By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, and Media/Technology
Musicians Push Industry to Go Beyond Hashtags
As the music field observed a voluntary "blackout" last Tuesday to reflect on issues of race and social justice, the industry also came under some criticism for making a solemn gesture without announcing more concrete plans. The initiative, called #BlackoutTuesday or #TheShowMustBePaused, quickly spread online, turning many people's social media feeds into grids of black squares -- which drew complaints that the effort was muting debate rather than contributing to it. It also raised broader questions about the value and sincerity of corporate expressions of empathy. Several musicians and labels pledged to donate to causes, but still, advocates noted that their efforts should not be limited to a single day and further donations should be made.
New York Theatres Offer Assistance to Protesters
A social media campaign encouraging closed New York City theatres to open their lobbies and restrooms to protesters is gaining traction among Manhattan's Off-Broadway venues and spaces in Brooklyn: The Public Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, A.R.T./New York, IRT Theatre, and Irondale Center are among the first to put out the welcome mats. Twitter account @OpenYourLobby offers specific instructions: Open lobby spaces to provide places of rest and water, snacks and first aid; provide bathroom access, Wi-Fi access, outlets for charging phones, hand sanitizer and enough space for social distancing; have an escape exit plan in case of disruption; and do not permit police inside. The campaign seems to have been inspired by a decision several days ago by the New York Theatre Workshop, which opened its doors to protesters during non-curfew hours.
"Unaffordable" 90-Day Theatrical Window is History as Leverage Tilts Towards Studios Post-Pandemic
As long as multiple studios push forward with premium video on demand (PVOD) or some other form of window changes, the balance of power in favor of studios increases even more and reduces the leverage that movie theaters have, as the latter would be unlikely to boycott multiple studios' upcoming releases. The standard 90-day 'dark period' between theatrical release and home video is an inefficient period that studios can no longer afford. Universal will likely lead the charge, with Warner Bros. and other smaller studios quickly following. This leaves the key question as to what share of PVOD revenues will movie theaters end up capturing to help offset the cannibalized box office?
Judge Awards Zoo Once Owned by "Tiger King" Star to a Rival
A federal judge in Oklahoma has awarded ownership of Joe Exotic's former zoo to his chief rival Carole Baskin. The U.S. District Judge granted control of the Oklahoma zoo to Big Cat Rescue Corp., the Florida group founded by Baskin. Joe Exotic (Joseph Maldonado-Passage) is currently serving a 22-year federal prison sentence for killing five tigers and plotting to have Baskin killed. The judgement found that ownership of the zoo was fraudulently transferred to Maldonado-Passage's mother in an attempt to avoid paying a $1-million civil judgement against him to Baskin. The decision further said that the zoo animals must be removed from the property within 120 days, but does not detail what should happen to them.
For 23 Poets, 50,000 More Reasons to Be Creative
Twenty-three Poets Laureate have received fellowships for projects around the U.S. The program, now in its second year, was expanded from 13 poets in 2019 thanks to a $4.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation. The poets will use the $50,000 grants for civic projects through the United States, even as the coronavirus pandemic limits the in-person, community-based initiatives that they typically develop. The program is separate from the one operated by the Library of Congress. As a result of the financial impact of the virus, supporting artists is even more urgent. A survey has found that nearly 62% of artists have become unemployed because of the crisis. Last year's fellows largely worked with people in physical spaces, whereas such projects are impossible today. This year's recipients have the added challenge of adapting their projects to a changed world.
Metropolitan Opera Cancels Fall Season, Plunging Into Crisis
The Metropolitan Opera (the Met) canceled its fall 2020 performances and postponed several new productions to future seasons as the virus continues to wreak havoc with New York's cultural life. The opera house has been dark since mid-March and has recently said that it plans to go ahead with an abbreviated season starting December 31st, instead of in September. The announcement came a week before New York City was slated to begin its Phase 1 reopening, following a near-total shutdown of most non-essential activities, as the city implemented social distancing protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. Live performances are not permitted until Phase 4 of the New York State Plan, for which there is still no timetable. The Met also announced other tweaks to its plans, including shortening some performances and moving up the curtain time to earlier in the evening when possible.
New Arts Executives Sail Into the Unknown
The Children's Museum of Manhattan had planned to announce the appointment of Aileen Hefferren as its new chief executive and director on Tuesday, but the Board decided to wait until Wednesday in deference to Blackout Tuesday, a social media action intended to show solidarity with the protests over the death of George Floyd. The Children's Museum is among a growing number of arts institutions from New York to Virginia to Colorado trying to navigate the sensitive, uncharted territory of making major appointments and initiating new cultural leaders in this difficult cultural movement. The new appointees find themselves stepping into positions of leadership made much more complicated by questions like when and how to safely reopen, how to stem financial losses caused by the pandemic, and how to respond to a country convulsed by unrest.
Phantom vs. the Pandemic
"The Phantom of the Opera" has garnered plenty of superlatives over the years, including the longest-running show in Broadway history. In recent months, it has also laid claim to a more unlikely title: pathbreaking musical of the COVID-19 era. When theatres around the globe abruptly shut with no reopening in sight, "Phantom" soldiered on in Seoul, South Korea, playing eight shows a week and drawing robust audiences even after an outbreak in the ensemble leading to a mandatory three-week shutdown in April. It is believed to be the only large-scale English language production running anywhere in the world. It has remained open not through social-distancing measures, but an approach grounded in strict hygiene, which will hopefully be a blueprint for the rest of the industry. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is hoping to turn the Palladium, one of seven theatres he owns in London, into a laboratory for the lessons learned in Seoul. Before entering the theatre, audience members are sprayed with a light mist of disinfectant, thermal sensors take each person's temperature, and everyone fills out a questionnaire about symptoms and recent places they've visited, so they can be notified of any exposures they may have had through the country's contact-tracing app.
A Front-Row (Car) Seat for the Return of Czech Theatre
The Czech Republic enforced tighter restrictions than most European countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic. It also loosened the lockdown earlier than most -- and that has made it a laboratory for how arts and culture can adapt to a context in which some restrictions on social life have been lifted, while others remain in place. To circumvent restrictions on public gatherings, audience members watched plays, concerts, and comedy from behind their steering wheels -- in a monthlong program that ended with a variety act by the National Theatre. Across Europe, drive-ins have become a familiar means of circumventing pandemic restrictions. By default, cars keep their occupants socially distanced, leading even nightclub owners and priests to set up drive-in discos and churches.
Italians Rediscover Their Museums
The Vatican Museums reopened last Monday after the coronavirus lockdown. With travel among Italian regions restricted until Tuesday, it was a local lineup, ready to experience of what many Romans dream: A tourist-free visit to one of the world's greatest -- and most popular -- museums, which last year drew nearly 7 million visitors. While locals were keen to reclaim Italy's monuments, the directors of many cultural institutions look for much-needed revenue from ticket sales.
Including Transgender Athletes Breaks Law, Trump Administration Says
The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights made public a ruling last week that says allowing transgender girls to compete in school sports with girls who are not transgender is a violation of federal law and if it's not stopped in 20 days, Connecticut risks losing federal education funding. The American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling nothing more than another example of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's politically-driven agenda of discrimination specifically targeting trans girls and trampling on their rights.
Players and Leagues Speak Out and Show Up in Protest
In the days since George Floyd's death first garnered national attention, current and former National Basketball Association (NBA) players have expressed anger, condemning police brutality and playing important roles in protests that have swept the country. In Atlanta, Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics held a peaceful protest walk last Saturday after downtown demonstrations last Friday. Brown coordinated meetups with fellow protesters on social media and carried a sign that read "I can't breathe." Lebron James, the sport's biggest star, shared videos about the history of police brutality and mobilizing in response to Floyd's death. Players were joined by official statements from numerous NBA teams, including the Trail Blazers and the Raptors. The outcry across professional basketball comes as the NBA remains shut down amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Adidas Voices Solidarity With Protests While Closing Its Stores
Adidas voices solidarity while closing its stores. The company, which relies on young black consumers, released an anti-racism statement on social media but shut its U.S. outlets because of protests across the country.
A League's Chorus of Protest is Missing Only One Voice: The Knicks
Knick's owner James Dolan tells employees that the Knicks won't weigh in on George Floyd as players voice support for protests. Dolan, who pledged $300,000 to Donald Trump's campaign in 2016, stands out for his silence on the death of Floyd. In an email to employees, he said "as companies in the business of sports and entertainment, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters." He then sent a follow-up email to clarify, writing "we vehemently condemn and reject racism against anyone, period." Dolan's email and silence stands in stark contract to the reactions of the NBA itself, the other franchises, and his own players.
After the Virus, Athletes Confront More Hurdles
As a return to play looms, many athletes face mental hurdles, too. There's the argument over compensation, which has become a sticking point in Major League Baseball, but this goes beyond money. Some players in various leagues have legitimate health concerns about what would happen if they contract COVID-19 or pass it on to perople at home who are at risk. While athletic trainers are worried about more arm injuries in baseball or groin injuries in hockey because of the disruption to the training schedule, there are also a host of mental challenges. "Worrying about worrying" has become a common theme.
It's About Time Virtual Sports Has a Virtual Scandal
Formula E driver Daniel Abt says that he was fired from his real racing team for cheating in virtual racing event. The German Formula E driver announced last week that Audi dropped him from its racing team after it was revealed that he cheated in an esports charity event. Abt was disqualified from the event after it was learned that he had brought in pro gamer Lorenz Hoerzing to drive for him in the race. He was fined 10,000 euros.
Planning a U.S. Open Shut to Fans
Many scenarios are being considered for the 2020 U.S. Open, if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic, including: Charter flights to ferry U.S. Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America, and the Middle East to New York; negative COVID-19 tests before traveling; centralized housing; daily temperature checks; no spectators; fewer on-court officials, and no locker-room access on practice days.
Packing for Disney: 22 N.B.A. Teams Set for July 31st Restart After Owners' Vote
The NBA board of governors voted to approve a 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season on July 31st in Orlando, Florida. The vote was 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazers voting against the proposal. The NBA Players Association (NBAPA) has been working closely with league officials on the plan, and the NBAPA's team player representatives approved the proposal on Friday.
Postseason Format Is Set; a Ninth Player Tests Positive
Every Stanley Cup playoff series will be a best-of-seven format after the initial qualifying round if the National Hockey League (NHL) is able to return with its 24-team plan this summer. Teams will also be reseeded throughout the playoffs. The announcement came at nearly the same time as when the Pittsburgh Penguins revealed that one of its players had tested positive for the coronavirus. So far, nine NHL players have tested positive: five from Ottawa, three from Colorado and one from Pittsburgh. The league is expected to test players daily if games resume. The NHL is still assessing health and safety protocols for what it has said could be 24 teams playing one another in two hub cities.
Brees's Unbending Approach to Kneeling Suddenly Looks Out of Step
Drew Brees' comments on George Floyd prioritize symbols over justice. Colin Kaepernick asked his country to think about its own symbols, rather than blindly worship them. Brees, and white Americans in general, have not risen to this challenge. Brees, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, has unfortunately become the poster child for what happens when one venerates a hollow space wrapped up in red, white, and blue. When asked in an interview about the actions of former National Football League quarterback Kaepernick, Brees said that he saw all people as equal, but insisted he "will never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag." He believed that Kaepernick was protesting the wrong way. Brees also said that his comments honored the flag and America's ideals, but seemed to miss the point of Kaepernick's initial protest.
A League is Poised to Come Back. Its Biggest Star is Poised to Sit Out.
Megan Rapinoe will not be joining the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) when it meets for the league's 25-game Challenge Cup in Utah in July, according to her coach. Players from the U.S. women's national team can choose not to participate in the tournament, the players' union said. The NWSL isexpected to be the first pro sports league in the U.S. to return following shutdowns and pauses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
July Opening Is Proposed for Womens National Basketball Association
The union representing the players of the Womens National Basketball Association is mulling proposals to start its coronavirus delayed 2020 season, with the league hoping to begin play as early as next month.
Pandemic Leaves College Prospects in Limbo
High school juniors who would now be in the thick of recruiting are losing the benefits of in-person recruiting. Before the coronavirus pandemic, youth sports generated more than $15 billion annually and created the "tourna-cation circuit" as it's known, with scholarship hunters and college coaches intersecting at destination events where players could showcase their skills. With those events canceled, the industry has tanked and the college recruiting ecosystem has also been upended, especially for the nonrevenue sports like soccer and lacrosse at Division II and Division III universities. In Division I, potential top recruits are identified as early as freshman year and tracked.
Reality Star's Suicide Spurs Moves Against Cyberbullying
The wresting community was shocked to its core recently when Japanese wrestler Hana Kimura committed suicide at the young age of 22. Kimura was a fast rising star of Japanese promotion Stardom, which has developed current stars, like Kairi Sane and Io Shirai. Details regarding the reason for her suicide are still hazy. However, all signs point towards effects of cyber bullying. Kimura was a contestant of Japanese Netflix reality show "Terrace House". Kimura was a victim of some vicious cyber bullying after she was a part of an altercation on the show with a co-contestant. This has raised some serious questions about the entire culture of shows like these, as they do their best to create heroes and villains.
Filmmaker and Bannon Ally Will Lead U.S. Media Agency
The Senate has confirmed Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker who Trump has said he hopes will dictate more favorable news coverage of his administration, to lead the independent agency in charge of state-funded media outlets. The vote, 53 to 38, came after Trump personally intervened to expedite Pack's nomination, which had initially stalled amid concerns from senators in both parties and hit a snag more recently amid an investigation by the District of Columbia attorney general into whether he illegally funneled funds form his nonprofit group to his for-profit film company. Pack, a close ally of conservative activists and Trump's former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, will lead the United States Agency for Global Media, which oversees news organizations, including the Voice of America, that together make up one of the largest media networks in the world.
A Look Inside Twitter's Move To Flag Trump
Trump tweeted "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" and Twitter flagged Trump and the White House for 'glorifying violence' in tweets about George Floyd protests. The tweets are now only visible if "view" is clicked. The tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence, however, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the tweet to remain accessible. The official White House Twitter account later argued that Trump was actually condemning violence. Without addressing the Twitter guidelines that flagged the tweet earlier, Trump responded to Twitter, saying that the social media giant only targets Republicans. Twitter previously flagged two of Trump's tweets about mail-in voting in California, saying that Trump's tweets were "potentially misleading" about elections. Trump responded to the flags by issuing an executive order on Thursday targeting social media companies.
Tech Center's Suit Says Social Media Crackdown by Trump Violates Free Speech
Trump's crackdown on social media companies faced a new legal challenge Tuesday, as a technology policy organization claimed in a lawsuit that he violated the companies' right to free speech with his executive order aimed at curtailing their legal protections.
Suspension of Press Pass Violates Reporter's Rights, Federal Appeals Court Says
A federal appeals court has blocked the Trump administration from imposing a 30-day suspension on the White House press pass of a reporter for trading caustic and blustering comments with Sebastian Gorka, a right-wing commentator who worked briefly in the White House, after an event in the Rose Garden last year. In a 19-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the suspension of the credential for Brian Karem, a reporter for Playboy Magazine, violated his constitutional right because the White House had no written rules or advance notice about what would constitute unprofessional behavior that could temporarily cost him his press pass.
Internet Archive 'Lends' Digital Books. Publishers Call It Piracy.
When the Internet Archive announced that it was creating a "National Emergency Library", temporarily suspending wait lists to borrow e-books amid the pandemic, a crowd of writers and publishers made their outrage clear. Now, their complaint has made it to court. In a lawsuit filed in federal court, four publishers said that the Internet Archive "is engaged in willful mass copyright infringement" and are trying to block the nonprofit group's operations and recover damages for scores of allegedly infringed works.
"All of It Is Toxic": A Surge In Protests Misinformation
Misinformation and conspiracy theories in the wake of George Floyd's death are running rampant on social media, with some even claiming that Floyd is not really dead or that George Soros is funding the protests. Researchers said that the collision of racial tension and political polarization has enhanced the misinformation, which is being fanned by commentators on the extreme end of their ideologies.
In Turnabout, Global Leaders Urge U.S. to Protect Reporters on the Ground
Attacks against journalists covering demonstrations against racial injustice have prompted foreign governments to call on American authorities to respect press freedom and protect reporters, both local and foreign. For the U.S., it is a role reversal. The attacks bear a striking resemblance to police brutality against journalists around the world over the years, one that have been swiftly condemned by officials in the U.S., where press freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Police Assault and Arrest Journalists During Protests
Journalists working in conflict zones and authoritarian states have been warning for years: reporting is becoming more dangerous. This was the week that trend burst into view in U.S. cities. The uptick in claims comes as reporters cover the protests against police brutality that have sprung up across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd. The claims range from physical assault, arrest, damage or seizure of equipment, and several other additional criteria. What sets the most recent days apart is the targeting of journalists by law enforcement, even after they have identified themselves as members of the press. As of last Thursday, the Freedom Tracker team documented more than 45 arrests, 180 assaults on journalists -- 149 of which were by police, and include physical attacks or use of force like rubber bullets or tear gas -- and 40 cases of equipment or newsroom damage.
Twitter Places Warning on Florida Congressman's Tweet
Twitter placed a notice on a tweet from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., after he tweeted about hunting "Antifa" on Monday, but the social media platform did not take down the statement. The tweet was hidden with a notice saying that it violated Twitter's rules for glorifying violence, similar to a notice that was placed on a tweet from Trump last week. Gaetz posed a question about hunting Antifa in reference to Trump's decision Sunday to label the group as domestic terrorists.
Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Walkout
Some Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg's decision not to take action on a series of controversial posts from Trump. As part of the walkout, employees took the day off wfrom ork. Managers at Facebook have been told by the company's human resources department not to retaliate against staff who are planning to protest or to make them use paid time-off. The walkout comes alongside a rare wave of public dissent from Facebook employees on Twitter.
Facing Furor, Zuckerberg Defends Call on Trump
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his decision not to moderate controversial posts by Trump amid growing internal dissent over the company's inaction and a simmering political controversy over Trump's efforts to target social media platforms for perceived bias against conservatives. After hundreds of Facebook workers staged a virtual walkout and several publicly resigned or threatened to do so, Zuckerberg held an online video call with 22,000 employees, facing repeated questions about his response to Trump's posts and his commitment to past promises to police violent speech. A recording of the town hall was leaked to the press. The posts about the protests appeared to be a breaking point for many within Facebook. Zuckerberg said that he found Trump's post was "troubling", but he believes Facebook was right to leave it up because he did not consider it an incitement of violence.
As Chaos Spreads, Trump Vows to 'End It Now'
The New York Times was pressured into changing its front-page headline after it was accused of endorsing Trump's speech and ignoring the violent tactic employed to clear peaceful protesters in Washington D.C. "As Chaos Spreads, Trump Vows to 'End it Now'", read the controversial headline. Critics promptly expressed their disapproval in posts to Twitter, noting confusion at how such a misjudgment made it past editors. Several people replied pledging not to renew their subscriptions to the publication after the headline. Advisor to former president Barack Obama, Ben Rhodes said the headline did little to reflect the reality of what was happening across the United States.
Trump and Aides Try to Change the Narrative on White House Protests
President Trump and his allies for years have amplified racist messages on Twitter while simultaneously reaching out to black and Hispanic voters, a dissonant balancing act that's now rocking the GOP amid nationwide racial justice protests. The two competing forces collided recently on the Twitter feed of Trump campaign senior advisor Mercedes Schlapp, when she boosted a tweet that lauded a man in Texas in a viral video as he yelled a racial slur and wielded a chainsaw to chase away anti-racism demonstrators. Beyond Trump's inner circle, Republicans have been under fire over racist social media posts in Texas, triggering strife within GOP circles. Schlapp's retweets highlighted how the Trump campaign operates in contradictory worlds of its own making. This is part of a longstanding practice by Trump and his backers who occasionally use Twitter to amplify inflammatory messages that are at odds with the campaign's appeals to black and other minority voters.
Suit Says Google's Tracking Infringes on Wiretap Laws
A new suit claims that Google's tracking violates federal wiretap law. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, said that Google tracked and collected consumer browsing history even if users took steps to maintain their privacy.
Snap Pulls Trump from Spotlight
Trump's verified Snapchat account will no longer be promoted within the app after executives concluded that his tweets promoted violence. His account, RealDonaldTrump, will remain on the platform and continue to appear in search results, but he will no longer appear in the app's Discover tab, which promotes news publishers, elected officials, celebrities, and influencers. "We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality and justice in America," Snap said in a statement.
Australian Journalists Attacked by Police on Live TV
The U.S. Park Police says it has placed two officers on administrative leave after video showed Australian journalists being attacked during Monday's protest in Washington, D.C. Acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan said the attack is being investigated. The video captured reporter Amanda Brace and cameraman Tim Myers being assaulted as law enforcement officials cleared an area near the White House so that Trump could walk to a nearby church that had been damaged during the previous night. Australia's ambassador to the U.S. has complained about the attack, which the network's news director Craig McPherson described as "nothing short of wanton thuggery."
"In the Flames, a Fear of Spiraling Chaos"
Protests began after George Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin was fired and later charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter days after Floyd died, as protests roiled in cities across the U.S. The protests called for justice based on other deaths of black Americans at the hands of police officers, like Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was murdered by police while they served a no-knock warrant on her apartment. Many protests turned violent and furor grew over law enforcement's heavy-handed crowd-control tactics, including police cruisers ramming into protesters in New York. Peaceful protests and violent clashes consumed parts of Minneapolis and other cities for several tense days in a row.
'Godspeed': SpaceX Lifts NASA Crew Into Orbit
The International Space Station has two new NASA astronauts, after the SpaceX crew Dragon arrived. The newly-expanded Expedition 63 crew will now be ramping up microgravity research in the coming days and weeks. The duo joined NASA Commander Chris Cassidy, who has been in orbit since April 9th, for a news conference, and talked about the historical nature of the first crewed Dragon mission.
Justices Uphold Limits On Religious Services During Health Crisis
The Supreme Court has rejected a California church's attempt to overturn the state's coronavirus restrictions on in-person religious services. In the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's liberal bloc in upholding the state's right to impose limits on congregations in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Chief Justice Roberts said that "although California's guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment", and denied a request by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church for relief from the rules. The Chula Vista-based house of worship sued Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, over an order limiting congregations to 25% capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. The church told the Court that its services typically attract 200 to 300 congregants.
Supreme Court Upholds Federal Response to Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis
The Supreme Court held unanimously that a board charged with reorganizing Puerto Rico's debt in the wake of financial crisis can continue its work. The Court rejected a constitutional challenge that threated the restructuring of billions of dollars of debt.
Trump Pushes G7 Meeting to September, and Vows to Invite Some Unusual Guests
Trump has announced that he is postponing the G7 until at least September and wants to invite four additional countries to the summit: Russia, Australia, India, and South Korea. The G7 is comprised of the U.S., Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Japan. White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah said that the President wants to bring other traditional allies into the mix, as well as those impacted by the coronavirus, and to talk about the future of China.
U.S. Allies Chafe as Trump and Putin Discuss Russia Attending G7 Talk
President Trump told President Putin in a phone call on Monday about his idea of holding an expanded Group of 7 summit later this year with a possible invitation for Russia. Britain and Canada have since spoken out against the idea of readmitting Russia to the forum from which it was expelled in 2014 after annexing the Crimea region from Ukraine. Russia said earlier that it was looking for more details before responding.
Democracy Movement Faces 'the Darkest Hour'
A pandemic and an economic downturn have brought into much sharper relief the injustices bred by 400 years of racism as African Americans suffer disproportionately from both scourges. Many feel that Trump seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral system itself by lying about the effect of mail balloting and trying to deny millions the ability to vote. His promise to dispatch "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers" to our cities brings to mind Chile and Argentina, under the generals. This a moment that demands a recommitment to our democratic faith in the depth of our commitment to free government, the long trajectory of our history, and each other.
Trump Offers No Calming Words as Tumult Reaches White House
As dozens of cities across the nation, including the capital, were overwhelmed by civil unrest stemming from the killing of George Floyd, Trump sequestered himself in the White House, utterly unable to meet a defining moment for the country and negligently unwilling even to try. The leadership vacuum has been compounding the pain and the anxiety of a nation descending deeper into turmoil. Trump offered some perfunctory empathy for Floyd last week, but his cursory condolences were quickly overshadowed by his actions (or inactions).
Shoulder-to-Shoulder Crowds at Rallies After Months of Quarantine
Much of the country staying inside, separated as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Now protests are creating crowds, threatening a resurgence. In the last week or so, the U.S. has abruptly shifted from one crippling crisis to the next. Suddenly America no longer looks like a nation cooped up at home. The demonstrations have spurred fears that they could cause a deadly resurgence of the coronavirus. And for those sympathetic to a growing movement, deciding whether to attend protests has been complicated: Some people have avoided them entirely, reasoning that the chance of contracting the coronavirus in a crowd is too high. Other have joined despite the risks. No one has studied the precise dynamics of how the virus may be transmitted under the mix of conditions that prevail at mass protests. And because of delays between exposure to the virus and the start of symptoms, and then hospitalizations and deaths, the impact of the protests on virus spread will not be known for several weeks.
Mass Protests Bring Fear of Hot Spots
As people flooded streets across America to protest the killing of George Floyd, public health experts fear that the crowds, tear gas, and arrests will lead to new transmissions of coronavirus. Many of the protests broke out in places where the virus is still circulating widely in the population. The demonstrations have taken place in every one of the 25 U.S. communities with the highest concentrations of new cases. Some have seen major protests over multiple days, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The protests have come just as communities across the nation loosen restrictions on businesses and public life that have helped slow the spread of the virus, deepening concern that the two factors taken together could create a national resurgence in cases.
How Trump's Idea for Photo Op Led to Havoc in Park
WIlliam Barr gave an order to clear a peaceful rally as Trump seethed over the television images and was annoyed that anyone would think he was hiding and eager for action. What ensued was a burst of violence unlike any seen in the shadow of the White House in generations. As he prepared for his surprise march to the church, Trump first went before cameras in the Rose Garden to declare himself "your president of law and order" but also "an ally of all peaceful protesters," even as peaceful protesters just a block away and clergy members on the church patio were routed by smoke and flash grenades and some form of chemical spray deployed by shield-bearing riot officers and mounted police.
Former Commanders Denounce Trump's Use of Military Forces Against Americans
Scores of retired military and defense leaders are denouncing Trump and accusing him of using the U.S. Armed Forces to undermine the rights of Americans protesting police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. The condemnation came in an op-ed in The Washington Post, signed by 89 former defense officials, and in a letter in support of Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, signed by 55 retired military leaders. It comes days after law enforcement officers used tear gas and deployed flash bangs to disperse a peaceful protest near White House shortly before Trump walked to the area to pose with a Bible in front of a damaged church. The president also threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy federal troops to quell the protests. The op-ed accuses Trump of betraying his oath of office "by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans." It was signed by a mix of Republicans and Democrats.
Esper at Odds With President On Army's Use
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper appeared to contradict President Trump in a briefing last week, by saying that the U.S. would not send active-duty troops to quell protests. Esper's predecessor James Mattis had publicly rebuked him and Trump in a statement sent to news outlets. Esper's job security looks grim.
Long Silent, Mattis Delivers a Blistering Criticism of Trump as a Divider
James Mattis, the esteemed Marine general who resigned as secretary of defense in 2018 to protest Trump's Syria policy, has, ever since, kept studiously silent about Trump's performance as president. Now he has broken his silence, writing an extraordinary broadside in which he denounces the president for dividing the nation, and accuses him of ordering the U.S. military to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens.
Bowing to Pentagon, Trump Agrees to Send Troops Back to Bases
Trump has agreed to begin sending home 82nd Airborne Division troops he had ordered to Washington, temporarily easing a contentious standoff with the Pentagon over the role of the armed forces in quelling protests that have broken out across the nation. Trump has been at odds with Esper, but he told aides that he understands their warning that he would risk more criticism from military officials if he were to dismiss the defense secretary, fueling a rising revolt among retired officers in the thick of a re-election campaign.
'Entirely Appropriate': Barr Defends Photo Op After Park Was Cleared
Attorney General Barr defended Trump's photo opportunity in front of a historic church last week amid widespread condemnation over the authorities' violent clearing of protesters and clergy from the area moments before. Barr said he had ordered the park to be cleared in an effort to create more space between the White House and the protests, well before he knew that Trump intended to visit the church. "There was no correlation between our tactical plan of moving the perimeter out by one block and the president's going over to the church", Barr said.
Victim's Brother Pleads for an End to Violence
George Floyd's brother, Terrence Floyd, has urged protesters to be peaceful. Floyd, who lives in Brooklyn, arrived to a vigil with his minister and his attorney to a huge crowd that was waiting. As he spoke to the crowd, he said that his "family is a peaceful family" and that nothing ever changes when there is rioting and violence in these protests and he pleaded for people to protest peacefully, but urged them never to forget.
Lawmakers Push to Stop Sending Military Gear to Police
There is a fight brewing in Congress as Trump is sending military weapons to the police while lawmakers are trying to stop them. The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, combined with the images of protesters clashing with heavily-armed police around the country, has Congress seriously considering bipartisan legislation to limit the transfer of military weapons to local law enforcement. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted that he would be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act -- an annual, must-pass bill that covers a wide range of Pentagon activities -- to "discontinue the program that transfers military weaponry to local police departments." Schatz's legislation would target a Defense Department program that distributes military-grade weapons, such as armored vehicles, assault rifles, bayonets, and grenade launchers, to local police departments. Known as the "1033 program," it has its roots in the war on drugs and later in the government's counterterrorism efforts after 9/11. The program came under fire in 2014, and in 2015 President Obama issued an executive order banning the transfer, but President Trump reversed that decision during his first year in office.
Trump Says Secret Service Was Itching For a Fight
Police fired pepper spray at demonstrators near the White House and the D.C. National Guard was called as pockets of violence and vandalism erupted during a second straight night of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Trump's response to it. Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics being used by law enforcement to disperse protesters. He commended National Guard troops deployed in Minneapolis, declaring "No games!" The Secret Service said in a statement that six protesters were arrested in Washington and "multiple" officers were injured. Trump claimed that many Secret Service agents were "just waiting for action" and ready to unleash "the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen." His words revisit images from the civil rights movement when marchers faced snarling police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses.
Outrage of Protesters reaches Trump Tower and All Five Boroughs
By early Sunday, 345 protesters had been arrested and 47 police cars had been damaged or destroyed, as demonstrators angry over the death of George Floyd clashed with officers and looted stores.
Parent of Slain Student Takes On Smith & Wesson
A parent of a student killed in the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida has filed a federal complaint against Springfield-based gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson. Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year old daughter Jamie was among 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was joined by two gun control advocacy groups in filing the complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. They accused the firearms manufacturer of using what they described as "deceptive and unfair marketing" to promote assault-style rifles.
More Corporate Voices, Typically Shy on Issues, Speak Out On Racism
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., brands quickly stepped in to reassure frightened Americans that they were there for them. In countless campaigns, brands let the public know that they were helping by donating money, making masks, and giving consumers grace periods on payments. Yet when black Americans are being killed, the silence of the corporate world can be deafening. Last week, the American Psychological Association issued a statement calling racism a pandemic. Unlike COVID-19, the pandemic of racism isn't new to America. While a majority of brands have remained silent, some are coming forward to align with protesters and take a firm stance against racism. Brands like Nike, Reebok, YouTube, amd Ben & Jerry's have vocalized their support and put money into organizations fighting for the cause. Some commentators have pointed out that even though these brands are showing support, their lack of African Americans on their executive teams is also part of the problem.
Pandemic to Carve $16 Trillion Out of American Economy Over 10 Years
The Congressional Budget Office projected that pandemic could cost the United States economy $16 trillion over the next 10 years.
Scientists Trace Evolution of Coronaviruses in Bats
An international team of scientists, including a prominent researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has analyzed all known coronaviruses in Chinese bats and used genetic analysis to trace the likely origin of the novel coronavirus to horseshoe bats. In the report, they also point to the great variety of these viruses in southern and southwestern China, urge closer monitoring of bat viruses in the area, and greater efforts to change human behavior as ways of decreasing the chances of future pandemics. The research was supported by a U.S. grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit, that was recently canceled by the National Institutes of Health. The grant, for more than $3 million, was well on its way to renewal, and then the sudden reversal prompted an outcry in the scientific community.
U.S. Judge's Lawyer Asks Court Not to Cut Short Scrutiny of Flynn Case
The Department of Justice (DOJ) urged a federal appeals court to force a lower court judge to dismiss the prosecution of Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had declined to immediately dismiss the case against Flynn, despite the Justice Department's move to drop a charge that the Trump ally lied to the FBI about his 2016 contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Flynn pleaded guilty to the offense in 2017 but reversed course and moved to withdraw his plea in recent months. Sullivan instead sought outside input about whether he should abandon the case--and potentially charge Flynn with contempt of court for perjury during his guilty plea proceedings. The DOJ said that Sullivan was wrong to take that step. The DOJ lawyers unveiled a muscular argument in favor of virtually unbridled executive branch discretion in criminal charging decisions. This new filing represented a major coup for Flynn's defense. Lawyers representing Sullivan, who was appointed to the bench by Bill Clinton, defended his handling of the DOJ's motion in part by noting a highly unusual aspect of the government's filing: Both of the career prosecutors handling the case declined to sign the motion. The DOJ's abrupt move to dismiss the case against Flynn was "unusual" in that it calls into question the department's motives and warrants deeper review, Sullivan argued.
Environmental Protection Agency Limits States' Power to Oppose Energy Projects
The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had limited states' ability to block the construction of energy infrastructure projects as part of the Trump administration's goal of promoting gas pipelines, coal terminals, and other fossil fuel development.
College Board Postpones use of an Online SAT
The College Board said that it would postpone plans to offer an online version of the SAT for high school students to take at home this year, further muddying a ritual of the college application process that had already been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus.
Extinctions Are Accelerating, Threatening Even Human Life
Hundreds of unique, precious species of animal life has vanished over the last century. This is what mass extinction looks like, scientists warn, but that's not even the worst part. Researchers say that the mass extinction phenomenon currently underway on Earth is actually accelerating, with the vast toll of vertebrate extinctions seen in the 20th century set to be repeated, but this time it may take just decades for hundreds of more species to disappear. As each domino falls, the effects for adjacent species become ever more risky, with destabilized ecosystems and weakened food webs making survival for any species--including humans--less assured.
Senate Passes Bill to Assist Firms Racing to Use Loans
The Senate gave final approval to a measure that would relax the terms of a federal loan program for small businesses struggling amid the pandemic. The bill has now been sent to President Trump's desk for his signature. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the House to enact changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and would extend to 24 weeks from eight the period that small businesses would have to spend the loan money. Without the change, the time for businesses to use the funds would have lapsed in only a few days. The measure passed unanimously without the full Senate present, marking a rare moment of bipartisanship.
Tests Depend on Key Ingredients: Blood of the Horseshoe Crab
Modern medicine still depends on this animal's blood to test for bacteria in vaccines and an alternative test requires further study. For decades, drug companies have depended on a component in the blood of the horseshoe crab to test injectable medicines, including vaccines, for dangerous bacterial contaminants called endotoxins. Conservationists and some businesses have pushed for wide acceptance of an alternative test, to protect the horseshoe crabs and birds that feed on their eggs. Earlier this year, they seemed to be on the brink of success, as the nongovernmental group that issues quality standards for such tests moved toward putting the alternative test on the same footing. However last week, that organization, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, announced that the alternative test known as rFC (recombinant factor C) requires significantly more study.
White House Narrows Vaccine Candidates to 5 Companies
The Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus--a critical step in the White House's effort to deliver on its promise of being able to start widespread inoculation of Americans by the end of the year. The field was narrowed from 12 companies. The five companies are Moderna, a Massachusetts-based bio-technology firm, which is expected to enter into the final phase of clinical trials next month; the combination of Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and three large pharmaceutical companies: Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer. Each is taking a somewhat different approach.