When Incumbents Can’t Compete, They Seek to Regulate and Litigate Startups

(p. B5) Figs Inc. has fashioned itself as the Warby Parker of medical uniforms, using advertising splashed on subways and billboards to sell its form-fitting scrubs directly to nurses and doctors.

. . .

Careismatic Brands, a leader in medical apparel with brands of scrubs like Cherokee and Dickies, has pursued litigation against Figs since 2019, saying the smaller company has misled health-care workers with boasts about how its products help keep them safe.

. . .

Startups increasingly have to prepare for legal challenges from the industry they are trying to disrupt, said Arun Sundararajan, a business professor at New York University. Starting with the rise of Uber and Airbnb, “The incumbents chose regulation and litigation to try to push them back,” he said, a strategy that has been replicated.

For the full story, see:

Sara Randazzo. “Figs, a Maker of Scrubs, Fights Lawsuit Over Ads, Marketing.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 4, 2021): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 3, 2021, and has the title “Figs Fights Lawsuit Over Scrubs Ads.”)

Disney Cancels Canaro for Daring to Defend Free Speech

(p. B2) Lucasfilm said it is no longer working with Gina Carano after the actress’s social-media posts angered fans.

Ms. Carano played the character Cara Dune on “The Mandalorian,” a television series inspired by the Star Wars franchise that is available to stream on Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+ service. Lucasfilm is a unit of Disney.

“Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future,” a spokeswoman for the studio said. “Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

On Tuesday [Feb. 9, 2021], Ms. Carano shared an Instagram story, or a post that disappears, that read in part: “most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views,” according to a report in Variety on Wednesday [Feb. 10, 2021].

For the full story, see:

Micah Maidenberg. “‘Mandalorian’ Drops Actress Over Her Posts.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Feb 12, 2021): B2.

(Note: bracketed dates added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 11, 2021, and has the title “‘The Mandalorian’ Drops Actress Gina Carano Over Social-Media Posts.”)

Musk Says Under F.A.A. Rules “Humanity Will Never Get to Mars”

(p. B5) Last week, SpaceX and government regulators seemed to be in a strange standoff. SpaceX had filled the propellant tanks of this prototype of Starship — its ninth one — and looked ready to launch. But then the rocket stayed on the ground when no approval from the F.A.A. arrived.

Mr. Musk expressed frustration on Twitter, describing the part of the F.A.A. that oversees SpaceX as “fundamentally broken.”

Mr. Musk wrote, “Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.”

Late on Monday [Feb. 1, 2021], the F.A.A. gave permission for Tuesday’s launch, but then revealed that the December launch had occurred without the agency’s approval. SpaceX had requested a waiver to conduct that flight even though it had not shown that a pressure wave that could be generated by an explosion during the test would not pose a danger to the public. The F.A.A. denied the request. SpaceX defied the ruling and launched anyway.

Even if Starship had landed perfectly, launching it without approval was a violation of the company’s license.

For the full story, see:

Chang, Kenneth. “SpaceX’s Starship Mars Rocket Prototype Again Crashes After a Test Launch.” The New York Times (Weds., Feb. 3, 2021): B5.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 2, 2021, and has the title “SpaceX’s Prototype Mars Rocket Crashes in Test Flight.”)

Nonpartisan CBO Estimates $15 Minimum Wage Would Cause 1.4 Million Job Loss

(p. B5) WASHINGTON — Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — a proposal included in the package of relief measures being pushed by President Biden — would add $54 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office concluded on Monday [Feb. 8, 2021].

. . .

Critics of the plan noted a different element of the report: its forecast that raising the minimum wage to $15 would eliminate 1.4 million jobs by the time the increase takes full effect.

“Conservatives have been saying for a while that a recession is absolutely the wrong time to increase the minimum wage, even if it’s slowly phased in,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “The economy’s just too fragile.”

For the full story, see:

Jason DeParle. “$15 Minimum Wage Would Cut Poverty And 1.4 Million Jobs.” The New York Times (Tuesday, February 9, 2021): B5.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 8, 2021, and has the title “Minimum Wage Hike Would Help Poverty but Cost Jobs, Budget Office Says.”)

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report mentioned above is:

Congressional Budget Office. “The Budgetary Effects of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021.” Feb. 2021.

FDA Should Approve Faster Clinical Trials for Boosters to Block New Covid-19 Variants

(p. A17) . . . , it is essential to design clinical trials that can be completed within several months, to avert potential outbreaks of new variants. It’s fast, but given today’s scientific capabilities that could be enough time to do the required trials.

Take the South African variant known as B1351. The existing trials will be used to establish that the current vaccines provide clinical protection against Covid disease. But to prove the new versions targeting B1351 work as well as the current vaccines, the FDA can measure the antibody levels in the plasma from patients who have recovered from B1351 and establish a benchmark for the number of antibodies needed to neutralize that virus. Then the FDA can use those antibody levels as a proxy to evaluate whether updated vaccines are able to generate sufficient levels of protection.

This could allow vaccine makers to test new boosters in clinical trials that enroll 300 or 400 patients rather than 40,000, an enormous savings in cost and time. Larger and longer studies can be started at the same time, including ones that follow vaccinated patients.

For the full commentary, see:

Scott Gottlieb. “Another Promising Vaccine, This One From Johnson & Johnson.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, February 1, 2021): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 31, 2021, and has the same title as the online version.)

Free Speech First Amendment Blocks Government from Punishing False Statements

The commentary quoted below defines “deepfakes” as “apparently real images or videos that show people doing or saying things they never did or said.” For the government to punish false statements, the government would first have to establish which statements are true and which are false. The Supreme Court has ruled that if it did so, the government would be violating free speech, which is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Cass Sunstein, who wrote the commentary below, is a well-respected legal scholar who served as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration.

(p. C3) Can deepfakes, as such, be prohibited under American law? Almost certainly not. In U.S. v. Alvarez, decided in 2012, a badly divided Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from regulating speech simply because it is a lie.   . . .   The plurality opinion declared that “permitting the government to decree this speech to be a criminal offense…would endorse government authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable. That governmental power has no clear limiting principle…. Were this law to be sustained, there could be an endless list of subjects the National Government or the States could single out.”

For the full commentary, see:

Cass R. Sunstein. “Can the Government Regulate Deepfakes?” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021): C3.

(Note: the first ellipsis is added; the second and third are in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 7, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

Cass Sunstein’s commentary is adapted from his book:

Sunstein, Cass R. Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Fauci Lied on Herd Immunity Until His “Gut Feeling” Told Him U.S. Was Ready for the Truth

(p. A6) In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”

In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.

For the full story, see:

Donald G. McNeil Jr. “How Can We Achieve Herd Immunity? Experts Are Quietly Upping the Number.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 27, 2020): A6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 24, 2020, and has the title “How Much Herd Immunity Is Enough?”)

Andrew Cuomo Explains Slow New York Rollout of Vaccines: “It’s Bureaucracy”

(p. A1) ALBANY, N.Y. — New York, the onetime center of the pandemic, faced a growing crisis on Monday [Jan. 4, 2021] over the lagging pace of coronavirus vaccinations, as deaths continue to rise in the second wave and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo came under mounting pressure to overhaul the process.

. . .

(p. A5) The state has had a deliberate approach in distributing the vaccine; until Monday, the vaccinations were almost exclusively given to health care workers, group home residents, and those living and working at nursing homes.

That cautious approach was also evident in the state’s initial guidance to determine which health care employees should be prioritized for vaccines; the state had advised clinics and other facilities to rank employees through a matrix that takes into account age, comorbidities, occupation and the section of the facility where the person works.

. . .

Mr. Cuomo rejected any notion that his administration was at fault for not distributing more vaccines, asserting that the problem was a local issue, and urging Mr. de Blasio and other leaders who oversee public hospital systems to take “personal responsibility” for their performance.

“They have to move the vaccine,” the governor said in Albany. “And they have to move the vaccine faster.”

. . .

“There is no one cause,” he said, noting that he had spoken to dozens of hospitals about the issue.

He did suggest, however, that management was at fault in some cases, saying that there was a lack of “urgency” in certain hospital systems.

“It’s bureaucracy,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Jesse McKinley, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Emma G. Fitzsimmons. “New York Lags In Vaccinations While Toll Rises.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 5, 2021): A1 & A5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 4, 2021, and has the title “New Variant Detected in New York Amid Growing Crisis Over Vaccine Rollout.”)

Operation Warp Speed Developed “Vaccines and Therapies in Record-Breaking Time”

(p. A10) . . . , Mr. Trump could have been the hero of this pandemic. Operation Warp Speed, which his administration announced in May [2020], appears on track to deliver vaccines and therapies in record-breaking time. The United States may well become the first country to bring the virus to heel through pharmaceutical prowess.

For the full story, see:

Donald G. McNeil Jr. “Long, Dark Winter Looms Before U.S. Gets Vaccines.” The New York Times (Tuesday, December 1, 2020): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 24, 2020, and has the title “The Long Darkness Before Dawn.”)

Speed of Development of Vaccine “One of Mr. Trump’s Proudest Accomplishments”

(p. A1) It is a paradox of the pandemic: Helping speed the development of a coronavirus vaccine may be one of Mr. Trump’s proudest accomplishments, but at least in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, there is evidence that a substantial number of his supporters say they do not want to get it.

. . .

(p. A5) For the most part, public opinion has been swinging in favor of vaccination. Seventy-one percent of Americans are willing to be vaccinated, up from 63 percent in September [2020], according to a survey released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

. . .

Experts say that vaccine hesitancy may diminish over time if people see friends and relatives getting vaccinated without incident. Sheri Simms, 62, a retired businesswoman in Northeast Texas who describes herself as a “moderate conservative” supporter of the president, said that while she did not intend to get vaccinated now, that could change.

“As more information comes out, and things appear to work better, then I will weigh the risks of the vaccine against the risk of the coronavirus and make a judgment,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “Trump Pushed for a Vaccine, but His Fans Balk.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 19, 2020): A1 & A5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 4, 2021, and has the title “Trump Claims Credit for Vaccines. Some of His Backers Don’t Want to Take Them.”)

“We Are the People. Who Are You?”

(p. A16) A Tel Aviv University sociologist named Nissim Mizrachi who spent years studying those voters and grappling with their rejection of liberalism thought he understood why.

The problem was not, he said, as some liberals contend, that Jews of Mediterranean origin, or Mizrahim, were confused about what was best for them. They weren’t suffering from Stockholm syndrome or “false consciousness.”

What liberals failed to see, the professor asserted, was that working-class Mizrahim were consciously spurning liberalism for a reason: what they see as the endgame of the liberal worldview is not a world they wish to inhabit.

“It’s really hard for liberals to imagine that their message, their vision itself, poses a threat to the core identity of other people,” Professor Mizrachi, 58, said in an interview.

His description of liberalism’s blind spots, published in the newspaper Haaretz a year ago, shook the Israeli left like an ideological bunker-busting bomb, and could hold lessons for another deeply polarized society in the West.

. . .

“You keep ridiculing us and presenting us as undemocratic and dangerous,” he said, articulating the non-liberal view. “But we are the people. Who are you?’”

. . .

“This is the lesson maybe for you,” Professor Mizrachi said. “OK, you won the election, fine. But don’t forget that red America is still there.”

For the full story, see:

David M. Halbfinger. “Explaining Right-Wing Politics in America, via the Middle East.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 19, 2020): A16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 23, 2020, and has the title “To Understand Red-State America, He Urges a Look at Red-State Israel.”)