The strange, swift spread of monkeypox

Good morning. Greetings from Davos, where the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting is getting underway. I’ve been on the ground for only 24 hours, but the mood among the C.E.O. crowd is downright anxious and dour about the economy. Many comparisons to the 1970s are being made, with some referring to 2001. In any case, there is a sense that inflation will remain persistently high and that a recovery will take many years. That’s the “Davos Consensus” — but don’t fear it. The Davos Consensus has often been a contra-indicator for the future. (Was this newsletter forwarded to you?)

‘Everybody should be concerned’

Monkeypox, a rare virus usually confined to West and Central Africa, seems to be complicating prospects of any return to normalcy. In his first public remarks on the outbreak, President Biden said that monkeypox was concerning and that “if it were to spread, it would be consequential.” The statement came after New York City said it had tested two residents for monkeypox. Last week, a Massachusetts resident tested positive for the virus.

And the World Health Organization said yesterday it was expanding surveillance, after noting over 90 confirmed cases reported from 12 member states where the virus is not endemic.

Monkeypox might threaten economic comeback plans, adding one more factor in risk calculations about gatherings. Rising Covid cases had already caused some companies to (again) push back their deadlines for return-to-office plans. And last week, Mayor Eric Adams of New York urged the city’s business leaders to ride the subway to encourage workers to return to the office.

But it’s not another Covid-like pandemic. The risk to the public is low, health officials say. Monkeypox is believed to spread through intimate skin-on-skin contact with someone who has an active rash. It can also spread through body fluids and respiratory droplets, but it is not as contagious or dangerous as the coronavirus, health officials say. When individuals are contagious, they tend to have the body sores that are a telltale sign of monkeypox. What’s more, monkeypox is well-known among researchers and was first detected in humans in the 1970s. Officials are saying that the U.S. would have to see a large number of cases clustered in one area of the country before social-distancing restrictions would be put in place.

Vaccines are already available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe treatment for monkeypox, but the F.D.A. has already approved a vaccine specifically for the virus. The Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, which recently signed a new contract with the U.S. government, has already produced 1.4 million doses for use in the U.S. And the company says it has enough raw materials to produce many more doses, though it has not said cited a specific quantity. In addition, health officials say that vaccines for smallpox, including ACAM2000, could be effective in protecting against monkeypox. That drug is made by Emergent BioSolutions, a longtime government contractor that has been the subject of investigations after its botched production of vaccines for Covid. The C.D.C. says it has enough doses of smallpox vaccine in its strategic reserve to immunize the entire U.S. population.

Mask-wearing will probably continue for now. In New York, the mayor was already facing pressure to reinstate the indoor mask mandate, because of the recent rise in Covid cases. Now, many health experts are saying masks can reduce the spread of monkeypox, as well. Most important, city health officials said in a statement last week that those with flulike symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and face and body rashes should also contact a health care provider as a precaution.


Broadcom is reportedly in advanced talks to buy VMware. The acquisition by Broadcom, a semiconductor powerhouse, of the cloud-computing company VMware would allow it to build its presence in the corporate software market amid surging demand for cloud computing. If the deal goes through, it would be among the biggest of the year.

Biden says the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China invaded. Biden’s comments, which came at a news conference with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan during a visit to Tokyo, surprised some members of his own administration who were in the room. The U.S. has in the past warned China against using force against Taiwan while remaining vague about how far it would go to aid the island in such a circumstance.

A Times investigation examines Jared Kushner’s and Steven Mnuchin’s business ties in the Gulf. After the two men traveled around the Middle East in the final months of the Trump administration to raise money for a U.S. government-sponsored program called the Abraham Fund, each quickly started a private fund that in some ways picked up where that fund had ended. The Times investigation raises questions about whether Kushner and Mnuchin exploited official relationships with foreign leaders for private business interests.

A vote by Activision workers could give unions a foothold in gaming. Discontent over long hours, poor pay, temporary contracts and sexual harassment issues at video game companies has been growing for years. If the employees at an Activision subsidiary vote later today to unionize, it could pave the way for the formation of the first union at a big U.S. gaming company.

‘Default Alive’: A survival guide for Silicon Valley

Late last week, Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has invested in hundreds of start-ups in their early stages including Airbnb, Coinbase and Reddit, sent an urgent letter to the companies that are currently in its portfolio. Bottom line: Winter is here. “The safe move is to plan for the worst,” the firm wrote in the letter, which was titled “Economic Downturn” and structured as a survival guide. “Your goal should be to get to Default Alive.” The term refers to a point at which a start-up has raised enough money to make it to profitability, without going bust.

A dire outlook for funding rounds. Y Combinator’s message to start-up founders who are planning to raise money in the next six to 12 months: “We recommend you change your plan.” The letter advised young companies to cut costs to ensure that their businesses can survive without funding rounds for the next 24 months. It also warned founders that VC firms will take meetings even when they are not planning on investing in any new companies.

A shift in strategy among start-ups and their funders. The letter is another sign of the current pessimism in Silicon Valley, which is typically a pretty sunny place. Until recently, tech companies would set their sights on acquiring customers and market share in their early years rather than worry about the bottom line. But suddenly, VC firms are warning that the additional rounds of investment that start-ups have traditionally received, and many probably assumed that they would be getting, may no longer be an option. Tech Crunch, the news site that was first to report Y Combinator’s warning letter, said other VC firms had recently been sending their own versions.

What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus

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What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus endemic in parts of Central and West Africa. It is similar to smallpox, but less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What are the symptoms? Monkeypox creates a rash that starts with flat red marks that become raised and filled with pus. Infected people may also have a fever and body aches. Symptoms typically appear in six to 13 days but can take as long as three weeks after exposure to show, and can last for two to four weeks. Health officials say smallpox vaccines and other treatments can be used to control an outbreak.

How infectious is it? The virus spreads through body fluids, skin contact and respiratory droplets. Typically it does not lead to major outbreaks, though it has spread in unusual ways this year, and among populations that have not been vulnerable in the past.

Should I be worried? The likelihood of the virus being spread during sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission in other ways is low. Most people have mild symptoms and recover within weeks, but the virus can be fatal in a small percentage of cases. Studies also suggest that older adults may have some protection from decades-old smallpox vaccinations.

Is monkeypox similar to Covid? Health experts say that monkeypox is unlikely to create a pandemic scenario similar to that of the coronavirus. While Covid-19 is a tiny RNA virus that can spread through aerosols, monkeybox is a larger DNA virus that is transmitted mostly through close physical contact and has a much smaller mutation rate than RNA viruses.

The pullback of VC firms follows the recent drop in the stock market. The market looks set to rebound this morning, but before today the S&P 500 broad market index has fallen seven weeks in a row, which is the longest streak since 2001, and it is now down by nearly 19 percent from its peak. Technology stocks have generally been down more than the rest of the market, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite nearly 30 percent off its high. A re-evaluation of tech stocks appears to be working its way down the funding chain, all the way to start-ups.

“Jack was the rock star C.E.O. of my era. We all thought Jack was doing everything right and that success was defined by meeting quarterly earnings to the penny.”

— Lynn Forester de Rothschild, one of the rare female media moguls of the 1980s, on Jack Welch, the longtime chief executive of G.E. who redefined what it meant to be a boss.

Numbers say C.E.O.s should still speak out

Florida’s move last month to punish Disney after the media giant condemned a new state law widely seen as anti-L.G.B.T.Q. led many to predict that companies and their C.E.O.s would retreat from taking stances on political and social issues.

But business leaders say they should continue speaking up for democratic ideals, according to a poll released today. The poll by a new initiative formed by three nonprofit organizations — Public Private Strategies, Leadership Now Project and the Black Economic Alliance — found that three-quarters of the more than 400 business leaders surveyed thought companies should influence democracy policy at both the state and federal levels. The survey was taken after the Disney uproar, which David Clunie of the Black Economic Alliance says has created a “very real” backlash against corporate America on weighing in on political issues. “We’re trying to create a space where retaliation is impossible,” Clunie said, adding that the point of the new initiative, called the Business and Democracy Initiative, is to bring companies together to be stronger in numbers.

A majority of people also believe C.E.O.s have a responsibility to speak out on such issues as climate change and discrimination. That’s the finding of another survey out today by the public relations firm Edelman. The survey, which was conducted in April and May of 14,000 people across 14 countries, is a midyear update to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer released in conjunction with this week’s World Economic Forum. Overall, 77 percent of respondents said C.E.O.s have a responsibility to address societal issues, and 68 percent said they thought business leaders should help shape policy, specifically on preventing discrimination and prejudice. The study also found that companies that boycotted Russia saw an increase in employee loyalty and consumer trust.



“Siemens Energy Says Gamesa Takeover to Speed Problem-Solving” (Bloomberg)

The U.K. fashion chain Ted Baker chooses a preferred bidder. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund buys a $1.5 billion stake in Alwaleed’s firm. (Bloomberg)

Russia-Ukraine war

Addressing Davos, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine urges global business elites to further punish Russia. (NYT)

Ukraine’s culture minister says the war has damaged hundreds of cultural sites. (NYT)

The Russian-appointed head of an occupied Ukrainian town was injured in an explosion. (Reuters)


Social media posts with misinformation about DIY baby formula recipes are spreading. (Bloomberg)

Economist Jeffrey Sachs says federal agencies and universities are hiding evidence that would uncover whether Covid-19 was started in a lab. (The Intercept)

The E.U. plans to unify capital markets in Europe by establishing live databases. (FT)

Best of the rest

Amid all the Elon Musk stuff, this slipped through the cracks last week: His mother, Maye Musk, 74, made history as the oldest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model. (NY Post)

The victim of yesterday’s NYC subway shooting had spent 24 years on Wall Street, most recently as a research assistant at Goldman Sachs. (NYT)

“Lara Logan, Once a Star at CBS News, Is Now One for the Far Right” (NYT)

Flush with cash, Big Tech is positioned to emerge from a downturn stronger and more powerful. (NYT)

Here’s a roundup of Michael Burry’s tweets about the stock market slump. (Insider)

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