WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will allow a Friday deadline for TikTok’s Chinese parent company to sell the viral video app to lapse, said a person with knowledge of the decision. But the government will continue to work on a deal that would put a larger slice of TikTok’s ownership in American hands, the person said.
The White House ordered the sale of TikTok’s U.S. assets in August over concerns that the app’s Chinese ownership posed a national security risk. ByteDance, the Chinese internet giant that owns the app, embarked on an effort to sell the app to American buyers and satisfy the administration’s concerns.
Under the terms of the proposed deal announced earlier this year, ByteDance agreed to sell stakes in the app to Walmart and the enterprise software company Oracle. Oracle would also help manage TikTok’s data to alleviate concerns that Beijing could get access to information belonging to American users.
ByteDance had until Dec. 4 to sell the app under a White House order; the deadline had been extended multiple times. But while the White House did not extend the deadline for a deal again, it also plans to take no immediate action in response to the lapsed cutoff, said the person with knowledge of the discussions, who was not authorized to speak publicly. That will allow talks over a possible deal to continue.
It was unclear exactly how the administration would enforce the deadline even if it wanted to do so. Monica Crowley, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which is vetting the TikTok deal, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for TikTok declined to comment. Walmart declined to comment. Oracle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Trump administration has tried to limit Chinese influence in technology around the world. Officials have spent several years working to purge equipment built by Chinese companies like Huawei from telecommunications networks. More recently, the administration has targeted Chinese-owned consumer applications like TikTok, Grindr and WeChat.
With coronavirus infections soaring across the nation, federal health officials on Friday urged Americans in the most forceful language yet to take steps to protect themselves — starting with consistent, proper use of masks — and pressed local governments to adopt 10 public health measures deemed necessary to contain the pandemic.
The guidance reflected deep concern at the agency that the pandemic is spiraling further out of control and that many hospitals are reaching a breaking point, potentially disrupting health care across the country.
Agency officials have issued increasingly stark warnings in the waning weeks of the Trump administration, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has promised a new national strategy to turn back the virus. On Thursday, Mr. Biden said he would call on Americans to wear facial coverings for 100 days.
To some experts, the C.D.C.’s appeal appeared to augur a more comprehensive and coordinated national approach to controlling the pandemic — one consistent with messages from Mr. Biden and his advisers.
“We’re seeing C.D.C. and other public health institutions awaken from their politics-induced coma,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who served as the agency’s director under President Barack Obama.
“This is them aligning themselves more with science, which also aligns them more with the Biden administration,” he added.
While none of the directives are new, experts said the rising case numbers demonstrated a need for a more uniform approach, rather than the patchwork of restrictions adopted by states.
“The role of the C.D.C. is to lead with the science,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious-disease physician and member of Mr. Biden’s Covid advisory group. “In the absence of strong national guidance from the C.D.C., we’ve had a variety of responses across the country, some more scientifically grounded than others.”
The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of certain health measures, such as wearing masks, has been accumulating, and those measures are urgently needed now to stop the spread, C.D.C. officials said.
Though the agency has issued all of the recommendations in earlier guidance, the new summary represented the first time the C.D.C. had published a multipronged list of strategies for states, a sort of battle plan.
“This idea of a 50-state solution is completely impractical when we live in one nation,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We are not going to get past this pandemic unless we have a concerted national approach.”
The new recommendations place high priority on keeping schools open, from kindergarten through 12th grade, saying schools should be both “the last settings to close” and “the first to reopen” because of the critical role they play in providing meals and support services to children. Closures take a disproportionate toll on low-income families, the agency noted.
Officials warned that eating at indoor restaurants was one of the “particularly high-risk scenarios” because diners had to remove their masks. The C.D.C. urged communities to require face coverings on mass transit, something Mr. Biden also has endorsed, and to expand routine screening to identify asymptomatic individuals, who are responsible for about 50 percent of transmissions.
Failure to implement the preventive measures will lead to continued spread of the virus and more unnecessary deaths, said Margaret A. Honein, the first author of the C.D.C. report.
She emphasized that Americans could take many important steps on their own: wearing masks, physically distancing from others, limiting their contacts and avoiding nonessential visits to indoor spaces.
“We want to make sure every person is aware that it’s within their power to take this critical step: Wear a face mask and prevent transmission, and maintain physical distance from others,” said Dr. Honein, a member of the agency’s Covid-19 emergency response team.
Scientific evidence that masks can both prevent an infected individual from spreading the disease and protect the user from infection is “compelling,” she added. “Clearly, not everyone is hearing how important that is,” she said. “It’s an action everyone can take to protect each other.”
Americans also should avoid indoor spaces outside the home, as well as crowded outdoor spaces, the C.D.C. said. That includes restaurants and could also apply to some with outdoor dining: The report suggests switching to takeout food service instead.
Americans should be tested if exposed to the virus and should cooperate with contact tracers if infected, the agency said. They should stay home and postpone travel, air out and ventilate rooms, wash hands frequently and get vaccines as they become available.
Exercise should be done outdoors, with a mask and social distancing, the agency said. Working remotely should be encouraged, and social gatherings should be limited.
In a shift, the C.D.C. also urged states and local jurisdictions to encourage and enforce these behaviors, including mandating the wearing of masks in public spaces and on public transportation.
The Trump administration in September blocked a C.D.C. order that would have required passengers to wear masks on planes, buses and subway trains and in transit hubs. Officials in some states continue to resist mask mandates in public spaces. In Florida, which has reported over a million Covid-19 cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his opposition to mask mandates earlier this week.
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The C.D.C. urged officials to limit the use of high-risk nonessential indoor spaces, to erect physical barriers and visual reminders underscoring the need social distancing, and to begin planning now for the distribution and administration of vaccines.
The agency is also pushing for increased testing of essential workers who come into contact with the public and people who are otherwise at high risk.
Even with mass vaccinations apparently imminent, Dr. Honein emphasized the need to implement such measures. “We are seeing that light at the end of the tunnel, but need time to get to that,” she said.
Dr. Nuzzo, of Johns Hopkins, and other experts praised the agency’s new emphasis on prioritizing schools over venues like restaurants and bars, a recommendation echoed by Mr. Biden and his advisers.
The C.D.C.’s previous guidance, issued over the summer and doctored by the White House, also pushed for schools to reopen but was not balanced by a scientific assessment of the accompanying risks, Dr. Nuzzo said, adding, “It felt more like a treatise rather than an analysis.”
Having all 10 measures in one document is helpful and underscores the message that no one strategy can hinder the spread of the virus, experts said. But the document was thin on some details, said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center.
Dr. Bhadelia was struck by the suggestion that there might be a coordinated program to hand out masks to people. “I haven’t seen that before, particularly for those who are at high risk,” she said. But the C.D.C. did not specify whether states or employers should provide the masks, she noted.
The new guidance also emphasized the importance of improving ventilation in indoor spaces, where airborne virus is a threat. But the agency could have detailed best practices to minimize confusion, Dr. Bhadelia said.
She cited fully enclosed outdoor dining “cabins” as an example of the misguided solutions that can result from unclear guidance.
The agency also did not clarify what the triggers should be for restaurants or schools to shut down or which groups were recommended for increased testing because of their greater interactions with other people. “I would have loved to see a little bit more detail,” Dr. Bhadelia said.
The Hartford Courant, the Connecticut newspaper that has been in print since 1764, when it chronicled the locals’ dissatisfaction with British rule, is the latest daily that will try to cover the news without a newsroom.
Tribune Publishing, the company that owns the paper, told employees on Friday that it would “close our Broad Street office, with no plan to find us a new one,” the Hartford Courant Guild, which represents editorial employees, said in a Twitter post.
Andrew Julien, the Courant’s publisher and editor in chief, said in an email to staff members that the closing of the physical newsroom was “a decision about real estate needs amid a difficult and challenging time on both the public health and economic fronts.”
Journalists will continue to do their work remotely, he added.
“It won’t change the essence of what we do: Delivering the high-impact journalism readers have come to expect from the Courant and crafting creative solutions that meet the needs of our advertising partners,” Mr. Julien wrote.
Tribune said in a statement that the newsroom would close on Dec. 27.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office at the Hartford Courant for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” the statement said.
It continued: “As we progress through the pandemic and as needs change, we will reconsider our need for physical offices. We will keep employees informed of decisions as they are made.”
Tribune Publishing, which is part-owned by the hedge firm Alden Global Capital, has shuttered a number of its newspapers’ offices over the last few months, with the great majority of its employees working remotely as the death toll associated with the coronavirus pandemic continues to climb.
In August, the company closed the Lower Manhattan offices of The New York Daily News, which was once the largest circulation newspaper in the country. It also shut down the newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. A Chicago Tribune office for suburban publications in Aurora, Ill., was also closed.
Alex Putterman, a Hartford Courant reporter and member of the guild, said that staff members were told on Friday that they would have to pick up their belongings before the office shut down for good. He said the staff had been working remotely since March, when the pandemic first took hold in the United States in the early months of the year.
“It really hit hard,” he said in an interview. “We’ve been in that office for decades. We all value having the physical space, we value each other’s company. We had all been hoping we’d be able to return there after the pandemic and this is a big blow.”
“For all we know at this moment,” he continued, “the plan is for us to be remote forever.”
The American job engine has slowed significantly, stranding millions who have yet to find work after being idled by the pandemic, and offering fresh evidence that the recovery is faltering.
The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 245,000 jobs in November, fewer than half the number created in October. The pace of hiring has now diminished for five straight months.
While many of those knocked out of a job early in the pandemic have been rehired, there are roughly 10 million fewer jobs than there were in February. Many of the unemployed are weeks away from losing benefits that have sustained them, with emergency assistance approved by Congress last spring set to expire at the end of the year.
The latest sign of economic headwinds arrived as members of Congress struggled to reach agreement on a new aid package. A bipartisan group of legislators has put forward a $900 billion proposal, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said the disappointing jobs report should add momentum to negotiations.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., warning of “a dark winter,” emphasized the urgency of congressional action. “This is a grim jobs report,” he said in a statement. “It shows an economy that is stalling. It confirms we remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history.”
Covid-19 caseloads have doubled in the past month and are expected to rise further, discouraging people from in-store shopping and leading to new restrictions. And in much of the country, colder weather is likely to impede outdoor dining, which many restaurants have depended on.
“We’re in an unusual position right now in the economy,” said Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at the accounting firm Evercore ISI. “Far off in the distance there is sunlight” because of progress on coronavirus vaccines, he said, but until then, “we’re going to have a few of the toughest months of this pandemic, and there will be a lot of scars left to heal.”
One of the longer-lasting wounds is likely to be a large pool of people — many still of prime working age — who drop out of the labor force, remaining sidelined even when opportunities return.
The share of those 16 or older who are in a job or actively seeking one fell in November to 61.5 percent and remains far below levels seen before the pandemic. The drop has been especially noticeable among women, who are heavily represented in the service industries hit hardest by the pandemic — like retailing and dining — and have been more likely to leave the labor market because of family responsibilities.
The seasonally adjusted jobless rate dipped in November, to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent, but that was primarily because more people gave up looking for work.
By Ella Koeze·Unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
“Temporary unemployment fell, but permanent job loss inched up,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the job search site Indeed. Easily won gains have already occurred, as employers recalled briefly displaced workers, making subsequent progress harder.
“Measures of longer-term damage worsened slightly in November,” he said.
Last month’s job totals were dragged down in part by the loss of 93,000 temporary census workers, unneeded now that the official counting has wound down.
Yet even in the private sector, “momentum is slowing,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.
While distress can be found in nearly every pocket of the labor market, the pain has been unevenly distributed. This downturn, like previous ones, is expected to widen wealth and income gaps and hurt people with the least education.
Joblessness among Black and Hispanic workers was significantly higher last month than it was for whites, in part because they hold a disproportionate share of service jobs.
Gabriela Villagomez-Morales, 36, was laid off from her position as an assistant teacher at a day care center in Tacoma, Wash., after the pandemic arrived in March and schools shut down.
Ms. Villagomez-Morales, a single mother of four, was unable to pay the $1,000 rent for her house, so she packed up and moved in with her sister and her two children.
ImageCredit…Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times
She has applied for jobs at restaurants and child care centers. Although she has yet to find work, she worries what will happen to her children if she does.
“It would be difficult, because someone would have to watch my kids if I’m not at home,” Ms. Villagomez-Morales said. “Child care is really expensive.”
There have been some signs of energy in the labor market. With the pandemic keeping shoppers out of stores and employees working from home, it’s no surprise that some of November’s biggest gains were in warehousing and moving goods and in health care jobs.
Employers in business and professional services also continued hiring, although large sections of the economy — like hospitality, travel and entertainment — are still floundering.
Becky Frankiewicz, president of the staffing and placement company ManpowerGroup North America, said a survey of all publicly posted jobs showed 11 million openings in November, a million more than the previous month.
“We continue to see week-over-week job growth,” Ms. Frankiewicz said. “We’re nowhere near where we were, yet we continue to limp ahead with recovery.”
Job gains were unevenly spread across industries in November
Cumulative change in jobs since before the pandemic, by industry
By Ella Koeze·Data is seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
There has been seasonal hiring, but the composition is different from what it was in previous years. Instead of adding positions at cash registers, on sales floors and in call centers, employers are scooping up people to work in warehouses and to handle customer service calls from home.
“We’ve placed several thousand associates last week for seasonal holiday push, and there are a lot of openings for work-from-home opportunities,” said Amy Glaser, senior vice president at the staffing firm Adecco.
Ilias Simpson, the chief executive of Radial, which handles e-commerce operations for retailers and other businesses, said the company had hired 15,000 seasonal workers, nearly tripling its North American work force for the holidays.
“We’ve been hiring since October,” Mr. Simpson said, noting that Radial had hired 40 percent more people than it did last year. “We’re in the middle of peak season.”
He plans to add several thousand workers over the next six months, some in permanent positions.
Last year, when the unemployment rate had settled below 4 percent, news that employers had added nearly a quarter of million people to payrolls in a single month would have been greeted with enthusiasm. But circumstances have changed radically in a short time.
Now millions more people are unemployed. And the broadest measure of joblessness, which includes workers who have part-time work but would prefer full-time employment or have given up the job hunt, has been at 12 percent for two months.
If job creation doesn’t pick up, it will take more than three years to get back to where the labor market was before the pandemic hit.
Wendi Wilson, 54, has been out of work since March. She had worked for six years as a brand ambassador helping companies sell products at conferences on the Las Vegas Strip, making roughly $35,000 a year.
Her state unemployment benefit amounted to $115 a week, which was augmented for a while by a $600 federal supplement before it ran out in the summer.
That left Ms. Wilson struggling to pay the $1,170 rent for her two-bedroom apartment in Summerlin, Nev., and a $460 monthly car payment.
In August, her unemployment benefits stopped, but she said she hadn’t been able to reach the unemployment office to get the extension she is entitled to. So Ms. Wilson has been using her savings to pay bills, including cashing in her retirement account. She is also relying on donations from friends.
“I don’t have any savings left, and that’s scary to me because of my age,” she said. “I’m not used to having to depend on others to help me, and I don’t like it.”
Gillian Friedman and Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.
Walter E. Williams, a prominent conservative economist, author and political commentator who expressed profoundly skeptical views of government efforts to aid his fellow African-Americans and other minority groups, died on Tuesday on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia, where he had taught for 40 years. He was 84.
His daughter, Devon Williams, said he died suddenly in his car after he had finished teaching a class. She said he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension.
As a public intellectual, Mr. Williams moved easily between the classroom and public forums that gave him wide reach. He wrote a syndicated column, lectured across the country and frequently appeared on the radio as a substitute host for the ardently conservative Rush Limbaugh.
The author of about a dozen books, including “The State Against Blacks,” Mr. Williams was the subject of a 2014 PBS documentary, “Suffer No Fools,” in which he maintained that antipoverty programs were subsidizing “slovenly” behavior.
“The welfare state has done to Black Americans what slavery could not have done, Jim Crow and the harshest racism could not have done — namely to destroy the Black family,” Mr. Williams declared in “Suffer No Fools.”
Mr. Williams was somewhat overshadowed by Thomas Sowell, a better-known Black economist turned social and political commentator and a colleague with whom Mr. Williams maintained a long friendship (and whom he once interviewed as a stand-in host on the Limbaugh program). But he made himself heard nevertheless.
He argued that many well-intentioned government programs, including the minimum wage and a law that in effect mandates union wages on federal construction projects, hurt disadvantaged Americans, particularly Black people.
In an influential essay, “Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly,” published in 2007, he argued that a minimum wage (it was $5.85 at the time) came with “legally mandated fringe benefits such as employer payments for Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation, and worker-compensation programs at federal and state levels” that “run as high as 30 percent of the hourly wage.”
“Put oneself in the place of an employer,” he wrote, “and ask: Does it make sense for me to hire a worker who is so unfortunate as to have skills enabling him to produce $4 worth of value per hour when he is going to cost me $8 an hour? Most employers would see doing so a losing economic proposition and not hire such a worker.”
Mr. Williams contended that the civil rights legislation championed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s had actually worsened race relations by seeking an “equality of result” — in terms of voting rights and bans on discrimination — rather than an equality of economic opportunity, which he said might better have lifted more Black Americans out of poverty and dependence on public welfare programs.
He had his critics on the liberal side. In 1981, in a Q. and A. face-off with Mr. Williams in the opinion pages of The New York Times, Benjamin Hooks, the president of the N.A.A.C.P. at the time, was unsparing in his assessment of Black conservatives like Mr. Williams.
“Black conservatives are basically a carbon copy of white conservatives,” Mr. Hooks said. “They object to affirmative actions designed to overcome preferences long accorded to white males; they object to busing, as one effective remedy for rectifying a school system that has been deliberately and historically segregated; they object, in some ways which are difficult for me to understand, to government spending to meet human needs and to assist poor people. They seem to favor a sub-minimum wage, which would have some people working for a salary that would, upon receipt, put them below the poverty level.”
Mr. Williams also opposed affirmative action programs and proposals to pay reparations to Black people for slavery. (“The problems that Black people face are not going to be solved by white people,” he said.) And he could be blunt in taking on liberal leaders in the Black community.
“Racial discrimination and racism in our country could have earned a well-deserved death,” he once said, “but it has been resurrected by race hustlers, or poverty pimps as I call them, such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and many others in the civil rights movement who make a living on the grievances of Blacks.”
Walter Edward Williams was born on March 31, 1936, in Philadelphia. His father, Walter, worked in masonry, and his mother, Catherine Morgan Urchette, was a housekeeper. His neighbors included Bill Cosby and the basketball star Julius Erving, who was a second cousin.
“My father deserted my mother when, I guess, I was 2 or 3 years old,” he said in an interview in 2006. Walter and his sister, Catherine, were raised by their mother in a public housing project in North Philadelphia.
In his youth Mr. Williams was an indifferent student, but he was always eager to earn money. Among other jobs, he picked blueberries, shoveled snow, washed dishes and, at 10, shined shoes. At 13, he found menial work for a women’s hat manufacturer. There he taught himself to use the electric sewing machines, only to be fired when a seamstress complained to the authorities that his employment violated child labor laws.
An after-school job at a small brokerage house led him, in his midteens, to buy a few shares of Pepsi-Cola stock, whose price he followed in the financial pages of The Philadelphia Bulletin.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Williams made a brief sojourn with his father to Los Angeles, where he enrolled in Los Angeles City College. But after a falling-out with his father, he moved back to Philadelphia and drove a taxi to pay for night classes at Temple University. Through another driver, he met his future wife, Conchetta Taylor, known as Connie.
Mr. Williams was later drafted into the Army. At Fort Stewart in Georgia, he later recalled, he discovered that President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 executive order banning discrimination in the armed forces had done nothing to prevent Black soldiers from being assigned the most menial jobs.
Mr. Williams proved a rebellious soldier. Once, when ordered to paint a truck, he painted all of it, including mirrors and tires, and then explained his action to his superior officers in a mock-obseqious manner, using what he called “my best Stepin Fetchit routine.”
Mr. Williams was eventually ordered to Korea, but before he shipped out, he and Ms. Taylor married.
His wife died in 2007. In addition to their daughter, Mr. Williams is survived by a grandson.
At his new post in South Korean, Mr. Williams once checked “Caucasian” on an official form to avoid an unpleasant assignment — he wound up a postal clerk — and wrote letters to various officials complaining of racial discrimination. (The Philadelphia Independent, a newspaper with a largely Black readership, published one of his letters on the front page.)
Returning to California after his discharge, Mr. Williams enrolled at what is now California State University, Los Angeles. Intending to study sociology, he switched to economics after encountering the work of W.E.B Du Bois, who argued that capitalism was a major source of racism. Mr. Williams later said that he came to see economics “as a struggle for liberty.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Mr. Williams moved on to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he collected master’s and doctoral degrees.
At one point in his pursuit of a Ph.D., he was shocked when he flunked an economic theory exam and was told that a paper of his was among the worst in the class. The experience helped shape his thinking about race.
“It convinced me that U.C.L.A. professors didn’t care anything about my race: They’d flunk me just as they’d flunk anyone else who didn’t make the grade,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Up From the Projects” (2010).
Until then his political leanings had been liberal; he believed, for example, that higher minimum wages unquestionably helped poor people. But a professor asked him to weigh good intentions against real-world effects and pointed to the work of, among others, the University of Chicago economists Yale Brozen and Milton Friedman. (Mr. Williams would go on to appear in Mr. Friedman’s PBS series “Free to Choose” in 1980.)
He returned to Temple University in 1973, this time to teach. He remained on the Temple faculty until 1980, when he moved to George Mason University, where he served for a time as chairman of the economics department. For many years he was an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, the conservative think tank in Washington.
He began writing his syndicated newspaper column in the early 1980s. It was eventually carried by 205 newspapers and websites.
In the 1970s, during a yearlong stint at the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, Mr. Williams was commissioned by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress to study the ramifications of a minimum wage and of the Davis-Bacon Act, which mandated that laborers in federal construction projects be paid no less than the locally prevailing wages for corresponding work on similar projects in the area.
He outlined his findings in a 1977 report: A minimum wage causes high rates of teenage unemployment, especially among minority workers, and actually “encourages racial discrimination.”
He concluded, he recalled in an interview with The New York Times for this obituary in 2017, that the Davis-Bacon Act had “explicit racist motivations.”
Suppose, he said, that there are 10 secretaries, five of them white and five of them Black — all equally qualified — who are applying for a job. “If by law you must pay them all the same wage,” he said, “it doesn’t cost anything to discriminate against the Black secretaries.” Without such a mandate, he suggested, the Black secretaries would have a better chance at being gainfully employed, even if at lower pay.
ImageCredit…via George Mason University
In his book “The State Against Blacks” (1982), Mr. Williams was similarly critical of a host of government measures involving labor — from taxicab regulations to occupational licensing — that in his view wound up disproportionately harming Black people in the name of preventing discrimination.
Mr. Williams traced his political evolution to his days at U.C.L.A., when he had turned away from liberal orthodoxies.
“I probably became a libertarian,” he said, “through exposure to tough-minded professors who encouraged me to think with my brain instead of my heart.”
Alex Traub contributed reporting.
Imagine a 401(k) where there’s no investment menu of stock funds. Instead, you get to make one that aligns with your values.
You could begin by knocking out oil drillers or gun manufacturers, or subtracting companies one by one depending on which ones have crossed you (or the world) lately. And when you’re done, you — and not a mutual fund — own individual pieces of every other security that you’re not beefing with, whether personally or as a citizen of the world.
Some of the biggest names on Wall Street can conjure up this tantalizing prospect, which is called direct indexing. And they’re buying up smaller firms that have already made it a reality for some wealthy investors.
Last month, BlackRock paid a cool $1.05 billion to snap up Aperio, a company that helps financial advisers invest client money this way. Earlier this year, Morgan Stanley entered this arena when it got hold of Parametric Portfolio Associates as part of its purchase of the old-line fund firm Eaton Vance.
Charles Schwab and Goldman Sachs have also made acquisitions in the general area.
So what do these direct-indexing entities do for investors now — and how many more people might benefit in the coming years?
Direct indexing starts out with a list of securities similar to the holdings of any index mutual fund that you might buy from Vanguard or Fidelity. Then, with the help of an intermediary, you buy shares (or fractions of shares) of only those securities that fit your customized plan.
Maybe you work for Google and get lots of stock as part of your compensation, so you want to avoid owning additional shares and those of other large tech companies.
Or maybe you are (or want to be) an investor focused on environmental, social or governance issues — the E.S.G. segment. You may wish to rid yourself of gun stocks, or avoid Wells Fargo, given how it treated its customers over the years, or Toyota, because it turned its back on stricter fuel economy standards in California.
Whatever companies you ditch, you still end up owning hundreds of stocks. And because you own those stocks and not a mutual fund, there are some big potential advantages: You can avoid capital gains taxes in many instances by selling the losers to offset growth in the winners.
The details get technical, and it’s a hard thing for human clients or even their advisers to manage manually. But it’s also important: If you’re in the highest tax brackets and live in a state with its own taxes, not paying attention to gains can cost you.
For investors who focus on mutual or exchange-traded funds, Parametric contends that these taxes can weigh down your returns even more than adviser fees or the costs of trading. Aperio bluntly notes on its website that “ignoring the impact of taxes is equal to willingly accepting lower performance.” A percentage point of your return can be at stake each year, possibly more.
Both companies use software to match your winners and losers to minimize your tax bills. (The companies will also help people who want to use charitable contributions of stock to keep taxes in line while maintaining the right balance in their stock portfolio.)
But we’re in rarefied air here. Most people — even more affluent people — don’t have the bulk of their money in brokerage accounts that are subject to capital gains taxes. Instead, their money tends to be in tax-deferred retirement accounts or 529 plans.
So how could way more people get access to the choose-your-own-adventure part of this approach? A couple of important factors are already in place: the decline and fall of trading commissions, and the rise of the ability to purchase fractional shares of stock.
Falling commissions, combined with technology that allows software to track a portfolio’s stocks, rebalance it or seek tax savings when appropriate on any given day, can keep overall costs reasonable. And buying fractional shares means that you don’t need nearly as much money to own several hundred bits of stock, since you don’t have to have $1,800 to buy a single share of Google.
And indeed, for all of Aperio’s boasting that its services are “designed for sophisticated wealth advisers” who “serve ultra high-net-worth clients,” the company has already been serving the masses, like synagogue preschool directors.
A few years ago, the pension board of the Reform Judaism movement took Aperio up on its offer to create an E.S.G. investment option for its 403(b) plan. The board used 100 years of social justice resolutions to shape the composition of the portfolio. Then, it added another tenet to its investment philosophy in order to own additional shares of companies that were Israeli or had made investments in Israel.
The fee for this customized investment is 0.15 percent annually for the first $10 million under management and then 0.10 percent beyond that. “You cannot find an E.S.G. mutual fund for that cheap in the marketplace,” said Michael Kimmel, the board’s chief executive. (A disclosure: Five years ago, I gave a talk about kids and money at the Reform movement’s annual conference.)
So what will it take for more employers to put together something like this? Or, better yet, when might administrators of workplace retirement plans allow individuals to build their own? (Or, for that matter, for firms like Vanguard and Fidelity to let people do this in their brokerage accounts?)
When I asked Parametric’s chief executive, Brian Langstraat, he joked that I must have been eavesdropping on Parametric’s calls with Morgan Stanley and its other new acquisition, E-Trade. “It’s certainly a topic of conversation within virtual Zoom calls pinging around the country,” he said.
One challenge is inertia. Mr. Kimmel, the pension board executive, noted that only about 2 percent of his retirement plan’s money moved to the new offering, even though many of his rabbis are social justice warriors.
Such slow going is common, though. As much as investors express interest in E.S.G. investing in surveys, it’s a pain to decipher new offerings, move money around and change advisers if yours is not down with the program.
A direct-indexing start-up called OpenInvest is more focused on bringing E.S.G. to the masses than catering primarily to the wealthiest among us. It faces the challenge of persuading financial advisers for people who are not in the 1 percent to make all of this more available.
“This is a storytelling industry that we’re in,” said Joshua Levin, a co-founder of OpenInvest who has written engagingly about the transformation that the company hopes to help spark.
At first, he thought that the shunning of Wells Fargo and Facebook, as favored by some of his customers, was the best tale to tell about what he and his colleagues were making possible. Now, he’s trying to get listeners to see the E.S.G. movement as a feature and not a product. The goal is for OpenInvest to be able to add its tools to existing portfolios without requiring someone to change advisers or do much more than push a single button.
“The lack of an engaged end consumer is what stymies innovation in the entire financial services industry,” he said. Which is not meant to insult the inert. “All we think about is mainstreaming this and what tech we can build to do this stuff.”
I asked Mr. Levin whether BlackRock had tried to buy his company too, and he wouldn’t say. But the fact that big players like that are circling this area suggests that they know how enticing bespoke, tax-friendly indexed portfolios are.
Start-ups being start-ups, Mr. Levin’s company may be just as likely to flame out as it is to turn into a unicorn. But no matter what, five years from now, I’d bet that many more of us will be investing this way. And we’ll probably be happier without misbehaving companies among our holdings.
Radio Disney, the nationwide radio network that entertained young listeners for more than two decades and helped jump-start the music careers of Disney Channel stars like Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez, is set to end operations early next year, Disney’s television division announced on Thursday.
The move is part of Disney’s increasing focus on its streaming platform, Disney+, and its television channels, according to Disney Branded Television. Consumers’ growing interest in more personalized music experiences and the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on in-person musical events also contributed to the decision, the company said.
Thirty-six full- and part-time employees will be laid off as a result of the move, adding to a wave of layoffs at Disney during the pandemic. In September, Disney laid off thousands of employees at its U.S. theme parks, and on Thursday more than a hundred people, including some senior executives, were laid off across Walt Disney Television, a Disney spokeswoman said.
Radio Disney Country, which debuted in 2015 as a digital-only platform, will also cease operations. Radio Disney in Latin America, which is separate from the U.S. operations, will not be affected.
Started in 1996 as a terrestrial radio station, Radio Disney became a destination for preteens and teenagers, primarily playing pop music and songs popularized by Disney Channel shows. By 2005, the station was available across 97 percent of the United States. In 2009, Radio Disney reached about 30 million listeners a week, a Disney spokeswoman said. That year, it opened a studio in Burbank, Calif., that became its programming headquarters.
In a shift, the network began reaching its audience primarily on digital and satellite platforms instead of over the airwaves in 2014, when the company sold 23 local market stations. (Its last remaining local station, KRDC-AM in Los Angeles, will be sold in 2021.)
In the 1990s, the station largely played popular artists like Britney Spears and ’NSync. It later served as a launching pad for artists early in their careers, including Hilary Duff, Raven-Symoné, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Zendaya.
“Radio Disney was definitely the first and one of the kind of most significant events in the development of the tween music industry,” said Tyler Bickford, an associate professor of children’s literature and childhood studies at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of “Tween Pop: Children’s Music and Public Culture.”
By embracing pop music and mixing it with its live-action shows on the Disney Channel, Disney was able to attract older children around the ages of 11 and 12, Professor Bickford said, contributing to an emerging preteen demographic that Radio Disney worked to cultivate.
The station’s impact on up-and-coming young talent can still be felt today, according to the singer-songwriter Megan Nicole.
Ms. Nicole’s first single, “B-e-a-utiful,” frequently received airtime on Radio Disney after its release in 2011. She said the station supported her early in her career.
“I was with my label for three years, I went independent, and even as an independent artist Radio Disney still supported me, which, looking back, is pretty awesome of them to do,” the singer, 27, said.
She often played shows around the country with Radio Disney, she said, and performed at the Radio Disney Music Awards preshow in 2014. She said one of her fondest memories of Radio Disney involved participating in an on-air talent show when she was young.
“I was too afraid to talk on the phone with a D.J., so I had my friend do the talking, and then I sang and handed the phone back to my friend,” she said. “It’s pretty funny that I went from being afraid to talk to anyone to, fast forward years later, they’re playing my music.”
Ms. Nicole told her Twitter followers on Thursday that Radio Disney’s closing was “the end of an era.”
“I grew up with them, like it was just so iconic as a child,” she said. “Disney was everything.”
Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.
In mid-November, an arthritis drug with a tricky name hit a pandemic milestone — then slipped back into relative obscurity.
The drug, baricitinib, was granted an emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration to treat a subset of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in combination with another medication, the antiviral remdesivir. It is one of only a handful of treatments to have earned the agency’s green light.
But baricitinib’s reception by the medical community has been lukewarm. It doesn’t work all that well, for one thing, and comes with side effects, such as blood clots. And at a cost of roughly $1,500 per patient, many doctors don’t know when it would make sense to use the drug, which might have overlapping roles with cheap and widely available steroids like dexamethasone.
In a clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, hospitalized Covid-19 patients treated with baricitinib and remdesivir recovered one day faster than patients who had received remdesivir alone.
“I think it’s really a nothing burger,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta. “We’re talking about adding a drug that reduces the time to clinical improvement by one day, in a disease that takes weeks to recover.”
These results, which were announced through a series of news releases by drugmaker Eli Lilly, have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Kristen Porter Basu, a spokeswoman for the company, wrote in an email that a “more detailed analysis” would be published “very soon.”
When an emergency authorization has been released but the data have not, doctors are caught “in a difficult place,” said Dr. Manuela Cernadas, a critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It’s not entirely clear where this drug fits in our armamentarium of drugs we’re comfortable using.”
Baricitinib is a repurposed arthritis treatment that, like a steroid, dampens inflammation, which, in severe cases of Covid-19, can spiral out of control and destroy healthy tissues. The drug acts like a molecular muffler, preventing the cells from responding to alarm signals that could make the body’s immune response spiral out of control.
The N.I.H. trial was designed to test whether baricitinib could boost the benefits of remdesivir, now the standard of care for Covid-19 patients. Remdesivir by itself speeds recovery by several days. The researchers found that the addition of baricitinib clipped an additional day off a patient’s recovery time and kept a few extra people off ventilators. But these and other results largely failed to impress experts, many of whom said the drug would need to have far bigger benefits to outweigh its price tag and potential harms.
“It seems more incremental than blockbuster,” said Dr. Taison Bell, a critical care physician at the University of Virginia, who was involved in the clinical trial. Although Dr. Bell described baricitinib as a reasonable addition to the Covid treatment toolbox, and even deserving of an emergency approval, “I don’t think it’s a game changer,” he said.
Still, the findings were enough to convince the F.D.A., which issued an emergency authorization on Nov. 19. The drug is now allowed to be paired with remdesivir, but only to hospitalized patients who need supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation or other breathing support.
The agency’s limited clearance aligns with the subset of patients in the N.I.H. trial who benefited the most from the dual drug combo, said Dr. Andre Kalil, an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and one of the lead researchers on the trial.
But this same population of patients — people sick enough to need some form of breathing support — would also be great candidates for steroids like dexamethasone, said Dr. Phyllis Tien, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco.
Dexamethasone, unlike baricitinib, has been shown in studies to curb mortality in severely sick Covid-19 patients. A generic drug, it’s also cheap, costing cents or dollars per day of treatment, and has for months been a part of the coronavirus treatment playbook.
“I’m asking myself, ‘Who would I think about using baricitinib in, over dexamethasone?’” Dr. Tien said.
An updated list of potential treatments for Covid-19.
But Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, an infectious disease physician at Emory University who pioneered early studies of baricitinib against the coronavirus, offered a more sobering perspective on dexamethasone. Steroids are “blunt knives,” she said, quashing inflammation on a broader scale than drugs like baricitinib do. That’s why steroids come with a host of unwanted side effects, including exacerbating conditions like diabetes or osteoporosis, she said.
The family of drugs that includes baricitinib, on the other hand, may offer more therapeutic precision, Dr. Titanji said. There’s also been some evidence that baricitinib might be able to block the coronavirus from entering cells.
Still, baricitinib comes with its own problems, such as raising the risk of blood clots — already an issue in many cases of Covid-19. “That does give you pause,” Dr. Cernadas said.
Both baricitinib and dexamethasone also blunt immune function, increasing the likelihood that other viruses or bacteria might infiltrate the bodies of the people they’re used in. But of the two, dexamethasone is “the devil you know,” said Dr. Lauren Henderson, a pediatric rheumatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “I would probably not turn to baricitinib as a first line.”
Dr. Tien and other experts echoed this sentiment, saying they would be likely to choose dexamethasone over baricitinib when treating someone with a serious case of Covid-19, unless there was an obvious reason their patient might respond poorly to steroids.
A head-to-head comparison between baricitinib and dexamethasone might clarify which patients would be better off taking one drug over another. At the end of November, the N.I.H. announced a trial that will compare outcomes between hospitalized Covid-19 patients who receive either a combination of remdesivir and dexamethasone, or a combination of remdesivir and baricitinib. But Dr. Schwartz and others raised ethical concerns about this trial, which he said would by definition deprive some patients of a lifesaving steroid therapy.
Eli Lilly is also running a trial to study the effects of baricitinib on its own in hospitalized patients. In this study, which isn’t likely to finish until next summer, all participants will receive dexamethasone.
There is an urgent need to address long-term symptoms of the coronavirus, leading public health officials said this week, warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide might experience lingering problems that could impede their ability to work and function normally.
In a two-day meeting Thursday and Friday, the federal government’s first workshop dedicated to long-term Covid-19, public health officials, medical researchers and patients said the condition needed to be recognized as a syndrome, given a name and taken seriously by doctors.
“This is a phenomenon that is really quite real and quite extensive,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said at the conference on Thursday.
While the number of people affected is still unknown, he said, if long-term symptoms afflict even a small proportion of the millions of people infected with the coronavirus, it is “going to represent a significant public health issue.”
Such symptoms — ranging from breathing trouble to heart issues to cognitive and psychological problems — are already plaguing an untold number of people worldwide. Even for people who were never sick enough to be hospitalized, the aftermath can be long and grueling with a complex and lasting mix of symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently posted a list of some long-term symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, chest pain, brain fog and depression, but doctors and researchers said they still know little about the extent or cause of many of the problems, which patients will develop them or how to address them.
Over the last several months, coronavirus patients with lingering, debilitating health issues have been widely referred to as “Covid long-haulers.” But some survivors and experts feel that name trivializes the experience, lessening its importance as a medical syndrome which doctors and insurers should recognize, diagnose and try to treat. One of the pressing issues patients and experts are now weighing is what official medical term should be adopted to describe the collection of post-Covid symptoms.
“We need to dig in and do the work that needs to be done to help relieve the suffering and stop this madness,” said Dr. Michael Haag, an infectious disease expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was a co-chair of a session.
In an inadvertent but stark illustration of the difficulty of the recovery process, two of the four patients scheduled to speak at the meeting were unable to because they had recently been rehospitalized. “Those individuals had their acute illness several months ago and they’ve been suffering pretty mightily since then,” Dr. Haag said. “And the fact that they’re still struggling with this gives extra power to what we’re trying to do today.”
Dr. John Brooks, the chief medical officer of the C.D.C.’s Covid response, the co-chairman with Dr. Haag of one session, said he expected long-term post-Covid symptoms would affect “on the order of tens of thousands in the United States and possibly hundreds of thousands.”
He added, “If you were to ask me what do we know about this post-acute phase, I really am hard pressed to tell you that we know much. This is what we’re really working on epidemiologically to understand what is it, how many people get it, how long does it last, what causes it, who does it affect, and then of course, what can we do to prevent it from happening.”
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Presentations from Covid-19 survivors — including Dr. Peter Piot, a world-renowned infectious disease expert who helped discover the Ebola virus — made it clear that for many people, recovering from the disease is not like flipping a switch.
Dr. Piot, who is the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a special adviser on Covid-19 research to the president of the European Commission, said he contracted the coronavirus in March and was hospitalized for a week in April. The acute phase of his illness involved some, but not all, of the classic disease symptoms. For example, his oxygen saturation was very low, but he did not develop shortness of breath or a cough until after he got home from the hospital.
For the next month, he experienced a rapid heart rate several hours a day, he said. For nearly four months, he experienced extreme fatigue and insomnia. “What I found most frustrating personally was that I couldn’t do anything,” said Dr. Piot, who now considers himself recovered except for needing more sleep than before his infection. “I just had to wait for improvement.”
Chimére Smith, 38, a teacher in Baltimore who has not been able to work since becoming sick in March, said she had struggled for months to have her symptoms, which included loss of vision in one eye, taken seriously by doctors.
“It’s been a harrowing task and the task and the journey continues,” she said.
Ms. Smith, who is Black, said it was especially important to inform people in underserved communities that long-term effects are “as real and possible as dying from the virus itself.”
The condition, she said, “not only needs to be explored, but it needs to be explained to the same group of people who suffer with being stricken with it the most, and that’s the minority population. I am not just here today for me; I am here for us.”
Hannah Davis, 32, a researcher and artist in Brooklyn, described neurological and cognitive symptoms that began in late March. “I forgot my partner’s name,” she said. “I forgot about sleep. I would regularly pick up a hot pan, burn myself, put it down, and literally do it again. I forgot how to shower. I forgot how to dress myself.”
Months later, some things have improved, but she still struggles to remember things, saying “I feel like I am basically on a 48-hour memory cycle.”
Ms. Davis is part of a long-term Covid survivor group called Body Politic and said a survey of 3,800 of its members in 56 countries has found that 85 percent report cognitive dysfunction, 81 percent had numbness and other neurological sensations, nearly half had speech and language issues and nearly three-quarters had some difficulty working at their jobs.
Clinics treating Covid survivors are seeing a striking number of people with brain fog and other thinking problems, as well as psychological issues, doctors participating in the workshop said.
“Approximately three months after their acute illness, more than half of our patients have at least a mild cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Ann Parker, who co-directs a post-Covid clinic at Johns Hopkins. “We’re also seeing substantial mental health impairments.”
Dr. Janet Diaz, head of clinical care for the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 response, said the agency is planning a meeting focused on long-term coronavirus effects and will soon start collecting data on post-Covid symptoms and medical visits.
She said that while doctors are accustomed to prolonged recovery challenges for people hospitalized for serious illnesses, the lingering symptoms in younger people and those who were not hospitalized for the coronavirus “urgently needs to be better understood and investigated.”
Frank Carney, who founded Pizza Hut in 1958 with his brother Dan and helped build it into the world’s largest pizza chain, died on Wednesday at an assisted living facility in Wichita, Kan. He was 82.
The cause was pneumonia, his brother said. Mr. Carney had recently recovered from Covid-19 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last decade.
With $600 borrowed from their mother, the two Carney brothers opened the first Pizza Hut on South Bluff Street in downtown Wichita. Frank was 19, a student at Wichita University (now Wichita State University) looking to pay his way through college. Dan was 26, studying for a master’s degree in business and seeking a promising opportunity.
They rented a 600-square-foot building with a pointed roof, inspiring Dan’s wife to suggest the name Pizza Hut. They purchased secondhand equipment for the kitchen.
On opening night, they offered free pizza to attract customers. The restaurant was an immediate hit.
ImageCredit…Larry W. Smith/Associated Press
The brothers incorporated the company the next year and began to sell franchises. With aggressive marketing and a focus on quality ingredients and service, Pizza Hut took off.
Frank became president of the company and joined the Young Presidents Association to get an intensive primer in executive management so that he could build a strategic plan. He ultimately created a standardized system for all franchises, while also allowing room for the tastes and preferences of local customers.
The original Pizza Hut pizza, created by John Bender, a onetime partner with the brothers, was thin and crispy. A few years later Frank developed the restaurant’s signature “original pan pizza,” a recipe that endured for four decades.
By 1966, there were 145 Pizza Hut franchises in the United States. By 1971, Pizza Hut had emerged as the world’s largest pizza chain, with strong sales and 1,000 global outlets. In 1972 the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and by 1977, as sales reached $436 million (the equivalent of about $1.9 billion today), there were more than 3,400 domestic and international outlets. That year the brothers sold the company to PepsiCo for $300 million.
ImageCredit…Alan Diaz/Associated Press
Frank Carney left the company in 1980 and embarked on a number of different business ventures as an investor and mentor, including real estate, oil and gas, and other food enterprises, most of which failed. “Frank was a very driven person,” Dan Carney said. “He would pick up an idea and run with it. You just don’t win every time.”
Frank Lawrence Carney was born on April 26, 1938, in Wichita, one of seven children of Michael and Mary Frances Carney. His father worked in a meatpacking plant and later opened a corner grocery, where all the members of the family eventually worked. When his father died at 46, his mother took over the store.
Mr. Carney attended Wichita University from 1956 to 1961, but his full-time job at Pizza Hut precluded him from finishing his degree. Citing a promise his mother had made to his father before he died, that all seven children would graduate from college, Mr. Carney returned in 1999 and received a bachelor’s degree in general studies in 2000. (The original Pizza Hut building was moved onto the campus in 1986 as a tribute to the company and the Carney brothers.)
Mr. Carney, a runner and an exercise buff, was married three times. In addition to his brother Dan, survivors include his wife, Janie Carney; eight children from his previous marriages; two more brothers; three sisters; and 11 grandchildren.
By 1993, the millions Frank Carney had made from Pizza Hut were lost to his failed ventures. “I never thought it would turn out as disastrous as it did,” he said in a 2002 interview with Pizza Marketplace, an industry news website. “It’s very stressful when you find out that you’re not as smart as you thought you were.”
He sought a position at Pizza Hut but was unhappy with the offer he received. Instead, in 1994 he became a franchise owner of Papa John’s, a major competitor to Pizza Hut. His embrace of a rival displeased his brother — but, as Dan Carney said, he “did what he wanted.”
In 1997 Frank Carney starred in a television commercial for Papa John’s. Speaking to a group of actors portraying Pizza Hut franchisees at a convention, he said, “Sorry, guys; I found a better pizza.” The ad triggered a long-term feud and lawsuits between the chains, the website Mental Floss wrote in 2015.
By 2001 Mr. Carney had grown his Papa John’s franchise operation to 133 locations around the U.S., including several in Wichita.
“I’m just a regular guy who worked smart and made some L.U.C.K. — L.U.C.K. means Laboring Under Correct Knowledge,” Frank Carney once said, according to the website Franchisopedia.com. “When you work hard and smart, you get lucky. To build a successful, growing business, you need all the luck you can get.”