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 response that could profoundly alter the landscape of higher education for years to come. Lucrative spring sports seasons have been canceled, room and board payments have been refunded, and students at some schools are demanding hefty tuition discounts for what they see as a lost spring term. Other revenue sources, like study abroad programs and campus bookstores have dried up, and federal research funding is threatened. Already, colleges have seen their endowments weakened, and worry that fund-raising efforts will founder as many families need more financial aid. They also expect to lose international students, especially from Asia, because of travel restrictions and concerns about studying abroad. Foreign students, usually paying full tuition, represent a significant revenue source everywhere, from the Ivy Leagues to community colleges. Administrators anticipate that students grappling with the financial and psychological impacts of the virus could choose to stay closer to home, go to less expensive schools, take a year off or not go to college at all. A higher education trade group has predicted a 15% drop in enrollment nationwide, amounting to a $23 billion revenue loss.
Foreign Doctors Could Help Fight the Pandemic - But U.S. Blocks Many of Them
Hospitals in coronavirus hot spots are scrambling to address a shortage of medical professionals to help care for patients, as the number of cases continues to grow and as maintaining a full supply of health care workers, who are themselves falling ill, is challenging. "I am asking health care professionals across the country, if you don't have a health care crisis in your community, please come help us in New York right now," New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, said on March 30. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an urgent call at the end of March for additional health care workers to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting that recently retired physicians and medical students awaiting licensing could be brought in to help. "We need you," he said.
Foreign health workers have been lining up to take jobs at American hospitals, but many are running into roadblocks. Some are having difficulty securing appointments for visas at U.S. consulates overseas that are hobbled by skeletal staffing. Others running into travel restrictions imposed in the midst of the pandemic.
Trump Threatens to Adjourn Congress to Install Nominees
Trump, furious over government vacancies he said were hindering his administration's coronavirus response, threatened to invoke a never-before-used presidential power to adjourn Congress so he that could fill the positions temporarily himself. The top Senate Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell, quickly let it be known that would not happen. Days after insisting he had "total" authority to supersede governors' decisions about whether to reopen their states, Trump floated the unprecedented step during a White House news conference as he lashed out at Democrats for opposing his nominees. He demanded that Republican leaders immediately call the Senate back into session to confirm them, or take a recess for an extended period of time so he could install stopgap appointees without a vote, a practice known as a recess appointment. The House and Senate have both taken extended recesses amid the pandemic, convening at least every few days for so-called pro forma sessions -- brief meetings that last mere minutes and require the presence of only one lawmaker -- to keep their chambers technically in session even though they are not doing business.
Loyal Trump Backer Is Now a Face of the Administration's Virus Response
Michael R. Caputo, a longtime Trump loyalist who made a cameo appearance in the Mueller report, has been installed as the public face of the Health and Human Services Department in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. "I'm delighted to have Michael Caputo join our team at @HHSGov as our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs," the department's secretary, Alex M. Azar II, wrote on Twitter, "especially at this critical time in our nation's public health history." Caputo has no background in health care, but what he lacks in expertise, he makes up in loyalty to Trump.
Why is the 9/11 Trial Taking so Long?
Next year is the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings that killed 2,976 people in New York, at the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvania field. For much of those 2 decades, the United States has been holding 5 men accused of helping plot the attacks, but they have yet to come to trial. The military's legal proceedings at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have lurched from setback to setback, disappointing the families of the victims who have watched in frustration and dismay. Then over the summer, a military judge finally set a timetable toward a trial that envisioned a start date early next year. Now, that schedule has suffered a one-two punch that promises more delay. First, the coronavirus crisis has cut off most access to Guantánamo Bay, complicating the work of the prosecutors, defense teams, judiciary, and support staff who shuttle between the base and the mainland. Then, the judge abruptly announced last month that he was retiring from the Air Force and would leave the case next week. Most pretrial work, including legal meetings, is on hold. The prison at Guantánamo does not allow the defendants to meet with their lawyers by telephone or video link. The departing judge, Col. W. Shane Cohen, has postponed his plan to begin the trial on Jan. 11, 2021, by at least 2 months, but it will be up to the next judge -- who, when chosen, will be the fourth since 2012 -- to work out when to start what is envisioned to be a year-long trial.
Veteran Defense Counsel Joins Guantánamo Case
A leading defense lawyer who specializes in death penalty cases has been chosen to represent one of the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before a military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, overcoming a key obstacle to the war crimes trial. The lawyer, David I. Bruck, will represent Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni accused of organizing a cell of men based in Hamburg, Germany, who were among the 19 hijackers who seized 4 passenger planes and slammed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Bruck has handled several high-profile death penalty cases, including representing Dylann S. Roof, who killed 9 black churchgoers in South Carolina in June 2015; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013; and Susan Smith, a woman in South Carolina who drowned her 2 young sons in 1994.
U.S. Sends Funds to Needy Nations to Fight the Virus, but Maybe Not for Masks
The Trump administration is considering new rules that would limit how American humanitarian aid is used to buy masks, plastic gloves, and other protective medical equipment to combat the coronavirus in some of the world's neediest nations. Instead, the administration is working to secure those supplies for Americans first as the pandemic sweeps around the world. The internal debate is the latest example of a global race for limited medical gear that puts countries that are poor, are unstable or have deficient health systems, at a deadly disadvantage.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Labs Were Contaminated, Which Contributed to Testing Delays
Sloppy laboratory practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) caused contamination that rendered the nation's first coronavirus tests ineffective, federal officials confirmed. Two of the 3 CDC laboratories in Atlanta that created the coronavirus test kits violated their own manufacturing standards, resulting in the agency sending tests that did not work to nearly all of the 100 state and local public health labs, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Early on, the FDA, which oversees laboratory tests, sent Dr. Timothy Stenzel, chief of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health, to the CDC labs to assess the problem; there, he found an astonishing lack of expertise in commercial manufacturing and learned that nobody was in charge of the entire process. Problems ranged from researchers entering and exiting the coronavirus laboratories without changing their coats, to test ingredients being assembled in the same room where researchers were working on positive coronavirus samples, officials said. Those practices made the tests sent to public health labs unusable because they were contaminated with the coronavirus, and produced some inconclusive results.
U.S. Deported Thousands Amid Covid-19 Outbreak, Including Some Who Were Sick
In the scramble to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the United States, the Trump administration has been pushing forward with its aggressive immigration enforcement agenda, deporting thousands of people to their home countries, including some who are sick with the virus. Dozens of Guatemalans flown home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since late March tested positive for the coronavirus after returning, according to Guatemalan authorities. Trump used the surgeon general's authority last month to effectively seal the southwestern border, saying the move was necessary to prevent migrants from carrying the coronavirus into the United States. However, few, if any, people with the disease have crossed the border from Mexico, and Guatemalan authorities have now accused the United States, which has the most coronavirus cases in the world, of sending infected people back across its borders.
Rising Shortage of Dialysis Units Alarm Doctors
For weeks, U.S. government officials and hospital executives have warned of a looming shortage of ventilators as the coronavirus pandemic descended. Yet ventilators aren't the only machines in intensive care units that are in short supply - doctors have been confronting an unexpected rise in patients with failing kidneys. Doctors are sounding an alarm about an unexpected and perhaps overlooked crisis: A surge in Covid-19 patients with kidney failure that is leading to shortages of machines, supplies, and staff required for emergency dialysis.
The Bulk of Essential Workers Are Women
From the cashier to the emergency room nurse to the drugstore pharmacist to the home health aide taking the bus to check on her older client, the soldier on the front lines of the current national emergency is most likely a woman. One in 3 jobs held by women has been designated as essential, according to a New York Times analysis of census data crossed with the federal government's essential worker guidelines. Non-white women are more likely to be doing essential jobs than anyone else. The work they do has often been underpaid and undervalued -- an unseen labor force that keeps the country running and takes care of those most in need, whether or not there is a pandemic.
Crowds Protest Stay at Home Orders
As Trump and some of his supporters push for a more rapid return to pre-coronavirus economic activity, protesters in several states took to the streets last week to urge governors to relax the strict rules on commerce, work, and daily life that health officials have said are necessary to save lives. Protests have taken place in several states, including Michigan, Kentucky, and North Carolina. More protests against stay-at-home orders have been planned in other states, including Texas, Oregon, and California. The rallies reflected both economic frustrations and political divides. At recent rallies in Ohio, New York, and Michigan, many organizers and demonstrators, some who came armed, were aligned with anti-government activists on the right and libertarian groups. Some had affiliations with the Tea Party and displayed the "Don't Tread on Me" logo that was an unofficial slogan for the movement.
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Decline in Police Reports of Domestic Violence May Be a Bad Sign
As the coronavirus forces people to stay home, reports of domestic violence are falling in New York City, alarming the authorities. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have fueled incidents of domestic violence in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, even though police have recorded fewer crimes. Statistics actually suggest that domestic violence is down in the city since the shutdown, even as it has risen statewide and around the world. Fewer victims of domestic abuse have been calling the police or the city's hotline in recent weeks. However, the drop in reports is far from reassuring, officials said, and law enforcement officials and social workers say there are some signs that strife is quietly escalating behind closed doors. Calls to some organizations that provide shelter to battered women, for instance, have increased sharply. "Those stats are very scary," said Melinda Katz, the district attorney in Queens, where domestic violence arrests have fallen nearly 40%. "The problem we think people are having is how to notify us."
Coronavirus Pandemic Puts a Stop to Jehovah's Witnesses Door-knocking Practice
Across America, most religious groups have stopped coming together in large numbers to pray and hold services, in keeping with stay-at-home orders. They have improvised with online preaching and even drive-in services held as parishioners sit in cars. Mormons have stopped going door-to-door in the U.S. and called home many missionaries working abroad. Jehovah's Witnesses -- with 1.3 million members in the U.S. who hand out brochures on sidewalks and subway platforms and ring doorbells -- are one of the most visible religious groups in the nation. Members are called on to share scriptures in person with nonmembers, warning of an imminent Armageddon and hoping to baptize them with the prospect of living forever. The decision to stop their ministries was the first of its kind in the nearly 150 years the group has existed. It followed anguished discussions at Watchtower headquarters, with leaders deciding on March 20 that knocking on doors would leave the impression that members were disregarding the safety of those they hoped to convert.
Jailed Youths Seek Release as Virus Spreads
While some states have moved to release adults from prisons where the coronavirus poses a threat, efforts to free juveniles from detention have met resistance. Maryland, Texas and Pennsylvania are states where lawyers have sought the mass release of juvenile offenders who have underlying health conditions or are determined not to pose a danger to society. While some states, such as New York and California, moved quickly to release nonviolent and older adults from prisons that have emerged as hotbeds for the virus's spread, courts and state law enforcement leaders have been hesitant to extend the same benefit to children. Maryland's highest court denied an emergency petition by the state's Office of Public Defender to order the immediate release of the state's youngest, sickest offenders, as well as the 58% of detainees in juvenile jails and 74% in youth prisons who are being held for nonviolent offenses, misdemeanors or technical violations of probation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a similar petition last week to release about 2,000 youths from detention centers, county jails or long-term correctional or residential facilities. The court conceded that the "potential outbreak of Covid-19 in facilities housing juveniles in detention poses an undeniable threat," but said that a mass release "fails to take into account the individual circumstances of each juvenile, including any danger to them or to others, as well as the diversity of situations present within individual institutions and communities."
Dozens of Inmates Freed for "COVID-19 Release" Back in Jail
Dozens of inmates freed from city jails over fears they were vulnerable to the coronavirus have wasted no time plaguing the city with new crimes. At least 50 of the 1,500 inmates [roughly 3%] cut loose amid fears of the spread of COVID-19 behind bars in recent weeks have already landed back in jail -- and in some cases were set free yet again, according to police sources and records. The slew of early releases has irked some in the NYPD, who say the re-offenders are "targeting the most vulnerable victims" once they're out.
Judge Denies Roger Stone's Bid for a New Trial
The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against Roger J. Stone Jr. - Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court in Washington - refused to grant him a new trial, rejecting the defense's argument of juror misconduct that Trump has also repeatedly trumpeted. Judge Berman Jackson ordered Stone to surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons as soon as he was notified to do so. She also released him and his lawyers from a gag order she imposed months ago. The judge's decision appears to end one of the most politically fraught federal criminal cases in recent years. In a last-ditch effort to keep their client out of prison, Stone's lawyers had claimed that the jury forewoman had improperly concealed a bias against Stone, justifying a new trial.
Cohen Among Prisoners to be Freed Over Coronavirus
Michael D. Cohen, the disgraced former lawyer for Trump, was among some of the inmates at a federal prison camp in upstate New York who were told they would be released into home confinement because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. The expected releases come about 3 weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr, who oversees the Bureau of Prisons, ordered a review to determine who among the country's nearly 144,000 federal inmates could safely be furloughed to home confinement as the pandemic worsened. A week later, Barr directed prison officials to move more aggressively and expanded the criteria under which inmates could be released. According to the prison agency's website, nearly 1,200 prisoners have been freed -- after a required 14-day quarantine. The prison camp inmates set to be released upstate were serving sentences at a minimum-security camp that is attached to a medium-security federal prison and detention center in Otisville, about 75 miles northwest of New York City.
Governors Agree to Work Together to Reopen
The governors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island said they would begin to draw up a plan for when to reopen businesses and schools, and how quickly to allow people to return to work safely, although the timeline for such a plan remained unclear. The joint effort was the first of 2 announced: The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, three Western states that were among those that felt the impact of the virus before it spread rapidly in the Northeast, announced a similar pact. All but one of the 10 governors on the 2 coasts are Democrats.
Land O'Lakes Removes Native American Woman from Its Products
For nearly a century, an illustration of a Native American woman with a feather in her hair has adorned the packaging of Land O'Lakes cheese and butter products, but not for much longer. The company, founded in 1921 by a group of Minnesota dairy farmers, is phasing in a new design ahead of its 100th anniversary. Instead of the depiction of the woman, some products will be labeled "Farmer-Owned" and feature an illustration of a field and lake, or photographs of its farmers. The new design, which started appearing on tubs of butter spread, food service products, and deli cheese in February, is now being used on packages of stick butter and will be "fully rolled out" by the end of the year. Officials and Native American representatives applauded the change, which is similar to steps that other U.S. companies, sports teams, and universities have undertaken to address or phase out the use of Native American imagery in logos and mascots.
New Jersey Women's Prison Sexual Abuse Uncovered
Inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, N.J., New Jersey's only state prison for women, were regularly sexually assaulted by guards and sometimes forced to engage in sex acts with other prisoners while staff members looked on, according to a Justice Department report released last detailing widespread, pervasive sexual abuse at the facility. In one instance at the prison, a woman was forced to act as a lookout for the guard assaulting her, the report said. Assault and coercion were so prevalent that the Justice Department concluded that the New Jersey Department of Corrections and the prison had violated the inmates' constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Dozens Killed as Severe Weather Hits Southern States
A slew of tornados tore across the Southeast this weekend snapping trees, blowing away keepsakes, and launching cars from their parking spots. The devastating weather system started Sunday and barreled across the region into Monday, leaving destruction, blackouts, and heartbreak in its path. More than 30 people died -- including at least 11 in Mississippi, 9 in South Carolina and 8 in Georgia -- making it one of the most significant natural disasters in the country since government officials began ordering people to stay home and away from one another in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Crowds in Florida Rush to Reopened Beaches
Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, gave the green light for some beaches and parks to reopen if it can be done safely, and north Florida beaches became among the first to allow people to return since closures because of the coronavirus. Florida officials were criticized for leaving beaches open during part of the spring break period last month. Most counties closed their beaches in response or kept them open under very restrictive conditions. Other more high-profile beaches in South Florida -- including Miami Beach -- were closed by state order. At a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, DeSantis said some municipalities should feel free to start opening up parks and beaches, if that can be done safely, with distancing guidelines remaining in place. The governor said it was important for people to have outlets for getting exercise, sunshine, and fresh air.
Death Toll Spikes at Nursing Homes
More than 6 weeks after the first coronavirus deaths in a nursing home, outbreaks unfold across the country. About a fifth of U.S. virus deaths are linked to nursing facilities. A nationwide tally by The New York Times has found the number of people living in or connected to nursing homes who have died of the coronavirus to be at least 7,000, far higher than previously known.
23 Die of COVID-19 in New York City Shelters
While much of New York City is staying inside, a crisis has taken hold among a population for whom social distancing is nearly impossible: the more than 17,000 men and women, many of them already in poor health, who sleep in roughly 100 group or "congregate" shelters for single adults. Most live in dormitories that are fertile fields for the virus, with beds close enough for people sleeping in them to hold hands. Rather than keeping people away from shelters, the virus has driven them in. Some inmates released from Rikers Island to control the outbreak in the jail have wound up in shelters. With the outdoor safety net falling apart -- few pedestrians to beg for change; public bathrooms shut; many soup kitchens closed for lack of food and volunteers -- the nightly shelter population has consistently reached levels seen only a few times in the last decade, and usually only on the most frigid nights of winter. As of last week, 371 people from shelters had tested positive for the virus, about 80% of them from the single-adult facilities, though those adults represent less than a quarter of the homeless population. The rest are mostly families who often stay in studio-like units by themselves. While total prevention is impossible, the city has been scrambling to at least lower the risk.
Man Charged With Trying to Blow Up Jewish Home
A Massachusetts man, John Michael Rathbun, was charged on Wednesday in federal court in Western Massachusetts with 2 counts of attempted arson after authorities say he tried to blow up a Jewish assisted-living center that had been targeted for attack on a white supremacist website that promoted a "Jew killing day". Authorities said that Rathbun tried to ignite a 5-gallon plastic gas canister outside Ruth's House, an assisted-living home in Longmeadow, Mass., on the morning of April 2.
Falwell Focuses on Critics as Coronavirus Cases Near His University Grow
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, has defended his decision to keep the school's campus open during the coronavirus pandemic. Falwell's angry counteroffensive against critics of his decision to invite Liberty University students back to its Lynchburg, Virgiia, campus after spring break has played out in the media, the courts, and even with the campus police. One Liberty student filed a class-action lawsuit in a federal court in Virginia, saying that Liberty and Falwell had "placed students at severe physical risk and refused to refund thousands of dollars in fees owed to them for the Spring 2020 semester." The furor in Lynchburg centers on Falwell's decision to open the campus to all students and staff at a time when most American universities were closing for fear of spreading the disease. For weeks before that decision, Falwell had derided other universities' coronavirus responses as overreactions driven by a desire to harm Trump.
Ivanka Trump Ignores Social Distancing Rules
Trump's eldest daughter and a senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, has positioned herself as one of the leaders of the administration's economic relief efforts and one of its most vocal advocates of social distancing. However, Trump herself has not followed the federal guidelines advising against discretionary travel, leaving Washington for another one of her family's homes, even as she has publicly thanked people for self-quarantining. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, traveled with their children to the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey to celebrate the first night of Passover this month, according to people with knowledge of their travel plans, even as seders across the country were canceled and families gathered remotely over apps like Zoom.
Canada and U.S. Extend Border Restrictions
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the U.S. and Canada have agreed to keep their border closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days and he said it will be undoubtedly longer before the restriction is removed. Trudeau said that it will keep people on both sides of the border safe amid the pandemic.
European Nations Test Reopening
Slowly and tentatively, a handful of European countries began lifting constraints on daily life for the first time since the start of the coronavirus crisis, providing an early litmus test of whether Western democracies can gingerly restart their economies and restore basic freedoms without reviving the spread of the disease. Italy, the epicenter of Europe's crisis, reopened some bookshops and children's clothing stores. Spain allowed workers to return to factories and construction sites, despite a daily death toll that remains over 500. Austria allowed thousands of hardware and home improvement stores to reopen, as long as workers and customers wore masks. The fledgling, country-by-country loosening, enacted without any coordination between nations, underscored the absence of any common agreement, or even understanding, about the challenge of keeping economies alive while stemming the disease. The IMF has warned that the global economy is headed for its worst performance since the Great Depression.
Oil Giants Agree to Limit Output
Oil-producing nations have agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated, in an unprecedented coordinated effort by Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to stabilize oil prices and, indirectly, global financial markets.
Amazon to Suspend Operations in France Over Coronavirus Dispute
Amazon announced that it would temporarily halt its operations in France after a court ruled that the company had failed to adequately protect warehouse workers against the threat of the coronavirus and that it must restrict deliveries to only food, hygiene, and medical products until it addressed the issue. Amazon contested the findings of the ruling, handed down by a civil court outside Paris, and said that it would appeal. The court had given the company a deadline to carry out the order or face a fine of 1 million euros [nearly $1.1 million] per day. "We have suspended activities in our distribution centers in France, despite the huge investment we have made to ensure and strengthen safety measures for our employees," Amazon said in a statement, adding that it was "perplexed" by the court's decision.
Some Nations Need More Ventilators AND Soap and Water
South Sudan, a nation of 11 million, has more vice presidents than ventilators The Central African Republic has 3 ventilators for its 5 million people. In Liberia, which is similar in size, there are 6 working machines -- and one of them sits behind the gates of the United States Embassy. In all, fewer than 2,000 working ventilators have to serve hundreds of millions of people in public hospitals across 41 African countries, the WHO says, compared with more than 170,000 in the United States. Ten countries in Africa have none at all. Glaring disparities like these are just part of the reason people across Africa are steeling themselves for the coronavirus, fearful of outbreaks that could be catastrophic in countries with struggling health systems. The gaps are so entrenched that many experts are worried about chronic shortages of much more basic supplies needed to slow the spread of the disease and treat the sick on the continent -- things like masks, oxygen and, even more fundamentally, soap and water.
Prime Minister Leaves Hospital After Battling COVID-19
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was discharged from the hospital, a major step forward in his recovery from the coronavirus and a welcome relief for a nation whose political leadership has been harder hit by the contagion than that of any other Western country.
Climate Change on a Drying Island
A delicate ecosystem was disrupted in the Comoros, off East Africa, when forests were cleared to make way for farmland. The consequences offer lessons for other parts of the developing world. Since the 1950s, the island has been clearing forests to make way for farmland and in the process disrupted a delicate ecosystem. With so many trees and plants cut down, the water they would normally collect and feed back into the ground and rivers is disappearing. Families in parts of the island now struggle to meet their domestic needs, and farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to irrigate their fields.
Chinese Woman Accuses Prominent Lawyer of Years of Sexual Abuse
An 18-year-old woman has accused a prominent lawyer of sexually abusing her for years. The woman alleges that at 14, she was sent by her mother to live with a successful businessman in Beijing, who was supposed to serve as her caretaker and guardian. Instead, over the course of several years, she says, he repeatedly raped her and held her in his home against her will. Her story, published in the Chinese news media in recent days, has become one of the most widely discussed topics in China, unleashing a wave of anger about the country's patriarchal culture and the authorities' reluctance to intervene in cases of sexual abuse. The case has become a pivotal test for China's fledgling #MeToo movement.