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Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan has announced a pilot with San Francisco-based Ripple for a national currency running on distributed electronic account-keeping.
The open-source XRP ledger claims to be carbon neutral and 120,000 times more efficient than proof-of-work blockchains. Unlike El Salvador, which has chosen to use the volatile and energy-guzzling Bitcoin as money alongside US dollars, Bhutan wants to retain the ngultrum, the national currency. The bet is that a paperless version of the central bank’s liabilities would be a more attractive alternative to bank deposits for a sparse population scattered across a rugged, mountainous terrain.
Companies are increasingly under pressure from governments, activists and their customers, as well as some powerful investors, to cut their emissions.
Fortunately, there’s another promising option: preventative Covid-19 treatments using monoclonal antibodies. These are lab-made proteins that boost the immune response to infection by binding to particular sites on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The technique was developed over 35 years ago and more recently used against the Ebola virus.
Researchers at the Urban Institute estimated last month that, thanks to big job gains and the benefits included in the American Rescue Plan approved in March and earlier pandemic-aid legislation, the share of Americans below the poverty line would fall to 7.7 per cent this year from what they estimated using the same methodology to have been 13.9 per cent in 2018.
The bottom half did enjoy a bigger percentage wealth gain than the top 1 per cent —30.3 per cent versus 20.7 per cent since the end of 2019 — although because it had so little wealth to start with, that amounted to just $609 billion in new wealth versus $7.1 trillion for the 1 per cent.
Still, the total wealth of the bottom 50 per cent in the first quarter of this year amounted to 6.3 per cent of that of the top 1 per cent, up from 5.8 per cent at the end of 2019 and the highest such percentage since 2007. In that sense, at least, inequality between the top and bottom decreased.
The evolution of the virus has been so rapid that the Delta variant, which is currently dominating the world, is at least twice as transmissible as the ancestral virus that was circulating.
What this means is that herd immunity is no longer a discussion the world should be having. We should start to avoid using that term in the context of SARS-CoV-2, because it’s not going to materialise – or is unlikely to materialise – during our lifetimes.
But it’s important to acknowledge it’s difficult to pin down a single magic number for herd immunity.
Delta makes the job so much harder In the absence of enough vaccines for everyone, control of the epidemic requires: 1) identifying all new cases by testing and isolating them to prevent further transmission 2) tracing all contacts and quarantining them for the incubation period, so they don’t cause further transmission. SARS-CoV-2 is highly infectious in asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people, so without contact tracing these people would carry on, unaware they are infected, and may infect many others.
It is easy to make the point that lockdowns are both economically costly and psychologically traumatic. But the counterfactual is not a situation where the economy is unaffected and everyone is happy. Living in fear of the virus, and watching family and friends suffer and die from it, is psychologically traumatic.
As regards the economic costs, the steps people take to reduce their exposure to risk are themselves costly, as is the need to allocate medical resources to treat the sick.
Not only do these attacks have a crippling economic effect, costing billions of dollars in damage, but the stolen data acquired by attackers can continue to cascade down through the crime chain and fuel other cybercrimes. Ransomware attacks are also changing. The criminal industry’s business model has shifted towards providing ransomware as a service. This means operators provide the malicious software, manage the extortion and payment systems and manage the reputation of the brand.
This past year, the information that fed our risk perceptions was confusing and often misleading. We were inundated with images and statistics about the pandemic last summer, but not about car accidents. This made the pandemic feel like the biggest and most immediate threat to our lives. True, for many people it was. Many more people died from Covid than car accidents. But not all activities were equally risky. For most of us, socializing outdoors was safer than reckless driving.