Wednesday , April 1 2020
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Articles by Yves Smith

Alejandro Nadal, a Giant in Global Conservation

1 day ago

The following tribute to Alejandro Nadal appeared in La Jornada newspaper in Mexico, penned by his longtime editor at the paper. It highlights work Alejandro did on the economics of the illegal wildlife trade, one of the many areas in which Nadal left his indelible mark.
By Luis Hernández Navarro, La Jornada, March 24, 2020; cross posted from Triple Crisis
On 13 April 2012, the King of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón, stumbled into Botswana, broke his hip and dented his crown. The setback initiated the political decline that would culminate in his abdication to the throne. The monarch was in that African country accompanied by his lover on an elephant hunting safari.
Killing elephants is not a crime in several African countries. Every year 35,000 pachyderms are killed on the continent, on

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Links 3/31/2020

1 day ago

Ferocious Raptor Discovered In New Mexico Was A Speedy Hunter Gizmodo (Kevin W)
Comet Atlas could be the brightest comet in decades The Next Web (Alan T)
Tree rings could pin down Thera volcano eruption date PhysOrg (Chuck L)
First Antarctic heatwave recorded at Casey research station antarctica.gov.au (Kevin W)
Amateur team builds ultra-efficient electric car in a barn Yale Climate Connections
Huge ecosystems could collapse in less than 50 years The Conversation
Are Thousands Of Game Farms In The U.S. Spawning A Generation Of Disease-Carrying Zombie Deer? Animal Wellness
Blood test detects wide range of cancers, available to at risk individuals in clinical study MedicalXpress (Chuck L)
Sometimes the most powerful act of resistance is to do nothing aeon
#COVID-19

Pigeons probably think

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Developing a Vaccine for Covid-19. What To Expect?

1 day ago

Yves here. Let us hope the race to get a Covid-19 vaccine out does not give anti-vaxxers new talking points.
By Ignacio Moreno Echanove, an epidemiologist
Given the hype and hysteria about Covid-19 I tried to escape for a while from the tunnel vision we are immersed and have a general vision on what is going on with vaccines for Covid 19. I want to share with you what I have come to see in a long evening.
This won’t be comprehensive but an overall view with a critic eye on the existing possibilities with Covid-19 vaccines and their development timelines. I wonder how much matters who wins the race if there is a winner that takes it all. For instance, if the winner is the fastest but not the safest or simply the best. I also wonder as Dr. Shibo Jiang does in Nature (1, links below) if the

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Firing of Whistleblowing Emergency Room Doctor Ming Lin By Blackstone-Owned TeamHealth Demonstrates Outsized Role of Private Equity in Hospital Staffing

1 day ago

It wasn’t all that long ago that the House Financial Services Committee held hearing on private equity that turned out to be a damp squib, despite a key witness, Eileen Appelbaum, describing one of the industry’s predatory practices that hurt ordinary consumers on a mass basis, that of surprise billing. That came about because hospitals have shockingly outsourced many of their practices, in particular emergency room doctors, to private-equity owned companies like Blackstone’s TeamHealth and KKR’s EmCare.
Is it any surprise that going to the emergency room early on to try to get tested resulted in $3000 and up bills?
But even worse, the private equity titans care more about their image than patient care. Not that should come as any surprise.
Many of you have likely already heard of the

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Brace Yourselves: The US Is Setting Up a Ghastly “Natural Experiment”

1 day ago

Yves here. Since this post launched, Virginia had declared a state-wide lockdown till June 10 (although it could be lifted earlier). By contrast, in Alabama, the governor  last Friday only closed all non-essential businesses through April 17.  But the key bit is look how quickly things appear set to get ugly in the US.
By NewDealDemocrat. Originally published at Angry Bear
When I began my “Coronavirus Dashboard,” I was hopeful that it would document the slow progress towards turning a bad situation around, and the ultimate tamping down of the pandemic. Surely increasingly intense and overwhelming public pressure would force a critical mass of government officials to do what was necessary?
Now I am not so sure. The number of cases continue to climb at a double-digit exponential rate, if a

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Radical Imagination: Imagining How the World of Finance Really Works

2 days ago

Yves here. Get a cup of coffee. Another meaty chat with Michael Hudson, who focuses here on the role of finance in rent extraction.
An important theme here that Hudson has stressed before is the mistaken perception of home “ownership”.  Only about 1/3 of homes in America are owned free and clear. For the rest, the banks, or mortgage trusts, hold a senior position as mortgage lenders. And over the decades, they have become far less accommodating when homeowners are late even on a single payment. Even worse, insiders have reported that mortgage servicers will even hold payments to assure that they are late, which typically leads to compounding charges that virtually assure a foreclosure. Borrowers also face Kafkaesque obstacles to clearing up errors when they unquestionably paid on time.
To

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Tax Justice and Modern Monetary Theory – A Guide

3 days ago

Yves here. Aside from the fact that readers have indicated they’d like some breaks from COVID-19 programming, this post is important because it addresses what seems be a widely-held misperception of Modern Monetary Theory, namely, the role of tax.
Modern Monetary Theory scholars stress that tax is what legitimates a currency. Individuals and businesses must obtain it to settle their tax obligations to the state. They also point out that tax serves to drain demand, as in contain inflation. But Modern Monetary Theory proponents also (usually) point out that taxes also serve to provide incentives and disincentives and redistribute income. But they regard these as potential applications, as opposed to core to their theory.
As Modern Monetary Theory has started to be taken more seriously,

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Do Not Force Us to Shut Down Comments

4 days ago

Dear readers,
As much as the comments section is a significant part of the value added of this enterprise, and many of you have come to know and enjoy the various personalities that hold forth, that situation holds true only when the discussions are informative and civil.
Several times in the history of this site, we have had to shut down comments for a period of more than a week, in one case several weeks, because the level of gratuitous nastiness, bad faith arguments, and Making Shit Up had gotten out of hand.
That is happening again. Because by default, most comments post automatically, our comments DJ Jules is finding too many dicey remarks are getting through, which then leads to, as Jules puts it:
They create a waterfall of protests which then lead to some major unpleasantness. So,

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Links 3/28/2020

4 days ago

Scientists Find Bacteria That Eats Plastic EcoWatch (David L)
The 5 techniques of science denial Cranky Uncle (Bob H)
Scientists find a way to extract color from black PhysOrg
#COVID-19
Coronavirus fears spark prison unrest worldwide New York Magazine (resilc)
‘Help us’: After deaths on coronavirus-hit ship, guests clamor to leave Reuters (furzy)
Health/Medical
Florence Nightingale: a pioneer of hand washing and hygiene for health The Conversation (J-LS)
Immunization with SARS Coronavirus Vaccines Leads to Pulmonary Immunopathology on Challenge with the SARS Virus PLOS One (dougie). Hoo boy….
Why France is hiding a cheap and tested virus cure Asia Times (J-LS, Chuck L)
Asymptomatic Carriers Are Fueling the COVID-19 Pandemic. Here’s Why You Don’t Have to Feel Sick to Spread the Disease

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Four Ways You Can Take Caring Action Around Coronavirus – Even if You’re Overwhelmed

4 days ago

Yves here. This post, particularly the first section, is awfully touchy-feely for my taste. If you are really flattened by the impact of the coronavirus, like panicking about your financial situation or trying to get care for a partner or close friend, listening to uplifting stories seems Pollyannaish. Readers may have better ideas for coping with emotional overwhelm.
But for those who have some time and energy, the starter lists of how to help look sound and perhaps members of the commentariat could add to them. And a mundane way to help if you don’t have much personal bandwidth is to check in on highly social family members and friends who are under lockdown. They would find the isolation particularly trying, which might lead them to go out and about more than is good for them and

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The Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Is a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Washington Cronies

4 days ago

Yves here. The financial crisis was such a successful exercise in looting the public purse that our oligarchs are at it again, this time via the “stimulus” bill.
By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute
When historians look back on our current government’s response to a public health emergency and resultant economic depression, there won’t be many paeans to profiles in courage. It may seem impressive that Congress has approved legislation worth $2 trillion to help sustain the American economy, but it’s no New Deal. Rather it’s a massive economic slush fund that does its utmost to preserve the old ways of doing things under the guise of masquerading as a response to a public health emergency. In

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Covid-19 Hits the Dual Economy: Incomes Destroyed at the Bottom, Profits Supported at the Top

6 days ago

Yves here. Those of you well schooled in MMT will no doubt react to the fact that this post expresses concerns about “government debt” and does not differentiate between debts of states and local governments, which are currency users, versus Federal debt, when the Federal government as a currency issuer could extinguish its debt at any time.
The way to think about this piece is that it proves, even using a more conventional analysis, that a large stimulus would “work” if directed to primarily to individuals, which is the opposite of how the bailouts are structured.

By Lance Taylor, Arnhold Professor of International Cooperation and Development, New School for Social Research. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
This note presents broad brush

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Michael Hudson: A Brady Bond Solution for America’s Unpayable Corporate Debt

7 days ago

Yves here. It seems oddly fitting to resort to a tried and true approach for dealing with the unwind of the corporate bond bubble by resorting to Brady Bonds….a mechanism used with dodgy Latin American borrowers.
By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is “and forgive them their debts”: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year
With thanks to Dirk Bezemer and Paul Craig Roberts for their generous help with this article
Even before the Covid-19 crisis has slashed stock prices nearly in half since it erupted in January, financial markets were in an inherently unstable condition. Years of quantitative easing had

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What the Government Needs to Do Next to Tackle the Crisis

8 days ago

Yves here. What the government needs to do to address the medical system and real economy needs created by the coronavirus crisis.
By James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government and Business Relations, University of Texas at Austin. Originally published at the Institute of New Economic Thinking website
Tax rebates, tax cuts and business bailouts will not solve this crisis. Here’s what’s needed.
The first big need is medical supplies, facilities and personnel. That is why we need to finance immediate domestic production of masks, oxygen tanks, ventilators, and the construction and staffing of field hospitals, including the conversion of existing structures such as hotels, dormitories and stadiums, and the hiring and upgrading of staff.
Ideally HHSshould finance supplies,

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Debt and Power: An Interview With Michael Hudson

8 days ago

Yves here. Yet another informative talk with Michael Hudson on one of his key topics: why debt that can’t be paid won’t be paid. Here, he gives another riff on how ancient societies dealt with this issue and how modern lenders have gone off the rails.
Originally published at Digital Finance Analytics
[embedded content]
Martin: Today Debt and Power. I’m Martin North from Digital Finance Analytics. Welcome to our latest post covering finance and property news with a distinctively Australian flavour.
Today it is my pleasure to introduce Michael Hudson, American Economist, Professor of Economics and author of “Killing the Host” and “and Forgive Them Their Debts”. In the current environment I think those are great titles. Michael welcome.
You have been following the economy and the question of

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At Long Last the Government Can Borrow Straight From the Bank of England – As Modern Monetary Theory Has Always Suggested It Should

9 days ago

Yves here. Even thought both Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke ‘fessed up that the Fed can create money out of thin air, and similarly, any currency issuing state can take advantage of that capacity, modern monetary theory has been treated like a taboo, and then more recently, voodoo. But now that governments are in “break glass” mode, MMT is being demonstrated to be operationally valid. as the UK is demonstrating. Nothing like a crisis to force officials to use powers they always had.
By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive

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Bailout Shenanigans: Making 2008 Look Good?

9 days ago

Because the legislative sausage-making is still underway, it might seem premature to declare the bailout bill underway a massive exercise in corporate welfare, but it sure has all the hallmarks.
As Public Citizen warned by e-mail early Sunday evening (emphasis theirs):
Senate Republicans just announced their long-awaited plan to help people and businesses weather the impending economic storm.
Their scheme — burped up by Mitch McConnell in league with Donald Trump’s sycophantic Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin — would be a dream come true for Big Business but a nightmare for everyday Americans.
Here’s just some of what’s in the Republicans’ disastrous proposal:
• Mnuchin gets to dole out hundreds of billions to Corporate America — without revealing which companies got bailed out for

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Covid-19: A Tale of Three Regions

10 days ago

Yves here. This look at Covid-19 data shows how one needs to be modest in reaching conclusions, since much of the information bandied about (most importantly, confirmed cases) is of dubious quality and not comparable across countries.
Nevertheless, I’d add one consideration to the list: the stringency of the various “quarantines”. China’s was very tough, with people in cities not allowed to leave their apartment buildings if a temperature reading at the entrance showed a fever. It is an open question as to whether our halfway measures (closures of lots of businesses but no restriction on movement of people) will be good enough.
By Ignacio Moreno Echanove, an epidemiologist
I am analyzing the evolution of Covid-19 epidemics in three different regions of the world, identify the

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Links 3/21/2020

11 days ago

‘Nature is taking back Venice’: wildlife returns to tourist-free city Guardian (furzy)
Geologists find a lost fragment of an ancient continent filled with diamonds that formed part of Earth’s continental crust 2.7 billion years ago in Canada’s North Atlantic Daily Mail (Kevin W)
Scientists May Have Discovered The Shape of The Very First Proteins That Started Life ScienceAlert (David L)
Greenland’s Melting Ice Raised Global Sea Level By 2.2mm In Two Months Guardian
Using Apple CarPlay Impairs Driver Reaction More Than Alcohol, Study Shows AppleInsider
Read the full thread (hat tip Dan K):

Anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture.Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur

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NYU Preparing for Possible Use of Dorms as Field Hospitals

11 days ago

A few days ago, we linked to a story on how New York City was considering using hotels for non-critical, non-COVID-19 related care. Twitter shows another example of how hospitals are preparing for the expected deluge of coronavirus cases.

For those who still think this #CoronaCrisis is a joke, this is a picture from a Parking Garage at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, TN. Let that sink in. #Covid_19 #CoronaVirusUpdate #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/AsR7LSkvhz
— Georgia Lynn (@CureOurCountry) March 20, 2020

A reader forwarded an unusually direct and detailed e-mail from Marc Wais, NYU’s Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, which was sent March 17 just after noon. The university had told students the day before that they needed to leave the dorms and remove their

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UN Chief Warns of Coming Recession for the Planet

11 days ago

Yves here. Recession strikes me as an optimistic take.  But then again, the UN has long sugar-coated its downbeat messages.
By Evelyn Leopold,  a writing fellow and correspondent for Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She is an independent journalist based at the United Nations as resident correspondent. She was bureau chief for Reuters at the UN for 17 years, and is chair of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists. She was awarded a gold medal in 2000 for UN reporting by the UN Correspondents Association. Produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute
The United Nations has shut down most of its meetings and all of its conferences, but the world body in New York stays open. There are peacekeeping missions to follow, conflicts around the

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The Pros and Cons of Planting Trees To Address Global Warming

12 days ago

Yves here. Time for a change in programming, so trees.
By Bruce Lieberman. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections
It seems like such a simple, straightforward, empowering idea: plant trees – a lot of trees – all over the world, and watch the planet’s temperature fall.
Who doesn’t love a tree or two, even far more – the right tree in the right place?
Along with the refreshing shade they provide on hot days, trees of course also store carbon, and they’ll suck it right out of our fragile atmosphere as they grow. Who could argue with more trees, more forests – more shade! – in a warming world? Nary a soul, one suspects, whether of conventional “tree hugger” category or rabid climate science detractor.
Earlier this year, the one-trillion tree campaign was big news at the World

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How McKinsey Got Greedy

12 days ago

Dear patient readers, I had gotten most of the way through this post on how McKinsey fell from grace and scheduled it, uncompleted. It auto-launched due to my inattentiveness. But that did impel me to finish it for your delectation. So apologies for the confusion.
* * *
Why has McKinsey, once the ne plus ultra of management consulting, become mired in scandal after scandal? It’s a sign of the times that cracks in McKinsey & Company’s teflon haven’t dented the consulting firm’s allure to clients. A partial list of recent scandals: repaying $74 million in fees on an illegal contract with the South African government to settle criminal charges; identifying key Twitter critics of the Saudi government, leading to their arrest; helping Purdue Pharma combat addiction concerns and focus on

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Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Could Weaken the School Privatization Agenda

13 days ago

Yves here. Coronavirus is throwing a wrench into the public school politics, not necessarily to the advantage of charter school advocates.
By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. Produced by Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute
“The COVID-19 crisis reveals the true intentions of people,” Kathleen Oropeza

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Low-Cost Ventilators Could Be Available Next Year. But Will It Happen?

13 days ago

Yves here. In a bit of synchroniticy, at a press conference on Thursday, Trump fielded questions about the shortage of critical medical supplies, with ventilators at the top of the list. Trump blew off the notion that this was his problem. From New York Magazine:
Trump [at the Thursday press conference] argued the pandemic was a completely unforeseeable event. “No one in their wildest dreams thought we’d need tens of thousands of ventilators,” he proclaimed.
Many people thought this. Trump’s own government studied the issue and warned this past fall that it was unprepared for a pandemic. The vulnerabilities cited in the report included an acute shortage of ventilators. In recent weeks, news reports have highlighted the ventilator shortfall in increasingly urgent terms. More than three

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Links 3/19/2020

13 days ago

Fires Left These Wallabies Nothing to Eat. Help Arrived From Above. New York Times (David L)
When fish gave us the finger: this ancient four-limbed fish reveals the origins of the human hand The Conversation (Kevin W)
#COVID-19
Japan schoolgirl uses own savings to handcraft 612 masks for people in need The Mainichi (martha r)
Here Are Some Incredible Virtual Tours To Help You Pass The Time Refinery29 (David L)
Two 20-somethings extend ‘invisible hands’ in virus outbreak Associated Press
The coronavirus is starting to spread on a US Navy warship, and the flattop’s crew is scrambling to stop it Business Insider. Kevin W: Key section:
The Boxer has reportedly had some problems with social distancing. The morning after the first sailor tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, military

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A View From The Front Lines Of California’s COVID-19 Battle

13 days ago

Yves here. It’s important to document the strain COVID-19 is placing on doctors and nurses. A lot of the resistance to the aggressive efforts to contain the virus comes from the “I’m not going to die of it, so why should I care” perspective. But it’s not just the generally devalued elderly who are prime targets. It’s also medical professionals. In Italy, virtually all doctors in hospitals, no matter what their specialty, have been tasked to treating coronavirus cases. Being exposed to a lot of sick people, and then being under stress and not getting enough sleep is a prescription for getting a serious case. Remember that the famous Chinese COVID-19 whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, died at the age of 34.
By Anna Maria Barry-Jester. Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondents JoNel Aleccia and

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The Coming Fiscal Crisis Of State And Local Governments

13 days ago

Yves here. The collapse of highly taxed hotel stays, restaurant and bar business, and retail sales is on track to be an even harder blow for state and local governments than the financial crisis. The Obama Administration revived on a temporary basis, revenue sharing, a program created by that great American socialist, Richard Nixon.
Readers have already taken note of this looming problem.
By Barkley Rosser, Professor of Economics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Originally published at EconoSpeak
Yesterday my wife Marina and I mt with our personal attorney, a close friend also, to fix some loose ends in our wills due to some recent family deaths, as well the current situation. He also happens to sit on the Harrisonburg City Council, as well as having been Mayor for

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IMF Refuses Aid to Venezuela in the Midst of the Coronavirus Crisis

13 days ago

Yves here. While you were busy trying not to panic over the impact of coronavirus on your health, your job and finances, or both, the IMF was holding fast to its punitive playbook.
By Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC. Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute and the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution(University of

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Why Sending $1,000 Checks to Everyone Won’t Solve the Coronavirus Crisis (Updated)

14 days ago

The coronavirus crisis is already biting even though very few US locations have gone for the full bore shelter in place route. However, widespread closures of schools, the elimination of restaurant business except for takeout and delivery, the closure of bars and entertainment venues, the collapse of tourism, and recommendations to stay at home are already having big knock-on effects. A few of numerous examples: Softbank is attempting to renege on a commitment to buy $3 billion in WeWork shares. If Softbank prevails, WeWork is slotted to become the first large coronavirus-induced US business failure. Halliburton is laying off 3,500 employees as a result of the falloff in shale activity. Marriott will “furlough” tens of thousands of workers.
In New York, where restaurants are restricted to

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