By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, and General News:
Second Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Copyright Suit Against Jerry Seinfeld Over "Comedians in Cars" Series
The Second Circuit has affirmed the Southern District of New York's (SDNY's) grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss in a copyright case regarding the ownership of the pilot episode of the show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." The Court agreed that the plaintiff's claims are time-barred because they accrued in 2012. Plaintiff did not sue until 6 years later, which is past the 3-year statute of limitation. The Court cites authority stating that an ownership claim accrues only once when a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have discovered that ownership was disputed. It found that the central issue is clearly a dispute over ownership, as opposed to a dispute over whether subsequent iterations of the show make use of the material in the script for the pilot. Therefore, the infringement claim is time-barred because the ownership claim is time-barred.
Everly v. Everly Copyright Case
In 1960, the Everly Brothers recorded, released, and copyrighted "Cathy's Clown" and 2 other songs, granting the copyrights to Acuff-Rose. The original copyrights listed Phil and Don as authors; both received royalties. The question before the court was when Phil in 1980 granted his ownership rights to Don in the hit song, did Don expressly repudiate Phil's status as a co-author of the song? Or did Phil retain his rights as a co-author? Phil's heirs have sought to terminate the 1980 agreement between the brothers. The district court granted Don's motion for summary judgment, finding the claim of Phil's heirs to authorship was barred by the Copyright Act's 3-year statute of limitations. The lower court concluded that Don expressly repudiated Phil's authorship right to no later than 2011, when Don filed his notice of termination of the 1960 Grant, thus triggering the statute of limitations. The Sixth Circuit has reversed, finding a genuine dispute of fact as to whether Don expressly repudiated Phil's authorship. The Court distinguished repudiation of ownership from repudiation of authorship. The Sixth Circuit sought to further the policies of the Copyright Act's termination provision.
A Setback for Quincy Jones on Payment for Michael Jackson Film
A California appellate court rejected most of the $9.4 million that Quincy Jones was awarded by a jury in 2017 after he claimed that he had been shortchanged on record sale royalties by Michael Jackson's production company. Jones produced much of Jackson's music, including the hit albums "Off the Wall" and "Thriller." A jury in Los Angeles County Superior Court found that Jones had been underpaid for his share of royalties for the use of music in the posthumous Jackson film "This Is It" and denied other profits to which he was entitled. However, a panel of the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said that the judge who handled the trial had erred in allowing jurors to interpret producer agreements and then issue awards in 2 specific categories, as that is solely a judicial function. The panel reversed a reward of $5,315,787 in royalties on record sales and licenses. It also reversed an award of $1,574,128 for fees that Jones would have received if the production company had given him the right of first opportunity to remix Jackson's master recordings. The panel allowed about $2.5 million in damages to stand.
Filmmaker Who Lampooned Egypt's President Dies in Jail
A young filmmaker who worked on a music video that mocked Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has died in an Egyptian prison after being imprisoned without trial for more than 2 years. Shady Habash, 24, died inside Cairo's infamous Tora prison complex from "health issues not yet specified." His detention and death represent a stark reminder of the growing number of young people at risk inside Egypt's sprawling prison system. Many are detained for their work as artists, making dissenting statements against Sisi's rule or for no charge at all. There is growing concern over unsanitary and unsafe detentions, reflecting fears about the spread of COVID-19 in prisons around the world. The Egyptian authorities have been criticized for widespread and deadly medical neglect of prisoners. This case also highlights rising concerns about the lack of due process in Egypt.
Helping Black Artists, But at What Price?
A new lawsuit accuses a gallery of taking advantage of painters. Artists are claiming that George N'Namdi, one of the only black art dealers, along with his son and their related companies, cheated them and profited off of their vulnerability. In a lawsuit touching on issues of race, loyalty, and a lack of transparency in the art world, artist Howardena Pindell is seeking the return of 20 works of art from the N'Namdis, along with 3 works from a Texas-based collector, Arthur Primas, and punitive damages of "no less than" $500,000. The lawsuit was filed in January in the SDNHY and amended on April 21, alleging that accounts of sales and inventory, if provided at all, were willfully misleading and inaccurate, payments were not timely if received at all, and the identity of purchasers, as required by law, was not provided. The N'Namdis intend to move to dismiss the claims. Pindell is one of a growing number of black artists who have lately seen a surge of attention from museums, collectors, and critics after decades of neglect. They all exhibited early on with George N'Namdi. In a case that could strengthen protections for artists, it alleges that Al Loving, Herbert Gentry, and their estates also "publicly expressed their difficulties" with the galleries.
Amid Beeping Machines, Bach Wafts From iPhones
Staff at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital have begun playing music from accomplished performers--recently out-of-work chamber music players; winners of international competitions and prizes; teachers at prestigious music schools--for the coronavirus patients who struggle to survive in isolation. The musicians perform from California, Kentucky, Maine, Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York, wherever they are sheltered in space. The musicians are hoping to offer a brief moment of comfort or distraction or beauty. The Allen Hospital serves a community that is largely low income and minority, on which the toll has been particularly devastating.
Metropolitan Opera to Furlough Dozens
The Metropolitan Opera (Met) has announced that it will furlough dozens of administrators. Due to financial woes, the Met would furlough 41 members of its administrative staff and 11 others will be cut to part-time hours. The furloughed workers will receive 2 weeks pay and retain their health benefits. General Manager Gelb has said that the magnitude of the long-term damage--the immediate and long-term effects of the health crisis on the performing arts--seem graver and more challenging than they appear, and this was a hard decision that needed to be made.
Museum Creates Diversity Fund In Response to Claims of Racism
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston plans to set up a $500,000 fund for diversity and inclusion initiatives under an agreement with Attorney General Maura Healey's office, following a 2019 incident in which a group of black middle school students said that they had been subjected to racist comments while on a field trip there.
Kennedy Center Cancels Summer Lineup
The Kennedy Center announced that it is cancelling or postponing all performances scheduled through August 9 due to the spread of coronavirus.
Bankruptcy Is Expected for J. Crew
J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy, making it the first major retailer to fall prey to the pandemic. The company was forced to close 500 stores and furlough all but 2,000 of its 13,000 employees. Other companies are very likely to go under in these times. The company filed for Chapter 11, which allows a debt-laden company to reorganize and stay in business. Gold's Gym has also filed to bankruptcy, with apparently Neiman Marcus and JCPenney also in discussions with to lenders about a bankruptcy filing.
L Brands and Buyer Agree to Scrap a Deal to Acquire Victoria's Secret
L Brands Inc. and Sycamore Partners have agreed to scrap their plans to take Victoria's Secret private, dropping a pact that was reached just weeks before coronavirus forced the lingerie retailer to shut its stores. Last month, L Brands and Sycamore traded lawsuits after the private-equity firm sought to break the deal. The 2 have agreed to walk away and end the litigation. L Brands said that it still plans to split itself into 2 parts and that its longtime leader Les Wexner will step down as chief executive.
Ohio State Pays $41 Million to Settle Sex Abuse Claims
Ohio State University will pay about $41 million to settle a dozen lawsuits by 162 men alleging decades-old sexual abuse and mistreatment by a team doctor, Richard Strauss. About 350 former athletes and other men had sued the school for failing to stop the late doctor despite concerns raised during his tenure. The men can't confront Strauss, who died in 2005. No one has publicly defended him. The money will come from Ohio State's discretionary funding, not tuition or taxpayer or donor money.
U.F.C. Makes Return (Minus a Few Staples)
Last Saturday night, in a nearly empty arena in Jacksonville, Florida, U.F.C. 249 made the world's biggest mixed martial arts organization the first major North American sport ot return from an industrywide shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared pro sports an essential industry when issuing a stay-at-home order last month. With no competition from Major League Baseball (MLB) or from hockey and basketball playoffs, U.F.C. is positioned for big viewership win.
Proposal Would Give Pro Team Sports, and Las Vegas, a Way Back
MGM Resorts International, in hard-hit Las Vegas, has proposed audacious plans to the leagues to come back in a quarantined environment. Sports leagues are desperate for a safe way to start playing games again. Las Vegas has tens of thousands of empty hotel rooms and a tourism-based economy that has been wracked by the coronavirus pandemic. MGM has pitched several sports leagues, including the National Basketball Association, the Womens National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer, an audacious proposal to house their athletes and necessary support staff to hold their seasons on a quarantined block on the Las Vegas Strip. The athletes would be joined by their families, league, and broadcast media employees, as well as the staff and vendors needed to serve them, with access to lounges, spas, restaurants, and all other perks the resorts offer. Most league executives have been publicly noncommittal about their plans.
Head of the Women's Tennis Association Adds His Support for a Merger
Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief Steve Simon has said that a merger with the men's Association of Tennis Professionals "makes all the sense in the world", but that it would not take the form of "an acquisition." The tennis season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and the hiatus will continue at least until mid-July, depriving lower-level players who depend solely on tournament winnings of the chance to earn to a living. Some top WTA players have said that they want an equal standing for the women players in a combined body. A merger of the Tours could simplify television contracts and sponsorship deals.
No Fans. No Food. No High-Fives. Play Ball!
With sports events canceled across much of the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan, which has so far kept the outbreak under control, is pushing forward with the rarest of spectacles: A professional baseball season. Sports officials are adapting the game by filling the stands with fake spectators instead of real ones, stocking locker rooms with bottles of sanitizer, and urging players and coaches to keep a distance. Players are encouraged to bump elbows rather than give each other high-fives. The restrictions have sucked some of the life out of the game, giving high-stakes matches the feel of everyday practice. The noise on a the field paled in comparison to the typical atmosphere at games in Taiwan, where baseball has been a part of the culture for more than a century, since the days of Japanese colonial rule.
Sinclair Fined $48 Million By the Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission "FCC" has fined Sinclair a record $48 million for deceptive bid for Tribune Stations, making this the largest civil fine in the federal agency's history. Sinclair agreed to the fine and entered into a consent decree to close 3 separate FCC ongoing investigations. Sinclair owns and operates more than 190 stations across the country, making it one of the nation's largest players in local TV. It sought to become even more dominant by taking over Tribune Media. The FCC blocked that bid in July 2018, saying that the company sought to deceive regulators in selling off stations in markets where it would control multiple properties. The buyers were 2 companies to which Sinclair's founding family had deep and longstanding ties. Tribune Media sued Sinclair later that summer.
With Push From Trump, Senate Moves to Install Conservative at U.S. Media Agency
Senate Republican leaders, under pressure from President Trump to install an ally who would dictate more favorable news coverage of his administration, are moving swiftly to confirm a conservative filmmaker to lead the independent agency in charge of state-funded media outlets.
A Fresh Generation Transforms News Unions
Cheered on by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, a new generation is making gains on everything from layoff protections to gender-neutral pronouns. Nobody pays much attention to labor union elections, and the recent NewsGuild elections marked a little-noticed but powerful generation shift that is changing the culture inside newsrooms. These millennial leaders' experiences differed sharply from those of the veteran newspaper men who had long run the unions. Their sensibility was shaped not only by social media but the progressive political moment. Journalists started to see themselves as "workers" rather than "professionals." They lost faith in a single, supposedly objective, typically white and male point of view, and their message has been overwhelmingly embraced by newsrooms. The NewsGuild and its rival, the Writers Guild of America, East, have won virtually every organizing battle they've taken on, including some in Southern states with anti-union laws.
Facebook Names Board to Monitor Content
Facebook has announced the first 20 members of its Oversight Board, which is an independent body that can overturn the company's own content moderation decisions. The Board will begin hearing cases in the coming months. It will govern appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and questions from Facebook itself, although it admitted that it will have to pick and choose which content moderation cases to take, due to the sheer volume of them. Facebook announced the Board's formation in 2018. The members are a globally diverse group with lawyers, journalists, human rights advocates, and other academics. Notable members include Alan Rusbridger, former editor in chief of The Guardian newspaper, Andras Sajo, a former judge and VP of the European Court of Human Rights, and Helle Thorning-Schmidgt, a former Prime Minister of Denmark is one of the four co-chairs.
Trump Finagles a Seat at Mr. Lincoln's Feet
Citing the extraordinary circumstance of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has a federal law prohibiting events inside the Lincoln Memorial waived so he could stage a Fox TV coronavirus-focused virtual "town hall."
U.S. Escalates Media War with Beijing
New 90-day limits on work visas for Chinese journalists followed Beijing's expulsion of American journalists and raised the threat of further retaliation by the Chinese government.
Newspapers in Britain Struggle with Fewer Ads But More Readers
Heavily dependent on advertising and circulation, local and regional newspapers in the U.K. could face financial ruin as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of journalists have been put on leave. More than 50 small and regional publications have temporarily suspended producing their print or online products. For those still printing, some communities are depending on volunteers to deliver newspapers. For many, cash has all but stopped coming in. Advertising revenues have dwindled to near zero for many publications, leaving the print copies a skeleton of what they used to be. In the U.K., where home delivery subscriptions are less common than in the U.S., newspapers rely more heavily on street sales, and many newsstands and other stores are closed. Although traffic to newspapers' websites is higher than normal, relatively few have paywalls to collect digital subscriptions.
TV Giant in Philippines is Closed By Government
The leading broadcast network in the Philippines went off the air under government order last Tuesday, sparking shock over the loss of a major news provider during the coronavirus pandemic and accusations of targeting a presidential critic. The National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN Corp. to stop operating after its 25-year congressional franchise ended last Monday. The network's application for renewal has been pending in Congress, which is controlled by President Rodrigo Duterte's allies, but hearings have been delayed, in part by a coronavirus lockdown. ABS-CBN is one of the country's oldest and most influential networks. Government officials denied that the closure was a press freedom issue.
Supreme Court to Hear Cases By Telephone
For the first time in its 230-year history, the Court offered a live audio stream of an oral argument, going far beyond its usual protocol and giving advocates of greater transparency hope it will become a trend. The justices selected a rather technical case to begin its 2 weeks of telephone oral arguments necessitated by the pandemic, whether the hotel reservation website Bookings.com can trademark its name. It also wasn't the usual case, because the lawyers for both sides were women, who make up only a small percentage of the Court's advocates. For decades, the Court ignored most of the technological and transparency advancements adopted by other branches of government. Even as lower federal and state courts began livestreaming and broadcasting sessions for public consumption, the Supreme Court remained cloistered.
Justices Throw Out Convictions in 'Bridgegate', But Find Abuses
The Supreme Court has thrown out the convictions of 2 key players in the so-called Bridgegate case that rocked the administration of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. A former Christie aide and the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the George Washington Bridge, were found guilty in 2016 after a jury determined that they had shut down 2 of 3 lanes leading to the bridge, resulting in a monumental traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Elana Kagan, the Court said that federal prosecutors wrongly charged the 2 officials with violating laws that target fraudulent schemes for obtaining property. Realigning the bridge traffic was an exercise of regulatory power, not an attempt to get money or property, according to the Court. The brief opinion was a complete rejection of the prosecution's theory of the case.
Supreme Court Hears Arguments Tying a Pledge to AIDS Grants
In the roughly hour-long session, the justices heard arguments in a dispute over whether a condition for federal funding imposed on organizations fighting HIV/AIDS abroad is constitutional. Justice Elena Kagan, a former solicitor general, is recused from the case. Congress passed a law in 2003 known as the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act, which included the condition that nongovernmental organizations receiving funds under the law must "have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the policy requirement for U.S.-based organizations violates the First Amendment. Now the justices are asked to determine whether the government can apply the funding conditions to affiliates of U.S.-based groups incorporated overseas. A federal district court ruled applying the funding requirement to those foreign affiliates is unconstitutional, and the Second Circuit agreed.
White House Asks Justices to Keep Mueller Grand Jury Secrets Hidden From House
The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to temporarily halt an appeals court ruling that would force the Justice Department to hand over to Congress secret grand jury materials produced in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in a brief with the top Court that allowing the lower court ruling to stand would require the government to disclose the materials. He wrote that the March decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit created "substantial constitutional difficulties." The request is the latest to thrust the justices into the middle of a partisan fight between Democrats and Republicans. The 9-member court has a 5-4 conservative majority, including 2 of Trump's own appointees.
Supreme Court Considers Latest Challenge to a Contraceptive Mandate
The justices considered whether the Trump administration may allow employers to refuse to provide free insurance coverage for birth control on religious or moral grounds.
Ginsburg Has Gallbladder Procedure
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been released from the hospital, following a non-surgical procedure related to a benign gallbladder condition. The Justice will return to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, for follow-up outpatient visits over the next few weeks to eventually remove the gallstone non-surgically. According to the Court's office of public information, Ginsburg, 87, was hospitalized to undergo treatment for acute cholecystitis.
Trump Pick Among Judges Opposing Ban on Joining Conservative Group
Judge Justin Walker joined a bevy of judges, many appointees of the president, in railing against an ethics proposal on the Federalist Society.
U.S. Unemployment is Worse Since Depression
20.5 million people lost their jobs in April, the Labor Department said last Friday. The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression, as many businesses shut down or severely curtailed operations to try to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
All 98 Environmental Rules the Trump Administration is Revoking or Rolling Back
Trump promised to deregulate environmental and climate policies, and he's delivered. Using the Congressional Review Act, 64 rules have been reversed and 34 are in progress. The majority of rollbacks have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These rollbacks haven't occurred without a fight. The National Resources Defense Council has taken the EPA to court 65 times and won 60 of its cases. The group has filed 107 lawsuits against the U.S. government's rollbacks.
White House Blocks Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Reopening Guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a detailed document with recommendation for how schools, religious institutions, and businesses might safely reopen, but the White House reportedly suppressed that guidance. Top White House officials suppressed guidelines from public health experts on reopening the economy for weeks, and only ordered the approval of parts of that guidance after reports exposed the delay. The document was meant to help nonessential businesses as states begin to relax coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions. However, the Trump administration quashed the guidance on April 30, saying that CDC Director Robert Redfield had not approved it and that it had not been vetted through the interagency reviewer process.
Senate Fails in Push to Curb Trump's War Power
President Trump called the measure to curb his military authority "insulting" and accused Democrats of playing politics. The Senate fell short of overriding Trump's veto of a war powers resolution that would limit his ability to initiate military action against Iran without Congressional authorization, despite garnering bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. In a 49-44 vote, supporters in the GOP-led chamber were unable to reach the two-thirds backing, or 67 senators, needed to overturn the president's veto of a resolution sponsored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. While a rare move, it's the second time in a year that Congress has voted to rein in the president's powers related to military force.
Adviser's Quest to Tie Diseases to Immigrants
The president's chief adviser on immigration, Stephen Miller, had long tried to halt migration based on public health, without success. Then came the coronavirus. He has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders. He pushed for invoking the president's broad public health powers in 2019, when an outbreak of mumps spread through immigration detention facilities in 6 states. On some occasions, Miller and the president were talked down by cabinet secretaries and lawyers who argued that the public health situation at the time did not provide sufficient legal basis for such a proclamation. That changed with the pandemic. Within days of the confirmation of first case in the U.S., the White House shut American land borders to nonessential travel, closing the door to almost all migrants, including children and teenagers who arrived at the border with no parents or other adult guardians. Other international travel restrictions were also introduced, as well as a pause on green card processing.
U.S. Quietly Fears That Virus's Daily Toll Will Soon Double
An internal Trump administration model projects a near-doubling of daily coronavirus deaths by June 1 as the nation begins to reopen, as well as a rapid rise in daily infections. His administration is privately projecting a steady rise in coronavirus infections and deaths over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1. The projections, based on data collected by various agencies, including the CDC, and laid out in an internal document obtained by The New York Times, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of May, up from about 30,000 cases now. There are currently about 1,750 deaths per day. Others forecasting these changes say the increase partly reflects "changes in mobility and social distancing policies.
Cases Could Soar as Evidence Shows That Children Can Transmit Virus
Fewer children seem to get infected by the virus than adults, and most of those who do have mild symptoms, if any. Yet one of the most important unanswered questions about COVID-19 is what role do children play in keeping the pandemic going? The answer is key to deciding whether and when to reopen schools, a step that President Trump urged states to consider before the summer. Two new studies offer compelling evidence that children can transmit the virus. Neither proved it, but the evidence was strong enough to suggest that schools should be kept closed for now, said many epidemiologists who were not involved in the research.
Mystery Illness Linked to Virus Claims 3 Children in New York and Sickens 73 Others
An initial survey by the New York State (NYS) Department of Health has found 64 cases of children presenting new pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome likely linked to COVID-19. NYS issued an advisory on the syndrome and its potential association with COVID-19 in children. It was sent to all healthcare facilities, clinical labs, and local health departments to inform providers of the condition as well as to provide testing and reporting guidance. Any suspected cases in individuals under the age of 21 must be reported to the NYS Department of Health. The inflammatory syndrome has features that overlap with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome may occur days to weeks after acute COVID-19 illness. Early recognition by pediatricians and referral to a specialist including to critical care is essential. The mysterious syndrome has killed 3 young children in New York and sickened 73 others so far.
Are Antibodies the Way Back? The Research is Mixed
The fundamental mystery to solve is how people develop immunity, the key to which will be testing for antibodies in the blood. Identifying antibodies will help inform contact tracing; determine the effectiveness of vaccines; and clarify who may be susceptible to re-infection, and at what point, and why. Antibody tests have begun rolling out across the country, to much fanfare. Last week, New York Governor Cuomo announced an "aggressive" deployment of tests and early numbers have suggested that about 15% of people in the state have antibodies to the coronavirus. Some pundits have implied that high rates of antibodies mean that cities could reopen quickly. Some take the apparently high number of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to mean the disease is not that bad and that social-distancing measures have proved to be an overreaction. This is false hope, going beyond what science can yet say. The basics of immunity have suddenly been politicized to the point that they seem much more confusing than they actually are.
Coronavirus Becomes the Latest Battle Cry for U.S. Extremist Groups
White supremacists seek to stoke the fear and disruption caused by the pandemic to push their agenda to recruit. America's extremists are attempting to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a potent recruiting tool both in the deep corners of the internet and on the streets of state capitals by twisting the public health crisis to bolster their white supremacist, anti-government agendas. April is typically a busy month for white supremacists, but this April the coronavirus wreaked havoc on society and became the extremists' battle cry. Extremists spread disinformation on the transmission of the virus and disparage stay-at-home orders as "medical martial law"--the long-anticipated advent of a totalitarian state. New research indicates a significant jump in people consuming extremist material while under lockdown. Various violent incidents have been linked to white supremacist or anti-government perpetrators enraged over aspects of the pandemic.
Food Banks to Get Glut Being Saved From Farms
While millions of Americans are worried about having enough to eat and lines at food banks grow, farmers have been plowing under vegetable fields, dumping milk, and smashing eggs that cannot be sold because the coronavirus pandemic has shut down restaurants, hotels, and schools. The destruction of fresh food on such a scale has prompted action by the Trump administration and state governments, as well as grass-roots efforts, like a group of college students who are renting trucks to rescue unsold onions and eggs from farms. However, they most likely won't be enough to address the problem if businesses remain closed for months. Over the next few weeks, the Department of Agriculture will begin spending $300 million a month to buy surplus vegetables, fruit, milk, and meat from distributors and ship them to food banks. The federal grants will also subsidize boxing up the purchases and transporting them to charitable groups--tasks that farmers have said they cannot afford, giving them few options other than to destroy the food.
FEMA Supply Effort Tangled by Kushner Team
Young, inexperienced workers scrambled to sort through tips on equipment desperately needed to fight the coronavirus while warehouses ran bare and doctors made their own gear. The volunteers, foot soldiers in the Trump administration's new supply-chain task force, had little to no experience with government procurement procedures or medical equipment. Yet they were put in charge of sifting through more than a thousand incoming leads and told to pass only the best ones on for further review by FEMA officials. Many of the volunteers were told to prioritize tips from political allies and associates of President Trump. The fumbling search for new supplies--heralded by Trump and Jared Kushner as a way to pipe private-sector hustle and accountability into the hidebound federal bureaucracy--became a case study of Trump's style of governing, in which personal relationships and loyalty are often prized over governmental expertise, and private interests are granted extraordinary access and deference.
Nominee to Oversee Bailout Money Says He Won't Bow to White House
Brian D. Miller, the White House lawyer tapped to oversee the Treasury Department's $500 billion bailout, said he would not be influenced by political pressure. He has vowed to be fair and impartial in his efforts to combat misuse of the bailout money, telling a Senate committee that he would resign if the White House pressured him to overlook wrongdoing. Lawmakers created the inspector general role to oversee disbursement of the huge sums of money that the government is quickly rolling out to bail out businesses that are battered by the coronavirus crisis.
Whistle-Blower Describes Clashes and 'Cronyism' in Administration Response
Rick Bright, the ousted chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, said he was pressured to steer millions of dollars to the clients of a well-connected consultant. Dr. Bright said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that he had been protesting "cronyism" and contract abuse since 2017. Dr. Bright has said that he was retaliated against by his superiors, who pushed him out because of "his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency. In a 89-page complaint.
Federal Watchdog Says Whistle-Blower Should be Reinstated as it
A U.S. government watchdog agency has recommended the temporary reinstatement of a whistleblower who was removed as director of a government research office because he raised concerns about coronavirus preparedness. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) made a "threshold determination" that the Trump administration unlawfully sidelined disease expert Rick Bright because he "made protected disclosures in the best interest of the American public." The OSC's recommendation is not binding on the administration.
A Bridge of Federal Relief May Crumble in Summer
As the nation confronts unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, Congress and the Trump administration face a pivotal choice: Continue spending trillions trying to shore up businesses and workers, or bet that state re-openings will jump-start the U.S. economy. Yet the federal government is lurching away from the strategy that has thus far helped slow the spread of the coronavirus and sustain people and companies struggling during the self-inflicted economic shutdown. As the virus threatens to haunt the nation and its economy longer than some officials had anticipated, Trump and many Republicans in Congress have grown weary of federal spending to support workers and businesses and have begun urging states to get back to what was considered normal.
Hotel Group Plans to Return $70 Million in Aid Meant for Small Businesses
Ashford Inc., one of the biggest beneficiaries of the government's small business lending program, has come under scrutiny after receiving at least $70 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans. It has now said it will return the money. Ashford oversees a a tightly interwoven group of hotel and resorts and its subsidiaries applied for $126 million in loans. The Trump administration scrambled to tighten the program's rules after it became clear that companies like Ashford, along with other publicly-traded firms, were benefiting from a $660 billion program. Last week, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that companies had until May 7 to voluntarily return the funds and that firms could be held "criminally liable" if they did not meet the program's criteria. The U.S. will audit any company that received more than $2 million in loans.
Two Men Face First Federal Fraud Charges Tied to Small-Business Loan Program
Two New England men were arrested on charges of attempting to defraud the government's small-business lending program, marking the first federal fraud charges related to the $660 billion program that was aimed at helping businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic but has been riddled with problems. The case against the men, David Staveley and David Butziger, is part of the Justice Department's broad effort to fight coronavirus-related crimes, including health care fraud, hoarding, price gouging, and scams devised to steal money both from people and from federal economic assistance programs for businesses in need of aid. Across the Justice Department, anything coronavirus related is a top priority.
Task Force to Wrap Up Even as Virus Bears Down
Despite growing evidence that the pandemic is still raging, administration officials have said that they had made so much progress in bringing it under control that they planned to wind down the coronavirus task force in the coming weeks and focus the White House on restarting the economy. Vice President Pence, who has led the task force for 2 months, said that it would probably wrap up its work around the end of May, and shift management of the public health response back to the federal agencies whose work it was to coordinate. This decision came days after the revelation of new estimates that suggest deaths from the coronavirus, now about 70,000 could double by early August, and that infection rates may rise sharply as businesses reopen. Trump somewhat reversed himself after receiving excessive pushback from supporters.
As Hunger Grows, Republicans Push Back Over Food Stamps
Democrats are seeking to raise benefits as research shows a rise in food insecurity without modern precedent amid the pandemic. However, Republicans have balked at a long-term expansion of the program. Among mothers with young children, nearly one-fifth say that their children are not getting enough to eat, according to a survey by the Brookings Institution, a rate 3 times as high as in 2008, during the worst of the Great Recession. Democrats want to raise food stamp benefits by 15% for the duration of the economic crisis, arguing that a similar move during the great Recession reduced hunger and helped the economy. Republicans have fought for years to shrink the program, saying that earlier liberalization led to enduring caseload growth and a backdoor expansion of the welfare state.
DeVos's Rules Bolster Rights of Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct
The U.S. Education Department finalized campus sexual assault rules that bolster the rights of the accused, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced. The new policy also reduces legal liabilities for schools and colleges, and narrows the scope of cases schools will be required to investigate. The change reshapes the way the nation's schools respond to complaints of sexual misconduct. It is meant to replace policies from the Obama administration that DeVos previously revoked, saying they pressured schools to deny the rights of accused students. Under the new rules, the definition of sexual harassment is narrowed to include only misconduct that is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive" that it effectively denies the victim access to the school's education programs. The rules add dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking to the definition of sexual harassment.
Biden's Request to Release Files Hits Legal Snag
At the center of Tara Reade's sexual assault allegation against former Vice President Biden is a complaint she says she filed with a personnel office on Capitol Hill around the time of the alleged incident in the early 1990s. Reade says that she doesn't have a copy of the complaint and doesn't remember where and to whom, specifically, she filed it. As part of his sweeping denial of any sort of inappropriate behavior with Reade, Biden sought to cast himself as bending over backward to be transparent about the existence of the complaints. He says that it should be at the National Archives and that he is requesting that the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press. However, the secretary of the Senate has released a statement saying that she can't legally do what Biden is asking. Now the Biden campaign has a transparency problem.
Three Virus Czars Are Isolating After Contact with Carriers
Three top public health officials have begun partial or full self-quarantine for 2 weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. This is the lastest sign of worry that the coronavirus could be spreading through the senior ranks of the Trump administration. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has confirmed that he has started a "modified quarantine" given what he called a "low risk contact. The actions come after the disclosure that Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus.
White House is Rattled by Aide's Positive Test
President Trump said on Thursday that the White House staff would be tested every day for the coronavirus after a military aide who has had contact with him was found to have the virus. Both Trump and Pence had both tested negative for the virus since their exposure to the military aide, but the episode has raised new questions about how well-protected Trump and other top officials are as they work at the White House, typically without wearing masks.
Administration Bars Fauci From House Testimony
The White House is blocking epidemic expert Anthony Fauci from testifying before a Congressional committee, less than 2 months after Dr. Fauci critiqued the nation's coronavirus testing system during a public hearing. The House Appropriations Committee had sought his testimony at a subcommittee hearing to look into the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 65,000 Americans. A White House spokesman said that the administration is busy fighting the spread of the virus, re-opening the economy, and seeking a vaccine, so "it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings. Dr. Fauci said during a March 12 House hearing that the nation's coronavirus testing system was not what it should be. Instead of him, the House committee will hear next week from Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC.
Lawmakers Decline Offer of Rapid Testing at Capitol
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected an offer from the Trump administration to provide Congress with rapid results testing, citing the need to direct resources where they are most needed.
First At-Home Saliva Kit is Authorized by the Food and Drug Administration
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency authorization for the first at-home COVID-19 test that uses saliva samples. Testing for COVID-19 so far has usually involved nose or throat swab samples. If people are committed to do self-collection and facilitate that collection at home, certainly with a prescription under medical care, we can get to those that are quarantined, don't have means for transportation or are too scared to go outside. Authorizing additional diagnostic tests with the option of at-home sample collection will continue to increase patient access to testing for COVID-19.
FDA Presses for Data on Accuracy of Results
The agency had come under fire from members of Congress and other groups for allowing dozens of wildly inaccurate tests to proliferate without oversight. The FDA announced last Monday that companies selling coronavirus antibody tests must submit data proving accuracy within the next 10 days or face removal from the market. Since mid-March, the FDA has permitted dozens of manufacturers to sell the tests without providing evidence that they are accurate. Its action follows a report by more than 50 scientists, which found that only 3 out of 14 antibody tests gave consistently reliable results, and even the best had flaws. The FDA has also been under fire from several members of Congress, with numerous lawmakers raising questions about the validity of some of the tests.
Generic Drug Maker Admits to Fixing Prices for Cholesterol Medication
Apotex Corp., a generic pharmaceutical company headquartered in Florida, agrees to pay a $24.1 million criminal penalty for fixing the price of the generic drug pravastatin.
Nine Senators Ask Amazon for Details on Firings
Nine Democratic senators asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to answer questions about the company's decision to fire employees who criticized its treatment of warehouse workers, as well as to provide more details about Amazon's internal policies. Amazon has fired at least 4 workers in recent months who were outspoken critics of its labor policies. Workers across the country have called for the company to put in place greater safety protections, including closing down facilities where there are positive cases for additional cleaning.
U.S. Drops Pursuit of Flynn, In Move Backed By Trump
The Justice Department's move to dismiss charges against President Trump's first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is likely one of the last shoes to drop in the highly politicized Russia investigation. Yet the president appears to be using an investigation that has overshadowed his presidency as part of his 2020 reelection campaign against Joe Biden. With the election just 6 months away, the Trump campaign has started to tie Biden to the Obama administration's alleged involvement in the Flynn case.
Flynn Case Raises Fears of a Politically Tainted Justice Department
President Trump and his supporters praised Attorney General William P. Barr's decision to drop the prosecution of Michael T. Flynn, even as career law enforcement officials warned that the action set a disturbing precedent and Democrats accused the administration of further politicizing the Justice Department.
New York Must Hold Primary, Judge Rules
Last week, Democrats on the State Board of Elections voted to remove all the presidential candidates who had suspended their campaigns, leaving Biden as the only name on the ballot, and canceled the presidential primary amid coronavirus fears. Governor Cuomo issued an executive order in March moving the primary from its originally scheduled date of April 28 to June 23. The preliminary injunction, granted by U.S. District Judge Torres, came in response to a lawsuit last week from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and several New Yorkers who had hoped to serve as his delegates to the Democratic National Convention. A judge has ruled that the NYS Democratic presidential primary will take place as planned next month.
New York's Criteria For When to Reopen
Despite pressure from business owners, regional leaders, and crowds of protestors, Cuomo has vowed to stay unmoved by emotion or politics when it comes time for him to decide on reopening NYS for business amid the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo has outlined his region-by-region 7-part criteria needed to restart the economy across various parts of the state starting as early as May 15, when his PAUSE executive order on social restrictions expires. As it stands, no region in the state meets all of the requirements, though the central part of the state is closest. Most only need to get more coronavirus tests before being given the green light.
Echo of 'Stop and Frisk' Is Seen In Social-Distance Crackdown
Tensions are increasingly flaring in black and Hispanic neighborhoods over officers' enforcement of social-distancing rules, leading some prominent elected officials to charge that the New York Police Department is engaging in a racist double standard as it struggles to shift to a public health role in the coronavirus crisis. The arrests of black and Hispanic residents, several of them filmed and posted online, occurred on the same balmy days that other photographs circulated showing police officers handing out masks to mostly white visitors at parks in Lower Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Long Island City. Video captured crowds of sunbathers, many without masks, sitting close together at a part on a Manhattan pier, uninterrupted by the police.
For the First Time, New York Shuts the Subway for Cleaning
The Metropolitan Transit Authority has shut down New York City subways for the first time in 115 years, employing workers to disinfect more than 500 stations as the state battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters Say Social-Distancing Rules are Being Used to Silence Their Dissent
After the police broke up a demonstration in New York City on Sunday, activists expressed concern that safety orders were being used to curtail free speech. The episode highlighted a challenge for activists participating in traditional protests: How to gather, and draw attention, while keeping a safe distance from one another and onlookers? Some civil rights lawyers fear that social distancing rules could also be used as an excuse to curtail free speech. Similar issues have been raised with other recent protests across the country, many involving demonstrators who refuse to wear masks or to maintain social distancing. In New York, enforcement has not been uniform.