Vaccine mandates are given their day in court
Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about two major Biden Administration policies that are intended to increase coronavirus vaccinations rates. They are the vaccine-or testing mandate aimed at large employers as well as a requirement for some health workers.
This hearing comes as the country faces a surge of Covid cases, and the White House struggles to manage this phase. It could be the “most important day for public health in a century,” according to Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown.
What’s the argument? It boils down if the federal government has the power to impose these mandates. This is a question that the Supreme Court has yet to consider in other challenges.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it has the power via a 1970 law that allows it to issue emergency rules for workplace safety.
Some states, trade associations, and companies are arguing that mandates should not be given to executive action but rather to legislation.
Who is most likely to win? It’s a tough call, according to labor lawyers. The court’s six-justice conservative majority may be skeptical of broad assertions of executive power, writes The Times’s Adam Liptak. The last time the Supreme Court considered a Biden administration policy addressing the pandemic — a moratorium on evictions — the justices shut it down.
If the mandate is approved, large companies will need to have policies in place by Jan. 10 that require employees to be tested or vaccinated weekly. They must comply with those policies by February 9.
If the court rules against government, that would effectively end the federal mandate. However, the administration could continue the regular rule-making process. This also wouldn’t preclude states from introducing their own vaccine requirements.
When will a decision be taken? Today’s special hearing was called late last month, and the court said it would move quickly (as it did in a recent case over abortion rights in Texas). A decision could be issued quickly.
What have companies done in the meantime? Many have been gearing up for a mandate, if they haven’t already introduced such rules. Starbucks recently announced that U.S. workers must be fully vaccinated before February 9, or submit to weekly testing in order to comply with the mandate. JPMorgan Chase warned employees that “government-issued vaccine mandates may likely make it difficult or impossible for us to continue to employ unvaccinated employees,” and encouraged workers to get vaccinated. Macy’s requested the vaccination status of its employees, often a prelude to a mandate.
More news about pandemics:
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Walmart cuts off paid leave for employees who test positive for CovidThe retailer will now offer affected employees one week of paid vacation instead of two through March 31. It’s the latest company to adopt updated C.D.C. Guidance on Isolation Times
Two-year high in U.S. mortgage ratesAccording to Freddie Mac the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.22 percent. As property prices rise, so does the cost of borrowing.
A trade court ruled that Google infringed Sonos patents.The United States International Trade Commission stopped Google from importing products it claimed violated five Sonos Patents. Google indicated that it would appeal.
Rivian falls below its I.P.O. price.After Amazon agreed to buy delivery vans made by the Chrysler parent Stellantis, shares of the electric vehicle maker plunged sharply yesterday. Amazon’s move undercuts Rivian’s effort to rival Tesla in the electric-vehicle market.
Tim Cook gets nearly $100 million in a payday. The Apple chief’s 2021 compensation was up more than 500 percent from the previous year. The huge bump was tied to Apple’s record profits last year — and came on his 10th anniversary as C.E.O.
The Times swings big
Here’s some M.&A. news close to home: The New York Times Company, DealBook’s publisher, announced yesterday that it was acquiring The Athletic, an online sports news outlet, for $550 million in cash.
The reasoning: The deal would expand The Times’s reach within an important niche audience. The Athletic has 1.2 million subscribers, which when combined with The Times’s 8.4 million would quickly bring it closer to its goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025. (There is a “relatively modest” overlap in subscribers, the company said.) The Times stated it would offer The Athletic as an individual subscription and eventually make it part a larger package. “The Athletic would add a large, and growing subscriber base to NYT’s expanding digital tentacles and could provide significant upside,” Douglas Arthur of Huber Research wrote to clients.
These are the numbers: The Athletic, which employs approximately 450 journalists generated around $65 million in revenues last year, but lost about $55 million. The Times expects The Athletic’s profitability to decline over the next three year. “An alternative for the Times could have been to spend a fraction of this money to build a similar operation organically,” Kannan Venkateshwar of Barclays wrote. But David Perpich, a longtime Times executive who is set to become publisher of The Athletic, said, “If we were to have tried to build something, it would have been The Athletic.”
What about gambling?Last summer, speculation arose that betting platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel might acquire The Athletic. “We did not buy The Athletic to build a giant betting platform, but I don’t rule out that there will be ways that we work with gambling companies over time,” Meredith Kopit Levien, the C.E.O. The Times.
“There were just so many falsehoods on that sheet of paper.”
— Susanna Stefanek, Elizabeth Holmes’ trial juryA 2014 document that stated that Theranos’ blood testing startup would bring in tens to millions of dollars from drug companies despite it not having any contracts, was cited by Stefanek. Stefanek said the forecast was one of two “smoking guns” that led her and other jurors to convict Holmes of defrauding investors this week.
Unrest in Kazakhstan hits Bitcoin mining
Intermittent internet downtimes were caused by violent protests in Kazakhstan against the government. The lack of connectivity disrupted huge cryptocurrency mining operations in the country, which has become one of the world’s largest hubs for this activity.
The disruption is coming as crypto prices are under pressure. Bitcoin has fallen more than 10 percent in the past year.
China’s crackdown on crypto mining drove Kazakhstani business to Kazakhstan.Mining, which is the process of creating Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, is extremely power-intensive. This is because large computer networks compete online to create new tokens. Miners had to relocate from China last year, where the industry had thrived before the crackdown. Popular alternatives were Kazakhstan, which is coal-rich.
A Guide to Cryptocurrency
A glossary. Cryptocurrencies have gone from a curiosity to a viable investment, making them almost impossible to ignore. We can help you understand the terminology if you have any questions.
Unrest increases the risks and costs associated with operating in the country. The Kazakh government, which at first welcomed crypto miners, was already growing wary of the activity, which taxed the country’s energy grid. Protests over rising fuel prices started the uprising this week.
Bitcoin processing activity plunged after Kazakhstan’s largest telecommunications company shut off internet access. The hashrate, which is a measure the amount of computing power worldwide used to mine the cryptocurrency, is an indicator of that. fell more than 10 percentAfter the initial outage on Wednesday. According to the latest data from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF), Kazakhstan accounted for approximately 18% of global hashrate as of August 2021.
Workers beating inflation
The government will release data this morning on how many jobs were added by employers to their payrolls in December. Economists predict that the data will show a gain in employment of around 440,000 jobs, which is a healthy number and would indicate a rebound from the month before.
However, there is a growing concern that low and middle-income workers may not be able to take advantage of the job market rebound. Inflation is the reason. The strong economy is causing a rise in prices which means that workers can spend less on their paychecks. That’s why trends in wages, which will also be reported this morning, are the numbers to watch.
In general, salaries are not keeping pace with inflation. Pay for all private-sector workers was just under 6 percent in November, compared to a year ago. That’s more than double the average annual wage gain of just 2.7 percent over the past decade. However, this has been slower than the 6.8 percent increase in consumer prices. This results in a pay cut for the average worker.
This might not be the last. “What I am banking on in the next year is for inflation to ease,” said Ellen Gaske of PGIM. “If wages in aggregate continue to lag inflation, that is going to erode people’s ability to continue to pay higher prices.”
Lower-wage workers are increasingly in control In the recent past, tech and finance workers have been the biggest beneficiaries of economic downturns. That’s not what is happening now. As the economy reopens, hotels and restaurants have increased their salaries to retain and restaff workers. The demand for warehouse workers and truckers has increased substantially as more people shop online. Tech and finance workers saw the smallest pay rises over the past year, although they still make more.
“This is presumably exactly what Biden would want with his policies,” Dean Baker of the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research told DealBook. “Those at the bottom are doing well, while those higher up are doing less well.”
THE SPEED READ
John Legend, a musician, sold his back catalogue to BMG and KKR. (Bloomberg)
A close look at Blackstone’s bet on two former Disney executives’ effort to create a new digital media empire. (The Information)
Britain’s rules governing SPACs are hurting London’s effort to compete with New York as a hub for blank-check funds. (FT)
GameStop is creating a division for NFTs in its turnaround plans. (WSJ)
Oregon officials said Nick Kristof, the former Times columnist, didn’t meet the state’s residency requirements to run for governor. (NYT)
A lawsuit challenging Facebook’s liability for the death of a security officer is challenging laws that protect social media platforms from liability over user-content. (NYT)
France fined Meta, Google $240 Million for making it too difficult for users not to refuse tracking cookies. (CNET)
The best of all the rest
Despite criticisms as coronavirus hotspots, cruise ships continue to do a brisk business. (NYT)
“Larry Fink Wants to Save the World (and Make Money Doing It)” (WSJ)
It is more likely that the $1,000 Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon bottle is a fake. (NYT)
Broadway is so stricken by coronavirus infections that “Wicked” brought back an understudy who hadn’t performed in seven years. (CNN)
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Source: NY Times