Week In Review
By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, Coronavirus, and General News:
Katy Perry Back in Court For "Dark Horse" Dispute
A rapper who claims that Katy Perry copied his song to create her hit "Dark Horse" is headed to the Ninth Circuit, appealing a high-profile ruling last month that tossed out the jury's decision in the copyright infringement case. The plaintiffs claim that the song infringed their Christian rap song. The Court found that the plaintiffs couldn't satisfy the extrinsic test for assessing whether the works are substantially similar, and that the songs only shared common musical elements that cannot be protected. The decision relied on the Ninth Circuit's recent Led Zeppelin decision.
The case is: Gray, et. al. vs. Perry, et. al., case: 2:15-cv-05642, available at https://www.law360.com/articles/1264505
Hollywood's Backstage Workers Try to Soldier On
As with much of life around the world, film and television production has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic -- leaving stars, stylists, directors, studio chiefs, grips, writers, set builders, trailer cutters, agents, and scores of other specialized Hollywood workers at home and confronting the same question almost everyone has: Now what? Across the industry, shooting is not expected to resume until August, in part because of the time it will take to reassemble casts and crews once the coronavirus threat subsides. That leaves a vast number of people without work. Hollywood supports 2.5 million jobs, according to the Motion Picture Association of America; many workers are freelancers, getting paid project to project. "I keep telling myself, 'Panicking is not going to help,'" said Muffett Brinkman, an associate casting director who has been unemployed for more than a month. "Hopefully things restart before I'm completely financially ruined." She is a member of Teamsters Local 399, where the hourly minimum for her job category is $18.45.
Virus Freezes Festivals + Fashion
Festivals like Coachella have been postponed, leaving scores of online fashion retailers with a mass of unsold inventory and unpaid suppliers. Scores of other festivals have also fallen off the calendar, leaving musicians without stages to play on, millions of attendees set to stay home -- and fashion brands with mountains of unsold denim hot pants, fringed skirts, and sequin cropped tops. "For some brands, festivals aren't just a season like summer or fall, but the season of the year to build relationships with a certain kind of shopper, who buy fun new extra additions for their wardrobe that they wouldn't normally be tempted by," said Lucie Greene, a trend forecaster and the founder of the Light Years consultancy. "They define an entire aesthetic of collections and products for some labels." Given that some events, like Coachella, have been tentatively rescheduled for fall, it is possible that the lockdown measures will be only a short-term blip in the festival fashion business. Yet after months of social distancing, will festivalgoers want to rush back to crowded venues?
Ticketmaster's Policy Under Fire as Customers Demand Refunds
Live Nation Entertainment, the global concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, announced a program on Friday to offer refunds and coupons for canceled and postponed shows, after weeks of criticism online and growing pressure from lawmakers. According to Live Nation's plan, which starts May 1, people can obtain refunds for canceled or rescheduled shows. Like another plan instituted this week by AEG Presents, Live Nation's biggest corporate rival, refunds for postponed shows will be available for 30 days once new dates have been set. For events that already have new dates, the customers' 30-day refund window will start May 1. Live Nation has also offered incentives for its customers to hold on to their tickets -- and therefore let the company to hold on to revenue. For canceled shows, Live Nation is offering its customers credits worth 150% of their tickets' value to use on future events. Customers who decide to go to shows when they are rescheduled will also receive credits, but for lesser amounts that may vary for each event. Live Nation's program applies only to events in the United States.
Mashable Wins Motion to Dismiss Photographer's Infringement Claim
Photographer Stephanie Sinclair alleged copyright infringement against the website Mashable over use of "embedded" Instagram posts. The court granted Mashable's motion to dismiss, finding that the photographer gave Instagram broad power to relicense works she had posted. This decision was based on Instagram's terms of service.
The case is Sinclair v. Ziff Davis, LLC (S.D.N.Y.) Case 1:18-cv-00790-KMW
Broadway Fundraiser is On Again
A Broadway fund-raiser to benefit entertainment workers whose livelihoods have been imperiled by the coronavirus was rescheduled after a labor union retreated from a demand that musicians be paid for the streaming of the previously recorded event. "We believe all musicians should be fairly compensated for their work all of the time, but we also believe that we must do everything possible to support entertainment workers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic," Ray Hair, international president of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, said in a statement Monday. "We fully support the union musicians who have graciously offered to forgo all required payments to allow this charity event to move forward." The event's purpose is to raise money for the theater nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It will feature a streamed benefit concert, recorded in November, in which 79 singers and dancers, and 15 musicians, performed songs from Disney musicals. The actor Ryan McCartan will host from home, weaving in live interviews.
Brooklyn Academy of Music Executives Take Steep Pay Cuts
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) announced that it has canceled its programming and events through June because of the coronavirus pandemic. To help offset the lost ticket revenue, which BAM estimates will total $7.4 million, the organization's president and executives have agreed to pay reductions of up to 40%. BAM has been largely shut down since March 13, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people. Discussions are ongoing about what the revenue shortfall caused by almost 4 months of cancellations will ultimately mean for Bam's employees.
Comic Creators Unite to Benefit Stores
A large group of comic book creators are banding together to help support comic book retailers whose business have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Using the Twitter hashtag #Creators4Comics, more than 120 creators will be auctioning comic books, artwork, and one-of-a-kind experiences. The auctions will benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which is accepting applications from comic book shops and bookstores for emergency relief.
Louis Vuitton Reopens U.S. Plants to Make Masks
Louis Vuitton company officials announced that their manufacturing workshops in the United States -- specifically in Texas, New Jersey, and California -- will start making protective masks. Artisans at the workshops will work to create cotton, nonsurgical masks that can be washed, reused, and adjusted, according to the company.
National Football League Relaxes Marijuana Restrictions
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players who test positive for marijuana will no longer be suspended. Testing will be limited to the first 2 weeks of training camp instead of from April to August, and the threshold for the amount of 9-delta tetrahydrocannabinol -- or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana -- needed to trigger a positive test will be raised fourfold. In adopting the changes, the league, which is not known for its liberal views, caught up to and in some ways leapfrogged Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Associatiom, and other leagues that had already eased their rules as acceptance of marijuana became more common in many parts of the country.
Doping Tests Go Virtual
Since no one knows when it will be safe to start testing athletes in person again, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) started an experiment 2 weeks ago, to see if sample collections could be done virtually. Instead of overseeing the process in person, the doping control officers are doing their jobs by phone and video conferencing. The agency did not have to search hard for volunteer subjects, including athletes who are favored to medal at the Olympics next year in Tokyo. Katie Ledecky, one of the world's most dominant swimmers, signed on, as did the runners Noah Lyles, Allyson Felix, Emma Coburn, and Aliphine Tuliamuk. About a dozen others are participating, said Travis Tygart, the chief executive of USADA. Though the main short-term benefit would be minimizing doubts about whether athletes are adhering to the rules in the absence of traditional sample collectors, the long-term goal of the virtual program is more ease and less intrusiveness in drug testing.
U.S. Tennis Association Plans a $15 Million Bailout for Various Tennis Groups
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) will cut its top executives' salaries by 20% for the remainder of 2020 as part of an effort to provide emergency assistance totaling about $15 million to American tennis facilities, teaching professionals, and grassroots tennis organizations. The relief program comes with professional and most recreational tennis shut down in the country and with this year's United States Open in doubt. The Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is the primary source of funding for the USTA, which oversees tennis in the United States. The tournament generates revenue approaching $400 million each year and, for now, is still scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13 in New York. Unlike Wimbledon, the oldest of the Grand Slam tournaments, which was canceled for the first time since 1945, the U.S. Open does not have pandemic insurance to cover some of its losses.
Conferences Petition NCAA, Seeking to Cut Sports
The commissioners of 5 college athletic conferences have asked the NCAA to relax some of its requirements because of financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In a joint letter to the president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, the commissioners of the American Athletic, Mountain West, Mid-American, and Sun Belt conferences and Conference USA asked for temporary relief for up to 4 years, calling this the "direst financial crisis for higher education since at least the Great Depression." Among their requests was for the NCAA to ease the requirement that they sponsor a minimum of 16 sports to be in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They also asked to waive the football attendance requirement, which requires colleges to average at least 15,000 people at all home football games, and to change scheduling requirements.
MLB Employees Become the Subjects of a Huge Coronavirus Study
MLB employees, from players to stadium workers to executives, are participating in a 10,000-person study aimed at understanding how many people in various parts of the United States have been infected with the coronavirus. Each participant will have a finger pricked to produce blood that will be tested for the presence of antibodies, which indicates a past infection even in people who have never displayed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The test for the virus itself can reveal only a current infection.
One of the biggest hurdles in determining when to reopen parts of the United States is the uncertainty about the number of people who have been infected over all and who, as a result, may now have some sort of immunity.
Here's What Has To Happen First Before Sports Comes Back
During a news conference, President Trump made a personal plea that probably resonated with at least some sports fans around the country. "We have to get our sports back," Trump said. "I'm tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old." Trump said he was assembling a panel of experts -- including the commissioners of every major league in the country -- to figure out a way for games to return to stadiums around the country. Both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government's leading expert on infectious diseases, expressed support for the idea of staging games without spectators in the stands. In the big picture, it comes down to priorities. Medical experts focused solely on eliminating the spread of the virus would say that sports should not played at this time at all. However, not everyone thinks that way. For some, restoring a bit of normalcy to American economic and social life outweighs some of the dangers of the virus. Experts agree that even if sports leagues return in some diminished capacity in the near term, there will not be a true return to "normal" -- like, say, the sight of 50,000 people packed into Yankee Stadium -- until there is a vaccine available to everyone in the country. That could take until 2021, or beyond, to happen.
Some Fans Aren't Surprised by Racial Abuse Allegations Against National Hockey League
New York Rangers prospect K'Andre Miller was repeatedly harassed in a videoconference organized by the Rangers. Abusive comments popped up on fans' screens during his online video chat with them this month. Some fans say the incident, as well as the team's handling of it, is indicative of a larger problem. The language on the chat was the first public act of racism connected to the National Hockey League (NHL) since its December announcement of a "zero tolerance" policy for abusive behavior and of required diversity and inclusion training for all coaches and general managers. Yet the NHL's handling of the chat incident has come under fire from fans who say that the league and the Rangers should have been better prepared, given longstanding problems with racist language in hockey arenas, which is often directed at players and diverse groups of fans.
XFL Files for Bankruptcy
Alpha Entertainment, the company that owns the XFL, filed for bankruptcy 3 days after the league suspended operations and laid off its staff. "The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football," the league said in a statement. "Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 crisis." The XFL returned in February, 19 years after its first and only other season. The revived version, originally slated for 10 games, lasted only 5 weeks before the season was shut down last month because of the pandemic. The XFL had also scheduled a 4-team postseason, with a championship game in Houston for late April, that were also canceled. At the time of the shutdown last month, league leaders vowed that it would return in 2021. Now that seems unlikely.
Saudi Cup Puts Hold on Prize Money
The organizers of the inaugural Saudi Cup, the world's richest horse race, are withholding the $20 million in prize money while they investigate whether the winner, Maximum Security, was aided by performance-enhancing drugs. Last month, the trainer of the colt, Jason Servis, was among more than two dozen trainers, veterinarians, and drug distributors accused, by federal prosecutors in the United States in a series of indictments, of secretly doping horses and cheating the betting public. Servis has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit drug adulteration and misbranding.
Swiss Authorities Drop FIFA Prosecution
Days after the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled more details in a case that has shined a light on decades-long corruption at the heart of soccer, the Swiss authorities have confirmed that they plan to drop one of 2 cases against Sepp Blatter, a former president of FIFA, the global governing body of soccer. Blatter had been suspected of improper business conduct and, possibly, embezzlement, according to the Swiss authorities, and he and FIFA were being scrutinized for the awarding of World Cup broadcast rights in the Caribbean in 2005. The setback was another blow to the credibility of the Swiss prosecution of officials in the world's most popular sport. The inquiry in Switzerland began in September 2015, 4 months after a Justice Department indictment outlined corruption schemes that implicated some of soccer's most senior leaders, businessmen, and companies at the time. While the United States has since successfully prosecuted many of them, the Swiss have failed in its attempts to match its American counterparts in the pursuit of convictions and indictments. Switzerland's attorney general's office confirmed that the case had been dropped 6 days after the latest U.S. charges were made public on April 6.
Condé Nast is The Latest Media Casualty of COVID-19
Roger J. Lynch, the chief executive of the company behind Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, sent a memo to 6,000 employees around the world to inform them of an austerity plan that includes pay cuts, furloughs, and possible layoffs. "It's very likely our advertising clients, consumers and therefore our company will be operating under significant financial pressure for some time," Lynch said in the note. "As a result, we'll need to go beyond the initial cost-savings measures we put in place to protect our business for the long term." The salaries of those earning $100,000 or more -- just under half the company -- will be reduced by 10 to 20% for 5 months, starting in May. The pay of executives in the senior management team, including Anna Wintour, the artistic director and Condé Nast's best-known figurehead, will be cut 20%. In addition, Lynch said that he would forgo half of his salary, and that board members who were not employees of Advance Publications (the holding company that owns Condé Nast), like Domenico De Sole, former chief executive of Gucci Group, would take a 50% reduction in their compensation.
Furloughs and Pay Cuts Hit the The Los Angeles Times
The parent company of The Los Angeles Times is furloughing 40 employees and cutting the pay of senior managers in an effort to make up for losses brought on by a pandemic-related decline in advertising revenue. "Due to the unexpected effects of Covid-19, our advertising revenue has nearly been eliminated," said a memo to the staff from Chris Argentieri, the president of California Times, the publishing company that includes The LA Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune. The furloughed employees do not work in the newsroom. They could be out for as long as 16 weeks, and it is possible that they will be laid off at the end of the furlough period. As part of the austerity plan, pay for senior editorial and business managers at The LA Times and The Union-Tribune will be reduced by as much as 15% for 3 months, and 401(k) matches will be suspended. The cuts do not apply to union employees who belong to the NewsGuild. Argentieri said that company leaders would meet with union representatives to address "cost-saving initiatives."
Facebook to Notify Users Who Have Engaged with Harmful COVID-19 Posts
Facebook Inc. has announced that it would start notifying users who had engaged with false posts about COVID-19, which could cause physical harm, such as drinking bleach to cure the virus, and connect them to accurate information. The social media giant, which also owns photo-sharing network Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp, said it has been battling to control large volumes of misinformation, such as posts that say physical distancing will not curb the disease. Facebook has taken an uncharacteristically aggressive stance on false coronavirus posts, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg saying hoaxes about the virus pose more of a threat to users than political falsehoods, which it generally permits.
Influencers Think Twice About Posts
As the coronavirus pandemic moved across the United States, the stock market plunged and many of the country's businesses closed, a major platform for social media influencers had a rosier message: "Good news in consumer shopping trends!" With online business now crucial for many brands whose futures are threatened by store closings, the sell itself has become a delicate dance. Some companies have barred any mention of the coronavirus or Covid-19 in influencer posts, even if the ads are about staying at home or taking care of family. Some agencies have recommended that influencers working at home should portray products in everyday clothing and that images should feel "bright and cheerful."
Trump Wanted a Radio Show, but He Didn't Want to Compete with Limbaugh
In March, Trump strode into the Situation Room for a meeting with the coronavirus task force. He didn't stop by the group's daily meetings often, but had an idea he was eager to share: He wanted to start a White House talk radio show. At the time, the virus was rapidly spreading across the country, and Trump would soon announce a ban on European travel. A talk radio show, Trump excitedly explained, would allow him to quell Americans' fears and answer their questions about the pandemic directly, according to 3 White House officials who heard the pitch. There would be no screening, he said, just an open line for people to call and engage one-on-one with the president. However, almost as suddenly as he proposed it, he outlined one reason why he would not be moving forward with it: He did not want to compete with Rush Limbaugh. No one in the room was sure how to respond, 2 of the officials said. Someone suggested hosting the show in the mornings or on weekends, to steer clear of the conservative radio host's schedule. Yet Trump said that he envisioned his show as 2 hours a day, every day, and were it not for Limbaugh, and the risk of encroaching on his territory, Trump reiterated, he would do it.
Apple Rolls Out Cheaper iPhone in Midst of Pandemic Spending Curbs
Apple is releasing a new iPhone that will be vastly cheaper than the models it rolled out last fall when the economy was booming and the pandemic had yet to force people to rethink their spending. The second-generation iPhone SE introduced Wednesday will sell for as little as $399, a 40% markdown from the most affordable iPhone 11 unveiled last year. Higher-end versions of the iPhone 11 sell for more than $1,000. Online orders for the iPhone SE will begin Friday, with the first deliveries expected April 24.
Fake Theories Make Bill Gates a Target
In a 2015 speech, Bill Gates warned that the greatest risk to humanity was not nuclear war, but an infectious virus that could threaten the lives of millions of people. That speech has resurfaced in recent weeks with 25 million new views on YouTube -- but not in the way that Gates likely intended. Anti-vaccinators, members of the conspiracy group QAnon, and right-wing pundits have instead seized on the video as evidence that one of the world's richest men planned to use a pandemic to wrest control of the global health system. Gates, the Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, has now become the star of an explosion of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. In posts on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, he is being falsely portrayed as the creator of Covid-19, as a profiteer from a virus vaccine, and as part of a dastardly plot to use the illness to cull or surveil the global population.
Trump Retweets #FireFauci
Trump publicly signaled his frustration with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government's top infectious disease expert, after the doctor said that more lives could have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier. Trump reposted a Twitter message that said "Time to #FireFauci" as he rejected criticism of his slow initial response to the pandemic that has now killed more than 22,000 people in the United States. Trump has been privately irritated with Dr. Fauci, but the Twitter post was the most explicit he has been in letting that show publicly.
U.S. Accuses North Korea of Cyberattacks
The United States has accused North Korea of employing an array of old and new forms of cyberattacks to steal and launder money, extort companies, and use digital currencies to gain cash for its nuclear weapons program. The report -- issued jointly by the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, and the F.B.I. -- says the purpose of the accelerated program is for North Korea "to generate revenue for its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs." Yet the decision to publicly focus on North Korea's actions is quiet acknowledgment that Trump's 2-year diplomatic effort, backed by continued economic sanctions, has failed to slow the North's nuclear production or prevent it from using new avenues of attack.
Coronavirus Class Divide
With the pandemic exposing and compounding inequality in matters large and small, access to private, controllable space has emerged as a new class divide -- more valuable than ever to those who have it and potentially fatal to those who do not. "The pandemic is a reminder that privacy is at a premium among the poor -- hard to find and extremely valuable," said Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. "Living in crowded conditions not only increases the risk of infection but can also impose serious emotional and mental health costs. The ability to retreat into one's own space is a way to cope with conflict, tension and anxiety."
Census Announces Delays in 2020 Count
Conceding that its effort to count the nation's population has been hamstrung by the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau said that it would extend the deadlines for collecting census data and ask Congress for a delay in providing final counts used for Congressional redistricting.
Supreme Court to Hear Arguments by Phone
For the first time, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments by telephone over 6 days in May. It will also open live remote access to audio of the arguments. "In keeping with public health guidance in response to Covid-19," a news release from the Court said, "the justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The Court anticipates providing a live audio feed of these arguments to news media. Details will be shared as they become available." Although the release referred only to access by the news media, a Court spokeswoman said that the audio feed would also be available to the public.
States Ask Supreme Court to Reconsider Wealth Test
Three states, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, asked the Supreme Court to revisit a January ruling that allowed the Trump administration to move forward with plans to deny green cards to immigrants who make even occasional and minor use of public benefits like Medicaid. The states, along with New York City itself, asked the justices to temporarily suspend the program in light of the coronavirus pandemic. "Every person who doesn't get the health coverage they need today risks infecting another person with the coronavirus tomorrow," said Letitia James, New York's attorney general. "Immigrants provide us with health care, care for our elderly, prepare and deliver our food, clean our hospitals and public spaces and take on so many other essential roles in our society, which is why we should all be working to make testing and health coverage available to every single person in this country, regardless of immigration status." The pandemic, the motion said, had changed the legal calculus and justified loosening the administration's new requirements for the so-called public charge rule, which allows officials to deny permanent legal status, also known as a green card.
How a Supreme Court Decision Curtailed the Right to Vote in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin spring elections were less than a week away, and with the state's coronavirus death toll mounting, Democrats were challenging Republican plans to hold the vote as scheduled.
In an emergency hearing, held via videoconference, John Devaney, a lawyer for the Democrats, proposed a simple compromise: Extend the deadline for mail ballots by 6 days past Election Day, to April 13, to ensure that more people could vote, and vote safely. The presiding federal judge, William M. Conley, agreed, pointing out that clerks were facing severe backlogs and delays as they struggled to meet surging demand for mail-in ballots. Yet with hours to go before Election Day, the Supreme Court reversed that decision along strict ideological lines, a decision based in large part on the majority's assertion that the Democrats had never asked for the very extension Devaney requested in court. It was the first major voting-rights decision led by the Court's conservative newest member, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and it was in keeping with a broader Republican approach that puts more weight on protecting against potential fraud -- vanishingly rare in American elections -- than the right to vote, with limited regard for the added burdens of the pandemic. When the state released its final vote tallies, it was clear that the decision had resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, forced several thousand more to endanger their lives at polls, and burdened already strained state health officials with a grim new task: tracking the extent to which in-person voting contributed to the virus's spread in the state, a federal disaster area.
Interestingly, Democrats scored a significant victory in Wisconsin when a liberal challenger upset a Trump-backed incumbent to win a State Supreme Court seat, a down-ballot race that illustrated strong turnout and vote-by-mail efforts in a presidential battleground state. The challenger for the court seat, Jill Karofsky, ousted the conservative incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly, in a contest with broad potential implications for voting rights in Wisconsin's November general election. Justice Kelly became just the second incumbent State Supreme Court justice to be ousted at the polls since 1967. Trump had boasted that his endorsement of Justice Kelly had unnerved Democrats in the state.
East Coast vs. West Coast in COVID-19 Battle Responses
As the nation struggles to scrounge up the lifesaving machines for hospitals overrun with Covid-19 patients, 3 Western states, California, Oregon, and Washington, recently shipped 1,000 spare resiprators to New York and other besieged neighbors on the East Coast. The ongoing effort of these states to come to the aid of more hard-hit parts of the nation has emerged as the most powerful indication to date that the early intervention of West Coast governors and mayors might have mitigated, at least for now, the medical catastrophe that has befallen New York and parts of the Midwest and South. Their aggressive imposition of stay-at-home orders has stood in contrast to the relatively slower actions in New York and elsewhere, and drawn widespread praise from epidemiologists.
Email Chain Shows Faltering Response to the Coronavirus
As the coronavirus emerged and headed toward the United States, an extraordinary conversation was hatched among an elite group of infectious disease doctors and medical experts in the federal government and academic institutions around the nation. Red Dawn -- a nod to the 1984 film with Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen -- was the nickname for the email chain they built. Different threads in the chain were named Red Dawn Breaking, Red Dawn Rising, Red Dawn Breaking Bad, and, as the situation grew more dire, Red Dawn Raging. It was hosted by the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Duane C. Caneva, starting in January with a small core of medical experts and friends that gradually grew to dozens. The "Red Dawn String," Dr. Caneva said, was intended "to provide thoughts, concerns, raise issues, share information across various colleagues responding to Covid-19," including medical experts and doctors from the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Homeland Security Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Pentagon, and other federal agencies tracking the historic health emergency.
How the Virus Transformed the Way We Spend Money
The coronavirus has profoundly altered daily life in America, ushering in sweeping upheavals to the U.S. economy. Among the most immediate effects of the crisis? Radical changes to how people spend their money. In a matter of weeks, pillars of American industry essentially ground to a halt. Airplanes, restaurants, and arenas were suddenly empty. In many states, businesses deemed nonessential -- including luxury goods retailers and golf courses -- were ordered closed. Some companies like Walmart, Amazon, and Uber Eats have seen spikes in purchases, but customers of many other businesses have simply stopped spending. "This is the sharpest decline in consumer spending that we have ever seen," said Luke Tilley, chief economist at Wilmington Trust.
Banks Set Billions Aside to Prepare for Recession
The economic shutdown the coronavirus has caused has already forced millions of Americans out of work and threatened the future of thousands of small businesses, and the country's biggest banks are bracing for the fallout. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo set aside billions of dollars each for losses on loans to customers who may soon no longer have the means to repay them. JPMorgan, the country's largest bank, added $8.3 billion to its reserves to prepare for impending defaults -- a $6.8 billion increase from the same quarter last year. Wells Fargo set aside $4 billion, which was an increase of $3.1 billion. The chief executive of JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, said that the bank was preparing for "the likelihood of a fairly severe recession."
Small-Business Aid Funds Run Dry as Program Fails to Reach Hardest Hit
A new federal program to help small businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic ran out of money and is falling short in the industries and states most battered by the crisis, risking waves of bankruptcies and millions of additional unemployed workers. Funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, an initiative created by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted last month was exhausted early, meaning that the Small Business Administration would have to stop approving applications. More than 1.4 million loans had been approved at a value of more than $315 billion.
International Monetary Fund Predicts Worst Downturn Since the Great Depression
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a stark warning on Tuesday about the coronavirus's economic toll, saying that the world is facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression, as shuttered factories, quarantines, and national lockdowns cause economic output to collapse. In its World Economic Outlook, the IMF projected that the global economy would contract by 3% in 2020, an extraordinary reversal from earlier this year, when the fund forecast that the world economy would outpace 2019 and grow by 3.3%. This year's fall output would be far more severe than the last recession, when the world economy contracted by less than 1% between 2008 and 2009.
Sales at U.S. Stores Hit Catastrophic Depths
Retail sales plunged in March, offering a grim snapshot of the coronavirus outbreak's effect on consumer spending, as businesses shuttered from coast to coast and wary shoppers restricted their spending. Total sales, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, fell 8.7% from the previous month, according to the Commerce Department. The decline was by far the largest in the nearly 3 decades the government has tracked the data. Even that bleak figure doesn't capture the full impact of the sudden economic freeze on the retail industry. Most states didn't shut down nonessential businesses until late March or early April, meaning that data for the current month could be worse still.
U.S. Job Losses Mount as Trump Presses Plan to Reopen Business
The ranks of America's unemployed have swelled toward Great Depression-era levels and Trump reacted to the pressure on the economy by outlining a phased approach to reopening parts of the country where the coronavirus is being brought under control. Trump told the nation's governors that restrictions could be eased to allow businesses to reopen over the next several weeks in places that have extensive testing and a marked decrease in COVID-19 cases. "We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," Trump said, adding that his new guidelines give governors the freedom to act as they see fit. His comments marked an abrupt change after a week in which he clashed with governors over his claim that he had "total" authority over how and when the country reopens.
COVID-19 Crisis Strains Needy and Groups That Help Them
Charitable organizations are a critical part of the social safety net in the United States, providing food, shelter, and cash assistance to vulnerable people who fall through gaps in government safety nets. Yet just as COVID-19 is causing a surge in demand for their services, it is straining the social service nonprofits' efforts to help. With revenue streams dried up, fundraising events canceled, and no relief in sight, some nonprofits are being forced to retrench when they are most needed. Just weeks into the pandemic, some organizations have enacted widespread layoffs while others have cut programs.
Some Banks Keep Customers' Stimulus Checks if Accounts Are Overdrawn
For some struggling Americans, the arrival of a deposit from the Treasury Department to help with basic expenses like rent and groceries during the coronavirus crisis was something to count on -- until their financial institutions got in the way. Frustrated customers say banks have been seizing some, or all, of their relief payments because their accounts are overdrawn, in some cases as a result of pandemic-caused hardship. The phenomenon is swiftly becoming a political issue, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fielding calls from senators urging him to ensure that relief money isn't garnished. Banks are legally allowed to withhold funds that go into accounts with negative balances, and no specific provision in the CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief package that authorized the stimulus payments, prevents banks from taking customers' stimulus money to cover debts.
Gig Workers' Revived Fight Over Labor Status
California has been in a standoff with the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft over their drivers' status under the law: whether they are contractors or employees. Now the coronavirus crisis has put a spotlight on a related question: Who is responsible for helping those drivers when there is no work? The companies are urging their drivers nationwide to apply for emergency unemployment benefits that federal legislation established last month for the self-employed. However, there's a catch in California: The state doesn't typically consider them as self-employed. Nonetheless, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order directing the state's unemployment agency to help workers like Uber and Lyft drivers collect benefits under the federal program, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. That may put the state at odds with the rules of the federal program. U.S. Labor Department officials have emphasized that only workers ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits can receive the federal pandemic assistance, and under a state law passed last year and some previous determinations, the drivers are considered employees in California and should be able to draw traditional unemployment benefits.
Uber and Lyft Are Searching for Lifelines
With much of the country and many other parts of the world in lockdown because of the virus, investors fear for the future of Uber and its ride-hailing rival, Lyft. The two companies, which were never close to being profitable when the economy was booming, face an existential question: How will they and their drivers stay afloat when most people are staying home?? Last week, Uber told financial analysts that it couldn't forecast how much revenue it would generate this year because of the upheaval caused by the coronavirus. In February, Uber had said it expected to bring in between $16 billion and $17 billion this year. For now, the strategy at Uber and Lyft, like that at many other companies, appears to be: Wait it out. Financial analysts expect the companies to cut back on marketing and the incentives they often offer for drivers. If widespread shelter-in-place orders continue through the summer, analysts said, layoffs or furloughs among the companies' thousands of office workers are possible.
Experts Reject Trump Claim of "Total Authority"
Trump's claim that he wielded "total" authority in the pandemic crisis prompted rebellion not just from governors. Legal scholars across the ideological spectrum rejected his declaration that ultimately he, not state leaders, will decide when to risk lifting social distancing limits in order to reopen businesses. "When somebody's the president of the United States, the authority is total," Trump asserted at a press briefing recently. "And that's the way it's got to be." Yet neither the Constitution nor any federal law bestows that power upon Trump, a range of legal scholars and government officials said. "We don't have a king in this country," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said, adding, "There are laws and facts -- even in this wild political environment." He rebutted Trump's claim by citing a line from Alexander Hamilton, observing that presidential encroachment on powers that the Constitution reserved to the states would be "repugnant to every rule of political calculation."
Trump's 'Opening Our Country Council' Runs into Its Own Opening Problems
Instead of a formal council, Trump created several industry groups, and joined 4 calls with them. However, some participants had no notice that they would be included, and others were not available to join. In short, the rollout of what Trump referred to recently as his "Opening Our Country Council" was as confusing as the process of getting there. Instead of a formal council, what Trump announced was a watered-down version that included 17 separate industry groups, including hospitality, banking, energy, and "thought leaders." The confusion was the latest example of the difficulty the administration has encountered in its attempts to enlist support from the private sector to bolster Trump's claim that he has the power to reopen the economy, even as governors have made it clear that they will make those decisions themselves.
Airlines Accept $25 Billion Bailout Terms
The Trump administration has reached an agreement in principle with major airlines over the terms of a $25 billion bailout to prop up an industry hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Treasury Department said that Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, and Southwest Airlines would participate. The program is supposed to help the companies pay their workers and was created as part of the economic stabilization package that Congress passed last month. In recent days, the bailout negotiations became contentious over the Treasury's insistence that larger airlines repay at least some of the money they received. The parties ultimately agreed that the government's support would be structured as part grant and part loan and the Treasury would also receive warrants to buy stock in the companies.
Trump Adds Name to Stimulus Checks
Trump's name will appear on the economic stimulus checks that will be mailed to millions of Americans in the coming weeks, the Treasury Department confirmed. The decision to have Trump's name on the checks, a break in protocol, was made by the Treasury Department after Trump suggested the idea to Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, according to a department official. Trump's name will appear in the "memo" section of the check because he is not legally authorized to sign such disbursements.
Trump Blames World Health Organization for Virus
For weeks, Trump has faced relentless criticism for having overseen a slow and ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic, failing to quickly embrace public health measures that could have prevented the disease from spreading. Recent polls show that more Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of the virus than approve. So during a White House briefing, Trump tried to shift the blame elsewhere, ordering his administration to halt nearly $500 million in funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) and claiming the organization made a series of devastating mistakes as it sought to battle the virus. He said his administration would conduct a review into whether the WHO was responsible for "severely mismanaging and covering up" the spread.
Shutdowns Curb Abortions
The fight over abortion rights, rather than receding into the background during the pandemic, has intensified as a number of states have banned the procedure in recent weeks as part of emergency measures to fight the virus. In at least 7 states across the South and the Midwest, authorities have included abortion as a nonessential medical procedure, arguing that postponement is necessary to preserve medical and protective equipment. Abortion rights groups say that the pandemic is being used as a pretense to restrict abortion, and have sued to stop the states, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Former President Barack Obama Backs VP Biden for President
Former President Barack Obama emerged from political hibernation to endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr. and urge the Democratic Party -- including, explicitly, supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- to unite behind its presumptive presidential nominee in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. In a lengthy video announcing his support, one day after Sanders himself endorsed Biden, Obama praised Sanders for setting a new agenda for the party and signaled that more progressive ideas would be reflected in Biden's campaign going forward. At the same time, he urged fortitude in the face of the coronavirus, sounding less like a campaign-trail endorser at points than a president addressing a nation in crisis. Appealing directly to Sanders's supporters, he underscored the pivot Biden has been trying to make since wrapping up the nomination: from an argument, essentially, for restoring the pre-Trump status quo to an argument that this is insufficient. It is the argument Sanders and other progressive candidates -- like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose call for "big structural change" Obama overtly echoed -- made all along.
Sanders Endorses Biden For President
Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the Democratic nominee for president, taking a major step toward bringing unity to the party's effort to unseat Trump in November. The decision by Sanders to back his former rival is an unmistakable signal to his supporters -- who are known for their intense loyalty -- that they should do so as well, at a moment when Biden still faces deep skepticism from many younger progressive voters. "We need you in the White House," Sanders said to Biden. "And I will do all that I can to see that that happens."
White House Rejects New Emissions Rule
Disregarding an emerging scientific link between dirty air and Covid-19 death rates, the Trump administration declined on Tuesday to tighten a regulation on industrial soot emissions that came up for review ahead of the coronavirus pandemic. Andrew R. Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , said his agency will not impose stricter controls on the tiny, lung-damaging industrial particles, known as PM 2.5, a regulatory action that has been in the works for months. The scientific evidence, he said, was insufficient to merit tightening the current emissions standard.
EPA Weakens Controls on Mercury
The Trump administration weakened regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic metals from oil and coal-fired power plants, another step toward rolling back health protections in the middle of a pandemic. The new EPA rule does not eliminate restrictions on the release of mercury, a heavy metal linked to brain damage. Instead, it creates a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution that environmental lawyers said would fundamentally undermine the legal underpinnings of controls on mercury and many other pollutants. By reducing the positive health effects of regulations on paper and raising their economic costs, the new method could be used to justify loosening restrictions on any pollutant that the fossil fuel industry has deemed too costly to control.
Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner
Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published this month in Nature. The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it.
Court Strikes Down Trump's Rollback of School Nutrition Rules
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland has struck down a 2018 Agriculture Department rule that reversed nutrition standards for sodium and whole grains in school meal programs once championed by the former first lady Michelle Obama. The Court concluded that the Agriculture Department rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act, because the 2018 rule differed significantly from the administration's 2017 interim rule setting up the final standards. The school breakfast and lunch rule is only the latest in a series of Trump administration regulations that have been struck down for violating the legal procedures that Congress set out for approving new regulations.
Students with Special Needs Fall Behind in Online School
The sudden switch to remote learning for the 1.1 million public school students in New York City has presented the nation's largest school system with its greatest challenge in decades. There is also a crisis within the crisis. The city is home to roughly 200,000 public school students with disabilities. Now, the already-strained special education system must transform how they are educated, which includes crucial services -- like speech, occupational, and physical therapy -- that are extremely difficult and in some cases impossible to translate online. The city has already encountered some stark realities about remote special education in the first weeks of distance learning. Interviews with about 2 dozen educators and parents showed wide agreement that, even if remote learning were executed perfectly, students with special needs would fall behind academically and socially. Similar effects are being seen nationwide.
Colleges Running Low on Money Fear Losing Their Students
Across the country, students are rethinking their choices in a world altered by the pandemic. Universities, concerned about the potential for shrinking enrollment and lost revenue, are making a wave of decisions in resp