Bloomberg Businessweek November 16, 2020

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3 min
in brief

Coronavirus cases globally neared 51 million, and deaths topped 1.26m U.S. infections have surged to more than 100,000 a day. More members of the president’s inner circle have caught Covid-19, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech said their coronavirus vaccine prevented more than 90% of infections in a study. It’s the most encouraging advance so far in the battle against the virus. The duo said they should be able to produce 1.3 billion doses of the shot—enough to vaccinate 650 million people—by the end of 2021. ▷ 21 The promising news about a not-too-distant vaccine ignited markets globally. But stocks of companies that benefit from the world’s home confinement suffered. On Nov. 9, Carnival filed to sell as much as $1.5b in…

1 min
a new hope

China releases figures for October’s industrial production on Nov. 16. The world’s second-largest economy is rapidly recovering from its first-quarter slump. On Nov. 20-22, Germany’s Greens hold their party conference. They want to play an active role in the government that forms after Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down. EU leaders gather virtually for a coronavirus summit on Nov. 19. Many of its members are back in a state of lockdown to combat a second outbreak of the disease in Europe. The Bank of Thailand reveals its rate decision on Nov. 18. Governor Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput will be chairing his first monetary policy committee meeting. Volume 1 of Barack Obama’s presidential memoir comes out on Nov. 17. A Promised Land covers his early political life and first few years in office. The CEOs of Twitter and Facebook…

5 min
biden’s big climate change opportunity

During the presidential campaign, much of the debate around climate change centered on what Congress should do. That’s an important question, but if history is any guide, it will take time for Congress to settle on a bill—and there’s no guarantee of success, even if Democrats beat the odds and end up gaining control of the Senate. In 2008, Democrats won both houses of Congress and spent almost two years developing and debating a cap-and-trade bill that ultimately failed—leaving it to cities, states, and businesses to act largely on their own. This time, it’s imperative that President-elect Joe Biden take a whole-government approach to climate action right from the get-go. To his credit, his ambitious plan recognizes that he can accomplish much without Congress—and that some of the most important steps…

12 min
democracy needs a good bureaucracy

Typically, the start of a presidential administration is filled with expectation. Victorious campaign staffers arrive in Washington to claim jobs at federal agencies. Lobbyists commandeer hotel ballrooms for breakfast buffets with incoming power brokers. Magazines assign fashion photographers to do shoots of the West Wing’s newest inhabitants. The mood won’t be quite so heady this time. When Joseph R. Biden takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2021, he will inherit the gravest national crisis faced by any new president in the past 75 years. Although a vaccine for the coronavirus may be ready for initial use, infections are likely to remain rampant as Americans endure a winter crowded indoors. Tens of millions will still be out of work, and many children may not have returned to the classroom. Members…

5 min
green cars won on election day, too

Although President Obama threw a lifeline to U.S. automakers after the financial crisis, many in the industry were unhappy that his administration also was responsible for fuel economy rules that pushed carmakers to their limits. But the inauguration of former Vice President Joe Biden, who worked hand in hand with Obama to set the tough regulations, will be a welcome event for the industry. That’s because Biden will bring something that manufacturers from Volkswagen to General Motors to Tesla badly need: help selling electric vehicles. Major automakers and startups alike will collectively spend $230 billion before the end of Biden’s first term to bring dozens of EVs to market, according to Alix Partners. That’s risky, because sales of these clean, plug-in vehicles make up less than 2% of the U.S. market,…

5 min
before you pop that champagne...

When Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE reported their successful coronavirus vaccine trial results on Nov. 9, the news sparked optimism around the globe that there was finally light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Investors rushed to bid up stocks—not just those of vaccine makers, but of a wide swath of ordinary companies expected to benefit once the pandemic moves into the rearview mirror. Yet there are still many hurdles before vaccines get into widespread use and Covid-19 is history. Questions about production, distribution, and, most important, the capability of the shot itself still need to be answered. Pfizer’s late-stage trial started less than four months ago, and how long the vaccine will confer protection is unknown. “The key question still centers upon time,” says Michael Kinch, a drug…