York Times article on the phenomenon proclaimed.Or maybe not — not if you think of it as the Microsoft market. No company has defied the pessimism more than Microsoft Corp., and for a lot of sensible reasons. The Seattle-based maker of global business and consumer software led all publicly traded companies most of the year with a $1.4 trillion market valuation, exceeded only by Saudi Arabian Oil Co. which isn't yet freely traded.Unlike the largest fossil fuel company, which lost 13% since its December $1.9 trillion initial public offering, Microsoft is within 5% of its Feb. 11 record high and appreciated $947 billion since 2015, more than any of the 10 largest companies, including Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The gap between Microsoft and Aramco narrowed to $229 billion from $840 billion, a trend likely to continue amid weak global growth in the months ahead.That's because Microsoft, unlike Aramco, is a mainstay of the global economy, developing and supplying 75% of the operating systems used by computers and servers worldwide, according to the market-analysis company IDC.Microsoft's vast infrastructure and productivity applications enable companies, governments and individuals to navigate increasing social and workforce disruption caused by the pandemic and other disasters stoked by global warming and climate change.As one of the anchors of the Nasdaq 100 Index (more than 80% are technology firms) Microsoft signifies the growing dependence of the economy on these companies, which this year outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average by the most since 2000 (Nasdaq 100 gained 8% as the DJIA lost 10%), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.“Microsoft could emerge stronger than most of its rivals once the Covid-19 crisis subsides, in our view, as enterprises spend more to upgrade their infrastructure and applications, translating into above-consensus, double-digit sales growth from fiscal 2022-2021,” said Anurag Rana, a senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence in a May 15 report. “Its deep portfolio of cloud products, client relationships and security spending are differentiators.”Such confidence is prompted by the past five quarters, when Microsoft earnings for the first time exceeded forecasts by at least 10% after beating the average of analyst estimates in all but one of the 23 quarters since 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Unlike its five more glamorous peers — Facebook Inc., Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (Alphabet) — Microsoft has an uninterrupted growth rate with the least volatility, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.To be sure, the Faang companies and similar technology marvels retained much of their value during the Coronavirus pandemic. Netflix has gained 28% since the end of 2019; Amazon is up 30%, Apple 9%, Facebook 10%. Tesla Inc., the maker of electric, battery-powered vehicles, rallied 93% since the end of 2019 and is worth just $59 billion less than No. 1 Toyota Motor Corp.Tesla anticipated the remotely engaged economy by selling its vehicles online and improving the customer experience with periodic, automatic software upgrades. The traditional auto companies haven't fared well. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, is down 24% since the end of 2019 and General Motors Co., the largest U.S. auto maker, declined 28% and is worth only 26% of Tesla's current market capitalization of $149 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.That's why the Dow, once the benchmark of corporate America, is a shadow of its former self as industrial companies represent just 9% of the average, down from 16% in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.“Microsoft already had a great relationship with Fortune 2000 tech departments because of its dominance in Windows and Office software products,” said Bloomberg's Rana in a recent interview. “As these legacy companies look to invest more digitally transforming their business post Covid-19, Microsoft should get its fair share of work” — lifting the stock market as it helps transform the economy.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Matthew Winkler, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg News, writes about markets.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. flagged one of Donald Trump’s posts for violating its rules against glorifying violence, escalating a clash with the U.S. president after he signed an executive order that seeks to limit liability protections for social-media companies.Early Friday, the social media company obscured the president’s comments about protests in Minneapolis with a warning that the tweet “violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”Trump’s executive order came after Twitter began selective fact checks of his posts on the platform. Under current law, companies like Twitter and Facebook Inc. are protected for users’ posts. Trump told reporters that his order “calls for new regulations under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield.”Twitter earlier this week labeled two of his posts about mail-in voting “potentially misleading” and provided links to news coverage of his comments. The president responded with outrage, accusing the social media company of censorship and election interference and threatening to possibly shut down the service.“I’m signing an executive order to protect and uphold the free speech rights of the American people,” Trump said. “Currently, social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they’re a neutral platform, which they’re not.”Trump said he expected the order or the regulations it produces to be challenged in court. If it were legal for him to shut down Twitter, Trump said, “I would do it.”In the clash Friday over protests in Minnesota after the death of a man in police custody, Trump’s comments, concluding with the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” incited a strong response from other Twitter users. Those replies have since been hidden or removed by the company. The options to reply and like the tweet have also been disabled, while the retweet and quote-tweet functions have been left active.Twitter rose less than 1% in late trading Thursday after the signing was announced. That followed a 4.4% decline in the regular session, the most in four weeks.Order TextThe order said the protections against lawsuits should only apply when companies act in “good faith” to take down or limit the visibility of content.Any removal or restriction made in a manner that is “deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service” would not qualify as being in good faith, nor would a move without “adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard.”Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association trade group, called the order “unconstitutional and ill-considered.”“America’s internet companies lead the world and it is incredible that our own political leaders would seek to censor them for political purposes,” Shapiro said in a statement.In a tweeted statement, Twitter called the executive order “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law,” adding, “attempts to unilaterally erode it threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”A Facebook spokesperson said exposing companies to liability would penalize those that allow controversial speech and “encourage platforms to censor anything that might offend anyone.”YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki, in an interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg Television while the order was being prepared, said, “we have worked extraordinarily hard to make sure that all of our policies and systems are built in a fair and neutral and consistent way.”The Department of Commerce, in consultation with the attorney general, would be responsible for petitioning the Federal Communications Commission within 60 days to craft the new regulation.“This debate is an important one,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “The Federal Communications Commission will carefully review any petition for rulemaking filed by the Department of Commerce.”Industry and civil liberties groups who denounced the order as an illegal end-run around free-speech protections and said it gave the FCC powers it does not actually have.Twitter has been an essential tool for Trump as both a politician and as president, dating back to his false allegations that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Trump has observed himself that the social media platform allows him to dodge the press and speak directly to his 80 million followers. It has also afforded him the unfettered opportunity to assail political opponents and to promulgate conspiracy theories and other misinformation.Attorney General William Barr, who joined Trump for his remarks, said the order would not repeal Section 230, which provides social-media companies their liability protection.“But it’s been stretched and I don’t know of anyone in Capitol Hill who doesn’t agree that it’s been stretched beyond its original intention,” he said. “I think this will help get back to the right balance.”Trump and Barr also said they were reviewing possibilities to seek legislation further curbing Section 230 protections. Barr said the government may also bring litigation.“One of the things we may do, Bill, is just remove or totally change 230,” Trump said. “What I think we can say is we’re going to regulate it.”Roth CriticismEarlier Thursday, Trump called out a single Twitter employee, head of site integrity Yoel Roth, in a tweet complaining that the platform’s decision to fact-check his tweets on voting by mail could “taint” the U.S. election.White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany criticized Roth for political tweets, including one that said “actual Nazis” inhabit Trump’s White House.“Twitter’s head of site integrity has tweeted that there are quote, ‘actual Nazis,’ in the White House and no fact-check label was ever applied to this actually outrageous and false claim made against the White House and its employees,” she said.White House officials complained that Twitter did not originally append fact checks to China Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lijan Zhao, who without evidence wrote that “it might be” the U.S. military that brought the coronavirus to China. Twitter has since added the fact-check link to his tweets.Democrats have largely applauded the effort to fact-check the president. But they questioned why Twitter didn’t similarly add links to recent tweets by the president that baselessly accused MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murdering a former staffer who died while at work in one of his congressional offices nearly two decades ago.“Yes we like Twitter to put up their fact check of the president, but it seems to be very selective,“ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.The executive order is the latest in a years-long campaign by the president and his allies against social media companies. The companies say they have more aggressively sought to combat disinformation and foreign interference campaigns after the federal government found that Russia and other state operatives used U.S. social media to influence the 2016 election.Bias AllegationsRepublicans have alleged that Twitter and Facebook are politically biased in the way they display posts and block certain material deemed offensive, and objected to Twitter’s decision to ban certain political advertising. Last May, the administration set up a website asking Americans to submit instances of alleged political bias on social media.“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”The president has complained about Twitter’s efforts to combat manipulative and abusive content by deleting fake profiles -- leading to a decline of hundreds of thousands of users in his follower count.The websites have denied their actions are politically motivated, and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said then he also lost around 200,000 followers in the purge. In 2018 congressional testimony, Dorsey said there were technical explanations for cases of alleged bias raised by Republican lawmakers.Still, the debate has exposed a rift among Silicon Valley tech giants, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticizing Twitter’s decision in an interview with Fox News.“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.“Dorsey fired back in a tweet posted Wednesday night, saying the fact-check was designed to make sure people didn’t misunderstand the president’s tweet and believe they didn’t need to register to vote in order to receive an absentee ballot.(Updates with latest Twitter-Trump clash in sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. has started fact-checking Donald Trump. The U.S. President didn’t take it lightly.Following years of criticism that the social network let the president spread misinformation, on Tuesday a pair of Trump’s tweets that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting were appended with links reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”The labels take readers to a page with a collection of stories and reporters’ tweets about the president’s claims, as well as an item apparently authored by Twitter staff titled “What you need to know” that rebuts Trump.It’s the first time Twitter has taken action on Trump’s posts for being misleading, and the president responded shortly afterward, tweeting that the company was interfering with the 2020 election.“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” Trump posted to his 80 million followers.On Wednesday morning, Trump came back to the subject, writing in a tweet that “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservative voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”Twitter shares fell 1.65% in early trading in New York after Trump’s tweet.The labels are part of a policy Twitter expanded earlier this month when it started labeling misinformation related to Covid-19. Posting misinformation is not against the company’s rules, but Twitter is adding links providing more information to tweets “where people may still be confused or misled,” it said at the time. Twitter has expanded that policy to include tweets about voting, according to a spokesperson, who declined to share if this policy included other topics.“Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘a Rigged Election,’” the Twitter-authored item reads. “However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.”Twitter confirmed it had added the fact-checking links to Trump’s tweets.Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the label was an effort to impede the president’s efforts to get his message to voters. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility,” Parscale said in a statement.Trump shared the same post about mail-in ballots on Tuesday to his Facebook page, where he has more than 29 million followers. That post is still up and doesn’t include any warning or label. Facebook Inc. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Twitter was under pressure earlier in the day to remove other Trump tweets -- just not the ones focused on mail-in ballots. The New York Times published a letter written by a man whose wife died in former Representative Joe Scarborough’s office, asking Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to remove tweets Trump posted encouraging a baseless conspiracy theory that Scarborough murdered the woman, Lori Klausutis.Twitter issued a statement apologizing for the pain Trump’s tweets caused Klausutis’s family but did not say whether the tweets would be removed. They are still visible on the president’s Twitter account and on his Facebook page.(Updates with Trump tweet on social media in sixth paragraph, shares in seventh)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
While coronavirus has battered most news media groups, a handful of premium publishers are holding their ground through the tempest. Backed by a subscription model built over the past decade, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have so far decided against the mass lay-offs and pay cuts that have wracked the majority of their peers, and are even still looking to hire. Will Lewis, another Brit who earlier this month stepped down as chief executive of Dow Jones, the publisher of the WSJ, told the FT that the group was “on a tear” and enjoying an uplift in subscribers that “shows no signs of abating”.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The work-from-home movement is gaining steam in Silicon Valley as a flurry of companies – big and small – are embracing remote-working policies beyond the pandemic. But even as some executives extol its virtues, other tech leaders aren’t so sure, opening a growing divide inside the industry over the future of work. It’s a worthy debate.On Thursday, Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company will start allowing some existing employees to work from home permanently. He said Facebook will also “aggressively open up remote hiring” for engineering talent in areas it doesn’t have an office, saying as much as 50% of the company’s employees could eventually work remotely within 10 years. In similar fashion, Shopify Inc. CEO Tobi Lutke said his e-commerce software company will allow its employees to work from home indefinitely, adding he expects that most of his staff will work remotely going forward. The days of “office centricity is over,” the executive posted on social media. The two companies join Twitter Inc., which said last week it will let employees work from home as standard practice as well.Not everyone in technology is on board. Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. CEO Strauss Zelnick said on an investor call this week that he believes sustained strong productivity will get more difficult the longer people are forced to work from home, adding that “there is no substitute for in-person collaboration and connection.” That follows comments from Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, who expressed concern in an interview with the New York Times last week that early positive remote-work productivity metrics may mask underlying deficiencies, in terms of managing and mentoring employees. He also raised worries about potential burnout and mental-health issues. “Maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?,” he asked.There’s something to be said for this pushback. Sure, there are many pluses to offering off-site work flexibility – including better employee retention and the ability to hire from a more diverse talent base in other geographies – but corporations should realize the work-from-home trend isn’t a panacea. In fact, there are significant drawbacks and challenges that shouldn’t be overlooked. As Zelnick pointed out, there are unquantifiable benefits derived from being in the same physical location. Scheduled videoconferencing meetings don’t engender the same spontaneous creativity compared to the many back-and-forth brief conversations during a typical day at an office. And nothing beats face-to-face interactions for building the relationships and trust required to persuade your colleagues on big decisions.It’s notable that even as Facebook projects confidence and forward-looking thought leadership in its charge toward its new work-from-home culture, it is implementing the change slowly. Zuckerberg said only the company’s senior engineers with strong performance reviews will be initially allowed to apply for remote-work flexibility, adding it will be a measured transition before extending the policy to non-engineers.To be frank, it wouldn’t surprise me to see many of these companies slow down their transitions to remote working. After all, the world is only a few months into this massive remote-work experiment. The initial productivity benefits may dissipate and significant negative consequences may well appear over time. Best not to rush into any drastic decisions.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron's, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- My junior and senior years in high school were 1968 and 1969; five decades later, I can still remember some of the main events of that era: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the bombing of Cambodia, the Apollo 8 spaceflight that orbited the moon, and Woodstock, which I pleaded with my parents to let me attend. (They said no.)In my personal life, I remember playing on the basketball team, buying my first car, working in my family’s corner grocery store and wishing I had the nerve to ask certain girls out on a date. Here’s what I don’t remember: the pandemic of 1968-1969.And yet there was one. It was called the H3N2 virus — less formally, the Hong Kong flu — and it took a significant toll. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 1 million people died worldwide, 100,000 in the U.S. Conditions in large U.S. cities sound similar to what they’re going through now, with overwhelmed hospital workers, millions of people getting sick and the elderly most likely to die.When I first read about this pandemic, I could scarcely believe I had missed it. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the virus wreaked havoc in Europe, with French manufacturers suffering severe disruptions and West German garbage collectors burying the dead because there weren’t enough undertakers. In the U.S., the New York Times reported, the Citadel had to suspend classes because 165 cadets came down with the virus. Absenteeism in Los Angeles schools rose as high as 25%. In Boston, where I would soon be headed to college, university infirmaries were said to be filled with ill students. Tallulah Bankhead was a prominent victim of the virus.A quick search confirms that the Times(1) had covered the pandemic at the time. But I didn’t read the Times when I was in high school, and even if I had, I might well have missed the coverage. Every article was buried well inside the paper.I did read the Boston Globe, but it wasn’t exactly trumpeting the news either. I found a humor piece by Art Buchwald (“For pretty young ladies, the HKF can be your protection from drunken bosses at Christmas parties”). The news that the virus was officially an epidemic ran in a short wire-service article on Page 5. On New Year’s Eve, the Globe predicted that the flu might keep people indoors. Or maybe not: “Flu or not, there are many who won’t let anything stand in the way of celebrating the holiday.”From our current perspective, with shelter-in-place rules in much of the country, the most striking thing about the contemporaneous accounts was the absence of any discussion of lockdowns or even social distancing. I saw a few photos of nurses and office workers wearing masks, but that apparently wasn’t mandated either.Even the occasional school closings were one-offs; not a single state ordered that schools or businesses be closed en masse. The virus swept across the world, causing tens of millions of people to become sick — and killing nearly three times the number of people who have died so far of Covid-19 — and the world’s chief mitigation effort was to race to make a vaccine. By the time one was ready, the pandemic had largely fizzled out.This pandemic, of course, will be indelibly seared in the memory of those who lived through it. It is the biggest story since 9/11, with the ever-rising number of cases and deaths dominating the news. Children who are now wearing masks, doing schoolwork online and staying indoors will never forget it.They’ll also no doubt remember the economic aftermath, which is likely to be horrific, with deflation and even a depression a possibility. On Tuesday, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “there is a risk of permanent damage” to the economy if the country remained locked down much longer.All of which raises a question that has so far been relegated to a small handful of coronavirus contrarians: with all the businesses that are going to fail, and the tens of millions of people who will be unemployed — and the other negative consequences that come with forcing people to stay at home — will the lockdown have been worth it? Or would we have been better off doing something closer to what the country did in 1968 — yes, taking precautions like wearing masks, washing hands and protecting the elderly, but allowing businesses and schools to stay open while people went about their lives?There are two issues here. The first is that quarantining an entire population is not some set-in-stone technique that has been used for decades to stem the spread of a virus. It was first proposed in 2006 by two government doctors — neither of them infectious disease specialists — after President George W. Bush asked for a plan to combat pandemics.Soon afterward, a paper was published calling for a national policy of sheltering-in-place. It swayed Bush. But four scientists who were infectious disease specialists also wrote a paper about the idea — a devastating critique. There was no science to support the notion that a national quarantine would halt the spread of infection, they wrote. It could increase the risk of infection for people living in close quarters. Closing theaters, malls, restaurants, stores and bars — not to mention church services and athletic events — would have “serious disruptive consequences.” Closing schools was not only impractical “but carries the possibility of a seriously adverse outcome.” And so on.The scientists concluded:Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.The second issue is that there is surprisingly little evidence that lockdowns work. Last week, a statistician named William M. Briggs, who is solidly in the anti-lockdown camp, wrote a blog post comparing countries that locked down with countries that didn’t. As of May 12, the U.S. had 237 deaths per million people. Taiwan, a no-lockdown country, had 0.3 deaths per million. (The country has had a total of seven deaths.)No-lockdown Sweden has had 347 deaths per million; lockdown Belgium, with a similar population, has had 763 deaths per million. Ethiopia, with a population of 109 million, had no lockdown — and a death rate of 0.04 per million.“Death rates were more than highly variable; they were all over the place,” Briggs wrote of the data he had collected. “If lockdowns worked as advertised, we would not see such enormous variability in the death rates.”“What should we conclude?” he added. “Strike that. What can we conclude? Only one thing: We cannot conclude that lockdowns worked.”Let me point out one other fact about the pandemic of the late 1960s. Like many coronaviruses, the H3N2 virus came in waves. The last one began in the fall of 1969 and ended in early 1970. Assuming this coronavirus fades in the summer, there is a high likelihood that it will return with a vengeance in the fall and winter. If that happens, are you truly ready to lock down again?I didn’t think so.(1) “The Hong Kong Flu Began in Red China,” was the headline of an AP story the Times ran in mid-December1968. Plus ca change.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Weak presidents are not safe for democracy.Bright Line Watch, a project of political scientists worried about the erosion of democratic institutions, has found increasing concern by experts about the state of U.S. democracy since 2017. That’s despite the well-documented case that Donald Trump has been an unusually weak president. He often defers to Republican Party regulars on policy questions; when he doesn’t, he’s usually rolled by members of Congress, the executive branch, governors and business leaders. He often appears more interested in announcing policy wins than in actually doing the work to make those victories real.Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist who understands Trump’s weakness, made the case on Tuesday that if the president was really a threat to democracy, he would have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to seize more power. Douthat argued that Trump isn’t interested in that kind of authority but rather craves only attention, rendering him helpless to effectively subvert democratic rule.Douthat misses, however, a big part of what Trump does appear to care about. Beyond the compulsion to be in the spotlight, Trump also seems to care a lot about squashing negative attention. He has astonishingly thin skin, and a shockingly broad interpretation of what counts as personal criticism. Douthat wrongly asserts that Trump’s “only impulse that related to real power and its uses” has been to duck responsibility for the coronavirus response by sending authority back to the states, missing the bullying of executive-branch experts, governors, the media and anyone else who dared suggest that Trump’s leadership was anything less than perfect. Indeed, Trump’s aversion to criticism is so strong that he tends to take even basic factual information as personal attacks, as when he claims that studies of potential coronavirus cures that don’t conform to his own hopes must have been the work of his enemies.Presidential weakness isn’t insurance against harm. The real nature of presidential power, as political scientist Richard Neustadt explained long ago, is a function of bargaining skill, mastery at gathering and processing information, understanding of the political and other incentives of those a president deals with, and thorough knowledge of the political system. Trump has none of those things. Indeed, that makes his influence minimal. But presidents who can’t manipulate the system to realize their visions of what the country needs try instead to work around the system, even if that means bending or breaking the rules. It usually doesn’t work, but along the way they can do all sorts of damage.Take Trump’s tweets Wednesday morning falsely accusing Michigan and Nevada of voter fraud and threatening to withhold federal funds if they proceeded with legitimate absentee-voter plans. It was a classic display of Trump weakness — he got his facts wrong, and he almost certainly can’t follow through on his threat. As with most Trump orders and proposals, legitimate and illicit, it will probably be ignored.And yet that’s not the whole story. Each time a president advocates something illegal, it harms the rule of law in small ways, even without efforts to follow up. Most party actors from the president’s party are reluctant to contradict their own president because weakening him weakens the party overall. Some will just ignore such things, but some will try to jump on the bandwagon, further harming the republic. And it doesn’t just stop with rhetoric. White House staff and political appointees within the bureaucracy at least partially take their lead from the president. They might undermine constitutional government in their effort to fulfill his wishes even if he’s too inept to know how to get things done. They also may just follow his example and ignore legal and ethical restraints for their own self-interest. A lawless president encourages lawlessness. And the damage isn’t limited to the president’s party. Once the out-of-power party comes to believe that a president and his party are not constrained by law, they may feel pressure to do likewise to compete. Douthat worries about what he used to call Caesarism when Barack Obama was president. But Neustadt understood that the presidential quest for power isn’t a problem, because the kinds of things that produce true presidential influence require the proper use of the political system. The successful ambition for power paradoxically constrains presidents, because they have to avoid doing the things that alienate political actors and voters. To take one example, properly ambitious presidents cultivate a reputation for honesty because it helps them bargain successfully with political actors to get what they want. But that means they actually have to do the things that make their word mean something. Trump doesn’t have that constraint, but also doesn’t get the benefits that go with it. Democracy and the rule of law are a continuum. One violation doesn’t destroy the republic. But Trump’s constant lawlessness has already taken a toll on the strength of U.S. democracy, and continues to do so — in large part because he isn’t interested in real power and doesn’t understand what it is.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
As a security contractor he boasted deep experience across the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, and had overseen high-stakes kidnapping rescues. In others words, Mike Taylor appeared to have the right skills to help pluck Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chief executive, from Japan, where he was embroiled in criminal proceedings, and spirit him to his native Lebanon. Mr Taylor’s purported handiwork as the orchestrator of Mr Ghosn’s daring escape has emerged in recent days, inspiring a sense of awe and wonder around the world at an episode that played out like a James Bond film.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- We all have aspects of the old normal that we miss. For me, it's bookstores.Barnes and Noble will end the shutdown with fewer stores than before the pandemic, and the company will be implementing restrictions that are sure to discourage browsing. Other booksellers have no idea when they will be ready to welcome customers again. The New York Times reported recently that although the number of indies has increased by nearly 900 over the past decade, the current emergency “threatens to wipe out those gains.”You might respond that bookstores don’t matter. If you want a book, you can order it online. You can download it to your Kindle. What difference does it make if physical stores are in trouble? Aren’t they an endangered species anyway?Maybe so — but they’re the kind of endangered species we should be eager to preserve. Brick-and-mortar bookstores matter because browsing is important. Browsing is important not only because it is a pleasure, but also because it underscores the forgotten role of the physical book.Browsing is a voyage of constant discovery. You run your fingers along the spines of the history section only to learn that the volume you’re looking for isn’t in stock. No matter. You find a fascinating book you’ve never heard of and know nothing about, a treasure upon which you happened only because you were looking for another. You pick it up, you leaf through it, you decide to buy. (Especially — no kidding! — if the smell of chocolate is in the air.) No matter how many screens you glance at online, you won’t duplicate the number and variety of volumes you can swiftly take in by spending even a few minutes in a bookstore aisle.So much for all that. To begin with, a lot of people will understandably be uneasy about browsing because browsing means more time in the store, and they won't want to chance infection by another customer. So maybe it makes sense that Barnes and Noble plans to remove those comfy chairs and benches where people used to sit and read. But browsing is also tactile, testing a book's heft and weight even as you leaf through the pages. That's going to be harder than ever, given that the chain has also announced plans to quarantine for five days every volume a customer handles. With booksellers nowadays often displaying only a copy or two of all but the most popular titles, the book quarantine will have many buyers ordering on their phones instead.One obvious question, then, is whether the five-day quarantine is necessary. I appreciate the need for the stores to limit potential liability, and to disinfect a physical book could ruin it. (Try to picture a volume that’s been treated with Lysol.) And, certainly, a business must plan around the fears consumers are experiencing. But where books are concerned, maybe we should be less afraid. A few years ago, experts were assuring the public that books were highly unlikely transmitters of disease. Has Covid-19 changed the calculus? The evidence so far seems to be against the proposition that the coronavirus can survive on paper for more than a few hours. This would be consistent with what we learned from similar viruses in the past.(1)We’ve been through a scare about books and germs before, during the smallpox epidemic of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and one result was a serious crippling of public libraries. The widespread belief that picking up a book could make a person sick was part of what Priscilla Wald of Duke University has labeled “a litany of hitherto unseen dangers.” I’m not insisting that studies suggesting the possibility of a longer life on paper are wrong. But we should approach them with care. This recent article, cited for the proposition that the novel coronavirus might survive on paper for up to five days, is a review of existing literature. The article makes the five-day assertion for only one strain of SARS, known as CoV-P9, recovered from a single patient. The source of the assertion is this 2003 study, which was actually about ways to kill SARS, and in which the paper was infected with an unusually high concentration of virus (105 infective doses per millileter). For other strains, at similar doses, the review showed the SARS virus surviving on paper for 5 minutes to 3 hours, or, at an even higher doses, for just 24 hours.And this is assuming the virus will remain on the surface of the page not just in the right concentration to infect us, but also in a sufficient amount. Certainly it’s possible — but is it really plausible? Even researchers who consider contaminated surfaces an important risk in viral transmission concede that the extant studies are difficult to evaluate.None of this matters, however, unless physical books matter. A detailed argument on this could fill, well, a book, but here it is in brief: Books fill a vital niche in a democracy, presenting a different way of looking at both stories and arguments. They provide a reminder that there exist valuable and complex ideas that can’t be squeezed into a handful of words and fascinating tales that don’t fit on the screen. The solidity of the printed word is a symbol of permanence. And the book in any form, digital or physical, is an escape from the quotidian, a chance to lose yourself in history few people know much about, or to discover brilliantly transportive fiction you might have missed.Browsing bookstores reminds us of this value, which is why we so enjoy it, particularly when we’re browsing used and antiquarian volumes in cramped venues with narrow stairways and bulging shelves and books heaped everywhere because there’s simply no more space — the sort of places where the dust motes seem to have seen more of life and literature than you ever will.Which is perhaps another way of saying that if bookstores fall victim to the pandemic, we will lose remarkable treasures impossible to replace.(1) Experts quoted in the press suggest that newspapers cannot spread the virus.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot has found herself in the middle of a public health and political maelstrom.Primarily responsible for managing the Covid-19 pandemic that has paralyzed the most populous U.S. city, Barbot was passed over when Mayor Bill de Blasio last week gave control of the city’s immense diagnostic testing and tracing effort to Mitchell Katz, head of the public hospital system. Barbot was absent Friday from a City Council hearing called to scrutinize the move.“It is unclear exactly why it was decided that Health & Hospitals would lead such an immense effort,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “What is clear is the serious dysfunction playing out behind the scenes at a time when New Yorkers desperately need to have confidence in their city government.”New York’s health department has been at the forefront of urban public health policy. The New York Times reported Friday that the mayor disregarded Barbot’s push to close schools and businesses in early March, while taking Katz’s advice to oppose such a move -- until the virus forced a statewide shutdown a week later. Public health professionals, including Katz, now say with hindsight the delay caused many people to die.Barbot, whose agency has conducted contact tracing in outbreaks of tuberculosis, AIDS, Ebola and measles, has avoided directly speaking about her relationship with the mayor and his choice for leading lead the test-and-trace effort. “We are committed to applying that world-class expertise to bringing this epidemic to an end,” she told a reporter May 10 at the mayor’s news conference. “And we are committed to ongoing collaboration with all of our sister agencies.”Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for Barbot, said she was unavailable to comment.City Council members initially backed Barbot. This week, her political position became more fraught after the New York Post reported she had refused a police demand for 500,000 surgical masks because she was saving them for hospital workers. She offered the department 50,000 in early March as the city faced a shortage, the Post reported.De Blasio has said he appointed Katz -- a former public health director in San Francisco and Los Angeles -- to lead the effort after the city’s system of 11 public hospitals more than doubled their intensive-care capacity to handle thousands of critically ill New Yorkers. As a public corporation not hampered by rules applying to government agencies, Katz can oversee the fast hiring of thousands of tracers, who would remain city employees, the mayor said.The hospital system also has more operational expertise to isolate infected patients and their contacts in hotel rooms if they live in crowded households where they might spread the virus, the mayor has said.The mayor last spoke with his health commissioner “a couple of days ago” and intends to talk with her this weekend, he said during a press conference Friday. He said he hadn’t been informed about the NYPD incident until this week.Katz told council members Friday that health department experts would be intensely involved in training tracers and setting policies on quarantine and isolation, and would continue to analyze hospital testing data. The city’s testing effort, located at sites connected to its public hospitals, has a goal of increasing four-fold to about 50,000 a day by mid-summer.Katz said he last spoke with Barbot three days ago, and that she reaffirmed her support for the effort to contain the virus, no matter who leads it.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Bloomberg Opinion will be running a series of features by our columnists that consider the long-term consequences of the crisis. This column is part of a package envisioning the future of work. For more, see Sarah Green Carmichael on the resilience of open offices, Justin Fox on what jobs will and won't change and Stephen Mihm on worker protests.It is well established by now that the deadly coronavirus is anything but a “great equalizer.” Instead, large swaths of the population are confronting threats — both to their physical and their financial well-being — that if left unchecked could deepen existing divides.Take the gender gap. Before the pandemic struck, women already faced a century-long wait to reach parity with men, a daunting prospect that now risks becoming further out of reach if the economic disparities unleashed by the crisis are ignored. As the health emergency abates, governments, big business and investors have the opportunity to refocus their attention on previous goals, such as aiming to reach gender equality.Women are particularly exposed to this crisis. They are on the frontlines of the fight against the virus itself, making up 70% of global healthcare workers and as much as 95% of long-term care workers, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But not only are women putting their lives at risk to save others — they also make up the majority of employees in parts of the economy that have been hardest hit by lockdowns. From leisure to hospitality to retail, entire industries in which women make up a greater share of the workforce have been brought to a halt. Women are also more likely to hold temporary and part-time positions, the types of jobs employers are most likely to cut first in a downturn. Across the U.S., the cost to female jobs is already visible. The latest unemployment figures show that women held 55% of the 20.5 million jobs lost last month. Women’s share of all unemployment claims filed between March and April 11 ranged from 53% in Wyoming to as high as 67% in Alabama, according to nonprofit journalism organization The Fuller Project. In Canada, too, women have made up the bulk of the layoffs.If recent history is any guide, the deepest recession of our lifetimes could hurt women’s economic prospects for many years to come. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, men bore the brunt of the job losses in Europe and the U.S., leading some to dub the economic contraction the “man-cession.” Male-dominated manufacturing and construction industries suffered the biggest blows.But as Aliya Hamid Rao, a sociology professor at Singapore Management University, has found, women took longer to return to work after the last downturn. That’s partly because crises tend to reinforce the idea that men are responsible for putting bread on the table whereas women take care of the family, she has said. So women typically take on a greater share of the unpaid housework, further hampering their return to, and progress in, paid employment. Rao’s study of professionals showed that even when men were unemployed and their female partners were the ones working full time, men still would not shoulder a greater portion of household chores.Early indications on the divisions of household labor in the pandemic era show not much is changing. According to a survey of 2,200 Americans, carried out during the April lockdown for the New York Times, 70% percent of women said they are now either solely or mostly responsible for housework, and 66% said they are handling childcare, in line with analysis from before the pandemic. Though men in the recent survey disagreed — only 20% said their partners are mostly responsible for the unpaid household labor — research has shown women typically report these estimates more accurately.Governments so far have been rightly preoccupied by tending to the immediate health needs of their populations and their financial survival. From household checks to loans and grants to companies, the scale of the fiscal responses we’re seeing around the world are without precedent. Companies too have mostly sought to shield their employees from unnecessary exposure to the virus, with the majority of office jobs relocating to homes and some firms also pledging not to cut staff.But as countries begin planning their exits from lockdown, both policymakers and corporate leaders have to acknowledge and address the economic struggles women face.To begin with, there should be a simple but effective re-evaluation of how we value female-dominated healthcare work, beyond calls to show our appreciation with rounds of hand-clapping. The financial conditions of health and social workers in some countries are in need of improvement. In Portugal and Spain, pay for nurses fell after the sovereign debt crises of the early 2000s and have only slowly recovered, according to the latest OECD data. The same study shows that pay for nurses in the U.K. rose just 5% between 2010 and 2017, while inflation rose about 15%. The industry needs higher pay. For instance, the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank, argues U.K. health employees should receive Covid-19 bonuses, as well as better statutory sick pay and a higher real living wage. As governments shift from handing out financial lifelines to restarting and rethinking their economies, they could tie aid to goals of sustainability, such as improving the balance of women in companies’ leadership.Notwithstanding the clear benefits of having diverse leadership, women in the U.S. and the U.K. still make up fewer than 30% of board members and 10% of CEOs among the biggest companies. At a time in which inequity threatens to undermine societies, closing the leadership gender gap is more important than ever. And gender-diverse boards are more likely to steer their firms to look after stakeholders, not just shareholders.Financial support to firms could also be tied to improving the conditions of precarious workers, such as temporary employees and freelancers, who can slip through the cracks of social security and are less likely to receive on-the-job training. Women make up about 40% of the total wage employment but 57% of part-time employees, according to the International Labour Organization.Governments could also partner with investors to channel funds into small- and medium-sized companies led by women — which struggle at the best of times to secure financing. In some of the world’s biggest economies, the U.K. and Germany for example, women lead fewer than one in five SMEs. Supporting women in running their own businesses would help enable more of them to work and lift the quality of their employment. Leaders will have to invest in retraining as well, to create more opportunities for women. Many who lost their jobs in this crisis might not be able to return to a similar role. The retail sector is already being decimated, and the continuing shift to automation will hurt factory workers and salespeople alike. Offering training in digital skills, and encouraging studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will empower women across the employment spectrum. Women account for only 30% of the tech workforce on average across the Group of Seven countries, and representation in leadership roles is even thinner.At the very least, policymakers should ensure that women are equally represented in their decision-making. In Italy, one of the European countries that has been hardest hit by the pandemic, the government has faced pressure to add more women to its committees of experts that advise on the health crisis and reopening the economy. The most powerful group, the government’s technical and scientific committee, for months consisted of just men before the government announced on Tuesday it would add women to the 20-strong committee.CEOs of large corporations, for their part, have the chance to show that they actually mean what they say when they wax lyrical about their companies’ broader purpose in society, beyond making money for their shareholders. As they plan how to return to office life, there will be fresh opportunities to root out existing gender biases. For example, work cultures demanding face time and long, rigid hours can disproportionately derail women’s career advancement and earnings. Flexible working hours, the ability to work from home and more malleable career paths would help to narrow the gender gap as we emerge from the pandemic — and allow women to produce more than we did before.Opportunities to make a difference abound. If farsighted leaders are willing to view their responses to the pandemic through a gender-tinted lens, they have the chance to transform a massive disruption into a truly equalizing force.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Elisa Martinuzzi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering finance. She is a former managing editor for European finance at Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Readers are flocking to news sites for the latest on Covid-19. Advertisers are running the other way.As news editors do everything to harness public interest in the worst public health crisis in more than a generation, their main source of income is in freefall, with brands pulling ads from news sites, papers and magazines.To some extent that’s normal: With businesses hoarding cash just to stay afloat, marketing campaigns are a low priority. But a bad situation is being made a whole lot worse by advertising “blacklists” — sets of keywords that stop ads appearing next to certain categories of news that are considered a turn-off by brand managers. Because so much coverage now touches on coronavirus, one of the biggest stories of the century is turning into an advertising no-go zone.The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a trade group, surveyed U.S. web publishers in early April and found that news organizations were twice as likely to have ads blocked because of keyword blacklisting.News executives, and even some advertising experts, say the lists can be arbitrary, unfair and often nonsensical: there’s little evidence that readers are less responsive to an ad for shampoo or a car hire service just because they’re sitting alongside a “bad news” story. What’s more, they’re killing news.“We’re in danger of losing some of the most trusted publishers we have in the U.K. in the coming months,” said Tracey de Groose, executive chairman of British news industry marketing body Newsworks. “The unintended consequence of this is the commercial censorship of journalism.”Newsworks calculated that Covid-19 blacklists are set to cost British news brands more than 50 million pounds ($61.7 million) in the next three months — a potential lifeline for newsrooms already slashing costs to survive. It said its members already lost 170 million pounds last year from an ever-growing list of common news words that brands avoid, such as “terrorism” and even “Brexit.” Integral Ad Science Inc., one of a complex array of tech firms that influence where ads appear online, said marketers have begun to address the problem — specific coronavirus-related keyword blocking has fallen by 80% since mid-March in the U.S. and 77% in the U.K., according to IAS Chief Executive Officer Lisa Utzschneider. Prior to that, marketers requested blanket bans on ads appearing next to content with words like “coronavirus” or “pandemic.”In the U.K., news organizations have spent more than a month lobbying ad executives to stop them blocking ads near virus coverage, and even drafted in the government to add its weight to the campaign, to little avail. There’s yet to be any rebound in income for publishers, said de Groose at Newsworks. That’s galling for news sites that have seen readership more than double in some content categories in Europe, according to audience data firm Comscore.In a follow-up IAB survey last week, 18% of news publishers reported that blacklist restrictions had loosened in their second quarter planning. More than half said nothing had changed.Companies that provide “brand safety” lists often use outdated terms and obscure how their keyword targeting works, said Nandini Jammi, a marketing industry advocate. “These are not made clear to advertisers,” she said. “Everyone is doing it. No one is thinking about it.” At the other end of the chain, news publishers struggle to find out which brands are blocking what, making it harder to hold the brands to account. The companies that administer the ad blocking profit from each block, so have little incentive to help. WPP agency GroupM said it’s trying to get brand marketing teams to making their blacklists more intelligent so more ads reach trusted news sources.Rather than blocking “Covid-19,” they block a combination of words such as “Covid-19-Miracle Cure” or “Covid-19-Refrigerated Truck” so that ads don’t appear alongside irresponsible or particularly unpleasant news stories, said John Montgomery, the head of GroupM’s global brand safety practice.“The technology is not the enemy,” he said. “It’s the way we use it.” Opaque MarketUnpicking the chain of arrangements that are pulling advertising away from news is complex because publishers are the last link in a vast online ecosystem. Digital ads are created by agencies at global companies such as WPP Plc and transmitted via technology platforms including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and intermediaries like IAS and DoubleVerify. An ad flows through a warren of automated marketplaces and is sold a split-second after you click a link to the page where you see it. A myriad of suppliers trade and verify the content, while others gather data to target it better. It’s turned what used to be a simple agreement between a paper’s ad department and a brand marketing representative into an opaque process that’s dissipated responsibility and accountability.Google rejects any blame for the boycott of Covid-related news, saying there are no technical or policy reasons to stop publishers monetizing coronavirus-related content on its platforms.“We are in constant discussions with our publishing partners, advertisers and agencies on how we can continue to support a sustainable future for news,” said a Google spokesperson. Ad dollars have been draining from the news business for a decade for reasons that reach beyond the pandemic, said Montgomery at GroupM. As the big social media platforms developed sophisticated filters to keep brands safe from harmful or toxic content, they’ve captured more of the ad dollars that once went to news. The result is that “media planners have been trained not to need news any more,” he said.News organizations such as New York Times Co. and Nikkei Inc.’s Financial Times have cut dependence on ads by moving to reader subscriptions or memberships. Models are also emerging in which tech giants share more revenue, like Apple Inc.’s subscription News+ service or Facebook Inc’s agreement to pay trusted publishers. Ad-funded news organizations pushed to the brink by the virus-induced ad slump are trying to innovate their way out of danger. Some publishers are pitching ad slots next to “good news” stories from the pandemic, relying on technology that can scan language and find the happier articles.One of Britain’s biggest newspaper companies, Reach Plc, has teamed up with International Business Machines Corp. and AT&T Inc. to boost its language processing software and direct ads to these stories. “Coronavirus articles that have a positive sentiment are good for your brand,” said Damon Reeve, chief executive officer of the Ozone Project, an ad platform set up in 2018 by several U.K. news publishers including the Telegraph and the Guardian.For all those efforts, ad blacklists will be hard to banish as long as there are news themes that brands want to avoid.“Yes, ‘coronavirus’ has been the number-one blocked keyword,” said IAS’s Utzschneider. “But before that, it was ‘Trump’.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Much of our pre-coronavirus lives may be reclaimable with some modifications around how we work, socialize and travel. In one crucial way, though, the post-pandemic landscape will be very different: The individual’s autonomy over her data may be lost forever. Our mobiles will keep us safe — by spying on us.This will have important consequences for the relationship not just between citizens and governments, but also between consumers and businesses.Blame the coming end of privacy on success. South Korea and Taiwan have won acclaim for flattening the Covid-19 curve by digitally tracking infected persons. As my colleague Anjani Trivedi described in March, no government was using dispersed databases as extensively to fight the spread of the disease as Seoul. Before an explosive outbreak in its worker dormitories, Singapore earned praise for TraceTogether, which claims to be the first Bluetooth contact-tracing app covering an entire nation. The 1.4 million users represent roughly a fourth of the island’s population.It hasn’t gone unnoticed that enthusiastic adapters of such software are in East Asia where, as MIT Sloan School of Management professor Yasheng Huang and others note, “a collectivist spirit may encourage civic-minded embrace of and a more willing compliance with governments’ infection control.” But while cultural differences can help explain the beginning, the end game may be more universal: power and profit. Safely restarting economies will require governments to restore trust in people mingling in factories, offices, cafes and trains. It can supposedly be done with data more granular than what can be obtained from cellphone networks. Hence states want access to phones, with or without informed consent. Turning the clock back will be hard, if not impossible.Take India’s Aarogya Setu, or Bridge of Health, Covid-19 contact-tracing app. It’s got privacy warriors worried because the country lacks a data protection framework. Among other things, activists want the government to ensure that “any data collected in an external server is designed to be deleted and that it won’t be integrated with other databases,” according to a working paper by the New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation. For now, there are only assurances that the app will wither away once the outbreak is contained, but no legal guarantees. The Singaporean app records physical proximity in an anonymized form on smartphones. Minimal data is stored on servers. Only if a user falls sick are his contacts tracked and alerted. Given that it’s been less than two years since the revelation that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s health records were hacked, I’d hesitate to brand the experiment as foolproof. But it’s at least a voluntary exchange. India’s app is anything but. As the country tentatively reopens after a 43-day lockdown, it’s been made mandatory — first for public-sector employees and now for private-sector workers. Company bosses are liable to ensure their workers download the app, though nobody is accountable for misuse of data.TraceTogether’s building blocks are in the public domain. The source code of Aarogya Setu is yet to be opened. The Indian government recently denied a French security researcher’s claim that the privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake. Hours later, the so-called ethical hacker who goes by the name of Elliott Anderson tweeted that five people were feeling unwell in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office. Where boundaries between private and public are thin to begin with, a pandemic can make them disappear. A New York Times analysis of China’s Alipay Health Code software, which mixes a cocktail of data to color-code a person’s health status, found that some information is shared with the police. The digital prowess of Alibaba Group Ltd. or its rival, Tencent Holdings Ltd., has no match in India. But firms are eager to harness the online footprints of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Covid-19 might give those plans a fillip.Just as the Sept. 11 attacks irrevocably shrank personal freedoms as security-at-all-costs became a policy driver, Covid-19 will erode privacy in the name of public health. The potential market is immense for instruments far more intrusive than Big Brother’s telescreens. Richard Brooks, a computer engineering professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, told Bloomberg News: “If the ability to track social contacts exists to stop a contagion, I can guarantee you it will be used to track the spread of dissent.”An Israeli court verdict that banned Shin Bet, the internal security agency, from using its Covid-19 tracking app shows the discomfort societies have with handing over a shiny, new lever of control to governments. Europe’s data protection laws will try to ensure that the emergency collection and processing of personal information is conducted with accountability, and for a limited purpose. The British parliament’s human rights committee says it isn’t convinced that the National Health Service’s proposed tracing app protects privacy.Tracing in Korea went overboard in the early days, when the authorities released so much data that anonymous patients became identifiable — and got harassed. A strong data protection law forced Korea to limit disclosure. The bottom line: Where they exist, robust institutions could still offer resistance. In most other places, the individual’s autonomy has already become a virus casualty. Poorer countries where consumers have only recently started going online will see states insist on devices that come with pre-loaded tracking apps. More information will reside on central servers than epidemiologists have asked for or need. But who will stop the juggernaut?This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andy Mukherjee is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies and financial services. He previously was a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He has also worked for the Straits Times, ET NOW and Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The New York Times will participate in the 48th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference on Tuesday, May 12.
The New York Times Company's (NYT) digital advertising revenues decrease during first-quarter 2020. Management expects digital advertising revenues to decrease roughly 40-45% in the second quarter.
The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) announced today first-quarter 2020 diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $.20 compared with $.18 in the same period of 2019. Adjusted diluted earnings per share from continuing operations (defined below) was $.17 in the first quarter of 2020 compared with $.20 in the first quarter of 2019.
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump launched headlong into his push to reopen the country on Tuesday, saying Americans should begin returning to their everyday lives even if it leads to more sickness and death from the pandemic.Trump, speaking in Phoenix during his first trip outside Washington in more than a month, said he’s preparing for “phase two” of the U.S. response to the coronavirus. That will include disbanding the White House task force of public health experts, including Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, that have steered the government response to the outbreak so far.Trump acknowledged that reopening the economy would likely lead to more suffering.“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Trump said. “But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”On his visit to a Phoenix-based Honeywell International Inc. factory producing medical masks, Trump made his most forceful case yet that the economic damage to the country has become too great to sustain an extended shutdown. He encouraged Americans to think of themselves as “warriors” as they consider leaving their homes, a tacit acknowledgment of deep public reservations about re-opening the country too soon.The president has expressed increasing frustration with the coronavirus-sparked recession that has put more than 30 million Americans out of work and hurt his case for a second term. The U.S. continues to have the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world, with about 1.2 million people infected and more than 70,000 killed so far.Speaking separately in an ABC News interview that aired Tuesday evening, Trump said closing down the nation was “the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”And he was resolute about the decision to reopen the nation, despite the certainty of suffering it will cause until a vaccine is developed.“There’ll be more death,” he said. “The virus will pass, with or without a vaccine. And I think we’re doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass, and we’re going to be back to normal.”“But it’s been a rough process. There is no question about it,” Trump said. “I think our economy is going to be raging” next year, he added.No Face MaskWhile in Phoenix, Trump encouraged states to ease social-distancing measures and allow businesses to reopen, though he cautioned that it should be done “safely.”Yet, the president declined to set an example for the nation by engaging in one government-recommended safety protocol himself: wearing a face mask. As he toured the Honeywell plant, Trump wore only safety goggles. Music from his standard campaign rally soundtrack played over loudspeakers, including Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and Guns N’ Roses’s “Live and Let Die.”Senior White House officials also did not don the masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend when social distancing isn’t possible. Factory workers, members of the press and other support staff did. Trump also lamented that he had to stand six feet apart from two supporters during his speech, including one who was wearing a sequined denim vest with his campaign slogan.Trump said that “doctors” he didn’t name had advised him to close the economy “for a couple of years.”“I created, with a lot of other very talented people and the people of our country, the greatest economy in the history of the world. The greatest that we’ve ever had,” Trump said. “And then one day they said, ‘we have to close our country.’ Well, now it’s time to open up.”Public-health experts have repeatedly warned the country risks a second wave of infections if restrictions are lifted too early, which could lead to another round of shutdowns and economic damage.Models ‘So Wrong’But even as Trump said a full-scale re-opening could lead to more deaths, he expressed optimism the virus would go away. And he added that if cases do rebound, it would be like a “fire” that could be extinguished “fast.”He also dismissed two new projections that painted a gruesome picture of what could happen if the country lifts shutdown orders too quickly: a Johns Hopkins University model showing deaths could reach 3,000 per day by June 1 and a University of Washington analysis showing the U.S. death toll could reach 135,000 by the beginning of August.“These models have been so wrong from day one. Both on the low side and the upside. They’ve been so wrong, they’ve been so out of whack. And they keep making new models, new models and they’re wrong,” the president said.White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said earlier Tuesday the Johns Hopkins model, included in a government document obtained Monday by the New York Times, relied on “faulty assumptions” about mitigation efforts and didn’t represent federal government projections.“The people of our country are warriors,” Trump said of Americans, some 69% of whom are “somewhat” or “very” worried about contracting Covid-19, according to an analysis of polls by fivethirtyeight.com.Vice President Mike Pence said earlier Tuesday the White House has begun discussing disbanding the coronavirus task force that has advised Trump on the federal response to the outbreak, a move that could happen as soon as later this month.“Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening. And we’ll have a different group, probably, set up for that,” Trump said in Phoenix.When asked if the move meant he considers the mission of combating the virus to be accomplished, Trump replied: “No.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The New York Times Company (NYT) anticipates total advertising revenues to fall in the first quarter. The company has been grappling with declining print readership and soft advertising revenues.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- As April turned to May, more than a dozen states opted to relax coronavirus shutdowns and at least partly reopen their economies. This is not a public health decision, but an economic and social one. Still, they can contribute to public health by providing data all 50 states can use.Nobody knows exactly what level of restrictions we need to keep Covid-19 from overwhelming hospitals. Georgia, Colorado, Texas and others are conducting a natural experiment. While some scientists fret that reopening too soon could increase infections nationwide, these early birds can still do us a favor: A promise to be our guinea pigs, regularly testing random samples of their populations and providing other kinds of data that will help us understand how the disease spreads. Even without an organized effort, they will be under the microscope.On a podcast for the New England Journal of Medicine, editor-in-chief Eric Rubin and deputy editor Lindsey Baden discussed how little we still know about the efficacy of the patchwork of stay-at-home and lockdown rules. In the United States, we haven’t even agreed on the goal of these shutdowns: Is it keeping case numbers as low as possible? Or just preventing hospitals from exceeding capacity? The answer may differ from one community to another, and could determine how strict the restrictions should be.Even if Covid-19 cases do rise in these reopening states, it could have a benefit: A better way to test vaccines. Experts on vaccine development say there are no shortage of people asking to volunteer for human studies, but it’s hard to test vaccine candidates on locked down populations. To know if a vaccine works, a certain number of people must be exposed to infection.In mid-April, public health experts had argued that states that want to reopen should wait until new infections rates have fallen for 14 straight days, and should also have the testing and contact tracing capacity to quarantine those likely to be infected. That could entail Americans getting several million tests every day.But testing won’t ramp up to the level needed any time soon, says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Beyond the current inadequacies with tests, which he wrote about this week in the New York Times, he wants to address a misunderstanding about the benefit of lockdown-type policies. They don’t prevent infections — only delay them. The main benefit for society is that by slowing down the rate of serious illness, we can keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed. Beyond that, as I’ve said in previous columns, there’s also an upward learning curve so getting sick months from now rather than now means a higher standard of care.Osterholm is right that it’s unrealistic for entire populations to remain locked up for 16-20 months. The reality is that this pandemic will only end when some 70% of the population develops immunity — thus creating the so-called herd immunity that can starve the virus of hosts. “The bottom line is we’re going to get there,” he said. We might get help from a vaccine, or we might not. But that’s the end result.After various regions allow more activity, he said it’s possible we’ll see a steady stream of cases, or small peaks and valleys, or we’ll see a large second peak.A second peak was predicted by epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch and colleagues, in a model published in Science in mid-April. One strategy outlined in the paper was to let some herd immunity build up over the summer while using whatever limited testing capacity we have to do random sampling and monitor for the start of the next wave. Under that plan, we’d all have to prepare to go back into lockdown before that wave got too high.Others, including Osterholm, have been contemplating a way to protect those who are likely to get seriously ill, while allowing more freedom for those who are at very low risk — though not no risk.This has been Sweden’s strategy, and while it has its detractors, they have decided on a long-term, sustainable strategy which may win in the long haul in reducing overall pain and suffering. As Osterholm has been saying, we’re currently only in about the second inning of a nine-inning ballgame.The fact that some countries and states are behaving differently isn’t all bad — just as long as they keep tracking critical data, and offering it to scientists who can do a systematic evaluation of their results.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Faye Flam is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She has written for the Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Psychology Today, Science and other publications. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- For me, it began with Steve Martin.In addition to his talent as a comedian and actor, Martin is also a superb banjo player and the leader of a bluegrass band called the Steep Canyon Rangers. On March 21, nine days after I began self-isolating, Martin posted a 76-second video on Twitter that shows him standing in the woods, playing a song. He turns on the camera, plays, and then turns off the camera without speaking. The title of his video is “Banjo balm.”I have no idea what the song is, but it’s beautiful. See for yourself: I must have watched Martin’s video at least 10 times that day. I found it deeply, surprisingly moving, and I wasn’t alone. “I literally cried watching Steve Martin playing the banjo and I can’t quite explain why,” read one of the thousands of replies. “I did too,” read another. “It’s because we are all in this together. Kind gesture from a beloved entertainer.” It’s since been played more than 500,000 times.About a week later,(1)Reuters posted a three-minute video of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Arjen Leendertz, the orchestra’s bassist, plays the first bars. Then in come three cellos, followed a few measures later by Galahad Samson, the assistant principal violist. Pretty soon 18 members of the orchestra have joined in:Except, as you can see, this is no ordinary “Ode to Joy.” With a limited lockdown in place in the Netherlands, the musicians are all playing in their homes. There are no black dresses or tuxedos that can make orchestra members seem indistinguishable in a concert hall. Leendertz is wearing a suit jacket with an open collar shirt; Samson has an aqua baseball hat that says “vegan power;” Josephine Olech, a flautist, is in a bright blue sweater. As the music nears its climax, the video goes from showing one musician or a small handful to showing all 18, in split screens, playing together. It’s like one of those CNN talking-head panels, except that beautiful music is pouring out of each panel. Although this is one of the best-known pieces of music in the world, viewers react as if they’ve never heard anything more powerful.An emergency room doctor wrote: “You have touched my heart and given me, and others, strength to keep being what we are —doctors — because of what you are — artists.”Another viewer wrote: “Expected: a melody we’ve all heard many times. Expected: the slow build as each musician comes in. Unexpected: all of a sudden being overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.” By now, the video has been seen 2.7 million times on YouTube and more than 3 million times on Twitter.Before playing “Ode to Joy,”(2) the musicians took a moment to explain what they were trying to accomplish. In “adjusting to a new reality,” they said, they searched for “innovation to keep our connection.” The innovation they found — as far as I can tell they were the first orchestra to do so — was simultaneous online video, something that appears to be (but really isn’t) Zoom. It wasn’t easy. According to an article posted on Classic FM, the video took a week to produce. The musicians played their parts to a metronome and then sent what they had recorded to engineers who spliced it all together and used software to create the big split screens. I’m guessing it’s become easier since then, because more and more of these virtual concerts are popping up. And thank goodness. Even though concert halls and nightclubs are now dark, music — and the technology that allows us to watch musicians play together while separated — are helping us get through this pandemic. For sure, some institutions are going back into their archives to fill the musical gap; for a monthly subscription of $9.99, the Blue Note jazz club will send you, daily, a set from one of the jazz greats who has played there in the past. (So far they include Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Betty Carter and Herbie Mann.)The New York Philharmonic streamed Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, which was broadcast in 1963. The Metropolitan Opera has been streaming a nightly opera, including its classic version of “Aida” that starred Leontyne Price.These are all worth watching. But the virtual concerts are something else again. They allow you to see musicians in a different light. Because they are not on stage, they seem more like the rest of us, just doing their part to help us get through this difficult patch. We can see the expressions on their faces, of ecstasy or sorrow as they play certain passages. Look, and listen, for instance, to Yo-Yo Ma, who has been posting regularly:And sometimes the musicians tell stories, giving us a glimpse of their lives. I’m no rock guy, but I’ve become hooked on the daily posts by the legendary bassist Leland Sklar. With his bass in his lap, he tells us the backstory of some famous recording he played on. Then he puts a song on while we watch him, up close, playing along. Here he is talking about, and playing, Phil Collins’s 1985 hit “Sussudio”: What I find most compelling about these virtual concerts is how intimate they seem, how they allow us to feel a connection to the music that can be, yes, overwhelming. I didn’t expect that to happen, but it did. I don’t know if this feeling will last; I suspect it won’t because some of this intimacy surely stems from the crisis we’re living through. But for now, the best of these concerts infuse a sense of joy and surprise that even live ones can’t match. I can’t get enough of them.Before I go, here are two more clips that represent, to my mind, the best of what these virtual concerts offer. The first took place during Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “virtual gala,” which was held a few weeks ago. Its conceit was that musicians from around the world would play American jazz standards. One of those musicians was Hamilton de Holanda, generally thought to be the best mandolin player in the world. He’s sitting on his couch in Rio de Janeiro, next to his son Gabriel, who is also holding a mandolin. They both have wild curly hair and exuberant smiles. As they play “All The Things You Are,” the love they have for each other is palpable. (This link is to the entire concert; de Holanda begins playing with his son at the 8:30 mark.)Finally, you may have already heard about the virtual concert to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday — the New York Times, the Washington Post and even Forbes all gave it rave reviews. And while almost everybody who performed was sensational, there was one moment that stood out. You’ve probably heard about that, too: Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Audra McDonald singing “Ladies Who Lunch.” Enjoy. (1) It appears that the orchestra first put the video on YouTube on March 20, but it does not appear to have to gravitated to Twitter until a week later.(2) The introduction is on the YouTube version but not the shorter Twitter version.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Three months after the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in the U.S., has the time come to start paying more attention to the critics? No, not the MAGA types foolishly protesting they have a constitutional right to endanger themselves and others by ignoring social-distancing rules. And not the “it’s-just-the-flu” crowd, either.I’m referring to people like John Ioannidis, the Stanford University School of Medicine scientist who argued early on that the coronavirus was far less deadly than the models were predicting. Or the Swedish epidemiologist John Giesecke, who says that protecting the elderly and frail — and allowing the rest of society to go about its business — makes far more sense than lockdowns, whose efficacy, he believes, remains unproved. And yes, I’m even referring to Alex Berenson, the pugnacious former journalist who has become a national villain (except at Fox News) for poking holes in the conventional wisdom about how to mitigate the virus and pointing out the various harms that have resulted from measures like lockdowns.I don’t agree with every claim the critics make. Some go so far as to dismiss the value of social distancing, the importance of which has become pretty clear since the coronavirus was first identified. But I believe it’s always worth listening to smart people with ideas that go against the grain. As the online publication UnHerd put it recently, “The debate about lockdown is not a contest between good and evil.” In that spirit, I would like to offer four contrarian arguments that, at the very least, ought to be taken more seriously.We’re still acting as if the original models were correct. In mid-March, a team at Imperial College in London estimated that 500,000 British citizens and 2.2 million Americans would die from an uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus. That estimate caused the governments of both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump to begin stressing self-isolation measures, according to the New York Times. In the U.S., state after state shut down their economies while a mad scramble took place to create hospital space for Covid-19 patients. Since then, the major models have been revised downward significantly. According to data compiled by the Reich Lab at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, models now estimate 67,000 to 120,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. Yet strict measures like lockdowns, which were put in place based on the original modeling, remain in place, while hospitals around the country, many of which are largely empty, continued to be reserved for nonexistent Covid-19 patients.New York is not the rest of the country. There is no question that New York State has borne the brunt of the crisis. The Times reports that one out of every three Americans who has died from Covid-19 has been a New Yorker — 17,000 in all. New York City is one of the few places in the country — along with Detroit and New Orleans — where the hospital system has been stretched to capacity. (Although even in New York City, the most catastrophic expectations never came to pass: for instance, the Naval hospital ship Comfort, which came to New York to provide emergency beds, is being returned after treating just 179 patients.)New York is the densest city in the country, and density is a crucial factor in spreading the virus. Yet cities and states that are far less dense have imposed the same restrictions as New York State. Idaho has a stay-at-home order; it has had 172 hospitalizations and 58 deaths as of Tuesday.(1)Kansas: 504 hospitalizations and 124 deaths. Maine: 163 hospitalizations and 51 deaths. Meanwhile, Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas never instituted a shelter-at-home order — yet the state has only 104 current hospitalizations and 52 deaths. Which suggests an obvious question: Does it make sense for these less dense places to be imposing the same restrictions as New York?Focus on the elderly. “Every piece of evidence we have suggests that the virus is mild for most people but can be devastating for those who are frail and vulnerable,” Ioannidis told me. That primarily means people with significant underlying conditions and the elderly. The Kaiser Family Foundation calculates that at least 10,000 of the 50,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. have been nursing-home residents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that fully 80 percent of coronavirus deaths have been people 65 or older. On Monday, the Boston Globe reported that 67 residents — out of 225 — of an elderly home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, had died of Covid-19. There are reports like that all over the country.It’s been said that lockdown critics are willing to sacrifice the elderly to more quickly develop herd immunity and defeat the virus. But the ones I’ve spoken to say just the opposite: that what the states need to do is put money and effort towards protecting the elderly and vulnerable — and keeping them as far away from the virus as possible. That may be a tall order given the way society depends on facilities to care for the elderly. But it’s not impossible.How much damage are we overlooking in our single-minded focus on the coronavirus? When you get right down to it, this is the big question. The enormous damage being done to the economy because of the lockdowns is a given. Let’s consider some of the other problems that have emerged.For instance, the New York Post posted an article on Monday by Daniel G. Murphy, an emergency room doctor in the Bronx. He wrote that since the coronavirus struck, people without Covid-19 were avoiding the emergency room. He added:A large share of those staying home surely have emergency medical and surgical conditions not related to the novel coronavirus. The growing numbers dying at home during this crisis must include fatal myocardial infarctions, asthma exacerbations, bacterial infections and strokes.How many people with cancer are not being diagnosed? How many operations are being put on hold — to the long-term detriment of the patient? For that matter, how many hospitals are teetering on the brink financially because patients who need to be in the hospital are staying home?Here’s another question: Has the lockdown increased incidents of domestic violence? The answer, plainly, is yes; in New York, for instance, domestic violence so far in April is up 30% compared with incidents in the month a year ago. (New York responded by setting up a domestic violence hotline.) What does it mean for at-risk kids, some of whom view school as their “safe space,” now that they don’t have a school to go to now?Indeed, there may be no bigger ancillary consequence than the closing of schools. It affects everyone. Children aren’t learning the way they should. Parents are struggling to juggle working from home with keeping their kids productively occupied. Other parents, whose jobs require them to be out of the house, have to scramble to find someone who can help out. Teachers are feeling even more stress, trying to impart lessons to kids who may not know how to use a computer — all while taking care of their own kids. And of course, even with online learning, interrupting school can only exacerbate the equality gap.When I suggested in a tweet a few days ago that government officials should make testing teachers a priority so that schools could reopen, I received plenty of positive responses. But others said that reopening schools could endanger the teachers because children can be asymptomatic carriers. “Are you insane?” one person wrote.In fact, Denmark has already reopened its schools after calculating that doing so would lead to minimal new infections. The Lancet published an article that concluded that “school closures alone would prevent only 2% to 4% of deaths, much less than other social interventions.”We know that children are largely unaffected by the virus; even if they’re infected, they are usually asymptomatic. We also know that people younger than 50 are far less likely to become gravely ill from Covid-19. Given how critical it is to get kids back to school, why couldn’t school systems institute a policy whereby teachers older than 50 could remain at home while younger teachers and the children could head back to the classroom? The teachers could remain socially distant from the students, and certain close-contact games, like basketball, could be banned temporarily during recess.Would there be some risk in taking this approach? Yes. But life is full of risks that we try to mitigate while acknowledging that we can’t eliminate them entirely. Driving a car involves risk. Useful products that contain suspected carcinogens carry a small danger. Bypass surgery is risky. The point is that these are all risks we take willingly knowing that they will cause some people to die. We accept that consequence.At bottom, that is what the critics are saying about the coronavirus. If only 50 people have died from Covid-19 in your state, isn’t reopening the economy worth the risk? If 80% of Covid-19 deaths are elderly, isn’t it worth the risk to return kids to school? With the expected number of deaths so much lower than originally expected, shouldn’t we take the risk that this virus isn’t going to be the second coming of the 1918 flu?So far, the U.S. has been unwilling to accept much risk in dealing with the coronavirus. Do we know enough now to change that calculus? The critics say yes — and they may well be right.(1) These numbers are drawn from the Covid Tracking Project.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- One of the lasting effects of the Great Recession was a shift in consumer preferences from things to experiences. Homeownership, especially among millennials, fell out of favor amid distressed personal finances and changes in mortgage regulations while the rise of smartphones, social media and services such as Uber and Airbnb nurtured a consumer culture focused on dining, travel and events. A post-coronavirus, pre-vaccine world will upend this lifestyle, which will likely be replaced with the consumption patterns of older generations. As long as social distancing and fears of getting the virus persist, consumers probably will spend more on the trappings of their homes rather than services and experiences involving public spaces and crowds.In hindsight, there were three main reasons that consumption shifted from things to experiences after the financial crisis. The first is that between 2006 and 2014, the number of U.S. owner-occupied households fell by almost 1 million while the number of renter households increased by 7 million. This effect was even more exaggerated among the young, as the number of homeowner households under age 40 fell more than 3 million during that time. An explosion in the number of young renters, many of whom flocked to cities for career and dating prospects, meant more buying power for things other than weekend trips to Home Depot.The second was that changes in technology made experience-based consumption better. Smartphones and social media made it easier to maintain large groups of friends and acquaintances and discover restaurants and entertainment in a way that wasn't possible a generation ago. Uber made hailing a car frictionless outside of cities well-served by taxi companies. Getting likes on Facebook and Instagram connoted social status to travel and dining.The third reason was demographic. In the early 2010s, with the housing market stagnant, these technological shifts were taking hold, particularly among the population bulge of the millennial generation, whose members were mostly in their 20s. This ensured a vast, welcoming market for this lifestyle. In 2010, three of the five biggest population buckets (based on five-year age cohorts) in the U.S. encompassed those between the ages of 15 and 29.Until we have a vaccine for the coronavirus, the experience-based economy will likely be an inferior version of what it used to be. It's unclear when large gatherings such as football games, concerts and trips to theme parks can resume. Restaurants and bars will have to abide by social-distancing guidelines. Weddings may be cut back to family members and close friends. The joys of travel won't be the same, between the increased health risks and the decreased number of dining and entertainment options. In the aggregate, this will mean lost economic output and employment, and for individuals it will mean a lot fewer experiental things to spend money on.Although some of that lost consumption might be saved, a lot of it will be spent where it can be — and for a lot of consumers, that will mean spending on their homes. Instead of going to bars and restaurants or jetting overseas, upgrade your kitchen and or bathroom. If large live concerts or sporting events are out for a while, upgrade your sound system and television. Instead of travel, buy new furniture or build a deck and patio area in your backyard. If cities are going to be a shell of themselves for the foreseeable future, maybe it's time to buy a house in the suburbs. It’s surely no coincidence that last week the New York Times said it was eliminating its Travel section on Sundays and replacing it with a section called At Home.Just as the experiences economy benefited from a large number of Americans in their 20s, those people are now older and at a point where a migration to suburban homeownership was likely to happen anyway. The three largest age-based population buckets in the U.S. today are between 25 and 39, and homeownership rates for those age groups have been recovering from low levels for the past several years. Although the job losses will set back the plans of many, those who still have jobs and were already thinking about buying homes may decide to take the plunge.And as any homeowner can tell you, buying a home shifts your consumption preferences in ways you didn't appreciate before. Appliances need replacing. Empty rooms won't furnish themselves. Lawns need maintaining. All that spending on a home leaves less money for travel and dining and other experiences.Let's hope that one day soon there will be a vaccine for Covid-19 and a new crop of young people will enter the workforce, rent apartments and bring about a new golden age for experiential, urban consumption. But for now we may be back to a more staid way of life, with consumption centered around the home.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Conor Sen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a portfolio manager for New River Investments in Atlanta and has been a contributor to the Atlantic and Business Insider.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.