An advisory committee debated the very few cases of a rare blood disorder and worried about the suspension’s effect on global needs for a one-shot, easy-to-ship vaccine.
Denise Grady and
The pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine may continue for a week to 10 days, after expert advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined on Wednesday that they needed more time to assess a possible link to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder.
The decision not to reinstate the vaccine has painful consequences, nationally and globally. It may further erode public confidence in vaccination in general and slow the rollout of desperately needed shots to rural and underserved areas and homebound people. The vaccine is considered ideal for hard-to-reach people and places because it requires only one shot and is more easily stored and shipped than the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, which must be kept at very low temperatures.
“Putting this vaccine on pause, for those of us that are frontline health care workers, has really been devastating,” Dr. Camille Kotton of Harvard Medical School told the panel. She said that losing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine even temporarily represented a big blow to efforts to stop the pandemic, especially in underserved communities.
The pause, first recommended on Tuesday by U.S. health officials, led Johnson & Johnson to delay its rollout of the vaccine in Europe, where several countries were poised to start administering it this week. The continent is reeling from the fallout over rare cases, sometimes fatal, of a similar blood disorder that has prompted several nations to limit or reject the widespread use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and recommend alternatives.
South Africa, devastated by a worrisome variant of the virus that emerged there, also suspended use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Australia announced it would not purchase any doses. And the European Union indicated that it would consider new deals only with companies that were not using the technology employed by the Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca vaccines.
Noting that many countries follow the United States’ lead when it comes to vaccines, Dr. Grace Lee of Stanford University, an expert on the panel, said that although the committee’s responsibility was to the United States, “I also feel the weight of the burden of a global responsibility that we also have and the impact that our decision-making can potentially worsen inequities.”
The advisory group’s emergency meeting on Wednesday was called to review the reason for the pause: six cases of rare and severe blood clots in the brain in women ages 18 to 48, one of whom died. All of the women had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before developing the clots, although it is unclear whether the vaccine was responsible. In addition, the panel learned of a seventh woman and a man who experienced the rare condition after receiving the vaccine during its clinical trials.
As of Tuesday, more than seven million people in the United States had received the Johnson & Johnson shot, representing about 5 percent of vaccinations nationwide.
Advisory meetings usually end with a vote on whether or how to use a vaccine. But in this case, the panel members declined to vote after reviewing several options — including whether to limit use of the vaccine to older adults, as many European nations have done — saying that they did not have enough information to assess the potential risks.
Doran Fink, an official of the Food and Drug Administration, proposed a different strategy to the panel, suggesting that the vaccine could go back into use while researchers continued to study the potential risk. Doctors and patients could be provided with information about the findings so that patients could consider whether to accept the vaccine. “Our current thinking is that this risk could be managed by inclusion of warning statements,” Dr. Fink said.
But some experts on the C.D.C. panel leaned in other directions, fearing that more patients could be harmed if vaccinations resumed without a full understanding of the potential risks. One warned that the rare condition could cause long-lasting neurological damage. Others reminded their colleagues of the risk from Covid itself, and the message the panel would send if it prolonged a suspension in the use of a one-and-done vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, is a panel of independent experts who advise the C.D.C. on its vaccine policies.
The clotting disorder of concern in the vaccine recipients is different — and much rarer — from typical blood clots, which develop in hundreds of thousands of people every year. The seven women experienced not only clotting in the brain but a notably low level of platelets, parts of the blood that help form normal clots in response to an injury.
None of the women had recently given birth, which can increase the risk of more common blood clots, and only one was known to be taking hormonal treatment. So far, there is no evidence that birth control pills, which can also raise the risk of blood clots, were involved.
Three of the women had large, dangerous clots in other parts of their body, not just in the brain.
The rare combination of severe clots and low platelets stood out to experts as a safety signal. Why it develops is not known, and so far there is no way to predict whether an individual is susceptible.
The condition is very similar to one linked to the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, also affecting some relatively young women in Europe, where that vaccine was in wide use. Researchers in Germany and Norway found that patients there had developed antibodies that activated their platelets — an aberrant response to the vaccine — setting off a cascade of clotting and bleeding. Specialized blood tests can detect the antibodies to confirm the diagnosis, and some of the U.S. patients tested positive. Not all were tested.
Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson use adenoviruses to ferry DNA into human cells to create immunity against the coronavirus. Researchers suspect that some aspect of that technology plays a role in the blood disorder. But they also emphasize that because the condition is so very rare, some quirk of biology very likely predisposes certain people to have a bad reaction to the vaccine. If the vaccine alone were responsible, there would be many more cases, some researchers say.
The vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech employ genetic material called mRNA and do not use viruses.
Much of the world had been counting on the AstraZeneca vaccine to fight the pandemic, but many countries have now restricted its use to adults older than 30 or 50, and some have stopped using it altogether. Some people who are still eligible for it are declining it out of fear. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has not been authorized in the United States, although the company is expected to apply for permission to distribute it here.
Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States began on March 2, and the first case of blood clots in the brain was reported on March 19. About 1.4 million women ages 20 to 50 — the age range of those who had the clots — have received the vaccine.
The panel of experts discussed the known background rates of low platelets and of the clots in the brain — known as central venous sinus thrombosis — in the general population and in younger women like those who had the clots, but noted that there was not enough data to precisely estimate how often the two conditions occurred at the same time.
But based on rough estimates, the clotting disorder in women ages 20 to 50 who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine occurred at least three times more often than would be expected, according to Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, a safety expert from the C.D.C.
In the coming weeks, he said, the rate would become clearer as more reports arrived. “We’ll get a better picture of what’s going on.”
“Right now, we believe these events to be extremely rare, but we are also not yet certain we have heard about all possible cases, as this syndrome may not be easily recognized as one associated with the vaccine,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, said at a White House news conference on the pandemic on Wednesday.
During the panel discussion, experts noted that the “risk window” for the condition among vaccine recipients was still open and that new cases might emerge, because nearly 3.8 million people had received the shot within the last two weeks. In the six women, the severe clotting developed within about two weeks of the shot.
Other experts encouraged dissemination of health information on diagnosis and treatment of the condition so that awareness would spread among doctors, emergency rooms and people who had received the vaccine. A key point is that the blood-thinner heparin, a common treatment for clots, can harm these patients and should not be used.
Officials also noted that people with the condition needed to be treated as soon as possible because the clots were so serious. Some patients needed invasive procedures to remove large clots from blood vessels in their brains.
Several panel members reiterated that two other vaccines — from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — are available, neither associated with the clotting problem, so continuing the pause would not stop most people in the United States from being vaccinated.
At the news conference, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s pandemic coordinator, said that the pause would not generally interrupt the momentum of the country’s vaccination campaign.
“In the very short term, we do expect some impact on daily averages as sites and appointments transition from Johnson & Johnson to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines,” he said. “We have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply to continue or even accelerate the current pace of vaccinations.”
Public health experts have repeatedly emphasized that the clotting disorder is rare and that the benefits of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines far outweigh their risks. But when an adverse effect has the potential to be devastating or fatal — like blood clots in the brain — some regulators and segments of the public consider the risk unacceptable, even if it is extremely rare.
The safety bar for vaccines is set high because they are given to healthy people. The seemingly greater vulnerability of younger people to the clotting disorder is of particular concern, because their risk of severe illness from Covid itself is lower than that in older people. Those differences suggest that over all, compared to older people, younger people may have less to gain and more to lose from the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Reporting was contributed by Noah Weiland, Madeleine Ngo and Virginia Hughes.
C.D.C Confirms More Cases of Rare Blood Clot Disorder Linked to J.&J. Vaccine
Federal health officials have now confirmed 28 cases, including six in men, of a rare blood clotting disorder in adults who have received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, the deputy director of the immunization safety office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented the new cases on Wednesday at a meeting of a panel of advisers to the C.D.C.
The figure is an increase from the 15 confirmed cases, all of which were in women, that were reported at last month’s meeting.
Although officials have now identified a handful of cases in men, women — especially those between the ages of 30 and 49 — appear to remain at elevated risk. “The trend is that the reporting rates are higher in females compared to males in all age categories,” Dr. Shimabukuro said at the meeting.
Patients with the rare but serious disorder develop both blood clots, often in the brain, and low levels of platelets, blood components that promote clotting. The disorder is a “rare, clinically serious and potentially life-threatening condition,” Dr. Shimabukuro said.
Last month, after reports first emerged that six women who had received the vaccine had developed the disorder, federal health officials recommended pausing use of the vaccine while they investigated. They lifted the suspension 10 days later and added a warning about the potential risks to the vaccine’s label, which notes that a connection between the vaccine and the condition is “plausible.”
Twenty-two of the confirmed cases so far have been in women, and six have been in men. All were in adults between the ages of 18 and 59 who received the vaccine before the national pause. (There was also one additional case recorded in a 25-year-old man who participated in the clinical trial.)
Three people have died and four remain hospitalized, including one who is in intensive care. No new deaths have been documented since last month’s meeting, Dr. Shimabukuro said.
The overall risk remains exceedingly low. More than 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have now been administered in the United States.
There have been 12.4 cases per million doses among women between the ages of 30-39 and 9.4 cases per million doses among women between 40 and 49, the two demographic groups that appear to be at highest risk. Among older women and men of all ages, there were fewer than 3 cases per million doses.
Among the 28 confirmed cases, 12 people who developed the disorder had obesity, 7 had high blood pressure, 3 had diabetes, and 3 were taking estrogen, though it is not yet clear whether any of those factors might substantially increase the risk of the disorder.
Officials will continue to monitor for cases of the clotting disorder in people who have been vaccinated, Dr. Shimabukuro said.
There have been no confirmed cases of the clotting disorder following the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, which employ a different technology, Dr. Shimabukuro said.
Europe upgrades its economic outlook as the British economy rebounds.
The economic outlook has brightened considerably across Europe after lockdowns restricted growth at the start of the year. Now, economists foresee the complete recovery by the end of next year from the early effects of the pandemic.
The British economy grew 2.1 percent in March from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The reopening of schools was one of the biggest reasons for the larger-than-expected jump in economic growth, as well as a rise in retail spending even though many stores remained closed because of lockdowns.
The statistics agency estimated that gross domestic product fell 1.5 percent in the first quarter, slightly less than economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted, while the country was under lockdown with nonessential stores, restaurants and other services such as hairdressers shut.
Though the British economy is still nearly 9 percent smaller than it was at the end of 2019, before the pandemic, the Bank of England forecasts it to return to that size by the end of this year.
The European Commission also upgraded its forecasts for the region on Wednesday. It predicted the European Union economies would grow 4.2 percent this year, up from a forecast of 3.7 percent three months ago. Germany’s economy is forecast to grow 3.4 percent this year and Spain, which suffered Europe’s deepest recession last year, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent.
“The E.U. and euro area economies are expected to rebound strongly as vaccination rates increase and restrictions are eased,” the commission, the executive arm for the European Union, said on Wednesday. The recovery will be driven by household spending, investment and a rising demand for European exports, it said.
Still, despite the optimistic outlook, the commission warned that the risks were “high and will remain so as long as the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic hangs over the economy.”
Even as millions of people were vaccinated, the number of new coronavirus cases globally reached a peak in late April as the pandemic has struck especially hard in India. The uneven distribution of vaccines around the world and the emergence of new variants has the potential to set back the recovery.
The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research in London said on Monday that it did not expect the British economy to return to its prepandemic size until the end of 2022, predicting a slower recovery than the central bank.
Economists at the institute expect lower global growth because of uncertainty about the global vaccine rollout and lingering doubts about the end of the pandemic inducing more people to hold onto their savings, rather than spend it.
L Brands to Spin Off Victoria's Secret
L Brands has decided to spin off Victoria’s Secret rather than sell it, the DealBook newsletter was the first to report.
The company said last year that it was considering separating Victoria’s Secret from the rest of its business, and it tested the interest of private equity. Ultimately, L Brands decided to split itself into two independent, publicly listed companies: Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. The deal is expected to close in August.
L Brands received several bids north of $3 billion, sources familiar with the situation said, requesting anonymity because the information is confidential. It turned the offers down, because it expects to be valued at $5 billion to $7 billion in a spinoff to L Brands shareholders. Analysts at Citi and JPMorgan Chase recently valued Victoria’s Secret as a stand-alone company at $5 billion.
“In the last 10 months, we have made significant progress in the turnaround of the Victoria’s Secret business, implementing merchandise and marketing initiatives to drive top line growth, as well as executing on a series of cost reduction actions, which together have dramatically increased profitability,” Sarah Nash, chair of the company’s board, said in a statement.
“The board believes that this path forward will return the highest value to shareholders and that the separation will allow each business to achieve its best opportunities for growth.”
The pandemic torpedoed a sale last year for much less. That agreement, announced in February 2020 with the investment firm Sycamore Partners, valued Victoria’s Secret at $1.1 billion.
Apart from a pandemic that upended the retail industry, Victoria’s Secret was dealing with a series of challenges: a brand that had fallen out of touch, accusations of misogyny and sexual harassment in the workplace and revelations about the ties between Les Wexner, the company’s founder and former chairman, and the financier Jeffrey Epstein. (Mr. Wexner stepped down as chief executive last year and said in March that he and his wife were not running for re-election on the company’s board.)
As the pandemic shuttered stores and battered sales, Sycamore sued L Brands to get out of the deal, and L Brands countersued to enforce it, heralding a spate of similar battles between buyers and sellers. Eventually, last May, the sides agreed to call off the deal.
A lot has changed since then. The retailer has overhauled its brand, de-emphasizing the overtly sexy image and products that customers saw as exclusionary. It has become “less focused on a specific demographic target and more focused on being broadly inclusive of all women of all shapes and sizes and colors and ethnicities and genders and areas of interest,” Martin Waters, the retailer’s chief executive, said on a recent earnings call.
The company also closed more than 200 stores and focused on improving profitability, which rose sharply at the end of last year, surpassing its prepandemic results.
Source: L Brands
By The New York Times
Victoria’s Secret is one of the retailers transformed by the pandemic, along with others like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Michaels, accelerating digital overhauls that may have otherwise taken years. Direct sales at Victoria’s Secret in North America rose to 44 percent of the total last year, from 25 percent the year before.
It’s unclear whether pandemic shopping trends will stick, and “it would be reasonable to expect some reversion,” Stuart Burgdoerfer, the L Brands chief financial officer, said at a March event. “But I also think that people have very much enjoyed some of the benefits that were forced on us or triggered through the pandemic.”
Why Do Humans Feed So Many Animals?
In England and America, selling bird seed for feeders is a big business. In Delhi, people toss bits of meat into the air for black kites. Fleets of ships ply the oceans to catch fish for domestic cats, the descendants of predatory land animals.
Humans feed animals all the time, whether it’s our pets, the chickens we plan to eat or the ducks at the park pond, even though we shouldn’t.
Throughout history in fat years and lean across many cultures, sometimes with no apparent reason, humans have fed animals of every imaginable stripe in every imaginable way. Some researchers think the desire to give food to other animals may drive domestication as much as the human desire to eat them does.
Our Stone Age leftovers from the hunt may have fostered the domestication of dogs. Some of us give our beloved dead to vultures, which is a problem when the birds disappear. We fed and feed cats both tame and feral, sharks, alligators, deer, hedgehogs, bears, pigeons of all sorts, ducks, swans, zoo animals, lab animals, pets, farm animals and more.
Now, a group of researchers in Britain is asking: Where does this desire to give food to other animals come from, and what has it meant for animals, humans and their shared environments?
One striking possible answer is extinction. Domestication may be the death knell for wild progenitors. The ancestors of horses and cattle are gone. And while there are still wolves around, they are not thriving the way dogs are.
Some feeding of animals is purely practical. You feed chickens today if you want to eat their eggs, or their wings, tomorrow. You can’t ride a starving horse. Animals used for experiments in laboratories have to be kept alive to get cancer.
But a lot of feeding is unrelated to any return on investment. The black kites of Delhi reach population densities that may be the highest for raptors anywhere because of accidental and purposeful feeding. They rely on garbage and on the tasty and nutritious pests that garbage attracts. And they also benefit from the charity of Muslims who follow a tradition of tossing bits of meat into the air for the birds.
Many Indians feed street dogs as a matter of course, treating them as animal neighbors. In a small city near Ahmedabad where I reported on anti-rabies efforts, residents told me that you can’t just give dogs plain leftover bread. You have to put some clarified butter on it, to make it palatable. The residents were middle class, and had both bread and butter to give, but I also met people who lived by the side of the road, with nothing more than mattresses and a few pots, who shared their food with dogs.
Almost nothing about humans feeding animals is fully understood, largely because scholars have not given the subject a great deal of attention. And that, most of all, is what the researchers in England and Scotland want to change. With a four-year grant of more than $2 million from the Wellcome Trust, five researchers are pursuing a collaborative multidisciplinary attempt to give animal feeding its due, and begin to answer some puzzling questions. They call their project, “From ‘Feed the Birds’ to ‘Do Not Feed the Animals.’”
Naomi Sykes, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter, is the moving force behind the project.
Chickens were one of the animals that led Dr. Sykes to this point of view, she said. She was working on some ancient sites in Britain and was surprised by what isotope studies of fossilized chicken bones suggested about the birds’ diet. Isotopes are different forms of elements like carbon and nitrogen, and researchers use the amount of one versus another to determine what animals or humans ate. Different grains or even grains from different geographical regions give different results, or values.
“At sites where there’s a lot of chicken sacrifice to the gods of Mercury and Mithras” during the Roman occupation of Britain, Dr. Sykes said, “some of the values of those chickens just looked really bizarre.” It seemed the chickens were eating some sort of special diet. She talked to colleagues who told her that, in fact, chickens in Roman times that were to be sacrificed were sometimes fed a special diet of millet in preparation for their ritual slaughter.
Eventually, chickens became a major food source. But they are one example, Dr. Sykes said, of a process of domestication in which feeding animals was more important at first than eating them.
In addition to their religion, the Romans brought with them dogs and cats. Remains of the cats are found in settlements along with remains of wildcats that seemed to be living with or near humans as well, not as pets, but not quite wild either.
“That got me thinking about cat diet, which then made me think, wait a minute, why do we feed domestic cats fish?” Dr. Sykes asked.
Could Christianity have something to do with it?
“I think that monks start keeping cats for the first time, at least in Britain, as domestic pets,” she explained. “And they keep them because they want to have cats to eat the mice that eat the documents that they’re writing. And of course, monks are eating fish because they’re required to fast all the time.”
Perhaps, she said, the monks fed the cats fish. The practice spread. And now an entire separate fishery catches fish for cat food.
That worries Dr. Sykes because of its environmental impact. She says shoppers don’t put the same pressure for sustainability on the cat food fleets that they do on fisheries providing food for people.
She began to wonder more generally: “What is it that encourages people to feed animals in the first place? What are the drivers of this throughout time and across cultures?”
The four colleagues who joined Dr. Sykes in this project are: Angela Cassidy, also at the University of Exeter, who researches government policy on animals and has written about the internecine wars over the culling of badgers in Britain; Gary Marvin, an anthropologist at the University of Roehampton, who holds one of the world’s few professorships in human-animal studies; Stuart Black, a geochemist at the University of Reading; and Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates at National Museums Scotland.
The group is limiting its research geographically to Britain, for practical and logistical reasons. Its attention is mainly focused on the roles played by birds and cats in human life, as pets, pests, wild animals and zoo animals. In each case, they are asking the same broad questions about the origin of and reason behind various feeding methods, and what needs to change, if anything.
For instance, Dr. Sykes will be looking at the archaeological records of cats from Roman settlements. Dr. Black will be studying the isotopes in modern and ancient cat bones to determine what cats were eating. Did monks’ cats in fact eat a lot of fish? He has already proved his technique on modern cats. “We can tell a fishy cat from a meaty cat,” he said. “In fact we can tell an Iams cat from a Whiskers cat,” although he concedes that knowledge may not be so useful in studying felines from the Middle Ages.
Dr. Kitchener can look at old cat skeletons from Roman times and see that wildcats, now restricted to a small population in Scotland, were living in human settlements. Dr. Cassidy may look at political policies on feeding stray cats.
Dr. Marvin said he would be working with postdoctoral researchers employed through the grant to look at cultural artifacts and historical literature to gauge how human attitudes toward cats have changed. He is also working with another postdoctoral researcher in Italy who will pursue anthropological studies among women who feed the feral cats of the coliseum in Rome. This interdisciplinary approach is very important, Dr. Marvin said. “To be in a room where a geneticist can be talking to an anthropologist and actually helping to answer questions, or ask more interesting questions — I think it’s quite a feat.”
The feeding of birds suggests numerous avenues of research such as where, when, how and why it began. Also how is it that people come to view some birds as beloved but disdain others?
And that in turn brings up the deep philosophical question of squirrels. In Britain, Dr. Marvin said, people spend somewhere around 200 million pounds feeding birds, presumably because they like them, and want to be close to nature. But they don’t like pigeons. And squirrels are beyond the pale. “You’ve got good and bad creatures in your back garden,” he said.
Dr. Black’s isotope work is key to the interdisciplinary approach of this research, which is unusual, he said, because, “it’s a humanities-driven project.” The archaeologists, anthropologists and sociologists pose questions that he can help answer.
For example, in the 1500s in England, laws known as the vermin acts set bounties for killing many animals, not just rats and mice. “There were things like crows, red kites, lots of birds of prey,” Dr. Black said. What caused the change in perspective? What were people thinking? Searching texts and literature from the time may bring some answers. But one idea is that the cold temperatures of the time, known as the little ice age, made food scarce and caused animals that normally might have been foraging in the wild to turn to human settlements to steal food or prowl for refuse.
Studying old bone samples and comparing them to modern bones will show, for instance, if birds of prey in the 1500s depended more on human food than on traditional forage. Old, excavated raptor bones are plentiful to examine because 16th-century British citizens empowered by the vermin acts would kill the birds and toss them on garbage heaps.
In addition, the project is taking one look at zoo inhabitants that is not simply a question of what tigers or koalas should eat. For years a British brand of tea, PG Tips, promoted its product with television advertisements that featured dressed up chimps having tea, with crumpets and scones, of course.
The chimps lived at the Twycross Zoo, although chimp tea parties were common at zoos all over England. The zoo was founded in the 1960s by “two women who were mad about primates,” Lisa Gillespie, the zoo’s research and conservation manager said in an interview. “The ladies, as they were called,” she said, had trained the chimps for parties at the zoo and for advertisements, prompting the tea company to approach them. Income from those commercials greatly helped the zoo in its early days.
“The animals ate human food, tea with milk in it, cake,” Ms. Gillespie said. Because adult chimps are too aggressive to keep as pets or use in advertisements, the zoo featured babies under 3 years old. Primatologists, zookeepers and the Twycross founders later acknowledged the harm in using the chimps that way, both from high sugar foods and from interfering with their natural behavioral development as chimpanzees. They were retired to the Twycross Zoo. With no tea or parties or costumes. The last of the PG Tips chimps to die was a female named Choppers in 2016.
The chimps are, however, now unwittingly helping science. The National Museum of Scotland, where Dr. Kitchener works, collected the full skeletons of the PG Tips chimps to add to their trove of animal remains from other zoos and the wild.
In studying the skeletons of Choppers and the other tea party chimps, Dr. Kitchener and other researchers identified signs of illness, probably related to what they were fed.
Dr. Black is using isotope analysis to nail down the nutritional profile of the tea party chimps. The project is partnering with the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent, which has a large collection of remains of wild chimps.
He and Dr. Sykes have also been looking at changes in wildcats in Britain and their diet over time, and studying the bones of wild squirrels that were fed peanuts to help keep the population going. In adapting to the diet, the squirrels may not have developed the same jaw muscles as squirrels that have to struggle with pine cones, he said. Adaptations to changing diets for animals that live around or near humans can result in significant skeletal changes, he said, which raises questions about some physical changes that are thought to accompany domestication in different animals. Animals might have adapted to living around humans long before they became what we think of as domesticated. “So did the change come before they were domesticated or did the change come because they were domesticated?” he asked.
The group will largely restrict itself to the last 2,000 years, but Dr. Black said some detours are irresistible, like the Tomb of the Eagles, a 5,000-year-old stone-age site in the Orkney Islands known officially as the Ibister Chambered Cairn. The cairn, or tomb, held about 16,000 human bones, and the remains of about 30 white-tailed sea eagles, Dr. Black said. “They were deposited over quite a significant period of time,” he said, “so it was people coming back, putting eagle remains in there.”
He said: “The key question that nobody has really answered at the moment is whether people went out and killed and then deposited them as a sort of an offering. There is a suggestion that they may have been pets.” If that were the case, the eagles would have probably been eating a different diet than wild eagles that were foraging at sea.
Dr. Sykes sees much of the human habit of feeding animals in the light of domestication, which she says happened as much through the process of humans feeding animals as it did through catching and corralling them to eat. That seems clear enough with our close companions, dogs and cats.
It also seems that some animals that we now eat, like chickens and rabbits, may have first come into our lives not as food, but as eaters.
And, she said, “domestication is not this thing that happened way back when, in this kind of neolithic moment where everybody got together and goes, we’re going to domesticate animals. I just don’t buy it. I think it’s something that has not only continued throughout time, but it’s really accelerating.”
Bird feeding is just one example, and that sets off warning bells for her, because domestication and extinction often go together even if the cause and effect isn’t clear.
The aurochs gave way to cattle. There are plenty of domestic cats in Britain, but just a few Scottish wildcats. Wolves are still here but not the wolves that dogs descended from. They are extinct. And modern wolves are just hanging on, while dogs might number a billion. Their future, at least in terms of numbers, is bright. As long as there are people, there will be dogs. No one knows what they will look like, and whether we will have to brush their teeth day and night, and spend a fortune on their haircuts. But they will be here.
The same cannot be said of wolves. And as wild creatures go extinct, we all lose.
China's Census Shows Population Barely Grew in 10 Years as Births Plummet
A census shows the most sluggish growth in the population since the 1960s, fresh evidence of a looming demographic crisis that could complicate Beijing’s ambitions.
China’s population is growing at its slowest pace since the 1960s, with falling births and a graying work force presenting the Communist Party with one of its gravest social and economic challenges.
Figures for a census conducted last year and released on Tuesday showed the country’s population at 1.41 billion people, about 72 million more than the 1.34 billion who were counted in the last census, in 2010.
Births have fallen in recent years, and with rising longevity have pushed China to the verge of a demographic crisis that could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy. China faces aging-related challenges similar to that of developed countries, while having a much smaller household income — that is, the country is growing old without first having grown rich.
Beijing is now under greater pressure to abandon its family planning policies, which are among the world’s most intrusive; overhaul an economic model that has long relied on a huge population and growing pool of workers; and plug yawning gaps in health care and pensions.
“China is facing a unique demographic challenge that is the most urgent and severe in the world,” said Liang Jianzhang, a research professor of applied economics at Peking University and a demography expert. “This is a long-term time bomb.”
The new population figure puts the average annual growth rate at 0.53 percent over the past decade, down from 0.57 percent from 2000 to 2010. This leaves it on course to be surpassed by India as the world’s most populous nation in the coming years.
The results of the once-a-decade census also showed that the population is aging rapidly. People over the age of 65 now account for 13.5 percent of the population, up from 8.9 percent in 2010.
For decades, China relied on an endless stream of young workers willing to toil for low wages to fuel economic growth. Today, labor costs are rising, in part because of a shortage of workers. Factory owners in the southern city of Guangzhou are lining up in the streets asking employees to pick them. Some companies have turned to robots because they cannot find enough workers.
While most developed countries in the West and Asia are also getting older, China’s demographic problems are largely self-inflicted. The one-child policy, imposed in 1980, may have prevented 400 million births, but also shrank the number of women of childbearing age. As the population gets older, it will impose tremendous pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals and underfunded pension system.
These trends are proving difficult to reverse. Three decades after the one-child policy was introduced to tamp down population growth, attitudes about family sizes have shifted, with many Chinese now preferring to have only one child.
Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, likened China’s birth control policy to a mortgage that the government has taken out on its future.
“The census results will confirm that the payback time is now,” Professor Wang, an expert on China’s demographic trends, said ahead of the release of the results. “Demography will constrain many of China’s ambitious undertakings.”
The census could prompt policymakers to further loosen family planning restrictions, which since 2016 have been eased to limit couples to two children. Already, many local governments are allowing families to have three children or more without making them pay fines.
But demographers say there are no easy fixes. A growing cohort of educated Chinese women are putting off marriage, which has declined since 2014. The divorce rate has risen consistently since 2003. Many millennials are put off by the cost of raising children.
In the southwestern city of Chengdu, Tracy Wang, the 29-year-old founder of an English enrichment center for children, said she had decided in her early 20s that she did not want children.
“In essence, I don’t like children very much — yes, they might be cute — but I don’t want to give birth to them or take care of them,” Ms. Wang said.
“Before, many people used to think it was such an incredulous thought: ‘How could you even think this way?’” she said. “But now, they all understand that you can’t afford it.”
Elsie Chen contributed reporting.
Elon Musk's SpaceX Takes Dogecoin as Payment for Moon Mission
Is Elon Musk really taking Dogecoin to the moon? That’s what the Tesla chief executive has been pledging to do with the jokey cryptocurrency, mostly in terms of cheering on its skyrocketing price. But on Sunday, he tweeted that one of his other companies, SpaceX, is launching a satellite called Doge-1 on a mission paid for with Dogecoin, the DealBook newsletter reports.
SpaceX launching satellite Doge-1 to the moon next year
– Mission paid for in Doge
– 1st crypto in space
– 1st meme in space
To the mooooonnn!!https://t.co/xXfjGZVeUW
The announcement came the morning after Mr. Musk dropped a few Dogecoin references as host of “Saturday Night Live,” at one point calling the token “a hustle.” Dogecoin, which is based on an internet meme about a Shiba Inu, fell by nearly a third in price on the night of the show. It was such an eventful night for the cryptocurrency that the Robinhood trading app couldn’t keep up. The crypto token is still up more than 10,000 percent in price this year.
SpaceX and Geometric Energy Corporation, a Canadian technology firm, are teaming up to carry a 90-pound satellite on a Falcon 9 moon mission, according to a statement on Sunday. “Having officially transacted with DOGE for a deal of this magnitude, Geometric Energy Corporation and SpaceX have solidified DOGE as a unit of account for lunar business,” said G.E.C.’s chief executive, Samuel Reid. (A company representative confirmed to DealBook that the project was not a joke but declined to explain further.)
Away from the memes and manias, the cryptocurrency industry is maturing, as shown by its growing contingent of lobbyists in Washington and a recent hiring spree of former regulators. This month, the House passed a bill backed by crypto lobbyists to create a working group to examine frameworks for regulating digital assets.
The bill, said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, was a chance “to act proactively toward financial innovation rather than to address gaps in our regulatory framework after the fact.”
The bill is now with the Senate Banking Committee. “Financial regulators have been slow when it comes to protecting consumers from private-sector digital assets that add more risks to our financial system,” Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee chair, told DealBook in a statement. He declined to provide a timeline for advancing the legislation.
The Dead Moose in the Office Next Door
Sometimes you do have to draw boundaries, and sometimes you have to learn to live with other people’s predilections.
Credit…Margeaux Walter for The New York Times
Send questions about the office, money, careers and work-life balance to email@example.com. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited.
I live and work in a small European country where the cost of living is less than in the United States. I have someone clean for a half day each week. When I asked for her hourly rate when I hired her, she told me a price much lower than I expected and much lower than I paid in the U.S. I asked several sources, and it seemed to be about the “going rate” for household cleaning. I thought it was enough to be a living wage. It is clear to me now that it is not, and we have raised it to a more just level, I hope.
But I would appreciate your thoughts on how to determine if you are being a just employer when you are a temporary resident of a foreign culture. I am pretty sure some co-workers would think me foolish for paying above the norm, and some would — and have — argued that I am doing her a long-term disservice, because she is unlikely to get the same salary from her next employer. I’m OK with being thought foolish but hope the second part is wrong. What do you think?
There is nothing foolish about paying someone well or, at the very least, paying them fairly. The mental gymnastics your co-workers are engaging in by suggesting you are doing someone a disservice by paying them too much are ridiculous. It is a poor reflection on them and how they value the people among whom they live and work. In general, yes, you pay people the wage expected for a local area, but this is not something that should be exploited. The reality is that, particularly for domestic work, people are almost always underpaid. You are not paying your employee too much. In fact, pay her more. Treat her kindly and respectfully. Treat her the same way you would treat an American employee whose labor you value. That is the just thing to do.
I am a photo archivist for a large corporation, recently hired to preserve its historic photography collection. As I process the images, I pull out interesting photos each month to create an internal newsletter showing ones never seen before. Naturally, the social media group wants to use them, and I provide those I have scanned and search for others on request. Recently, members of that team have asked me to write copy for Facebook and Instagram posts. I have done it, but I don’t love it, mostly because the posts are written as a quote with my name attached. I’m comfortable writing background information, not copywriting. Now they are asking me to “do little videos, just 30 seconds long” to talk about my favorite photos. I have severe stage fright and no desire to be on social media. I have expressed my concerns and they are dismissed, and even laughed at. The head of social media used to be a television news reporter, is always camera-ready, and doesn’t understand my trepidation.
I am lucky to have kept this nonessential job during the pandemic and I don’t want to be seen as difficult, but shouldn’t the social media department create this content? Am I out of line?
— Anonymous, Colorado
You are not out of line to not want to add social media content creation to your workload. That is a specialized field beyond your purview. You are not difficult for having professional boundaries and thus far, you have been as much a team player as anyone could expect. That’s lovely of you and it’s something most of us are willing to do, within reason. I am guessing you’re being asked to do this work because as the archivist, you’re the person who works with these images every day and knows them best. That said, you clearly don’t want to do it. Your concerns matter and shouldn’t be dismissed or mocked. Given that your reluctance to make these posts is related to both stage fright and an aversion to social media, it would be totally reasonable to say you’re not willing to do it. Hold that line. It’s also often easier to say no to a request by offering an alternative. Maybe suggest that you can offer two or three talking points for others to draw from as they produce the videos. I don’t get the impression that you report to the social media team, so if you can’t work this out with them, it may be time to discuss the issue with your supervisor so that he or she can clarify, to the social media team, your work responsibilities, and allow you to do the work you were hired for and do best.
I am a staff member at a public institution of higher education. The current occupant of the office adjacent to my work area has chosen to display a very large mounted moose trophy. I realize that I live in a region where outdoor sporting activities are popular, and I am not trying to judge how this individual spends time outside of work. I just don’t want this big dead moose head bumming me out every time I see it. (The office is close to our nearest exit.) This sort of display might be appropriate for a faculty member of the College of Natural Resources or Animal Sciences, but this is facilities services and it feels a little inappropriate. Any advice for how to approach someone about offensive office décor?
— Anonymous, Pacific Northwest
You’re absolutely entitled to your opinions about office décor, but you don’t get to impose your aesthetic will on others. What you deem offensive is clearly not what your colleague deems offensive. While some find hunting objectionable, with good reason, the moose trophy is not glorifying hate speech or bigotry. It’s not pornography. And it isn’t atypical for your region. I cannot begin to fathom why someone would mount a moose trophy in their office, but I am sure there are people who can’t understand why I have a Channing Tatum prayer candle and a portrait of Mr. Rogers as a saint in mine. This is something you will probably have to learn to live with. Look away! Avert your eyes! Whatever you do, do not approach your colleague unless the moose is wearing, say, a Klan robe, in which case, by all means, do have that conversation.
Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger Federer on His New Gig: Swiss Tourism Spokesman
In his new role, the tennis champion and avowed chocolate lover, shares favorite places to hike, play tennis and eat in his home country.
Roger Federer, the Swiss 20-time Grand Slam champion, recently became an unpaid spokesman for Switzerland Tourism. In a Zoom call from his home in Switzerland’s Graubünden canton, he explained why travelers should visit his country when it reopens.
Mr. Federer has had plenty of time to rediscover his own backyard during the pandemic, and reflect on how much his country means to him while he recovered from knee injury. (He will return to the ATP Tour in Geneva later this month.) During a 30-minute interview, he held court on his favorite hiking trails, some under-the-radar Swiss getaways and his love of Swiss chocolate, among other topics.
The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
It’s good timing for me to do this now. I feel like I’ve always represented Switzerland and I’ve done my fair share to be an ambassador for the country. But for me to do it in an official mission is a nice thing to do. I feel like I had to be a bit older to do this, At around 40 years old, I’ve been to maybe 60 countries. I live in Switzerland now and I will continue to live in Switzerland.
I know tourism here very well; I know the restaurants and hotels here very well. And I know how everyone is hurting right now. It’s a good time for me to be able to step up to the plate and help the country as we’re hopefully going to open again soon.
I’ve been told there’s something like 65,000 kilometers of cycling trails in Switzerland. Hiking and cycling are the go-to things for everyone to do in Switzerland. Some of the most spectacular hiking trails I like are by Gstaad in the Bernese Alps. It’s not so brutally up and down, it’s more of an even slope, which is great for hiking.
The same goes for Appenzell, which is a very nice place that is not so famous. It’s also where I always went hiking when I was a boy. When I was hurt in 2016, I spent a lot of time on the hiking trails in Gräubunden, where I live now. We have the Swiss National Park over there — that whole area is incredible for hiking. Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland has some amazing places, little valleys and canyons and such.
One of my goals when I retire is that I’ll have time to explore our mountain bike trails. Mountain biking has become really big in Switzerland, because we want to make the mountain regions year-round destinations.
We Swiss people go to the less famous places, just like Americans would in your country. But even we Swiss like to visit the classics, like the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen, the Rhine, the Old Town of Bern. You can base yourself in one of the cities and take nice day trips into the mountains from almost anywhere. Even in Zurich or Geneva, you drive 20, 30 minutes max and you are in the countryside. That’s the beauty of Switzerland.
It’s also interesting because we have four separate languages here in Switzerland, which makes very different cultures. I’m from Basel and I have a Basel accent, but if you drive a half-hour away from there, the accent changes and the people are a bit different, too. I think the trails in Ticino are not as well known and they are very beautiful.
I love to walk through small villages where life is still normal. Small places where people are driving tractors and there is one baker, one church. The people in these places aren’t multitasking. They go about their days in a normal way. Someone shows up and they want to know, “Hey, what brought you here?” It’s very friendly, so you can always have a chat with people.
Tennis club life in Switzerland is important. This is how I grew up. There are many scenic places where you can play tennis in Switzerland. Tennis Club Geneva, where the Geneva Open tournament is played is very beautiful. Tennis Club de Genève Eaux-Vives is also really nice. The clubs in Basel where I played growing up in the Interclub competition are quite nice.
There was a boom building tennis clubs when I was growing up, so every second village has its own club. We have to protect this tennis culture we have. The restaurants at the tennis clubs are very important. A lot of the clubs where I’ve played, they have really good chefs, really good service and very high quality. People spent a lot of their time at the clubs, so the food has to be good and it’s usually at a good price, too.
I mean, chocolate, hello, you have to love chocolate if you’re Swiss. I used to be white, then I was milk, and now I even like going dark. I like it all. Then I like the Bündner Nusstorte, which is like a nut tart from the region of Graubünden. That’s beautiful. And then, of course, there’s rösti, a potato fritter dish. We have a dish called Zürcher Geschnetzeltes that’s like minced meat with a mushroom sauce, and I love to eat cordon bleu — that’s beautiful, too.
Fly into Zurich or Geneva and go from there. In the summer, I think you would want to visit Lucerne and Interlaken and maybe visit the Jungfrau, Basel, Zurich, Bern, the capital — its inner city is also really beautiful. We also have some incredible museums in Switzerland. The Fondation Beyeler art museum is great. I grew up visiting the Tinguely Museum, which is very interesting.
In Lucerne, there is the Swiss Museum of Transport, which is still my favorite place to take my children. It’s a wonderful place where you can see old trams, trains, planes, cars, bikes, you name it.
Of course, we also have a huge festival culture in Switzerland. There’s fasnacht, a Lenten carnival in Basel, in March, and we have all these jazz and film festivals. The summer music festivals in Switzerland are incredible, actually, though I don’t think they’ll happen this year. The Montreaux Jazz Festival is maybe the most famous, but there are many smaller ones as well. There’s one in Lucerne, there’s one in the Alps as well. The atmosphere here in the summer when everyone can be outside is amazing.
Dave Seminara is the author of “Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts.”
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