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An Elite Consulting Firm Said ‘Black Lives Matter,’ But Staffers Never Got The Message

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After four months of working for the small management consulting firm Red Associates in New York City, Funke Sangodeyi felt like something was “off.” 

Sangodeyi, who has a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard and a master’s from Cambridge, was at a company retreat in the spring of 2015. There were workshops and team-building exercises typical of such gatherings. The setting was posh, the south of France, a couple of hours outside Nice, recalled Sangodeyi, who is Nigerian American and in her early 40s. 

Then at a party one night at a villa overlooking the lush countryside, a senior manager, a white man, approached her. “Oh my God, your skin is so dark,” Sangodeyi recalled him saying. “Does it come in shades darker than yours?”

She was shocked. “You don’t say that,” she told him. “It’s a bizarre thing to say.” 

That was just the start of a disturbing few years for Sangodeyi at Red Associates, a management consulting firm based in Copenhagen and New York City that currently has 51 employees.

Red is small compared to competitors like McKinsey, but not insignificant; its clients have included global giants such as Lego, Facebook, Google, Samsung and the Ford Motor Company. Red is also partly owned by Cognizant, a multibillion-dollar, publicly traded global tech consultancy.

Like many consulting firms, Red markets itself as an elite group that offers brilliant insights. But a close look at the firm raises questions about what “elite” actually means.

HuffPost spoke with 11 former employees and others close to the firm, a mix of white and nonwhite men and women. Nine requested anonymity, fearing reprisals from the firm. Together, they paint a picture of a company led by mostly white partners, some of whom appear to view themselves as superior to people of other races, nationalities and classes. 

Partners mocked the accents and appearance of Indian colleagues, characterized Black female employees as “angry” and “scary,” and used stereotypes about Chinese people while doing work for clients in that country. Class distinctions were particularly fraught: One former employee says she was mocked for the brand of tea she drank.

“Comments like these are of course completely inappropriate and wrong,” the company said in a statement to HuffPost. “They do not reflect the culture of ReD where we value diversity of thought and experience.”

These kinds of views seeped into the firm’s work, when one partner became obsessed with “The Bell Curve,” the widely discredited 1994 book that tries to link IQ and race, and pushed to research inherited intelligence for a prospective pitch to the Lego Foundation. (The research never made it to the company.)

Rhetoric vs. Reality

Red’s story is not unusual: Corporate America likes to broadcast its commitment to diversity, but isn’t exactly known as welcoming for people of color. A minuscule percentage of corporate leaders are Black. In a 2018 survey, 58% of workers of color said they’re always or often on guard against racist comments and behaviors. Outright racist comments, microaggressions and mistreatment are not uncommon, and little is done about it. The federal agency handling race discrimination complaints gets at least 100,000 each year, but most go nowhere. 

As nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism swept the country this summer, companies around the world doubled down on promises to diversify their offices. Red Associates was no different. The firm posted on LinkedIn, declaring “Black Lives Matter” and decrying systemic racism. 

Current and former employees were stunned at the hypocrisy. The post prompted Sangodeyi to reach out to HuffPost.

Red told HuffPost that it cares “deeply about racial justice” and employs people with diverse backgrounds. “[W]e are continually striving to build an ever more diverse collective of thinkers, in particular through the addition of more Black voices,” the firm said. 

Most of the leaders listed on the firm’s website are white.

In recent years, Red has hired people of color at the entry level, particularly as some clients and junior staff complained about the lack of diversity. But those new hires have mostly left, and many felt beaten down, isolated and repelled by the culture. At least 13 people of color, including all of the firm’s Black female employees, have either quit or say they were pushed out over the past two years.

Some close to the firm wonder if it could ever truly diversify.

“The people who ran the company had a very narrow understanding of what it means to be elite, valuable and successful, and that was always being a white man,” said Luke Johnson, 26, who worked as a consultant at the firm from 2017 to 2018.

Eliot Brown, a partner at the firm who describes himself as “mixed black Trinidadian and British,” said he was surprised to hear that others weren’t comfortable at Red. He has worked there since 2008.

I believe that these people experienced what they claimed to experience, but it’s a long way away from what I and many other people of color I’ve known at Red have experienced,” he told HuffPost. “The whole thing is really upsetting to me because of that. I feel like a place that should at least be given a break for trying and possibly even celebrated for getting it right is being depicted as a place that intentionally got it so wrong. It feels unfair.”

The firm’s current managing partner, Millie Arora, is not white, and she told HuffPost that she realizes the firm can do better at diversity.

“As an Indian American woman, as managing partner, it is one of my key priorities. It’s something we continuously want to do better at,” she said. “Recent events have prompted a lot more introspection.”

‘A Notorious Elitist’

Former employees and others close to the firm said its culture is exemplified by co-founder Christian Madsbjerg, a Danish man who has lived in New York City for years. He teaches at the New School and has written for the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Quartz. 

Johnson called Madsbjerg “a notorious elitist” who is very much against what he perceives as political correctness, an attitude that prevails at the firm.

Johnson laid out why he was leaving Red in a 2018 email pointing to remarks Madsbjerg made that he believed were troubling.

In the email reviewed by HuffPost, Johnson said he’d just heard Madsbjerg make “a seemingly off-hand, seemingly joking remark about how France and Germany are the only places ‘where there’s any civilization left.’”

Madsbjerg made the remark to a female partner at the firm and a new hire, a woman of color, as well as to Johnson, he wrote.

He said they laughed awkwardly. “Oh just ignore the crazy old Dane,” the “clearly uncomfortable” partner told the new consultant, according to Johnson’s email.

“But Christian persisted,” he wrote, “insisting that it wasn’t just a joke―that he did indeed believe that there’s a small triangular region situated, of course, in Europe, where ‘the only real valuable cultural and historical progress has happened.’” As an “afterthought,” Madsbjerg said Japan is included in this group, Johnson wrote.

He also wrote that he’d heard Madsbjerg say of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, “Nobody would have complained about Weinstein if he were attractive.” (Weinstein was convicted of rape in 2020.)

In the email, Johnson said comments like these were part of the reason he was leaving the company earlier than planned to go to graduate school. Those kinds of remarks made Red a “hostile place” for people who are not straight white men and could also turn off prospective clients, he wrote.

In a long statement to HuffPost, Madsbjerg insisted he was passionate about diversity. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day I would have to ward off allegations of bigotry,” he said, emphasizing that his wife is Muslim and that he converted to Islam. He also said he moved to the U.S. from Denmark to escape bigotry.

“I am perplexed and hurt by it,” he added. “It is just not who I am.” 

‘The Bell Curve’ Controversy

In 2018, according to several former employees and others close to the firm, Madsbjerg became “obsessed” with “The Bell Curve,” a widely discredited 1994 book by Charles Murray about inherited intelligence that’s favored by those who subscribe to racial eugenics. Madsbjerg pushed for research into the work, according to Johnson and several other former employees. 

At the height of the controversy, one consultant threw a copy of ‘The Bell Curve’ in the trash in front of his colleagues and poured ranch dressing over it, according to one former employee.

Madsbjerg assigned one of the firm’s entry-level consultants to write up a research proposal citing Murray’s work, former employees said. He was particularly interested in the notion that intelligence is inherited, the consultant wrote in notes titled “Quick overview of what Christian asked” that were shared with others at the firm at the time, and have since been obtained by HuffPost.

In another document, the consultant prepared more detailed notes and research about what he said he and Madsbjerg discussed.

“Task: write a 1 page memo to Lego Foundation convincing them to commit their time [and] money to promoting learning/development among the ‘stupid,’” state the notes, also obtained by HuffPost, in a section titled “Overview.”

In a list titled “Find information/figures Christian mentioned regarding,” the consultant included “The Bell Curve,” “Racial correlation” and “Coverup/repression (why it isn’t popular in society today).”

Notes prepared by a Red Associates consultant for a project on intelligence.



Notes prepared by a Red Associates consultant for a project on intelligence.

Deeper into the document, the consultant wrote: “Private note to Christian: we’re putting ourselves out on a limb here. It wouldn’t take much digging to find well-structured, empirically-reviewed studies that undermine the heritability of intelligence.” He then listed some citations.

Such a proposal is typically a first step in putting together a client pitch, and the consultant ultimately wrote a draft memo titled “Acknowledging Hard Truths To Discover New Solutions.” The memo, addressed to the CEO of the Lego Foundation and obtained by HuffPost, argues researchers have for years ignored the “inconvenient truth” that intelligence is passed down genetically and social factors are less significant. It proposed that the Lego Foundation needed to acknowledge this in order to truly help children.

Lego has long been a client of Red, but the Lego Foundation did not ask for the research, Red Associates told HuffPost in a statement. The Lego Foundation confirmed that it had never asked for this material nor seen the memo.

The consultant’s source materials delved into race and intelligence, but the draft memo HuffPost saw doesn’t explicitly mention race. Still, it’s the unavoidable subtext whenever the subject of heritable intelligence comes up, said Kathryn Paige Harden, a behavioral geneticist and a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Anyone who talks about ‘The Bell Curve’ without addressing race, it feels like a dog whistle to me,” said Harden, who reviewed the draft memo for HuffPost.

Younger staff members at Red and a number of people of color at the company, aware of the yearslong controversy surrounding Murray’s work, spoke out against the research. At the height of the controversy, one consultant threw a copy of “The Bell Curve” in the trash in front of his colleagues and poured ranch dressing over it, according to one former employee. 

Sangodeyi said she recalled a conversation with Madsbjerg at the time in which she told him that “debates around IQ are racially charged in the U.S. and that the whole thing was extremely dicey to venture into.”

In a statement, Madsbjerg said that he had little to do with the research and that he’d never seen the memo until HuffPost asked about it.

As for “The Bell Curve,” he said in the statement, “I didn’t even know what it was until it was brought to my attention as part of general research conducted by a new consultant at ReD about how job automation and job loss might be predicted.”

“In Denmark, the debate about intelligence is not about race or ethnicity at all,” he said. “I find even the suggestion that there is any connection between race and intelligence repulsive, but also simply untrue.”

Red also blamed the consultant who was tasked with writing the memo.

“[T]his research was conducted by a staff person in an effort to understand the correlation between employment and IQ. After the research was complete and synthesized in a memo, it was dismissed as without merit,” the company said, emphasizing that the research was never shared outside the firm and that Red has never used it in any way. 

But former employees said Madsbjerg initiated the research.

“I felt bad for the guy tasked with writing it,” said one former employee familiar with the project. “These were not his views at all. This was not a consultant gone rogue. Instructions came from higher up.”

In this 2015 photo, Christian Madsbjerg of Red Associates (left) listens to Raj Nair, executive vice president and chief



In this 2015 photo, Christian Madsbjerg of Red Associates (left) listens to Raj Nair, executive vice president and chief technical officer of product development for Ford Motor Company, during a press conference at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.  

Madsbjerg is no longer running the firm day to day, but he sits on its board and brings in business from prominent clients. He told HuffPost he takes “full responsibility” for the firm’s culture. 

“From the beginning I wanted a global culture and I have tried to make sure that we transformed from a Danish to a global, generous culture the best we could,” he said. “This was important to me for business reasons, but also because it reflects my personal values.”

Madsbjerg is set to teach a course at the New School this fall called Human Observation. “True observation is the ability to look and listen without the interference of assumptions and prejudices,” reads the course description found online. Only white authors are listed in the description.

‘There’s Just Something Off’

Although no one HuffPost spoke to alleges that Madsbjerg made overtly racist statements to employees, other partners and managers have been heard making comments about Black people, as well as about their counterparts within Cognizant. That company, which bought a 49% stake in Red in 2016, has a big presence in India.

At a 2018 meeting, a top partner at Red described an Indian colleague at Cognizant as looking like Apu from “The Simpsons” and laughed to himself, according to contemporaneous notes a former employee shared with HuffPost.

It wasn’t unusual for partners to mock Indian accents, several former employees said, or to look down on Cognizant employees more generally. “There was a dismissiveness to the value of Cognizant’s math and science [expertise],” Sangodeyi said. 

Partners at Red would say that they needed to teach their counterparts at Cognizant “how to think,” Johnson said.

They didn’t think of people of color as their equals or worthy enough to be accepted into the doors of Red.
a former employee

Brown was one of the people to put on an Indian accent. Some employees of color were offended by this, according to a former Red employee. 

Brown said he meant it in fun. “I do all sorts of accents at work and in life. I do posh English people, Danish people, Trinidadian family, my London family and yeah, I do Indian accents. I’m quite good at accents,” he said. “I would’ve hoped that people would’ve realized that I meant no malice by it. India is one of my favorite countries on the planet. I lived there for six months. I get on well with my Indian colleagues at Cognizant and celebrate them sincerely. I’d hope all that considered, people would realize I meant not to belittle by doing an accent.”

Ethnic stereotyping wasn’t confined to Indian people. If a client was trying to understand the Chinese consumer, partners would at times fall back on certain “Orientalist cliches,” using words like “inscrutable” and characterizing Chinese people as mysterious, said one former employee.

Another former employee, a 29-year-old woman with an Indigenous background, recalled bringing Twining tea to the office. She said one of her male colleagues told her it was “proletariat” tea, as though the brand wasn’t fancy enough.

She said she never felt like she fit in at the firm.

“I don’t want to call them all racists, that’s not true,” she said. “But they didn’t think of people of color as their equals or worthy enough to be accepted into the doors of Red.”

Sangodeyi takes care to point out that there were a lot of good people at the firm, but said things could get uncomfortable with the most senior managers and partners. “I told the HR person when I left, ‘There’s just something off about this place,’” she said.

In 2015, after the incident in the south of France, Sangodeyi wanted to give the firm the benefit of the doubt. She was new to the company. “Perhaps the comment was coming from a place of ignorance, since the manager was from a more provincial part of Denmark,” she thought. Many partners and managers at Red, which was founded in Copenhagen, are Danish, including the man who made the remark. Denmark is relatively small and homogenous.

“Possibly a dynamic at play here is that Red is a global company founded on non-American, not exclusively American dynamics,” Brown said.

One of the challenges at Red will be “bridging the cultural divide,” said Mathew Yazzie, a San Francisco-based diversity consultant Red hired. Yazzie, who has worked on diversity issues at Google and for other Silicon Valley firms, said he didn’t think Red was that unusual. “I wasn’t surprised by a lot of it,” he said. “I’ve seen everything.He plans to do a diversity audit in the coming weeks, looking at the firm’s processes such as hiring and performance reviews.

‘This Felt Different’

In a statement to HuffPost, Red Associates claimed that the man who exclaimed about Sangodeyi’s skin color “made an immediate and deeply sincere apology.”

Sangodeyi said that was absolutely not true — and that the man just walked away after she told him his remarks were bizarre.

She said she was mainly happy day-to-day working at the company, but that her time at Red Associates was marked by these kinds of off-putting moments. 

There was the time she was at the daily communal lunch, where everyone stands and shares a meal around a tall white table in the company’s meeting room. Flowers are usually on display, too. Always white.

Sangodeyi was eating with a group of colleagues when a white female partner started talking about the term “Negro,” she said.

“It’s like, why are you talking about this?” she recalled thinking. She walked out.

Sangodeyi is a historian of science by training. She grew up in the suburbs, went to a private school, spent years at Harvard. 

“I’m used to being in [white] spaces and not being bothered by microaggressions,” she said. “This felt different.”

Partners at the firm also called her “angry” or “difficult,” both to her face and to others within the firm, even after Sangodeyi pointed out to her managers that such characterizations were steeped in stereotypes. Former colleagues told HuffPost neither term applied even remotely to Sangodeyi.

Comments like these could help explain why women of color didn’t seem to advance at the company. 

Women of color took nearly four times as long as white men to get promoted to manager, according to an analysis that was created by a consultant at Red in 2018. Some men led only one project or no projects before getting promoted, according to the spreadsheet obtained by HuffPost. Two white women were promoted after leading a single project. No women of color were.

Sangodeyi led five projects over her nearly four years at the company without being promoted. She left the firm two years ago, frustrated after watching less experienced, less credentialed male colleagues be promoted to manager while she was skipped over because she wasn’t “ready.” 

Red Associates said it can’t comment on individual employees. But it did say Yazzie will develop a training program “to make sure everyone understands microaggressions, and why they are racist and harmful to their colleagues and to the overall culture of a workplace.”

‘It Seemed Tone Deaf’

In June, Red Associates declared on LinkedIn that “Black Lives Matter” and condemned systemic racism. “We want to see change and we need to move beyond social media statements. Inequity is only addressed through long term, sustained efforts at the root of the social and racial issues,” read the post.

The firm also seemed to acknowledge its own shortcomings. “[W]e also have much to interrogate, and so much we can and must do better,” said the post. “If you have thoughts or resources to share, experts you recommend we learn from, or partner with, please comment or email us …”

The fact that no one internally can act as a thought leader on these issues demonstrates the types of people who are valued internally.
a former consultant at Red in a since-deleted comment

Current and former employees were outraged. 

“It seemed tone deaf, given the lack of diversity, to say we stand with this movement,” said one person who is close to the company and familiar with the recent turmoil, noting it also seemed like Red was soliciting free advice from people of color. “It should be something the company should be actively seeking out and paying for.”

Soon the firm hired Yazzie.

Leaders at Red should look inward, wrote Nelson Saldana, a former consultant who left the firm this spring, in a comment on the LinkedIn post: “The fact that no one internally can act as a thought leader on these issues demonstrates the types of people who are valued internally.” That comment has since been deleted, and Saldana did not respond to HuffPost’s request for further comment.

Inside the company, the LinkedIn post prompted consultants and partners to have an open conversation about diversity on a conference call. One consultant, a person of color who already had a foot out the door, talked about how they had always felt uncomfortable at Red and never felt OK speaking up, according to someone familiar with the call.

Arora, the managing partner, also sent out emails to staff in early June, acknowledging the firm needed to do more.

“We are a small company who values inclusion and diversity of ideas and perspective, yet we don’t have enough diversity on our team, have struggled to retain people of color and I worry that means our culture hasn’t felt as welcoming to all as it should,” she wrote.

It Affects Your Work

Sangodeyi left the firm in 2018, fed up with its “casual racism, implicit and explicit bias,” and with the inequities in promotion, she said. She founded her own consulting company last year.

About 13 people of color — including four Black women — have left the firm since then, according to those familiar with the firm’s numbers. Some quit; others were laid off after a recent bout of downsizing. 

One of the Black women who left said working at Red Associates was a painful experience.

This woman, who was relatively new to the firm and young, said her manager called her “scary” during a 2018 meeting with a client at which she was presenting. She said she complained about this to him, and finally to another senior manager — but nothing happened. In fact, she said, her manager was promoted.

The remarks, the way the incident was handled, and the feelings of otherness wore her down.

“After a while, those things make you question your voice, your team, the trust of the people you work around,” she told HuffPost.

Red said these comments were “completely inappropriate and wrong.” 

It’s not unusual for people of color working in the corporate world to wind up questioning themselves and those around them, said Dnika Travis, lead researcher at Catalyst, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace. Travis, who is Black, has been interviewing women and men of color about their experiences for years.

The “comments, the slights and insults” amount to what Travis calls an emotional tax. Women and men of color pay the tax with their very souls. 

“The stories are harrowing and heartbreaking,” Travis said.

The Black employee who was called “scary” by her manager said she felt like she shut down after that. “That shutting down let me be less creative at work,” she said. “I’d stop speaking up as much in meetings. I’d stop speaking up as much in group sessions. I felt invalidated. Like I didn’t matter.”





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Bitcoin

Bitcoin mining has been under a microscope lately. We talked to a crypto expert to understand why blockchain is getting a bad rap.

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If you’ve even casually followed Bitcoin news lately, you may have seen headlines such as these:

“Bill Gates Sounds Alarm On Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption”

“Bitcoin’s wild ride renews worries about its massive carbon footprint“

“Why does Bitcoin need more energy than whole countries?”

These captions are meant to drive clicks and perhaps even plant a seed of doubt in the public’s mind about trending cryptocurrencies. But is crypto trading the energy vampire that the media has made it out to be? 

We spoke with podcast producer and blockchain expert Matthew Diemer, a longtime player in the crypto industry, to get a more balanced view of this issue. Diemer manages The Decrypt Daily podcast, which discusses all aspects of crypto news and information. 

Popular digital currencies

Before we dive into the conversation, let’s start with a quick rewind on some basic cryptocurrency facts. Currently, there are dozens of virtual currencies, also known as tokens, available to purchase and trade. However, the most well-known currency by far is Bitcoin, having been around now for over a decade. 

Other rising stars in the crypto space include Ethereum, dogecoin, and Litecoin. And recently, a wave of interest in NFTs is fueling public demand (however, NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens,” are a type of virtual product that exists primarily within the Ethereum blockchain.) 

To understand how energy use and blockchain (i.e., the technology that allows cryptocurrencies to exist) are intertwined, one has to dig a little deeper into the processes of creating and trading cryptocurrencies.

Proof of Work makes crypto function

Blockchain technology involves a method of tracking every single transaction called Proof of Work (PoW). Essentially, PoW is a publicly documented record, also called a ledger, organized by a group called miners. Miners, predictably, are the ones that mine to create new tokens by recording every transaction for the blockchain. 

As Diemer explains, miners take each “transaction in the data and put it into the decentralized database. Once it’s put in that decentralized database, that one person wins and gets the block reward because they are the first person to do that. Basically, that transaction is now locked within the blockchain. And we call it a blockchain because you can see the chain of transactions all the way back to the beginning, or the genesis, block of Bitcoin.”

Miners repeat these tasks continually as more crypto is bought and sold. So, because this process involves performing extremely complex algorithms repeatedly, mining uses energy, and lots of it. Now that the connection between energy use and blockchain is clear, let’s dive deeper into the energy and mining relationship at the crux of this controversy.

Energy use and Bitcoin mining

Though Diemer is the first to admit that Bitcoin mining “takes a lot of energy, around 170 Terawatts per block,” he also says we should be careful about how we frame up the idea of energy use when it comes to blockchain management. 

Diemer states, “I don’t like the term energy usage because I think that’s disingenuous. We should be thinking about the word carbon emissions, or CO2 footprint.” But, Diemer said, we should “be concerned about the CO2 footprint of any kind of energy consumption.”

To his point, the laser focus on Bitcoin in relation to energy is leaving out a lot of factors. For example, Diemer says, Bitcoin obtains “74% of electricity from renewable sources,” a stat backed up by a 2019 CoinShares report

Based on this data, the topic of crypto energy consumption requires a reframing of sorts. In other words, Diemer states, “do we care about how much energy is consumed, if it’s renewable? No, because it’s renewable.”

Bitcoin as a business

Diemer proposes that when it comes to energy management, crypto miners might be more concerned than most people because it affects their bottom line. “Bitcoin mining is a business proposition. You want to get the cheapest energy to do this business because it takes a lot of energy to mine Bitcoin. Therefore, anything that is not the cheapest possible is a negative against your business.”

“Bitcoin miners purposely set up next to renewable power sources and use their excess energy.” In other words, Diemer suggests mining is using energy that would otherwise be wasted. Indeed, recent reports show as much as 72% of the energy produced globally is lost.

Bitcoin mining unlikely to drive Texas energy prices

The bulk of Bitcoin mining is located overseas, with the vast majority (65%) of that taking place in China, according to Statista. Although China is heavily dependent on coal energy, savvy miners have found a way to harness unused power. 

Diemer explained, miners “actively search out the cheapest, most efficient ways to conduct this business. I had somebody on the show that had a Bitcoin mining firm in Sichuan, and that’s exactly what they did. They flew to Sichuan and found one of the many dams that are there and nestled up next to it and started a partnership with them.”

Currently, less than 8% of mining is U.S.-based. However, that stat is likely to change as crypto continues to grow in popularity, causing miners stateside to look for the best places to expand their pursuits. And one location set to skyrocket in popularity is Texas. 

Crypto mining in Texas

Texas is an attractive hub for would-be miners. The Lone Star State is already ripe for solar energy generation. Texas currently leads the U.S. in solar generation, lagging only behind California. Texas is also a leader in other types of renewable energy, such as wind power, which could be essential to low-cost and efficient mining operations. 

But with Texas struggling through an energy crisis for the first part of 2021, how much more pressure can the southern power grid stand? Will prices skyrocket even more than during the February winter storm, And how much of that cost will be passed onto the consumer? 

Like the situation in China, Texas miners can use energy that would otherwise go to waste. And it is precisely this type of symbiotic relationship that could be a boon for energy production in the south-central region of the U.S. 

A mining facility already exists in west Texas was able to “sell its contracted power supplies back into the grid for a profit,” according to Bloomberg. So, “when power prices in Texas topped $200 a megawatt-hour, Layer1 reaped returns of more than 700%.”

The good news is that if other facilities follow suit, mining may help the Texas power grid retain more of its renewable energy. However, whether or not the excess energy will translate into savings for Texas electricity customers remains to be seen.

Why mining gets blamed for energy consumption

The question still remains that if miners are so strategic about optimizing energy, why has bitcoin mining been getting the brunt of the blame for energy consumption? 

Traditional monetary transactions involving fiat (i.e., government-issued) currency involve significant energy output as well. Consider the number of debit and credit card swipes that take place every second, which totaled over 174 billion transactions globally in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve. With that figure in mind, is the blockchain industry liable for energy gluttony, or are they being scapegoated by the “old guard” in the finance space? 

Diemer states, “I think that it’s an easy narrative, and I think that narrative always trumps research and due diligence. It’s easy to run with a narrative instead of actually digging down on the conversation and trying to understand what’s happening.” 

But Diemer is confident that the same avant-garde thinkers that facilitated the early days of crypto may be the same innovative minds that come up with our next big energy solution. “The interesting thing about the free market is that sometimes they find solutions to problems…that aren’t thought of by the public or the government.”

Perhaps he sums it up best by saying, “The minds in this space are just brilliant individuals that are thinking literally like Sci-Fi novels. And not only thinking like Sci-Fi novels, but they’re also writing the Sci-Fi novel as we speak and then putting it into everyday action. And if that’s not inspiring to you, then I don’t know what is.”

Energy Expert

Lisa Iscrupe is a writer with over 15 years of experience working in the energy and telecom space. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts focused in English Language and Literature from UNC Charlotte.

[SlavkoSereda]/Getty Images

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Business

Falcons coach tight-lipped about Julio Jones’ future

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The Atlanta Falcons began their offseason training program Tuesday without longtime star receiver Julio Jones, who apparently has no intention of returning to a rebuilding team that is still struggling to get under the salary cap.

Rookie coach Arthur Smith was tight-lipped about the Falcons’ options, but insisted that he doesn’t begrudge Jones for speaking his mind.

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“We encourage our players to speak for themselves,” Smith said during an interview session dominated by questions about Jones’ future. “That doesn’t change anything for us. We understand our plan going forward. We’ve had multiple private conversations with our players. Those conversations will remain private on my end.”

After plenty of questions about the seven-time Pro Bowler who, along with Matt Ryan, has been the face of the franchise for the past decade, Jones brought the situation to a head in a brief interview Monday with former NFL star Shannon Sharpe.

“I’m outta there,” Jones told the host of the “Undisputed” on FS1. When asked where he wants to play, the 32-year-old replied, “Right now, I wanna win.”

That seems unlikely with the Falcons, who are coming off their third straight losing season. Atlanta fired coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after an 0-5 start to a year that ended at 4-12.

Smith and new general manager Terry Fontenot have made it clear that all options are on the table as they attempt to rebuild the roster and deal with several salary cap limitations, which could be eased greatly by trading Jones.

After months of silence from both sides, Jones appears to be pushing for a resolution. In addition to his interview with Sharpe, a photo surfaced on social media of the receiver posing with the fan while wearing a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt.

Asked about Jones’ choice of attire, Smith called it “irrelevant.”

“You can wear whatever you want,” the coach said. “I don’t care.”

While the Cowboys would not seem to be in the market for another top receiver, there are teams that would surely benefit from having a dynamic player who had six straight seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving until he was limited to nine games in 2020 by injuries.

Among the teams that might interested in Jones: the San Francisco 49ers, coached by former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan; the New England Patriots, who have already made a big splash in free agency; and the Jacksonville Jaguars, buoyed by a new franchise quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and more cap space than any team in the league.

Jones’ status has certainly become a hot topic around the league, with Arizona receiver DeAndre Hopkins even sending a tweet — since deleted — implying he’d to restructure his contract if that’s what it took for Cardinals to deal for Jones.

Hopkins was at it again on Monday, posting a picture on Instagram of himself with Jones, receiver A.J. Green and former NFL star Michael Irvin at the 2016 Pro Bowl. He included the message, “Julio u remember what we talked about.”

Smith repeatedly refused to discuss any aspects of the Jones drama, from reports that the receiver privately requested a trade before the NFL draft to whether there’s any chance of a reconciliation with one of the team’s most popular players. The coach did say that every player on the roster has received a playbook and all information related to the voluntary OTAs (organized team activities).

“We’ve got so much respect and appreciation for what Julio Jones has done here with this franchise and what he’s meant to this city,” Smith said “But we have conversations about our roster all the time. We have to have contingency plans.”

Jones’ $15.3 million base salary is guaranteed and he’s set to cost the Falcons slightly more than $23 million against the salary cap next season. If he’s traded after June 1, they would be able to split the dead money over two seasons, which would greatly ease their grim financial situation.

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As it stands, the Falcons still must clear several million dollars just to sign a draft class led by the No. 4 overall pick, tight end Kyle Pitts.

While trading Jones makes sense financially, especially given the emergence of receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, the situation has cast a pall over a franchise that has never seemed to recover from blowing a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl.

Ryan made it clear last week how much Jones has meant to the team’s success.

“I love Julio. I’ve been so lucky to play with him for the past decade,” Ryan said. “He’s an incredible competitor and one of the best to ever do it at his position.”

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Amazon’s Profit More Than Triples As Pandemic Boom Continues

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s pandemic boom isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

The company said Thursday that its first-quarter profit more than tripled from a year ago, fueled by the growth of online shopping. It also posted revenue of more than $100 billion, the second quarter in a row that the company has passed that milestone.

Amazon is one of the few retailers that has benefited during the pandemic. As physical stores temporarily closed, people stuck at home turned to Amazon to buy groceries, cleaning supplies and more. That doesn’t seem to be dying down.

In the first three months of this year, the company reported profit of $8.1 billion, compared to $2.5 billion the year before. Earnings per share came to $15.79, about $6 more per share than what Wall Street analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Revenue jumped 44% to $108.5 billion. Seattle-based Amazon is one of four American companies that have reported quarterly revenue above $100 billion. The others are iPhone maker Apple, oil and gas company Exxon Mobil and retailer Walmart.

Amazon said revenue will remain at that level in the second quarter, expecting between $110 billion and $116 billion. Part of the reason why: It plans to hold Prime Day, its popular sales event, during the quarter. Amazon didn’t specify a date for Prime Day, but said it would happen before the end of June.

Besides online shopping, Amazon’s other businesses grew, too. Sales at its cloud-computing business, which helps power the online operations of Netflix, McDonald’s and other companies, grew 32% in the quarter. And at its unit that includes its advertising business, where brands pay to get their products to show up first when shoppers search on the site, sales rose 77%.

Amazon’s growth comes as it faces activism from within its workforce. Workers at a warehouse in Alabama tried to unionize, saying they wanted better pay and more break time. But a majority of voters batted down that effort.

This week, Amazon announced it was giving more than 500,000 workers a raise of between 50 cents and $3 an hour starting next month to attract new workers. The company already pays at least $15 an hour.

The online shopping giant has been on a hiring spree to keep up with a surge in orders. It had 1.27 million employees at the end of March, adding more than 430,000 people in the last year.

Shares of Amazon.com Inc., which are up 40% in the last year, rose 2.6% in after-hours trading Thursday.



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Watch Consumer Reports Trick A Tesla Into Driving Without A Driver

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Consumer Reports has released a video revealing how a vehicle operator tricked a Tesla into driving in autopilot mode without a person in the driver’s seat to take over in case of trouble.

The demonstration was broadcast just days after two friends died in a fiery crash in Texas in a 2019 Tesla Model S that authorities said had no driver — which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has denied.

Rigging the car to run on its own appeared relatively easy (check out the video above). A small weight was attached to the steering wheel to mimic the touch of a driver’s hand, but the person in the car actually touched nothing and sat in the front passenger seat. The car traveled down the road and emitted no warning that no one was in charge.

Tesla’s Autopilot website warns that its cars are not “autonomous.” Autopilot is “intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time,” the website states.

The site, however, gives mixed messages. In a featured video on the Autopilot site, a car is shown traveling all over town while the driver does nothing and has his hands in his lap. A message at the start of the video notes that the “person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.

Musk has largely shrugged off concerns about the autopilot feature and has insisted it makes the cars safer by helping drivers. Drivers have been known to fall asleep at the wheel, read or text while driving, or simply stop paying attention to the road when using the feature.

The friends in Texas, ages 59 and 69, were killed last Saturday night when the Tesla missed a curve and crashed into a tree, causing a fiery explosion in a residential neighborhood in suburban Houston. Their wives had heard them discussing trying out the car’s autopilot function as they left, according to law enforcement authorities. There was no one in the driver’s seat when firefighters extinguished the car blaze, according to Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman. One man was in the front passenger seat; the other was in the back seat, according to Herman.

It took four hours and 32,000 gallons of water to put out the fire because the car’s lithium battery cells kept reigniting.

After Tesla stock dropped 3.4% Monday after the accident was widely reported, Musk denied the car was driverless. He insisted in a tweet that “data logs recovered so far” showed that the autopilot was “not enabled” in the crash.  He also said the owner had not purchased an “FSD” ― a Full Self-Driving package.

Herman told Reuters that Musk’s tweet Monday was the first officials had heard from Tesla. He said authorities would serve search warrants on the company to obtain any data it had recovered from the vehicle.

“If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn’t told us that,” Herman said. “We will eagerly wait for that data.”

Tesla officials did apologize on Thursday — but not for the Texas crash. Tesla promised to cooperative fully in an investigation into a February multi-car crash in China. One of the drivers in that crash had climbed atop a Tesla at a car show in a protest blaming her Tesla’s brakes for the crash.

“We will work with regulators to conduct a deep-dive investigation with no reservations, and accept society’s supervision with sincerity and openness,” the company said on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, Vice reported.

Tesla offered a “deep apology” for failing to solve the problem, pledged to win back consumers’ support “with genuine sincerity” and promised to cover all the costs of a third-party examination of the protester’s vehicle.

The Communist Party’s powerful corruption watchdog had criticized Tesla as “spoiled and arrogant,” and warned it against “making Chinese people’s money while taking Chinese people’s lives,” Vice reported.





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Union Claims Amazon Tainted Election, Wants Vote Overturned

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The union that lost an election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama this month has accused the company of breaking labor laws during the campaign and asked federal officials to throw out the results.

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed 23 charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Friday alleging Amazon created an atmosphere of fear and confusion surrounding the vote. The union said in a statement that its claims “constitute grounds to set the election aside” and order a new one.

Among other charges, the union alleges that Amazon threatened workers with layoffs or the closure of the warehouse if they unionized, as well as cuts to their pay and benefits. It is illegal for employers to make such threats.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company denies the allegations.

“Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”

Workers voted 1,798 to 738 against unionizing in a preliminary tally, although the labor board has not yet certified those results. It’s likely that NLRB officials will hold a hearing on the union’s allegations, offering the union a chance to present its evidence. 

The election results could ultimately be overturned, although such a case could last months or years due to appeals.

Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, told HuffPost after the election that he believed Amazon acted illegally and the results should not be certified.

“We think there needs to be a new election,” he said.

Even if the results are thrown out, the union would have to win a new election at a warehouse where it just lost. Regardless, the hearings could provide the union with a way to air its case against Amazon, which carried out an aggressive and so far successful anti-union campaign.



Amazon urged workers to cast their ballots as quickly as possible, even having a billboard put up on the interstate.

In their filing with the board, the union says Amazon broke the law by having a U.S. Postal Service box placed at the warehouse for the election. An NLRB official had told the company it could not have drop boxes onsite for the mail-in election, but the company asked the Postal Service to install a temporary mailbox.

The union accuses Amazon of surveilling the mailbox and pressuring workers to bring their ballots to work to drop them in the box. Amazon says that it did not surveil the mailbox and that only the Postal Service had access to it.

“It created the impression … that Amazon was conducting the election,” Appelbaum said.

In the filing, the union also accuses Amazon of carrying out “an extensive campaign” of polling and “interrogating” workers about their union support, and holding mandatory meetings in which the company told workers “that the union will go on strike and that employees will lose money.”

That appears to be a reference to the so-called “captive audience” meetings in which consultants delivered talking points against the union. These meetings are a standard feature of anti-union campaigns, and Amazon workers told HuffPost they took place every week in the run-up to the vote.



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CEO Hits Back At Fox News After They Derided Him For Offering $70,000 Minimum Salaries

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The last six years have been a long strange trip for CEO Dan Price.

Back in 2015, the tech entrepreneur shocked the business world by slashing his own $1.1 million pay package to help fund a minimum “living wage” of $70,000 for all workers at his credit card processing company Gravity Payments.

Price’s decision led to him being heavily criticized as a “socialist” on Fox News and Fox Business. In addition, some clients dropped Gravity for reasons that included fears the salary hike would cause their rates to rise.

But in the years since, Price has been hailed as a success by Harvard Business School and Inc. magazine, which noted the number of employees at Gravity has doubled while the value of payments that the company processes has gone from $3.8 billion a year to $10.2 billion.

On Tuesday, Price referenced this success in a viral Twitter thread and video that took aim at his conservative critics, particularly Fox.

It hasn’t all been a smooth ride, Price admitted.

He also explained what inspired his decision to cut his own salary to $70,000 a year and raise pay for workers, saying the discovery that an employee was secretly working a second job at McDonald’s made him realize he was an “awful CEO.”

Although he took a drastic pay cut, Price said he doesn’t miss the “millionaire lifestyle” one bit.





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Why Pause The J&J Vaccine? An Expert Explains The Decision

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The decision by two key federal regulatory agencies to recommend a “pause” in using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine got everybody’s attention on Tuesday, especially since the progress had been so encouraging lately.

The impetus for the recommendation was six reports of medical incidents among the more than 6 million people who have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In a joint statement, the two agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said they were acting out of an “abundance of caution” in order to see whether these incidents were side effects of the vaccine and, if so, what that means for future use of the one-dose shot.  

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is one of three now available in the U.S. under emergency authorization orders. The other two are from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. 

All three vaccines induce human cells to produce the now-familiar COVID-19 protein spikes so that the body’s immune system learns to recognize the virus. But the Johnson & Johnson vaccine operates in a slightly different way than Moderna’s or Pfizer’s, neither of which have generated reports of such incidents.

Biden administration officials said Tuesday that the pause will not meaningfully affect vaccine distribution in the U.S. ― noting, among other things, that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine accounts for less than 5% of the shots that have gone into arms. 

The U.S. is already averaging more than 3 million vaccinations a day, and there are already small pockets of the country where supply is reaching or outstripping demand, with more likely to follow soon. 

Still, officials were hoping the J&J vaccine would boost the supply and provide a version that was easier to administer, because it requires just one dose rather than the two spaced-apart vaccinations that both Moderna and Pfizer require.

These reports are serious, but they are also very rare.
Joshua Sharfstein, Johns Hopkins professor and former FDA official

So what exactly did the FDA and CDC say today? Was that the right decision?What does it mean for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the vaccination campaign more generally, going forward?

Joshua Sharfstein has thought a lot about these issues. He served as principal deputy FDA commissioner during the Obama administration. Before that term, he was health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. Afterward, he served as secretary of health for Maryland. Now he is a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University. (He’s also a friend I’ve known for many years.)

HuffPost asked for his take on these questions. Here is a lightly edited version of our conversation, which took place over email.

Cohn: First thing: Can you translate for the public what the FDA and CDC actually have said and what it means? 

Sharfstein: FDA and CDC are reporting that six people developed an unusual type of blood clots within two weeks of vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All six are women, between the ages of 18 and 48. One died, and a second is in intensive care. These reports are serious, but they are also very rare. More than 6 million people have been vaccinated with this vaccine so far. 

The concern, for FDA and CDC and, of course, the rest of us, is that the vaccine may be the cause of this disorder ― that it’s not just a coincidence. To investigate and respond to this potential risk, the agencies have asked for a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

We should hear more soon, including at an advisory committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow, about what this means for the vaccination program. Today’s announcement reflects that the national vaccine program is working to identify and assess even remote risks quickly.

Cohn: A “pause.” So how long are we likely taking here?

Sharfstein: I would anticipate we’ll know more in days to several weeks. 

Cohn: People want to know if these reports means the vaccine is unsafe. Can you put this into context for us, relative to other vaccines or drugs? 

Sharfstein: When thinking about the safety of a drug or vaccine, I consider three questions.

First, how do the risks compare with the benefits? In this case, the benefits are impressive. Studies have shown that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is quite effective at preventing illness from COVID-19. The vaccine appears to be even more effective at preventing serious illness and death. 

FDA and CDC scientists are working now, first, to assess the likelihood that this unusual clotting problem is actually related to vaccination. And then, if they find it is likely to be related, they will have to weigh the very considerable benefits of avoiding COVID-19 against the potential harms of this unusual clotting problem for different groups of people. With this complication so rare, my expectation is that for all groups, they will find that the benefits far exceed the risks. The chance of a problem appears to be less, for example, than the risk of a severe allergic reaction to any of the COVID vaccines.



Principal Deputy Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein (left) and Acting Associate FDA Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Michael Chappell testify May 27, 2010, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on a voluntary recall of over-the-counter medications.

Second, how do the risks compare with the risks of other medical products that serve the same purpose? Two alternative COVID vaccines ― from Pfizer and Moderna ― have not been associated with this unusual clotting problem. So one question is whether, for people at the highest risk of this complication, it might make sense to recommend alternative vaccines where they are readily available. The agencies and their advisory committees may consider this option. 

Third, how well can the safety challenges be managed? With every vaccine, even the ones that have been around for many years, there’s a risk of a major allergic reaction. It’s very rare, but we prepare for it by having epinephrine handy at all times. Leaders at the FDA and CDC have said that one of the reasons for the pause is to make sure clinicians know about this unusual clotting problem, so they can be prepared to recognize it and provide effective treatment.  

Cohn: So let me press you here. As you say, the side effect has been very rare ― six reported incidents out of more than 6 million doses already in people’s arms. Why pause at all, given the vaccine’s potential to prevent large numbers of death? Why not just say, hey, we’re watching this but don’t see any reason to hold back on the shot?

Sharfstein: I respect that FDA and CDC are asking for a little time to assess the risks and to develop clinical recommendations for managing this unusual condition.

In addition, in public health, as in life, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Here, the public health agencies are showing how seriously they take the safety of these vaccines. They’re going to investigate these cases and then make a responsible decision on how to proceed. 

Continuing to vaccinate could have led people to worry that safety is a secondary consideration, undermining their desire to be vaccinated. Trust and confidence are the most important elements of a successful vaccination program. A loss of credibility now could damage efforts to encourage the use of all COVID vaccines this year and set back the nation’s recovery.

Cohn: OK, let’s talk about people who are reluctant to be vaccinated. Could this pause undermine their confidence further?

Sharfstein: Confidence comes both from the perception of risk and from trust in the vaccination program overall. These rare and unusual cases of clotting were going to be a big news story, no matter how FDA and CDC responded.

The logic of a pause is, in part, that someone concerned about the remote possibility of a clotting problem will hear from the start that public health agencies are taking the concern seriously. They’ll then be more open to the evidence and conclusions. 

Cohn: It sounds like you’re saying the risk of too little caution is bigger than the risk of a little too much caution. For example, if the FDA comes off as in any way cavalier about safety ― or, worse, if it fails to act on something that become a bigger problem ― then the damage to its credibility and ultimately public faith in vaccines could be enormous and long-lasting, and that risk more than outweighs whatever we lose by going through this pause. Do I have that right? 

Sharfstein: Yes. This is the world of “making decisions in the setting of uncertainty.” We do not know at this moment everything that the virus and the vaccines have in store for us. What we do know is that a loss of credibility among those who are on the fence about vaccination could be an enormous setback. Taking a moment to assess the situation is a responsible step. It’s now important for the agencies to move expeditiously, share information transparently and explain their next set of decisions well.  

Cohn: Let’s shift focus and talk science. We’re not hearing about these side effects with Moderna or Pfizer. But European regulators reported similarly rare but serious side effects with AstraZeneca. Is that a clue about what’s actually happening, because both J&J and AstraZeneca use similar delivery methods?

Sharfstein: Both the AstraZeneca vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are derived from a common cold virus called the adenovirus. An important question is whether this unusual clotting problem might be linked to the adenovirus component of the vaccines. 

Cohn: So why wasn’t this picked up in clinical trials?

Sharfstein: Clinical trials for vaccines are unable to detect very rare adverse events. That’s because the trials involve tens of thousands of subjects, but rare side effects may happen at a rate of 1 in 100,000, or even 1 in 1 million people.

To catch these problems, FDA and CDC set up a number of programs to monitor safety as the products gain wide use. This very monitoring identified the clotting cases, and now the agencies are responding. In other words, this recent finding and pause reflect the vigilance of our oversight system. 

Cohn: One reason everybody has been excited about Johnson & Johnson is that it’s just one dose and doesn’t have unusual storage requirements. That makes it a lot easier to deliver in under-served areas here ― and, especially, around the world. What are the global implications for this?

Sharfstein: The global dimension of the issue should not be overlooked. Both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are very important for global immunization efforts, so getting to the bottom of this unusual clotting problem is a high priority. FDA, CDC and other global regulators should be clear about the implications of different policy actions for the use of these vaccines around the world.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus





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