Tuesday , June 2 2020
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Articles by Yves Smith

Links 5/30/2020

3 days ago

Arizona Humane Society Removes 2 Pounds Of Matted Fur From Fluffer The Cat, She Gets Adopted 2 Days Later Bored Panda. This feline was a distant cousin of those sheep that go feral and grow so much wool that they look like mini-busses.
Captain Cook and the Colonial Paradox Quillette (Chuck L)
Climate change: ‘Stunning’ seafloor ridges record Antarctic retreat BBC (Kevin W)
Trees are Getting Shorter and Younger Gizmodo (Kevin W)
Eye-Catching Advances in Some AI Fields Are Not Real Science. Tell me it ain’t so!
#COVID-19
Performance Anxiety: Will the Adult Film Industry Survive the Pandemic? Capital and Main (Ian H)
Science/Medicine
Evolution of pandemic coronavirus outlines path from animals to humans ScienceDaily
Biosensors May Hold the Key to Mass Coronavirus Testing SpectrumIEEE (David

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Riot or Resistance? How Media Frames Unrest in Minneapolis Will Shape Public’s View of Protest

3 days ago

Yves here. Good to see actual data that shows the considerable difference between how the press treated the pink pussyhats, versus both people of color and whites protesting police violence against blacks. But the media isn’t the only part of the problem. Recall that when Black Lives Matter die-ins were becoming popular and getting media attention, the Democratic party managed to infiltrate many Black Lives Matter groups and the die-ins died off (Lambert chronicled this back in the day and can name names). Similarly, it isn’t just Trump that called protestors against murder-by-cop “thugs”. As Lambert showed in Water Cooler yesterday, the sainted Obama did so at least twice during his term in office.
By Danielle K. Kilgo, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Indiana University. Originally

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Why New Infrastructure Is a National Imperative

3 days ago

Yves here. Notice that what Tom Conway calls “infrastructure” is  “deferred maintenance,” hence the urgency.
By Tom Conway, the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW). Produced by the Independent Media Institute
Rich Carmona spent decades upgrading his 1970s ranch home in Midland, Michigan.
He lovingly installed new flooring and doors and remodeled the bathrooms. After finishing the kitchen 18 months ago, he finally had the house the way he liked it.
Then the 96-year-old Edenville Dam failed amid heavy rains May 19, unleashing a torrent of water that drowned roads, swept some houses off of their foundations and left others, including Carmona’s, in ruins.
If America maintained its infrastructure with the same care Carmona did his home, this never would have

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COVID-19 in Mauritius and Other Tourist Paradises: A Progress Report

4 days ago

Yves here. I am featuring this post on Mauritius in part due to Colonel Smithers, but also because the way Mauritius responded to Covid-19 really puts the US to shame. On the one hand, they did have the ability to cordon themselves, even though that came at the high cost to their substantial tourist industry. On the other hand, they also quickly organized a number of relief programs, including food distribution to the poor and housebound.
By Jaime de Melo, Senior Fellow, FERDI; Emeritus professor, University of Geneva; Verena Tandrayen-Ragoobur, Associate Professor in Economics, University of Mauritius; and Boopen Seetanah, Professor, University of Mauritius. Originally published at VoxEU
When they are strict and prolonged, the public health and social measures to contain Covid-19 have

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Death, Suicides, And The Pandemic Economy

4 days ago

Yves here.I recall seeing articles reporting that suicides have risen due to Covid-19, with experts in the field saying the individuals killing themselves seem more determined than is normally the case, since many attempts are cries for help or impulsive. However, this post indicates that the data isn’t consistent with these reports, which were both local and anecdotal. That suggests that the rise in suicides so far is concentrated in communities more likely to get media attention, such as recently well-off members of the professional-managerial classes.
Economist Barkley Rosser isn’t cheery; he describes how the sort of rise you’d intuitively expect to see a sharp increase in unemployment may be held in check by temporary factors, even more so now that usual.
By Barkley Rosser,

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Uber Destroys More Value: Demolishes Bikes from Failed Rental Businesses Rather Than Donate Them

4 days ago

Not that it’s needed, but if you are hankering for yet more evidence that Uber is run by a libertarian narcissists who actively resist doing the right thing because disruption, today’s object lesson comes from Uber’s certain-to-fail e-scooter and bike rental businesses. Uber capitulated to their predictabe mounting losses and shuttered those ventures. But rather than give the surplus bikes away, it had them “recycled,” which is weasel-speak for crushed.
Now of course, Uber defenders might contend this move was economically rational. After all, people who ride bikes might opt for an Uber trip instead.
Even if this were true, it is only in the most penny-pinching way. With level of distress is so high that it seems doubtful that Uber would lose anything other than minute amounts of income,

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Heiner Flassbeck: The Euro Arrangement Is Faulty

4 days ago

Yves here. Regular readers of this site are likely to have encountered previous interviews with Heiner Flassbeck, one of the few German economists who has been a consistent and sound critic of Eurozone arrangements, and in particular, the role Germany had played. Readers may also recognize that Flassbeck gives a fine primer on what is called “sectoral balances,” a topic we discussed extensively during the Eurozone wobbles (start in 2010 and 2011 as well as a New York Times op ed).
By Lynn Fries of Global Political Economy. Originally published at GPEnewsdocs
[embedded content]
LYNN FRIES: Hello and welcome. It’s Global Political Economy newsdocs. I’m Lynn Fries. As the COVID-19 lockdown poses unprecedented problems for economic policy makers, some countries have more problems than others

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5 Ways to Make Voting Easier for Everyone in America—Even in a Pandemic

6 days ago

Yves here. It’s an understandable reflex to regard voting procedures as just not that high a priority given huge coronavirus-induced dislocations. But if you think that way, you are unwittingly playing into the hands of the “Never let a crisis go to waste” crowd.
By April M. Short, an editor, journalist and documentary editor and producer. She is a writing fellow at Local Peace Economy a project of the Independent Media Institute. Previously, she served as a managing editor at AlterNet as well as an award-winning senior staff writer for Santa Cruz, California’s weekly newspaper. Her work has been published with the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Salon and many others. Produced by , a project of the Independent Media Institute
This is a critical election year, and even before the

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Political Scientist Tom Ferguson on Big Money and Social Conflicts in the Covid-19 Era

6 days ago

Below we’ve embedded an important, high-level presentation on the political reverberations of the Covid-19 crisis by Tom Ferguson, who is one of the top experts on money in politics. I wish we had a transcript, but it’s not as daunting as it looks. Ferguson’s remarks take only the first 45 minutes; the rest is Q&A.
It’s worth your time because Ferguson looks at the official responses to the Covid-19 crisis and explains things that might seem nonsensical, above all, why so many governments are “reopening” even though polls pretty much everywhere say citizens want restrictions in place longer. Ferguson cuts into the problem by focusing on worker safety as the real dividing line.
The short version is “follow the money,” as in big businesses think ending lockdowns will help commerce, when as

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What Are the Three Concurrent Crises of the Coronavirus Depression?

6 days ago

Yves here. Like many of those who are taking this crisis (or crises) seriously, Nathan Tankus has proposed launching new government programs as a way to tackle specific problems created by the crisis. While this is eminently logical as well as sound, don’t expect anything like that to happen. As political economist Tom Ferguson pointed out in a presentation we discuss today, the US and most other advanced economies are taking a neoliberal approach, channeling money and aid through existing institutions (too often private).
By Nathan Tankus. Originally publishes at Notes on the Crises
In the first month of this newsletter, I wrote a lot of more big picture pieces about the nature of our current crisis. The last major piece I wrote on this topic was “How to Pay for the Pandemic War”. My view

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How Covid-19 is Creating a Social-Distancing Version of War

6 days ago

Yves here. Even as dark a cloud as Covid-19 can have a silver lining: it’s crimping America’s war-making style.
By Danny Sjursen, a retired U.S. Army major and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He has written a memoir of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. His forthcoming book, Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War, will be published in September. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his podcast Fortress on a Hill. Originally published at TomDispatch
Covid-19, an ongoing global human tragedy, may have at least one silver lining. It has led millions of people to question America’s most malignant policies at home and abroad.

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Links 5/26/2020

7 days ago

Mark Rober’s Rube-Goldberg squirrel feeder is the unicorn chaser you need right now BoingBoing (David L). Trust me, this is a must watch.
Boy, 12, followed down mountain by brown bear BBC. Excellent coaching by (presumably) parents and admirable cool-headedness. Running from a brown bear (this looks like a Euro grizzly cousin) = self-identification as prey.
Why glass frogs have see-through skin becomes clear in study Guardian (Kevin W)
“Superpower” Discovered in Squids: They Can Massively Edit Their Own Genetics Science Daily (David L)
Squids’ Gene-Editing Superpowers May Unlock Human Cures Wired (David L)
How Thawing Permafrost Is Beginning to Transform the Arctic Yale E360 (Chuck L)
#COVID-19
Coronavirus has left Australian women anxious, overworked, insecure — and worse off than men

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Nature Pimps for Fundamentally Flawed Gates-Funded “Swab Yourself” Covid-19 Test

7 days ago

One wonders what sexual favors were exchanged for the normally well-regarded publication Nature to run a defense of the indefensible, in this case, an obviously half-baked idea for Seattle residents to volunteer themselves for a home science study by jamming swabs through their noses to the back of their throats to collect their own Covid-19 samples and send them in by mail. Remarkably, the FDA woke up, cleared its throat, and said it needed to evaluate this “do it yourself” specimen collection.
Now mind you, that’s actually the more charitable interpretation as far as the Gates Foundation and the FDA is concerned. It is possible that the Seattle testing initiative was using mere nose swabs (as in just of the nasal cavity), which is not the current standard for Covid-19 tests. If that is

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New York Rent Strikes During the 1918 “Spanish” Influenza

7 days ago

Yves here. The fight over rent, and more generally, who bears the cost of catastrophic economic damage, shows how little has changed from a century ago to now. But it is also important not to lose sight of the differences.
One aspect of the Spanish flu versus our coronavirus is that we are taking a much bigger economic hit. Even though that era was well before the compilation of GDP data, most historians peg the global economy as growing even during the Spanish flu. One factor was that there was vastly less tight coupling, in the form of extended supply chains, so damage to one region or country wouldn’t propagate anywhere near as much to others. The second was that there was apparently some hang-over stimulus in the form of completing war-related payments. The third may be that the impact

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Michael Hudson: Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God”

7 days ago

Yves here. Michael Hudson recaps the logic of debt jubilees and other forms of debt relief, as practiced in ancient times, when borrowers through circumstances outside their control were unable to make good. Monarchs recognized the danger of letting creditors create a permanent underclass.
This is a short, high-level treatment and makes for an easy-to-digest introduction to Hudson’s research and ideas.
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
Western civilization distinguishes itself from its predecessors in the way it has responded to

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Links 5/23/2020

10 days ago

Bumblebees bite plants to make them flower early, surprising scientists National Geographic and Bees using secret trick to make plants flower, leaving scientists baffled Independent (Kevin W)
Here they come: 17-year cicadas to emerge in 3 states this spring, summer Accuweather (Dan K)
Bow, Humans: Trillions of Cicadas Are Going to Rule America Vice (resilc)
NASA’s powerful new space telescope will be named after Nancy Grace Roman — the agency’s first female executive, known as the ‘mother of Hubble’ Business Insider (Kevin W)
US Navy disables drone using a high-energy shipborne laser weapon New Atlas (David L)
Scientists Identify a Temperature Tipping Point for Tropical Forests Smithsonian (David L)
Bigfoot is moving on to the next phase of life Bored Panda (Chuck L)
#COVID-19
77 Nobel

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Michael Hudson and Dr. Jeffrey Miron of Cato Debate Capitalism

10 days ago

Yves here. We thought having Michael Hudson take issue with a conservative stalwart, Dr. Jeffrey Miron of Harvard and the Cato Institute, would make a good accompaniment to a weekend coffee.
Produced by the Knowledge Problem Podcast

[Intro] Welcome to the Knowledge Problem Podcast, the objective of this podcast is to engage policy professionals over thought provoking and sometimes sensitive topics. We aim to bring these professionals together in a way that does not feed the tribalistic narratives plaguing society today. It is my hope and the hope of all involved in this endeavor that by allowing these ideas to contend and challenge each other, with mutual respect, everyone who listens will learn something not previously considered.
[Disclaimer] The opinions and views of all guests do not

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Craig Murray Documents Abuse of Process, aka Kangaroo Court, via Butchered Indictment

10 days ago

Yves here. Because we are a tiny website, we concentrate our limited resources on topics where we have or can develop an information advantage. The perverse prosecution of Craig Murray, where the real offense seems to be that Murray is a vocal friend of Julian Assange might normally seem to best covered in Links. However, this case shows how little the officialdom in the UK cares about respecting due process when they want to get their man, even when “their man” has some stature.
Since political keelhauling techniques, like whipping up charges of anti-Semitism, have a funny way of crossing the pond, this situation bears watching. And Craig Murray needs help with his legal defense, so if you could chip in a few bucks, that would help too. You can find instructions on how to do so at the

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Yanis Varoufakis: Have Merkel & Macron Just Announced a Eurobond-Funded Godsend for the EU?

12 days ago

Yves here. It’s gratifying to see what I think of as the old Yanis Varoufakis back. As much as it made sense on one level for him to throw his lot in with Syriza, and Greece was in such desperate straits that it wasn’t entirely crazy to try for what amounted to a Hail Mary pass, the new government managed to have its bad situation worse. Its efforts to overplay a very weak hand managed to unite the usually not-all-that-well aligned EU against Greece, resulting in even tougher austerity terms than were originally on the table.
And there was a narrow path to at least a less terrible deal. The EU was terribly frustrated by corruption and the lack of tax collection in Greece, save for government employees. Syriza as the new kids in town, and self-styled radicals, in theory could have cracked

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Links 5/21/2020

12 days ago

Man And Donkey Cry With Joy While Reuniting After Quarantine The Dodo (David L). Aaaw…
Summer solstice at Stonehenge will be streamed live Boing Boing (resilc)
Study Links Native Americans to ‘Paleolithic Siberians’ From Lake Baikal Region Sputnik (Kevin W)
8 logical fallacies that are hard to spot Big Think
Climate change is turning parts of Antarctica green, say scientists Guardian (Kevin W)
Miami pilots e-cargo bikes to reduce congestion, pollution Utility Dive (Chuck L)
Scientists Made a Mouse That’s 4 Percent Human Popular Mechanics (resilc)
#COVID-10
Dance Macabre James Howard Kunstler (Chuck L)
Paris’s neglected pot plants get their own ‘hospital’ Guardian (resilc)
TRUTH VACCINE KILLS AUSTRALIAN-AMERICAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHINA IN WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION DEBATE John Helmer

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Brexit: Posturing and Impasse

12 days ago

Even couples who intend to have a friendly divorce usually find they turn ugly, and the best that can be hoped for is that the acrimony turns out to be just a phase. There were never such intentions for Brexit, at least from the UK side. The triumphal Brexiteers reveled in the prospect of freeing themselves from what they saw as an oppressive Europe. The EU side started out resigned but prepared to do what was necessary to accommodate the UK’s departure.
As I’ve indicated, interpersonal dynamics matter in negotiations. The UK’s gratuitous hostility, inconsistency, and refusal to listen has to have worn on the EU side. And this may simply be the slow and painful working out of what we pointed out from close to the outset: that there was no bargaining overlap in the two side’s positions,

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Sweden’s Covid-19 Experiment Looks Even Worse as Death Rate Rises, Neighbors Contemplate Cordon

12 days ago

It was only last week that we lambasted a Foreign Policy article which had to engage in truly creative writing in order to depict Sweden’s “no lockdown, no tracing, and confused guidance” approach to Covid-19 as something worth copying. Before then, even the firmly pro-business Wall Street Journal had cleared its throat and depicted the Swedish experiment as a bust: far more lives lost than its neighbors, with no benefit for the economy.
Yet shortly after the factually-challenged Foreign Policy piece ran, so did an oddity in VoxEU, The underpinnings of Sweden’s permissive COVID regime, whose headline too-cleverly make Sweden’s laid back approach to Covid-19 sound like result of its sexual freedom. But if you look at the list of factors that supposedly engendered Sweden’s dodgy approach,

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Capitalism vs. Safety, Health: An Old Story Again

12 days ago

Yves here. The history of the long and bloody battles by laborers for safe workplaces has been largely airbrushed out of US history. It’s easier to water down wage, health, and hours protections when most people have little idea of how most employers once operated.
By Richard D. Wolff, professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, in New York. Wolff’s weekly show, “Economic Update,” is syndicated by more than 100 radio stations and goes to 55 million TV receivers via Free Speech TV. His two recent books with Democracy at Work are Understanding Marxism and Understanding Socialism

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Exclusive: Countries To Face a ‘Wave’ of Corporate Lawsuits Challenging Emergency COVID-19 Measures

14 days ago

Yves here. So now it’s clear: some companies and their law firm enablers see their right to profit, even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, as more important than human lives. This has been an underlying theme of investor-state dispute settlement suits (which we’ve written about extensively), but it’s never been as crass as here. On top of everything else, these actions will deplete government coffers, adding to public distress.
The only upside is this sort of thing should kill incorporating meaningful investor-state dispute settlement provisions into future trade deals.
By Laura Basu, Laurie Macfarlane, and Aaron White. Originally published at openDemocracy
Countries could soon face a ‘wave’ of multi-million dollar lawsuits from multinational corporations claiming compensation for

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The Lockdown Protestors Are Not Working Class

14 days ago

Sarah Jones, in The Coronavirus Class War, does a neat, tidy job of kneecapping the notion that the anti-lockdown protests are manned by workers who want to get back to their jobs so they can start making money again.
While there are no doubt some who feel like that, not only are they not well represented among low-wage workers, but they also don’t appear to be well represented among the protestors either.
Let’s look at the upper end of the working stiff income spectrum, employees at top tech companies. Their bosses are keeping them well away from their glam campuses. From Big Tech was first to send workers home. Now it’s in no rush to bring them back, in the Washington Post:
Tech’s titans set the agenda for U.S. employers in early March, sending staff to work from home as the

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How Germany’s Courts Might Destroy the Eurozone

14 days ago

Yves here. I wonder if histories will blame the fracture of the Eurozone on Angela Merkel. That might seem unfair, given that the founders of the Eurozone/European Union project knew that they’d left their creation in a perilous half-finished state, but mistakenly believed that crises would overcome the objections to greater integration. But Merkel has been styled the leader of Europe for quite some time, yet as far as I can tell, did nothing to advance the European project. A famously cautious politician, during the acute phases of the Eurozone crisis, not only was she a “kick the can” practitioner, I can recall at least one episode when she held up action at a fraught juncture.
One of the destructive forces has been Germany (and many of the other Northern bloc countries, like the

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Medicaid Providers At The End Of The Line For Federal COVID Funding

14 days ago

Yves here. Wellie, this Administration and Congress are nothing if not consistent. It’s not hard to have made sure to include Medicaid-funded facilities in coronavirus-related rescue programs, particularly given that workplaces heavy with lower-income “essential” workers like meatpacking plants have become disease clusters, endangering their communities. But thanks to this negligence, it appears large swathes of health infrastructure serving the poor will collapse.
By Julie Rovner, Chief Washington Correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Previously, she was the health policy correspondent for NPR and also reported on health policy for National Journal’s Congress Daily and Congressional Quarterly. She is also the author of the critically praised reference book Health Care Politics and Policy

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Brexit: Yet More Chicken

15 days ago

While you were busy paying attention to Covid-19, the Brexit negotiations, such as they are, have been predictably going not well. Sir Ivan Rogers warned last year that it was possible that talks could break down entirely in the post March period as the Government came to grips with what would be required to complete a trade agreement. Mind you, that hasn’t happened, but EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned he didn’t expect last week’s talks, the third round this year, to go well. Both sides harrumphed last Friday that the other side had to yield for a deal to get done.
The Financial Times’ recap:
The time for a political intervention in the EU and UK’s future relationship talks is fast approaching.
After publicly knocking lumps out of each other on Friday, the two sides will spend this

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The Economics and Politics of Social Democracy: A Reconsideration

15 days ago

Yves here. This history of the decline of social democracy comes from a vantage that might strike readers as novel: that of economic policy and how that played out in politics.
By Servaas Storm, Senior Lecturer of Economics, Delft University of Technology. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Social democracy, the political force that shaped post-1945 Western Europe more than any other political movement, is in terminal decline—or so it appears. In recent years, in European country after country, voter support for social-democratic parties has collapsed. In France, Greece and the Netherlands social democrats hold less than 10 percent of the seats in parliament. In Germany and Italy, social-democratic parties are at a historic low. Britain’s Labour Party’s

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Because Culture Matters, There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Exit Strategy from Covid-19 Lockdowns

17 days ago

Yves here. A few days ago, we ran a post on how different the Covid-19 infection rates were in two neighboring Queens communities, Flushing, which has a large Chinese population, and Corona, which is strongly Hispanic. One reader pointed out that the Latin culture likely played a role, with hugging, backslapping, and physical closeness in social interactions common. Looks like he was on to something….
By Jean-Philippe Platteau, Active Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Namur and Vincenzo Verardi, FNRS Associate Researcher; DeFiPP, University of Namur. Originally published at VoxEU
One puzzle that arises in connection with the spread of Covid-19 is why there is such large variation in infection and death rates both across as well as within countries. This column argues that

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