By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, and General News:
Concert to Test Whether America Is Ready to Rock Again, When Concert Was Postponed by State Officials
While the world's big touring acts remain on hiatus or confined to sporadic online performances, Travis McCready, a country-rock singer, was set to take the stage last Friday for an intimate acoustic live performance at a venue in Fort Smith, Ark. The performance, though modest, attracted outsized attention, not only because it was testing whether people were ready to return in numbers to listen to live music, but also because it was challenging the restrictions the governor put on such performances. Governor Asa Hutchinson had said that indoor venues, such as theaters, arenas, and stadiums could reopen on May 18, as long as they limit their audiences to fewer than 50 people. The venue, Temple Live, a former Masonic Temple, was saying that the show was to be held 3 days earlier, with more than 4 times that number of fans allowed in -- 229 in the 1,100-seat theater.
The Arkansas authorities seized the liquor license of the concert hall, forcing the promoters to delay the show. A day earlier, the state Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order to the promoter, Temple Live, anticipating that it intended to violate state rules governing the reopening of concerts. The promoters said that they were applying to reschedule the Travis McCready concert for just a few days later, on Monday, May 18, at Temple Live. The promoters denounced what they characterized as a pre-emptive and heavy-handed enforcement action while, they said, negotiations were ongoing. "'We the people,' three amazing words, and they have been trampled on today," Mike Brown, a representative of Temple Live, said at a televised news conference.
Billboard Charts + a Dispute
Last year, Billboard magazine came under intense criticism over how its charts accounted for sales bundles -- when artists tack a copy of their new album as a bonus for buying a T-shirt or other merchandise, or a concert ticket. Long a useful marketing tool, bundles have run rampant in the streaming age, leading to concerns about chart manipulation. Billboard tweaked its rules in January. But complaints have flared up again over albums that come bundled with concert tickets during the coronavirus pandemic, when touring has been halted. Is it fair to count an album tacked on to a ticket for a show that may be delayed for months -- or might not happen at all?
Movie Theaters Are on the Brink
With movie theaters closed because of the pandemic, many Hollywood producers have delayed the release of potential blockbusters. On April 10, Universal Pictures made the animated sequel to its 2016 hit "Trolls" -- based on the popular toys with their neon, upcombed hair -- available as a digital rental on streaming platforms for $19.95. A month later, "Trolls World Tour" has brought in well over $100 million, a record for streaming. None of that has to be shared with theater operators, which typically take half the box office when they show a film. Universal Pictures said that when movie theaters reopened, it planned to release its films simultaneously in theaters and online, eliminating the theaters' traditional window of exclusivity.
Quibi Co-Founder Blames Covid for Launch Fail
Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg blames the app's botched launch on the global pandemic. Ouibi, which offers entertainment and news programs in five- to 10-minute chunks, was designed to be watched on the go by people who are too busy to sit down and stream TV shows or movies. It came out when millions of people were not going anywhere because of stay-at-home orders across the country. As a result of global stay-at-home orders, downloads of the $1.8 billion short-form streaming app, meant for phones, are paltry. "I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus," Katzenberg said. "Everything."
Malaysia Drops Charges Against "Wolf of Wall Street" Producer
A Malaysian court dismissed money laundering charges against the Hollywood producer Riza Aziz, a stepson of the country's disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak, under an agreement in which he will return assets worth more than $107 million. Riza, whose Red Granite Pictures produced the Oscar-nominated film "The Wolf of Wall Street", had been accused of laundering $248 million in money misappropriated from a government investment fund while it was under his stepfather's control. The charges were part of a long-running, billion-dollar scandal involving Najib and his spendthrift family members that brought down his government 2 years ago. Shifting political tides have returned his allies to power, and some critics questioned whether dropping the charges against Riza was a sign that the new government was preparing to go easy on Najib.
Court Denies Dismissal of Copyright Infringement Suit
Landon Mondragon sued Kasey King and his hat business, Nosrak LLC, alleging that King published on Instagram, without Mondragon's license, permission, or consent, 5 of his photographic images, each of which depicts a clothed female model wearing a hat. Mondragon requests actual damages, an accounting for "all profits, income, receipts, or other benefits" from the infringement, and an award of costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees. Alternatively, he seeks "statutory damages of up to $150,000 per copyrighted work infringed pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504." On December 10, 2019, King, proceeding pro se, moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rule 11(b) and due to the conduct of counsel, claiming in part that Mondragon's counsel, Richard Liebowtiz "neglected to properly review the facts of the case." King claims that Liebowitz violated Rule 11(b) because the model depicted in the photographs, Jessica Moore, and not the plaintiff, actually owns the rights to the photographs at issue. The court also interpreted King's motion as a request for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) because it argued, in part, that the plaintiff failed to state a factual claim. The court denied King's motion, holding that neither Rule 11(b) nor Rule 12(b)(6) provides grounds for dismissing this case.
Some Major Museum Shows Won't Open After Covid
As exhibitions around the world close or cancel the next stops on their tours, logistical and emotional carnage follow. Museum exhibitions in much of the world were put on pause in early or mid-March, postponed indefinitely as many countries issued strict stay-at-home orders. As shutdowns continue, it has become clear that some shuttered shows will not reopen. Others will never open their doors. Many more are in limbo. The behind-the-scenes work on a major museum exhibition usually takes years, involving fund-raising, difficult loan negotiations with other museums and collectors, scholarship and catalog production, events planning, complicated transport, and sometimes major restoration. A cancellation can be heartbreaking for those who have spent years planning an exhibition. For museums that have invested money and depend on the ticket revenues, it can be a grim financial reality.
Broadway Extends Hiatus to Labor Day
The Broadway League, a trade organization representing producers and theater owners, announced that Broadway's 41 theaters would remain shuttered at least through Labor Day. The announcement is not a surprise as the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to kill more than 150 people a day in New York state (down from the peak of 800), and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has put arts and entertainment in the last phase of his reopening plan. It remains unclear when Broadway might reopen and many industry officials believe it will be considerably later than Labor Day.
The Call That's NOT Put on Hold
For the past month, more than 200 arts leaders have been getting on the same daily Zoom call seeking comfort, counsel, and connection as they try to stave off institutional failures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. More than just a logistical feat, the phone call has become a singular measurement of how worried, desperate, and vulnerable cultural organizations have become since the virus hit. Just as notable is how much they are actually acting these days like the "arts community" to which they often aspire.
Disney Closes 'Frozen' on Broadway, Citing Pandemic
Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of "Frozen" will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis. "Frozen" had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway -- the others were "The Lion King" and "Aladdin" -- and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.
Cunningham Centennial is Moving Online
Last year, dance companies around the world celebrated the centennial of Merce Cunningham's birth by performing some of his vast repertory. Now, over the next few months, more than a dozen of those performances will be viewable online. The idea germinated when New York Theater Ballet, whose 40th anniversary performances were canceled because of the pandemic, asked Patricia Lent, the Cunningham trust's director of licensing, for permission to stream some of its recent renditions of Cunningham works. The trust's standard licensing agreements allow for the streaming of short clips, but not full works. Lent would have to get the other rights holders, such as composers and designers, to sign off as well. She was inclined to make the arrangements as an exception, "But then I thought, wait a minute, nobody can do a live performance right now," she recalled. "And there are these videos out there. Might other companies also be interested in streaming right now?" Many were: Stephen Petronio Company, Ballet de Lorraine, Lyon Opera Ballet, and more. The other rights holders, according to Lent, were "cooperative and generous, wanting to help out in this time when we have no live dance." Ken Tabachnick, the trust's executive director, had a further thought: to aggregate all of the videos on the trust's website, thereby creating an online festival.
Tanglewood, Musical Haven in the Berkshires, Cancels Summer Season
For the first time since the Second World War, Tanglewood's season, a staple of summer in the Northeast, has been canceled because of the continued threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The Boston Symphony's season at Tanglewood, where it started summering in 1937, is a huge draw for visitors across the Northeast. More than 340,000 people attended events at the festival last summer, The Berkshire Eagle reported, when Tanglewood added lectures and master classes to its slate of programming and opened the Linde Center for Music and Learning. Mark Volpe, the Boston Symphony's president and chief executive, said that the organization explored various alternatives to canceling the season, at one point sending a drone up above the expansive lawn to think about how social distancing might work. However, with the thousands of people who congregate each summer in lines to the bathrooms and walk back to their cars at the end of the evening, it just wasn't feasible.
Frieze New York Goes Virtual
Frieze New York, the city's first test of whether a virtual art gathering forced by the pandemic could survive online, wound down with surprisingly strong results, suggesting that the schmooze-centric art market may never be the same. Reported sales from the fair were solid, compared with those of last year, when the event took place under a large white tent on Randalls Island -- at least for mega galleries, defying conventional wisdom that online prices can't match those in person. Dealers said that George Condo's "Distanced Figures 3," for example, sold for $2 million at Hauser & Wirth; El Anatsui's "Metas III," for $1.5 million at Acquavella; and Alice Neel's "Veronica," for $550,000 at David Zwirner. "We were very surprised by how successful we were," said Marc Payot, a co-president of Hauser & Wirth. "We have to focus on other creative ways of connecting with our audiences and this pushes the online part of our business forward."
Library of Congress Unveils Digital DJ Tool
The Library of Congress is challenging hip-hop fans and music lovers to remix sounds from its extensive archive. A new digital tool called Citizen DJ, created by one of the Library's Innovators in Residence, Brian Foo, will allow users to explore the Library's recordings to create and download original beats and sounds. Foo, a data-visualization artist, early hip-hop fan, and former break dancer, said in a phone interview that the inspiration for the project draws on the genre's roots, when D.J.s scoured record-store crates for obscure sounds to sample in their music.
Christie's Tries to Reinvent The Auction
Christie's has a new auction format for a July 10 event that it hopes will revive at least some of the drama -- and the prices -- of the live evening sales that were held pre-pandemic. Billed as "ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century," the auction will include a livestream with auctioneers offering works of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art in consecutive sessions from Christie's salesrooms in Hong Kong, Paris, London, and New York. This gives owners of high-value artworks an opportunity to sell in a globally marketed live sale preceded by public exhibitions where allowed. Since the advent of the pandemic, auction houses have had to rely on more routine online-only sales to generate revenue, which require bidders to buy items without physically examining their quality or condition. Buyers are rarely confident enough to bid above $1 million. This relay-style auction is expected (perhaps optimistically) to last about 2 hours and consists of 50 to 70 lots. It will start in Hong Kong at 8 p.m. local time, then progress across time zones, becoming an afternoon sale in Europe and a morning sale in the United States, finishing by about 10 a.m. Eastern time. Buyers can bid online, by telephone, and, where "government advice allows," in the salesroom, Christie's said in a statement.
This hybrid of live and online auction is a response to the postponement of Christie's series of 20th-century sales that would have taken place in New York in May. The company originally rescheduled the series, incorporating works from its canceled summer auctions in London, for the third week of June. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has said that a true reopening of the city remains "a few months away at minimum."
J.C. Penney, 118-Year-Old Department Store, Files for Bankruptcy
J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy protection after a prolonged decline over the past 20 years, becoming the latest and largest retailer to fall during the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the industry. The chain has more than 800 stores and nearly 85,000 employees. Its collapse follows other retail bankruptcies this month, including J. Crew, the Neiman Marcus Group, and the designer men's clothing brand John Varvatos. J.C. Penney represents the biggest casualty by far based on the number of locations, with stores that are anchors at many of the nation's malls.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/15/business/jc-penney-bankruptcy-coronavirus.html?searchResultPosition=17 https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/05/15/business/15reuters-jc-penney-bankruptcy.html?searchResultPosition=16 https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/05/16/business/16reuters-jcpenney-bankruptcy.html?searchResultPosition=13
Colombian Director Films Quarantine "The Bathroom" Comedy With Mobile Phones
Colombian director Harold Trompetero, who has directed 21 films and produced another 30, is now tackling an unusual project amid a nationwide coronavirus quarantine that has his actors stuck at home. The new movie "The Bathroom" is filmed on phones, with actors' family members helping with camera work, make-up, and costuming as Trompetero gives instruction via video chats. The comedy movie is the story of a group of university friends who are still in touch 10 years later when the quarantine is declared and secrets come to light. Why the bathroom? "We started thinking the privacy of home starts to lose personal privacy under quarantine, you don't have any space to yourself," Trompetero said. "The bathroom is the space left in lots of homes where you can be by yourself for five minutes of solitude." Actress Marcela Carvajal said she cried when Trompetero called, asking her to star. "I cried because I thought I wasn't going to return to acting for a long, long time - theaters are closed, TV channels are closed," she said. "It's a dream to make a film in this era."
Australian Soap Opera Returns with Social Distancing
"Neighbours", a long-running Australian soap opera that returned to production in late April amid coronavirus restrictions, is hoping to still convey the same heightened conflict, intimacy, and drama that the show's fans have come to love even as its actors must stand 5 feet apart, cannot hold hands, kiss or simulate a brawl. The series, which has run for 35 years and aired more than 8,300 episodes, had been on a month-long hiatus because of social distancing measures that have halted the production of television and films in Australia and around the globe. As Australia charges toward its goal of totally eliminating the virus within its borders, "Neighbours" has become among the first TV shows in the world to have its cast and crew return to set, if at a distance.
National Football League Releases Schedule Despite Pandemic
The National Football League (NFL) released a full schedule of games that on the surface included no obvious backup plan in case the pandemic prevents the season from starting on September 10. Yet the odds that the NFL will be able to keep to its schedule are decreasing by the day. Before games can be played, teams must first open their offices and training facilities, which have been shut since mid-March, then hold training camps, which are to begin in mid-July. To keep what they call "competitive equity," NFL executives say that teams can reopen their offices and training facilities only when it is safe for every team to do so. The NFL is also requiring its teams, scattered across 2 dozen states, to follow local and state guidelines, including frequent testing and limits on the size of gatherings, to determine when it will be safe enough for coaches, staff, and players to return.
Major League Baseball Proposes July Start Games With No Fans
Major League Baseball (MLB) has formalized its plan to return to the field, with teams agreeing on a proposal to send to the players' union for an 82-game season that would start without fans in early July. The plan would include an expanded playoff field and the designated hitter for all games, even those in the National League, where it is not typically used. The plan must clear major obstacles to become reality. Even if the union accepts the structure of a truncated season, the sides would also have to agree on a salary structure for players. MLB would also need to have enough tests for players and employees without depleting the public supply, and agree with the union on working conditions, including protocols in case of positive tests. Details of the proposal were confirmed by multiple baseball officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan cannot be official until authorized by the union.
More Touring Pros Embracing CBD
PGA and Champions Tour players have become more vocal about using CBD to treat their ailments since the compound was removed from banned substances list in 2018. Billy Horschel - a five-time PGA Tour winner who began using cannabidiol, or CBD, products shortly after he missed the cut at the British Open in July - joins a growing group of tour members, including Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion, and Scott McCarron to advocate for the acceptance of CBD use in the conservative world of professional golf.
Ultimate Fighting Championship's Coronavirus Plan is Careful, But Spotty
As stay-at-home orders swept across the United States, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) insisted that it would overcome the forces that had upended virtually all top sporting leagues. In the week leading up to UFC 249, the promotion company's officials spoke of a 25-page document that laid out extensive health and safety protocols that the organization would follow to ensure a safe event. A review of the guidance in the document -- the UFC's "Jacksonville Event Operations Plan," a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times -- indicated that UFC officials and fighters routinely deviated from the outlined procedures in the days leading up to UFC 249 and on the night of the pay-per-view event itself. In the statement, the UFC said the plan "provides a road map for a prudent, safe, and responsible working environment" as fighting resumes. It noted that the plan "is not the sum total of our protocols, which also includes Covid-19 antibody blood tests and antigen tests" and said the UFC would be "updating it regularly with key learnings from each event going forward."
For US Open Tennis, Florida and California May Be Escape Hatches
After weeks of clinging to its hopes of holding the United States Open at its traditional New York home in front of fans, the United States Tennis Association has begun to seriously explore a series of alternative plans for the signature event that accounts for more than 80% of its revenue. The scheduled late-August start of the tournament, one of the largest events in New York City, is still 3 months away, but the dual realities of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the financial peril the U.S. Tennis Association would face if it has to cancel have forced the organization to consider whether it can hold its premier event somewhere besides Flushing Meadows, the park next to the central Queens neighborhoods that have been at the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the city.
PGA Tour Lays Out Plan to Restart
With the goal of resuming tournament play next month in Texas, PGA Tour officials outlined safety procedures that they intend to implement, including layers of coronavirus testing for players, caddies, and support personnel. The Tour's plan would restrict the movement of players during events, which will be conducted without live spectators, and encourage golfers to isolate themselves from the public when off the golf course. Despite the provisions, which were laid out in a conference call with reporters, tour officials, who have not hosted a tournament in 2 months, indicated that they were also prepared and willing to reverse course. "Just to be perfectly clear, we're not going to play if we can't do it in a safe and healthy environment for all our constituencies," Tyler Dennis, the tour's senior vice president and chief of operations, said.
NFL Owners Will Review Incentives to Boost Racial Diversity
When the NFL owners meet via video conference, they will consider proposals that would give competitive advantages to teams that hire nonwhite candidates for their general manager and top coaching positions, according to several people familiar with the measures who were not authorized to speak publicly about them. The measures are a stark departure from the NFL's approach during the past decade and a half, when teams were pushed to interview minority candidates, under the Rooney Rule, but little more. Teams that exploited loopholes in the recruiting process were rarely penalized. Now, the NFL wants to take a more aggressive approach to reshaping its highest ranks by using tangible incentives, and not penalties, to encourage teams to hire more nonwhite coaches and general managers in a league in which about 70% of the players are African-American. In one proposal, a team that hires a nonwhite head coach would move up 6 spots from its position in the third round of the NFL draft that precedes that coach's second season, according to a person with knowledge of the proposal who was not authorized to speak publicly about it. Teams that hire a nonwhite candidate to fill the general manager's position would move up 10 spots in the third round of the draft before that executive's second season with the team. A team would lose either advantage if it fired the new hire after a single season, a provision designed to circumvent a tanking strategy and discourage firing coaches after a losing season.
Cuomo Says That Horse Racing Tracks Can Open in New York in June
New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the state would allow horse racing tracks and the Watkins Glen International auto racing track to open without fans on June 1, opening the door for televised events at those venues. "We can have economic activity without having a crowd, that's great," Cuomo said. "We can do that in this state. But no crowds, no fans." "Remember, the problem here are crowds and gatherings," he said. Cuomo listed several horse racing tracks, including Belmont Park on Long Island, as being eligible for reopening in June. Watkins Glen International, which was set to host a NASCAR race in August before the pandemic arrived, is also eligible to open next month. The news of a renewed economic engine came as major indicators, such as new hospitalizations and virus-related deaths, continued a steady decline.
Charges Against Former Michigan State President Are Dismissed
Judge John D. Maurer of the Circuit Court in Eaton County, Mich., said that prosecutors had not successfully proved that Dr. Simon knew of a 2014 sex abuse complaint against Dr. Nassar, and that a lower court had "abused its discretion" in allowing the case against her to continue. Simon told investigators that she knew of a "sports medicine doc who was subject to review," but that she did not know it was Nassar or the nature of the complaint, according to court documents. She said she learned about the sex abuse allegations against Nassar from news reports in 2016. Simon was charged in November 2018 with 2 felony counts and 2 misdemeanor counts, and faced up to 4 years in prison on each of the felony charges. Court documents show that detectives believed she lied during their interview with her and that they believed she did know about the allegations against Nassar. The Michigan Attorney General's Office said in a statement that it planned to take the case to the state's Court of Appeals with a goal of having the charges reinstated.
Uncertainty That Players with Expiring Contracts Didn't Ask For
On June 30, most contracts in European soccer expire, and that will put hundreds, if not thousands, of players out of work. For the vast majority, the future is anything but certain. For those who have spent years among the elite, earning lucrative salaries and burnishing glittering reputations, that is hardly a troubling prospect. They can afford a month or so off. Their names alone guarantee suitors. For the vast majority, though, it leaves only questions.
Aussie Rules Football to Kick Off on June 11
Aussie rules football will kick off again on June 11, with the second round of the Australian Football League (AFL) to be played almost 3 months after the competition was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Australian Football League chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced the matches for the next 4 rounds of the condensed season would be released within 10 days. The AFL, Australia's most-watched sports league in terms of attendance and TV audience, was suspended on March 22 after one round.
District of Columbia Is Investigating Trump Nominee to Lead Media Agency
The attorney general for the District of Columbia is investigating whether a conservative filmmaker nominated by Trump to lead the independent agency in charge of state-funded news outlets illegally enriched himself with funds from a nonprofit organization he runs, according to a top Democratic senator. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the office of the attorney general had notified the panel that it was "actively investigating" allegations that Michael Pack illegally funneled funds from his nonprofit group, the Public Media Lab, to his for-profit film company. The announcement was a significant setback in the Republican effort to quickly confirm Pack to lead the United States Agency for Global Media, a drive in which Trump has personally intervened in a bid to install an ally who would dictate more favorable news coverage of his administration. The agency oversees news organizations that together make up one of the largest media networks in the world, including the Voice of America, whose coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has recently infuriated Trump.
U.S. Is Said to Plan to File Antitrust Charges Against Google
The Justice Department is planning to file antitrust charges against Google as early as this summer, said 2 people with knowledge of the situation, in what would be one of the biggest antitrust actions by the United States since the late 1990s. The Justice Department is still investigating the internet company and has been making progress on its case, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were confidential. The regulators are focused on Google's dominance in the online advertising industry, and the case will also involve allegations that the company abused its dominant position in online search to harm competitors.
State attorneys general are likely to file their own antitrust lawsuit against Google or join the Justice Department case sometime this year, said a person with knowledge of the state investigation. Taken together, such actions against Google, which controls around 90% of all web searches globally, would be one of the biggest antitrust cases in the United States since the 1990s, when the Justice Department joined 20 states to sue Microsoft. The 2 sides reached a settlement in 2001.
Big-Tech's Domination of Journalism is Set to Change
The battle between platforms and publishers is at once a matter of economic principle and an old-fashioned political brawl between powerful industries. For a decade, tech's transformative power, glamour, and enormous lobbying spending allowed it to dominate, resulting in a system in which the platforms could feature and profit off the content news publishers create without paying them directly for it. However, the power of the press, even nowadays, makes it a formidable political force.
TikTok Broke Privacy Promises, Children's Groups Say
TikTok, the popular app for making and sharing short videos, has flouted an agreement it made with the Federal Trade Commission to protect the privacy of children on the service, a coalition of 20 children's and consumer groups said. Last year, TikTok agreed to make major changes to settle charges that one of its predecessor companies, Musical.ly, had violated the federal children's online privacy law. The alleged violations included collecting names, email addresses, videos, and other personal information from users under the age of 13 without a parent's consent. As part of the settlement, the video-sharing app agreed to obtain a parent's permission before collecting the child's personal information. It also agreed to delete personal information, including videos, of any children identified as younger than 13 and to remove videos and other personal details of users whose ages were unknown. Yet the consumer groups, led by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, said in a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission that TikTok had failed to abide by its commitments. Among other things, the complaint identified a number of videos posted by children under 13 in 2016 that TikTok had not deleted and that remain on the app.
U.S. Accuses China of Trying to Steal Virus Data
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that China's most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic. The warning comes as Israeli officials accuse Iran of mounting an effort in late April to cripple water supplies as Israelis were confined to their houses, though the government has offered no evidence to back its claim. More than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations' virus responses. Even American allies like South Korea and nations that do not typically stand out for their cyberabilities, like Vietnam, have suddenly redirected their state-run hackers to focus on virus-related information, according to private security firms.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a day after the warning "While the United States and our allies and partners are coordinating a collective, transparent response to save lives, the PRC continues to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens, and to spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis."
Anti-Lockdown Protesters Get in Reporters' (Masked) Faces
For some reporters, the up-close wrath of anti-lockdown protesters has become a hazard of the job. In a polarized time, public safety measures like social-distancing and mask-wearing have become grist for the culture wars. Coupled with President Trump's frequent criticisms of individual news outlets and certain reporters, the recent confrontations between protesters and journalists seem almost inevitable. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued guidelines to reporters who cover anti-lockdown protests, including: "Remain alert to the risk of people spitting / coughing close to or on you, either accidentally or deliberately".
Duterte's Shutdown of TV Network Leaves Void Amid Coronavirus Crisis
On May 5, amid the coronavirus lockdown that has kept slum dwellers bound to their shacks, one television station went dark as President Rodrigo Duterte effectively shut down a broadcasting giant. Duterte's government has ascribed the closure of ABS-CBN to anomalies in licensing renewals, but his critics say the move was yet more evidence of an increasingly domineering government using a crisis to crack down on dissent. Human Rights Watch said that the closure "reeks of a political vendetta."
Outside Egypt, Critics Speak Freely. Inside, Families Pay the Price.
The Egyptian government, which has stifled nearly all criticism at home, is now trying to silence critics abroad by jailing their family members in Egypt, human rights groups say. Since early last year, it has arrested the relatives of at least 15 dissidents in exile.
Supreme Court Takes on Employment Bias in Religious Schools
The Supreme Court heard arguments on how broadly federal employment discrimination laws apply to schools run by churches in 2 cases that will give the Court another opportunity to rule on the proper relationship between church and state, a topic that has deeply engaged the justices. The cases, which involve teachers in Catholic schools in California who sued their employers for job discrimination, will require the justices to find a balance between 2 competing interests: avoiding government interference in the internal affairs of religious groups and protecting the groups' employees from discrimination.
Justices to Decide If Trump Must Share Records
It seems that every 23 years, or about once in a generation, the Supreme Court considers whether presidents must abide by the rules that govern other citizens. In 1974, it unanimously required President Richard M. Nixon to turn over tapes of conversations in the Oval Office. Twenty-three years later, in 1997, it unanimously required President Bill Clinton to respond to a sexual harassment suit. Now, almost exactly 23 years after the ruling in the Clinton case, the Court will confront an equally significant showdown, this one over Trump's efforts to block demands from 2 House committees and New York prosecutors for his tax returns and other financial information.
Supreme Court Weighs Whether Eastern Oklahoma Is an Indian Reservation
The Supreme Court heard arguments about whether much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation, a question that could have enormous consequences for the area's 1.8 million residents in matters of criminal justice and commerce. The argument touched on the dark history of the U.S.'s treatment of Native Americans and the practical implications of a ruling that Congress had never clearly destroyed the sovereignty of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation over the area, covering about half the state.
Court Seems Ready to Curb Elections in Certain States
The Supreme Court seemed ready to allow states to require members of the Electoral College to cast their votes for the presidential candidates they had pledged to support. In 2 arguments concerning "faithless electors" from the states of Washington and Colorado, several of the justices focused on the practical consequences of their ruling or, as Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh put it, "the avoid-chaos principle of judging." "If it's a close call or a tiebreaker," he said, "we should not facilitate or create chaos." The arguments explored the original understanding of the framers of the Constitution, historical practice and contemporary expectations. Most of the justices seemed to conclude that there was no clear answer and that states should have leeway to vindicate voters' expectations that electors will vote for the presidential candidates who won at the polls.
Appeals Court Allows Emoluments Lawsuit to Proceed
A federal appeals court in Virginia revived a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from his Washington hotel, a decision that will most likely lead the Justice Department to appeal to the Supreme Court to keep the plaintiffs from gathering evidence in the case. "We recognize that the president is no ordinary petitioner, and we accord him great deference as the head of the executive branch," the majority opinion from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said. "But Congress and the Supreme Court have severely limited our ability to grant the extraordinary relief the president seeks." The 15-member appeals court in Richmond met in December to consider whether a 3-judge appellate panel had wrongly dismissed the lawsuit over the Trump International Hotel brought by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. The local jurisdictions were about to begin evidence-gathering when the panel threw out the case. The Justice Department asked the full appeals court to either uphold the panel's ruling or allow the department to appeal the lower-court judge's procedural rulings against the president, an emergency form of relief that is rarely allowed when a case is in midstream.
Environmental Protection Agency Opts Against Limits on Water Contaminant Tied to Fetal Damage
The Trump administration will not impose any limits on perchlorate, a toxic chemical compound that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage, according to 2 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff members familiar with the decision. The decision by Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the EPA, appears to defy a court order that required the agency to establish a safe drinking water standard for the chemical by the end of June. The policy, which acknowledges that exposure to high levels of perchlorate can cause I.Q. damage but opts nevertheless not to limit it, could also set a precedent for the regulation of other chemicals.
Poor Americans Hit Hardest by Pandemic
Households that entered the coronavirus shutdown in precarious economic positions have only worsened as workers are furloughed by the millions, and the challenges are especially acute for the poorest Americans, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Many Americans went into the nationwide lockdown with limited savings, despite gains from a record-long economic expansion. At the end of 2019, 3 in 10 adults said that they could not cover 3 months' worth of expenses with savings or borrowing in the case of a job loss, "indicating that they were not prepared for the current financial challenges," the Fed report said. One in 5 people who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, the data showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners.
Senators Say Conservatives Use Group to Sway Judges
Some top Democratic senators accused the Federalist Society of supporting a conservative "dark money" campaign to influence the federal judiciary, including who gets selected to become a judge and how he or she rules once on the bench. In a sharply worded letter, the senators said that they supported a proposal by a judicial ethics panel that would ban membership among judges in the conservative legal group. The prohibition, the letter said, would help curb the "rampant politicization of our federal courts." Nearly 30 Republican senators have already written to the panel to oppose the proposed ban, as have more than 200 federal judges, nearly all of them appointed by Republican presidents.
Banks Bungled Covid Aid
When the federal government agreed to funnel $2.2 trillion in emergency aid to Americans devastated by the economic shutdown, the nation's banks were given a central role. There were 3 main prongs of relief for taxpayers and American businesses, all routed through the banks in various ways: stimulus checks, a $660 billion package for small businesses, and unemployment benefits. Confronted with an unprecedented crush of need as millions of Americans lost their livelihoods, the banks stumbled in ways big and small. The small-business aid, the Paycheck Protection Program, had a chaotic introduction and ran dry within days. Some banks withheld stimulus cash from people with overdrawn accounts. Some banks' debit cards, used to distribute unemployment benefits, didn't work properly. Several lawmakers have begun exploring ways to sidestep banks to deliver aid. Among the proposals, mainly from Democrats: using Internal Revenue Service records and payroll processing companies, as well as the Federal Reserve, to help distribute money more swiftly.
Intelligence Chief Reduces Size of Counterterrorism Office
Richard Grenell, the acting intelligence chief announced a reorganization of the National Counterterrorism Center as part of an effort to reduce the size of the office overseeing the nation's spy agencies. The cuts to the counterterrorism center were far more moderate than some expected, according to current and former intelligence officials. Many of the reductions will be done by eliminating vacant positions; others will be done by attrition and by sending officers back to their home agencies. In all, the cuts will amount to about 15% of the center's work force, an official said. The precise size of the agency is classified.
Trump Ousted State Deptartment Watchdog at Pompeo's Urging
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Trump to fire the official responsible for fighting waste and fraud in his department, a White House official said, a recommendation certain to come under scrutiny after congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said "may be an act of illegal retaliation."
Officials Lash Out at Barr
Two former law enforcement officials involved in the cases of the onetime Trump advisers Michael T. Flynn and Roger J. Stone Jr. attacked Attorney General William P. Barr's extraordinary intervention in the inquiries, condemning his moves as detrimental to the rule of law and to public confidence in the Justice Department. In op-ed articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post, the former officials, Mary B. McCord and Jonathan Kravis, denounced Barr's move last week to drop a criminal case against Flynn and his earlier intervention to recommend a more lenient sentence for crimes that Stone committed in a bid to protect Trump.
Outsider is Set to Battle Barr
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, the federal judge overseeing the case against Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, appointed a hard-charging former prosecutor and judge to oppose the Justice Department's effort to drop the case and to explore a perjury charge against Mr. Flynn. Judge Sullivan's appointment of the former judge, John Gleeson, was an extraordinary move in a case with acute political overtones.
Ex-FBI Official Is Said to Undercut Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Flynn Case
A key former F.B.I. official cast doubt on the Justice Department's case for dropping a criminal charge against President Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during an interview with investigators last week, according to people familiar with the investigation. Department officials reviewing the Flynn case interviewed Bill Priestap, the former head of F.B.I. counterintelligence, 2 days before making their extraordinary request to drop the case to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. They did not tell Judge Sullivan about Priestap's interview. A Justice Department official said that they were in the process of writing up a report on the interview and that it would soon be filed with the court.
Spy Chief Trying to Reshape Russia Inquiry
The acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, has declassified an Obama-era document related to Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in a highly unusual move that prompted accusations that he was trying to discredit the Justice Department's Trump-Russia investigation.
Despite Quarantine of Fauci + Others, Hearings Proceeded
Although the chairman as in quarantine for coronavirus exposure and so were the star witnesses, fireworks -- albeit virtual ones -- flew when Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and 3 other top government doctors testified before the Senate Health Committee in one of the strangest high-stakes hearings in memory. The session, in which the chairman and witnesses appeared by video, was the first time that Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert -- and one of the few truth-tellers in the administration in the eyes of many Americans -- appeared before Congress since Trump declared the coronavirus crisis a national emergency on March 13. On March 11, when Fauci was still permitted to testify before the Democratic-controlled House, he made headlines by bluntly telling the nation, "Things will get worse", and they did.
All West Wing Employees Ordered to Wear Masks - But Not Trump or Pence
The White House ordered all West Wing employees to wear masks at work unless they are sitting at their desks after 2 aides tested positive for the coronavirus last week. However, officials said the new requirement was not expected to apply to Trump or to Pence.
Federal Watchdog to Examine Official's Role in Tribal Fund Distribution
A federal watchdog is investigating whether a top Interior Department official violated ethics rules when she helped decide how a critical tranche of funds for Native American tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law should be distributed. The department's inspector general informed lawmakers that he would review the roles of Tara Sweeney, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, and other top officials "to determine whether there was adherence to ethics rules and regulations and compliance with the ethics pledge" related to the funding. Several tribal governments are suing the federal government over its decision to allow Alaska Native corporations, for-profit businesses that support tribal villages in Alaska, to receive a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes, arguing that the corporations should not be eligible for the aid. Lawmakers and some tribal leaders have raised concerns about Sweeney's involvement in that decision, given that she is a shareholder in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the wealthiest of the Alaska Native corporations, having previously served as its executive vice president for external affairs.
Outbreak Spells Disaster for Tribal Nations
Tribal nations around the United States are facing their most severe crisis in decades as they grapple simultaneously with some of the deadliest coronavirus outbreaks in rural America and the economic devastation caused by the protracted shutdown of nearly 500 tribally owned casinos. The Navajo Nation, the country's largest Indian reservation, now has a higher death rate than any U.S. state except New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Across Indian Country, more than 5,200 cases have been confirmed in communities from Arizona to Minnesota, which in many cases represents significant local clusters that are challenging the limited resources of tribal clinics and rural hospitals.
Paid Leave Law Tries to Help Millions in Crisis. Many Haven't Heard of It
The paid leave program passed by Congress in March was supposed to help workers cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. It has struggled to do so because many Americans are ineligible, and many more are unaware the benefit even exists.
White-Collar Companies Won't Rush to Offices
Much of corporate America is in no rush to return employees to their campuses and skyscrapers. In fact, the companies are racing not to be the first back, but the last. An increasing number of them, which mostly have white-collar employees, have recently extended work-from-home policies far beyond the shelter-in-place timelines mandated by state and local authorities. Google and Facebook employees were told that they could stay home until next year. Capital One informed 40,000 workers that they will be out through Labor Day and possibly longer. Amazon is saying October. Nationwide Insurance is moving more aggressively than other firms, shuttering 5 offices around the country and having its 4,000 employees telecommute permanently.
Big Companies Ignore Rebuke Over Aid Money
When big businesses like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball franchise took millions of dollars' worth of emergency loans intended for small businesses, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called such borrowing "outrageous," narrowed eligibility and threatened to hold companies criminally liable if they did not give the money back. But in the last month, large companies have continued to take out big loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, including publicly traded firms with ready access to other forms of capital.
The Postal Service's Future Becomes a Political Battle
As Washington begins to battle over the next round of coronavirus relief funding, the United States Postal Service, for many the most familiar face of the federal government, has landed improbably at the center of one of the most bitter political disputes over who should be rescued, and at what cost. The future of the mail may hang in the balance. Postal leaders and their allies have made unusually blunt appeals for support in recent weeks, running advertisements on Trump's favorite Fox News programs and laying out an urgent account of how the pandemic has had a "devastating effect" on the U.S. mail service. Without a financial rescue from Congress, they have warned, an agency that normally runs without taxpayer funds could run out of cash as soon as late September, raising the specter of bankruptcy and an interruption in regular delivery for millions of Americans.
Experts Say Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged in 2019
In its annual audit, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) identified 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents in 2019, an increase of 12% from the 1,879 that were recorded in 2018. The surge in reports, grouped in the categories of assault, harassment and vandalism, came as Jewish communities in Monsey, N.Y., Jersey City, N.J., and Poway, Calif., were the targets of deadly attacks last year. "This was a year of unprecedented anti-Semitic activity, a time when many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate," the ADL's chief executive, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, said in a statement.
Matters of Democracy Go Digital
American democracy in the coronavirus era has gone digital or at least more distant, however fitfully and incompletely, as all 3 branches of government struggle to adapt to a new reality. The outbreak that has upended daily life across the nation has now forced the 3 branches of government to adapt to a new stay-at-home, livestream reality, transforming technology-resistant institutions that have changed only marginally and grudgingly since their 18th-century origins and forcing them to rewrite their rules as other workplaces have had to do.
House Passes $3 Trillion Aid Bill Over Republican Opposition
A divided House narrowly passed a $3 trillion pandemic relief package to send aid to struggling state and local governments and another round of direct $1,200 payments to taxpayers, advancing a proposal with no chance of becoming law over near-unanimous Republican opposition. Democratic leaders characterized the measure, which Trump has promised to veto, as their opening offer in future negotiations over the next round of coronavirus aid, forging ahead in passing it even amid rifts within their own ranks. With nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities, and Native American tribes, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans, the measure was an expansive sequel to the $2.2 trillion stimulus enacted in March, reflecting Democrats' desire to push for a quick and aggressive new round of help. Trump and Republicans have vacillated about whether they would commit to another phase of federal assistance, and have made it clear they are in no rush to provide it.
Experts Warn Opening Too Soon Poses Deadly Risk
Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- predicted dire consequences if the nation reopened its economy too soon, noting that the United States still lacked critical testing capacity and the ability to trace the contacts of those infected. "If we do not respond in an adequate way when the fall comes, given that it is without a doubt that there will be infections that will be in the community, then we run the risk of having a resurgence," said Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is at the forefront of efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine. If states reopen their economies too soon, he warned, "there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control," which could result not only in "some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery." Fauci's remarks, during a high-profile -- and partly virtual -- hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, along with those of Redfield, made clear that the nation had not yet prevailed.
World Health Organization Issues Warning as More Restrictions Are Lifted
The novel coronavirus spreading around the globe "may never go away," becoming a long-term fact of life that must be managed, not an enemy that can be permanently eradicated, says a top World Health Organization (WHO) official. "This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away," Mike Ryan, head of the organization's health emergencies program, said at a news briefing. "H.I.V. has not gone away but we've come to terms with the virus and we have found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods, and people don't feel as scared as they did before." "There are no promises in this and there are no dates," he said, tamping down expectations that the invention of a vaccine for the coronavirus will provide a quick and complete end to what has become a global health and economic calamity. A good vaccine might be developed, but there is no telling when, he added, calling it "a moon shot." If infected people become immune or resistant, then when enough people have had the virus, there will be fewer left who can catch it or spread it, making outbreaks more manageable. However, no one knows how long that will take.
As Hunger Spreads with Pandemic, Government Takes Timid Steps