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The office was dedicated to the long-term safety of vaccines. Experts say plans to track coronavirus vaccines are fragmented and “behind the eight ball.”

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President Trump and the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex M. Azar II, who disbanded the National Vaccine Program Office last year. Photo: Al Drago for The New York Times

By Carl Zimmer

As the first coronavirus vaccines arrive in the coming year, government researchers will face a monumental challenge: monitoring the health of hundreds of millions of Americans to ensure the vaccines don’t cause harm.

Purely by chance, thousands of vaccinated people will have heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses shortly after the injections. …


The United States is home to 95 million cattle, and changing what they eat could have a significant effect on emissions of greenhouse gases like methane that are warming the world

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A cloud of manure and dust floats over the F-Troop feed yard in Hereford, Texas, which holds up to 25,000 cattle. Photo: George Steinmetz/The New York Times

By Henry Fountain

HAPPY, Texas — Randy Shields looked out at a sea of cattle at the sprawling Wrangler Feedyard — 46,000 animals milling about in the dry Panhandle air as a feed truck swept by on its way to their pens.

Shields, who manages the yard for Cactus Feeders, knows that at its most basic, the business simply takes something that people can’t eat and converts it into something they can: beef. That’s possible because cattle have a multichambered stomach where microbes ferment grass and other tough fibrous vegetation, making it digestible.

“The way I look at it, I’ve got 46,000 fermentation vats going out there,” Shields said. …


A group that also includes Lyft and DoorDash has spent nearly $200 million to support a California proposition that could save them from a new labor law

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Outside Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco last week, drivers and other gig workers urged voters to reject Proposition 22, which would exempt gig companies from California labor laws. Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

By Kate Conger

OAKLAND, Calif. — By late August, the urgency was becoming clear. Top executives of Uber, Lyft and the delivery service DoorDash met to discuss a California ballot measure that would exempt them from a new state labor law and save their companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

The survival of their businesses was on the ballot.

Days later, political strategists responded to the executives’ concerns by telling the companies, which had already pledged $90 million to back the measure, that they needed to spend a lot more if they wanted to win, said three people familiar with the discussions, who were not allowed to talk about them publicly. …


Even as the Justice Department sued Google, some antitrust experts wondered whether a different government response would be more effective

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Antitrust actions by the Justice Department can take years to resolve, time that legal experts and economists said companies like Google could use to become even more dominant. Photo: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

By Steve Lohr

For decades, America’s antitrust laws — originally designed to curb the power of 19th-century corporate giants in railroads, oil and steel — have been hailed as “the Magna Carta of free enterprise” and have proved remarkably durable and adaptable.

But even as the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit against Google on Tuesday for unlawfully maintaining a monopoly in search and search advertising, a growing number of legal experts and economists have started questioning whether traditional antitrust is up to the task of addressing the competitive concerns raised by today’s digital behemoths. …


The comments, shown in a new documentary, are the strongest yet from a pontificate that has taken a more tolerant and inclusive tone

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Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

By Jason Horowitz

Pope Francis expressed support for same-sex civil unions in remarks revealed in a documentary that premiered Wednesday, a significant break from his predecessors that staked out new ground for the church in its recognition of gay people.

The remarks, coming from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, had the potential to shift debates about the legal status of same-sex couples in nations around the globe and unsettle bishops worried that the unions threaten what the church considers traditional marriage — between one man and one woman.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” Francis said in the documentary, ‘‘Francesco,’’ which debuted at the Rome Film Festival, reiterating his view that gay people are children of God. …


Labs closed in the pandemic, but innovation doesn’t stop. So while some workers have the home office, engineers have the garage.

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Aaron Loar, an engineer at Natron Energy, working from home. The start-up is building a new kind of battery, a process that requires a lot of equipment. Photo: Cayce Clifford for The New York Times

By Cade Metz

SAN FRANCISCO — It is the folksiest of Silicon Valley origin stories: Tech startup makes it big after a wide-eyed entrepreneur builds a prototype in his garage. But Colin Wessells could never have imagined that a pandemic would force him back into the garage just to keep his company going.

Wessells, 34, is one of the founders and the chief executive of Natron Energy, a startup building a new kind of battery. In March, when social distancing orders shuttered his company’s offices in Santa Clara, California, he and his engineers could no longer use the lab where they tested the batteries. …


Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company for less than a year, already faces the internet giant’s biggest threat in its 22 years

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Photo: Erik Tanner for The New York Times

By Daisuke Wakabayashi

OAKLAND, Calif. — When Sundar Pichai succeeded Larry Page as the head of Google’s parent company in December, he was handed a bag of problems: Shareholders had sued the company, Alphabet, over big financial packages handed to executives accused of misconduct. An admired office culture was fraying. Most of all, antitrust regulators were circling.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department accused Google of being “a monopoly gatekeeper of the internet,” one that uses anticompetitive tactics to protect and strengthen its dominant hold over web search and search advertising.

Google, which has generated vast profits through a recession, a pandemic and earlier investigations by government regulators on five continents, now faces the first truly existential crisis in its 22-year history. …


A new report shows hundreds of cases in which the deported parents of migrant children who were taken from their families cannot be located

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A border fence near Brownsville, Texas. Attempts to find separated parents have been going on for years, but the number of parents who have been deemed “unreachable” is much larger than was previously known. Photo:” Matthew Busch for The New York Times

By Caitlin Dickerson

Radio spots are airing throughout Mexico and Central America. Court-appointed researchers are motorbiking through rural hillside communities in Guatemala and showing up at courthouses in Honduras to conduct public record searches.

The efforts are part of a wide-ranging campaign to track down parents separated from their children at the U.S. border beginning in 2017 under the Trump administration’s most controversial immigration policy. It is now clear that the parents of 545 of the migrant children still have not been found, according to court documents filed this week in a case challenging the practice.

About 60 of the children were under the age of 5 when they were separated, the documents show. …


As he raises questions about his opponent’s standing with China, President Trump’s taxes reveal details about his own activities there, including a previously unknown bank account

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President Trump at a 2017 meeting with the leader of China, Xi Jinping. Mr. Trump has a long history of chasing licensing deals in the country. Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

By Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig

President Donald Trump and his allies have tried to paint the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there.

Senate Republicans produced a report asserting, among other things, that Biden’s son Hunter “opened a bank account” with a Chinese businessman, part of what it said were his numerous connections to “foreign nationals and foreign governments across the globe.”

But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company. …


At least 2,000 law enforcement agencies have tools to get into encrypted smartphones, according to new research, and they are using them far more than previously known

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Photo: Agê Barros

By Jack Nicas

In a new Apple ad, a man on a city bus announces he has just shopped for divorce lawyers. Then a woman recites her credit card number through a megaphone in a park. “Some things shouldn’t be shared,” the ad says, “iPhone helps keep it that way.”

Apple has built complex encryption into iPhones and made the devices’ security central to its marketing pitch.

That, in turn, has angered law enforcement. Officials from the FBI director to rural sheriffs have argued that encrypted phones stifle their work to catch and convict dangerous criminals. They have tried to force Apple and Google to unlock suspects’ phones, but the companies say they can’t. …

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