'Sugar Rush'

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The World

The committee that advises the CDC voted overwhelmingly that health care providers and long-term care facility residents be first for Covid-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, countries are jockeying for vaccine doses: AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna estimate that their total 2021 production capacity is 5.3 billion doses. That could cover 2.6-3.1 billion people. But most doses have already been purchased by wealthy countries, and low-income countries might not get vaccinated until 2023 or 2024. Meanwhile, the share of adults who said they’d get a vaccine if one became available ticked down to 50% from 53% the week before. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer: “We are at the most difficult moment in the pandemic.” (STAT News, Nature, Morning Consult, Los Angeles Times)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered his biggest backbench rebellion since the general election as 55 Tories refuse to approve his ‘stupid rules’ — the new tiered system of restrictions. England returns to a toughened three-tier lockdown system after MPs voted by 291 to 78 in favor of the move. Meanwhile, Austria’s government appears to have bowed to pressure from Germany, France and Italy and will ban skiing holidays over the Christmas break. (The Times, The Guardian)

Blue and White party leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he can no longer support the government headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his party will vote Wednesday in support of a preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections. (Times of Israel)

President-elect Biden’s choice of economic advisers highlights a commitment to spend whatever is needed to restore a full-employment economy, setting up a clash with Senate Republicans who are sounding alarms over a national debt they helped President Trump increase by nearly $7 trillion. Meanwhile, U.S. inflation expectations hit 18-month high on vaccine hopes, as investors see a ‘sugar rush’ from the rebound while markets are still flush with central bank cash. In Congress, Mnuchin and Powell honed in on need to aid U.S. small businesses. (Washington Post, Financial Times, Reuters)

Biden was urged to reject the influence of Big Tech companies on his administration, by 32 antitrust, consumer advocacy, labor and related groups who urged excluding executives, lobbyists and consultants working for or with companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet-owned Google, Apple, and Microsoft. (Reuters)

A federal judge set aside two Trump administration policies that required employers to pay foreign workers on H-1B visas significantly higher wages and narrowed eligibility for the program valued by U.S. tech firms and other employers. Meanwhile, for the last four years, some federal judges postponed retirement plans rather than give Trump the opportunity to name more conservatives to the nation’s powerful appeals courts. When Biden assumes office, many of those judges are expected to step aside to allow the new Democratic president to appoint their successors, especially if Democrats regain the U.S. Senate. The stakes are considerable, especially in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump’s 10 appointments to the court, more than a third of its active judges, have moved the 9th Circuit to the right. (Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times)

A “staggering” surge in violent carjackings continues across Minneapolis. (Star Tribune)


UK economists say their economy won't reach pre-Covid-19 level for at least two years, as Ireland said its tourism sector could take five years to recover. In the U.S., between 19% and 36% of all U.S. business trips could disappear given efficiencies developed during the lockdown. The UN reported a 40% spike in people needing humanitarian aid because of the pandemic. (Reuters/Ipsos Poll, The Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters)

Salesforce’s $27.7B Slack deal combines two Amazon allies and creates a big new rival for Microsoft. The deal marks one of the most consequential acquisitions in the business software industries in recent years and Salesforce’s biggest purchase ever. Slack has transformed from a fast-rising startup formed as a gaming company in 2009 into a full productivity suite with video meeting features, file hosting, IT administration, and more. The acquisition sets up a showdown with Microsoft and its Teams platform over the future of collaboration and digital work. The grand plan is to combine Slack Connect and Salesforce Customer 360. (GeekWire, The Verge, ZDNet)

Salesforce’s price for the enterprise messaging firm is more than a 50% premium over where Slack’s stock was trading before news of the deal broke. Another way of thinking about the premium: The $26.79 a share cash portion of Salesforce’s offer is where Slack was trading at two weeks ago. Salesforce is offering another $18-$19 a share in its own stock, which is effectively a sweetener to win over Slack shareholders. (The Information)

Airbnb set IPO terms to 51.9 million shares at $44-$50, aiming for a valuation of up to $34.8 billion, in what would cap a stunning recovery in its fortunes after its business was heavily damaged by the pandemic. (Axios, Reuters)

New setback for big cities as return to the office fades: About a quarter of employees had returned to work as of Nov. 18, up sharply from an April low of less than 15%. The office return rate climbed steadily during the summer and early fall, but it has flattened out after reaching a high point of 27% in mid-October. (Wall Street Journal)


Google, Facebook and Amazon gain as coronavirus reshapes ad spending: Digital ads will account for more than half of year’s U.S. advertising expenditures for first time. Podcast advertising is expected to reach nearly $3.5 billion globally by 2025. (Wall Street Journal, Omida)

Amazon is rolling out cheap new tools that will allow factories to monitor workers and machines, as the tech giant looks to boost its presence in the industrial sector. Launched by AWS, the new machine learning-based services include hardware to monitor the health of heavy machinery, and computer vision capable of detecting whether workers are complying with social distancing. (Financial Times)

Europe sued Apple over a software update that slowed old iPhones. The legal action comes after company agreed to $500m settlement in U.S. over similar claims. Apple also has been fined €10m in Italy for allegedly making misleading statements about the water-resistant properties of various iPhone models. (Financial Times, The Telegraph)

Spending on video games for Americans 45 years old-to-54 years old increased 76%. People age 55-to-64 increased their spending 29%. (VentureBeat)

Fitbit published data on its effort to develop an algorithm that detects Covid-19 using wearables before symptoms start. Researchers showed variables such as respiration rate and heart rate change in the days preceding the emergence of symptoms of respiratory disease. With a reported 90% sensitivity, the algorithm may detect 21% of cases the day before symptoms show. Fitbit is working with Northwell Health to validate the algorithm's early detection of Covid-19. (HealthcareDive, Nature)

Smart Links

The Forbes Under 30 2020 List — for nearly every industry. (Forbes)

Female private-equity professionals get creative in the quest for mentorship. (Wall Street Journal)

Pinterest shareholders sue company executives over years of alleged workplace discrimination. (OneZero)

Bezos' Blue Origin taps former Pentagon, NASA officials for new advisory board. (Reuters)

Elon Musk is ‘highly confident’ SpaceX will land humans on Mars by 2026. (CNBC)

China’s moon mission makes a lunar touchdown, ready for Chang’e 5 to collect rocks and soil. (South China Morning Post)

Articles of impeachment filed against GOP Ohio governor over coronavirus orders. (The Hill)

To save its monuments, Rome seeks corporate sponsors. (CityLab)

Netflix maintains low churn rates. (Axios)