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The abandonment of New York City

Suddenly, the city that never sleeps is starting to feel eerily sleepy. Apartment vacancies are at a record high, more than 1,200 restaurants have closed, and Wall Street bigwigs are doing their jobs from Greenwich or the Hamptons.

Why it matters: New York City is a success story in beating back COVID-19, but many of its wealthiest and most successful residents have fled, some of them never to return.


Driving the news: While the city typically empties out in August, with well-heeled New Yorkers taking vacations or moving to their second homes, this time feels different:

  • So many people are fleeing the city permanently that overworked moving companies are "turning people away," per the NYT.
  • Early in the pandemic, people were trying to escape COVID-19. More recently, reasons include permanent work-from-anywhere arrangements, the prospect of safer in-person schools outside the city, and fear of looting and gun violence.

The impact: There are more than 13,000 empty apartments in Manhattan, and landlords are offering unheard-of discounts.

  • The MTA is destitute, and ridership is in a tailspin — despite the fact that subway cars are unnaturally gleaming.
  • In an echo of the 1970s, homelessness, violent crime and urban blight are on the rise.
  • The Empire State Building is suffering as tenants evacuate and tourists stay away.
  • Hamilton, Shmamilton: Broadway is shut down through at least January.

“There’s no reason to do business in New York,” Michael Weinstein of Ark Restaurants, which owns the famous Bryant Park Grill & Cafe, told the New York Times. “I can do the same volume in Florida in the same square feet as I would have in New York, with my expenses being much less."

  • While Bryant Park Grill & Cafe remains open (for outdoor dining only), Weinstein said he'd never open another restaurant in New York.
  • With tourists and office workers largely gone, Keith McNally has shuttered Augustine, the popular Financial District eatery, and Thomas Keller has closed TAK Room and Bouchon Bakery in Hudson Yards, the trendy new West Side neighborhood.

Where it stands: A throwdown between Mayor Bill De Blasio and the city's unions over New York's massive municipal budget deficit could make matters much worse.

  • De Blasio has appealed to Albany and Washington for relief, but so far is hearing, "Talk to the hand."
  • He's threatened to fire 22,000 city employees unless unions agree to trim $1 billion in labor costs.
  • Meanwhile, trash is piling up in city parks, the city's EMS union chief says that "people will die" if first responders are cut, and New York's teachers have threatened a sickout to protest De Blasio's plan to open schools on Sept. 10.

The former New Yorker in the White House has been notably unsympathetic.

  • "The crime and chaos in Democratic-run cities have gotten so bad that liberals are even getting out of Manhattan's Upper West Side," President Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

What to watch: With cold weather approaching, New Yorkers debate: Will things get even worse? And for how long?

Pessimists include James Altucher, the writer, former hedge funder, and comedy club owner, who argued in a LinkedIn post that "New York is dead forever."

  • "Businesses are remote and they aren't returning to the office," he wrote. "And it's a death spiral: the longer offices remain empty, the longer they will remain empty."

Optimists include Andrew Hacker, the Queens College professor, Upper West Sider, and author of a new Trump book called "Downfall," who tells Axios that the city will bounce back.

  • "What’s going to really save New York is immigrants," says Hacker, who has taught political science to many generations of them.
  • While lots of New Yorkers are leaving, "out there in Bangalore and Ukraine and Natal, there are people who want to be New Yorkers" who will gladly take their place, bringing their ambition and brainpower.
  • Hacker welcomes these voluntary New Yorkers: "I only want people in the city who want to be here."

Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic

The Pac-12, which includes universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, will play football starting Nov. 6, reversing its earlier decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN's Kyle Bonagura and Heather Dinich report.

Why it matters: The conference's about-face follows a similar move by the Big Ten last week and comes as President Trump has publicly pressured sports to resume despite the ongoing pandemic. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game conference football season, according to ESPN.

COVAX vaccine initiative involves most of the world, but U.S. or China

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.

Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

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Child care in the U.S. is in crisis, which makes it much harder for the American economy to recover — as providers struggle to stay in business and parents wrestle with work.

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Scientists are trying to figure out how much the amount of coronavirus in your body matters

How sick a person gets from a virus can depend onhow much of the pathogen that person was exposed to and how much virus is replicating in their body — questionsthat are still open for the novel coronavirus.

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China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 sends shockwaves through the climate world

A new insta-analysis of China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 helps to underscore why Tuesday's announcement sent shockwaves through the climate and energy world.

Why it matters: Per the Climate Action Tracker, a research group, following through would lower projected global warming 0.2 to 0.3°C. That's a lot!

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Kayleigh McEnany: Trump will accept "free and fair" election, no answer on if he loses

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that President Trump will "accept the results of a free and fair election," but did not specify whether he will commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to Joe Biden.

Why it matters: Trump refused to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power, instead remarking: "we're going to have to see what happens."

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Sanders: "This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy"

In an urgent appeal on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said President Trump presented "unique threats to our democracy" and detailed a plan to ensure the election results will be honored and that voters can cast their ballots safely.

Driving the news: When asked yesterday whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, Trump would not, and said: "We're going to have to see what happens."

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Why money laundering persists

2 million suspicious activity reports,or SARs, are filed by banks every year. Those reports are sent to the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has the job of determining whether the reports are evidence of criminal activity, and whether that activity should be investigated and punished.

The catch: FinCEN only has 270 employees, which means that FinCEN is dealing with a ratio of roughly 150 reports per employee per week. So it comes as little surprise to learn that most of the reports go unread, and the activity in them unpunished.

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