A report that the Paris elite, including possibly even government ministers, have been savoring champagne and nibbling on foie gras and langoustines at clandestine upscale brasseries sparked outrage in the world's culinary capital. French TV channel M6 aired an undercover video showing a waiter informing a guest that there was no need to worry about Covid-19 inside a shuttered dining club, where other lucky patrons were shown exchanging cheek kisses.

Restaurants have been shuttered since last year and France has plunged into another lockdown amid a fresh Covid surge, leaving gastronomes slumming it at home. The thought that those with means can buck the system is too much to bear. But if government ministers are involved, it will be a true scandal.

It also wouldn't be the first time that those in power who lay down the lockdown law have effectively said do as I say, not as I do.

In the United States, the Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas, Steve Adler, flew to a Mexican beach resort after telling residents to stay home. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz lambasted Adler, but that didn't stop him later flitting off to Mexico himself — while his constituents were in the dark after power outages caused by a freak snowstorm. California Governor Gavin Newsom often slapped restrictions on a state ravaged by the pandemic. But he was caught in a posh restaurant chowing down with lobbyists in November. Of course, the king of all rule breakers was Donald Trump — who disastrously undermined his own government's response to the worst public health crisis in 100 years by mocking masks and holding super spreader rallies.

But perhaps the most celebrated show of hypocrisy was when Dominic Cummings — an ex-adviser to British PM Boris Johnson — drove more than 250 miles with his family to the northern town of Barnard Castle, as the Downing Street operation he ran with an iron fist told Britons to stay indoors.

It doesn't take much to get the French on the streets. So if new details blow the lid off the scandal we might see the hoi polloi gathering outside the underground restaurants demanding their own helpings of lobster and foie gras. To which the retort might come from within: Let them eat cake.

'Before the summer is over'

It's the first rough timeline for the US to start sharing excess vaccine doses with other countries. On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said he is eyeing the end of summer as a time when the US can begin shipping some of its surplus: "My hope is before the summer is over, I'm talking to you all about how we have even access to more vaccines than we need to take care of every American, and we're helping other poor countries, countries around the world that don't have the money, the time, the expertise," Biden said at the White House. "Until this vaccine is available to the world and we're beating back the virus in other countries we're not really completely safe."

Just business

The Republican Party and corporate America were once indistinguishable. GOP lawmakers would lower taxes and cut regulations, and big business would fund their campaigns and supply cushy retirement jobs on the board. But the fraught politics left in Trump's wake are causing an ugly fracture.

Republicans are furious that Georgia-based giants like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines caved to activist pressure and condemned a new state elections law that makes it harder for Black people to vote. Sport was once a neutral zone where conservatives and liberals could escape politics. But when Major League Baseball, which has more right-leaning fans than the NBA, for instance, pulled its annual All-Star Game from Atlanta, a furious new front opened in America's endless culture war.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a dry sort not known for tantrums, fired off an extraordinary tirade. "From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government," said the Kentucky Republican, a longtime defender of big companies using their corporate cash reserves to shape US elections. "Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order."

Big business isn't sentimental. Executives could yet reconcile with the GOP over shared resistance to Biden's plans to raise the corporate tax rate in order to pay for his infrastructure package. And there's no way they'll pull their millions of dollars in campaign cash if Republicans look likely to win back control of Congress and the White House.

But they also appear to be making a judgment about who their customers will be in coming decades. While they might incur conservative boycotts in the short term, they fear alienating a rising tide of young, ethnically diverse and more socially liberal consumers now coming of age. In fact, they are acting on exactly the same assessment of the political map as the GOP legislators who are changing voting rules to hold at bay a growing anti-conservative wave.

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