By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News, including coronavirus information:
Katy Perry Escapes "Dark Horse" Verdict
Last July, a federal jury stunned the music industry by finding that Katy Perry's hit "Dark Horse" had infringed on the copyright of a Christian rap song, and the jury later ordered the pop star's team to pay $2.8 million in damages. This week, the judge in that case made an equally surprising move by vacating the jury's decision, which means that Perry and her collaborators -- including her longtime producer Dr. Luke -- are not liable for infringement, and therefore do not have to pay damages.
Court Holds That "Inside Out" Did Not Infringe TV Pilot
The Ninth Circuit has affirmed a district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's action alleging copyright infringement by the Disney movie "Inside Out" of the plaintiffs' characters called "The Moodsters". After the plaintiff developed The Moodsters, anthropomorphized characters representing human emotions, she pitched to entertainment and toy companies around the country, including The Walt Disney Company. The panel held that, under DC Comics v. Towle, 802 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2015), lightly sketched characters such as The Moodsters, which lack consistent, identifiable character traits and attributes, do not enjoy copyright protection.
The case is Daniels v. The Walt Disney Co., read the decision below.
Central Park Five Prosecutor Sues Netflix + Ava DuVernay for Defamation
Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein is suing Netflix and director Ava DuVernay, arguing that she was falsely portrayed as a "racist, unethical villain" pushing for the convictions of five black and Latino teenagers in "When They See Us," a series about the 1989 Central Park Five case. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Fort Myers, Florida, came after the series made Fairstein, a best-selling crime novelist, the object of public outrage, prompting her to be dropped by her publisher and resign from several prominent boards. In the suit, Fairstein claims the four-part series defamed her in nearly every scene in the three episodes in which her character appears. Netflix rejected Fairstein's claims and DuVernay declined to comment.
Pixar Pioneers Win $1 Million Turing Award
The Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest society of computing professionals, announced that Drs. Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan would receive this year's Turing Award for their work on three-dimensional computer graphics. Often called the Nobel Prize of computing, the Turing Award comes with a $1 million prize, which will be split by the two pioneers of what is often called C.G.I., or computer-generated imagery. The Drs. created computer techniques that remade animation, special effects, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. Their work changed not only animated movies, but also Hollywood special effects, video games, and virtual reality.
Rich + Famous at the Front of COVID-19 Test Line
Politicians, celebrities, social media influencers, and even National Basketball Association (NBA) teams have been tested for the new coronavirus. Yet as that list of rich, famous, and powerful people grows by the day, so do questions about whether they are getting access to testing that is denied to other Americans. With tests still in short supply in areas of the country and health care workers and many sick people unable to get diagnoses, some prominent personalities have obtained tests without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with someone who has the virus, as required by some testing guidelines. Others have refused to specify how they were tested. Such cases have provoked accusations of elitism and preferential treatment about a testing system that has already been plagued with delays and confusion, and now stirred a new national debate that has reached the White House -- with Trump being asked at a news conference whether "the well-connected go to the front of the line."
The "Freelance Hustle" Fails a Singer
Jenna Camille Henderson, a singer-songwriter in Washington, D.C., didn't have just one job. Instead, like many other musicians and creative workers in the United States, she pieced together a living from multiple sources. This delicate process, known dryly as the freelance hustle, can be exasperating, but it can also provide a special kind of freedom and independence. It can even be reassuring to know that your economic fortunes aren't tied to a single company or field, until a global pandemic hits, and all the places where one works are affected. Henderson, who does not have health insurance, has no source of income for the foreseeable future. As freelancers, she said, "I think we take for granted that there's always going to be something to do."
Box Office Sales Hit Historic Low
Hollywood may have just had its worst weekend since ticketing data started to be independently compiled in the 1980s. Most cinemas in the United States remain open, with the two biggest chains, AMC and Regal, reducing seating capacity in auditoriums by 50% so that people could leave at least one empty seat between them. However, fears about the coronavirus kept the masses at home: Domestic ticket sales totaled about $55.3 million, a 44% drop from last weekend, despite three new films -- "Bloodshot," "The Hunt", and "I Still Believe" -- arriving in wide release. It was the worst period for movie theaters in two decades, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. The next lowest weekend was September 15 to 17 in 2000, when ticket sales totaled $54.5 million - or roughly $83 million in today's money.
Movie Theaters Want Relief Too
The National Association of Theatre Owners urged U.S. lawmakers to approve loan guarantees to help cover fixed costs, tax benefits for employers providing support to employees, and other measures. "The business model of the movie theater industry is uniquely vulnerable to the present crisis," the group said in a statement. Most movie theaters in the United States, including those owned by AMC Entertainment and Cineworld Group Plc's Regal Cinemas, shuttered this week to help prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.
Openings Just Went POOF
Artists, actors, dancers, and authors search for a silver lining as openings are disrupted by the virus outbreak. Most of New York's culture system -- and indeed the country's -- shut down all at once last week. The impact of indefinite closures to the public or by-appointment hours won't be fully understood for a while, nor will it be uniform. For young and emerging artists whose openings were scheduled this week, some of which represented large scale debuts in their field, the personal disruption can feel profound.
Workers Behind the Stars Are Hurting
Last week, Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, the two biggest powers in the industry, put their shows on hiatus amid growing concern over the rapid spread of the coronavirus, sending stars like Billie Eilish, Jason Aldean, and Cher to social media to apologize to their fans for the scuttled shows. Behind the artists who appear onstage, however, is a fragile pool of thousands of workers who perform much of the labor that allows tours to go on -- from sound and lighting to transportation, merchandise sales, and hospitality. Most are freelancers with few if any employment protections, and they now face months of uncertainty, and potential economic ruin, if the touring interruption consumes the all-important summer season.
Performers Discover a Stage on the Web
Videos of performers sprouted on social media after Tony-winning actress Laura Benanti invited theater kids to share songs from shows canceled by the coronavirus. In a tweet, Benanti wrote "Dark times for all. Trying to find some bright spots. If you were meant to perform in your High School musical and it was cancelled please post yourself singing and tag me. I want to be your audience!! Sending all my love and black market toilet paper." Her offer had been viewed more than 3 million times, thousands of students, their parents, and teachers, have responded by posting footage of rehearsals and performances from shows that have been postponed or canceled and it has been followed by a string of other efforts to find new platforms for performers whose productions have been silenced.
Court Holds That Copyright Licensee Has Unrestricted Sublicense Rights
In a case of first impression, the First Circuit held that a copyright licensee given the unrestricted right to grant sublicenses may do so without using express language. The court held that Sylvania, which paid $3 million to license Photographic's images, could sublicense them to Orgill, even though it never gave the distributor explicit permission to use them. Read the decision below.
Last Call for Beauty and Books
Amidst all the closures happening across the globe, news that the New York Public Library would be closing its Rose Main Reading Room in its 42nd Street flagship -- along with its 91 other locations across Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx -- at least until April 1 caused a special kind of sadness and alarm. The Rose Reading Room, lined with two levels of bookshelves and huge arched windows overlooking Bryant Park, is one of the great spaces of New York. It's a Grand Central Terminal for the bookish, complete with (in more ordinary times) crowds of tourists snapping photos from a designated zone near the entrance.
F.I.T. Runway Fiasco
Before the coronavirus outbreak shut down classes, the Fashion Institute of Technology had been in upheaval, since a student designer used oversized lips and "monkey ears" in a fashion show last month, setting off widespread outrage. Other episodes have also bubbled to the surface, revealing what many students and some faculty members describe as a climate of racial insensitivity; for example, some African-American students said they were told that their "bushy Afro" would ruin a fashion show because their hair wasn't "professional or sleek enough." Following the fallout over the lips and ears at the fashion show, the school held an emotional forum in which several black students criticized the school and its president, Dr. Joyce Brown, who herself is African-American, over what they said were deeper, systemic problems.
Ballet School Rehired an Embezzler
Sophia Kim had been the treasurer at the Kirov Academy of Ballet two decades ago, when the school was affiliated with the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. However, Kim also had a gambling habit and had spent almost two years in prison for embezzling $800,000 from another nonprofit affiliated with the church. It was therefore was more than a bit surprising when the Kirov Academy, for reasons that remain tremendously opaque, hired Kim back, put her in charge of the books, and gave her a Branch Banking & Trust debit card and access to the school's accounts. The consequences of that decision became clearer earlier this month, when Kim appeared in court to face charges that, not long after she started working again at the Kirov Academy, she misappropriated $1.5 million from its coffers. According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, over a period of nine months in 2018, Kim wrote checks to herself and used the bank card 120 times to withdraw cash and pay off losses at the MGM Grand Casino in nearby Maryland.
District Court Holds Cox Media Liable for Copyright Infringement
Last week, the EDNY granted summary judgment for a plaintiff photographer and denied summary judgment for defendant Cox Media Group, rejecting Cox's fair use defense and finding that its use of a photo of a 2017 terrorist attack violated the plaintiff's copyright. The court found that while fair use sometimes allowed news organizations to use works, that only applied if they were actually reporting on the work itself - but Cox's article didn't serve to illustrate commentary, criticism, or a news story about the photograph.
Read the decision below.
Artist Sues Sotheby's for Infringement
Belgian artist Christian Silvain has filed a complaint against Sotheby's, alleging that works Sotheby's is selling by Chinese artist Ye Yongqing infringe Silvain's works. Yongqing has vehemently denied copying Silvain's works.
Read more about the case below.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Prepares for $100 Million Loss and Closure Until July
In a powerful sign that casualties of the coronavirus outbreak include even the country's strongest cultural institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is projecting a total shortfall of close to $100 million for the near future and expects to be closed until July, according to a letter sent to its department heads. "This is an extraordinarily challenging time for us all," said the letter, signed by the Met's top executives, Daniel H. Weiss, the president and chief executive, and Max Hollein, the director. "As staff members of The Met we all have a profound responsibility to protect and preserve the treasured institution we inherited."
Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler's Mein Kampf
Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf late last week as part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself as it was caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. Yet the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.
The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future
Publishers, bookstores, and authors are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout from the unfolding coronavirus crisis. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity. "There's no question we're going to see a drop in sales," said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. "It's unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell."
Researcher Quits After Nazi Looted Art Isn't Returned
Researcher Sibylle Ehringhaus worked with the Georg Schäfer Museum in northern Bavaria to examine the ownership history of its 1,000 oil paintings and several thousand drawings, prints, and watercolors. Schäfer, the industrialist whose collection is displayed there, had bought much of the art in the 1950s in Munich, then a hub for dealers who had had relationships with the Nazis. Among those from whom he purchased works was Adolf Hitler's personal photographer. Ehringhaus's job was, in part, to determine just how much of the collection had a tainted provenance. After she had identified several plundered works, she said, no one seemed to have any plans to return them to the heirs of the original Jewish owners. Increasingly, she said, she began to feel her work was unwelcome. She was denied access to historical documents vital for her research, she said, and forbidden to contact colleagues at another museum with a research inquiry. Therefore, in December she rejected an offer to extend her contract for another year. The museum has denied trying to hinder Ehringhaus's work.
Art Basel Goes Virtual
After canceling its fair, Art Basel Hong Kong will present more than 2,000 works online with an estimated value of $270 million. That's just the beginning as the art world goes virtual. Art Basel will, for the first time, offer online viewing rooms to replace the Hong Kong fair that was canceled this month because of the pandemic. More than 230 dealers who planned to bring work to Asia will instead offer some 2,000 pieces through the virtual fair with an estimated value of $270 million, including 70 items over $1 million. Galleries throughout the United States are also considering web-based works and curated online exhibitions.
NBA Shutdown Not a Surprise
The NBA was the first major professional sports league in North America to suspend operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak, now a pandemic, but Danilo Gallinari, as Italy's pre-eminent basketball export, had been consumed by the crisis for weeks. Only China, where the respiratory virus originated, has been hit harder by the outbreak than Italy, which had reported nearly 25,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,800 deaths so far. Mattia Ferraresi, who works for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, wrote recently in a cautionary piece for The Boston Globe that "it took weeks after the virus first appeared here to realize that several measures were absolutely necessary," and that many Italians now regret not taking the coronavirus more seriously in its early stages. "The way to avoid or mitigate all this in the United States and elsewhere is to do something similar to what Italy, Denmark and Finland are doing now, but without wasting the few, messy weeks in which we thought a few local lockdowns, canceling public gatherings and warmly encouraging working from home would be enough stop the spread of the virus," Ferraresi wrote. "We now know that wasn't nearly enough."
National Football League Players Vote Yes on 10-Year Labor Deal
National Football League (NFL) players voted to approve a new 10-year labor deal that will include the first major expansion to the NFL season in more than four decades. A narrow majority of the league's roughly 2,000 players signed off on the deal, paving the way for the addition of a 17th regular-season game, an expanded playoff format, more limited training camps, and a relaxation of rules governing the use of marijuana. The players' union said in a statement that the final tally had 1,019 players voting for the deal and 959 voting against it.
NFL to Ban Public from Draft
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended gatherings of no more than 50 people, the NFL canceled plans to hold its draft publicly in Las Vegas and will conduct the three-day event in front of a television audience only, the latest sports-schedule change due to restrictions designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The draft will take place April 23 through 25, as originally planned. "The NFL is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will provide that information as it becomes available," the league said in a statement. "Public NFL draft events in Las Vegas next month will not take place."
International Olympic Committee Says the Summer Olympics Will Continue
Even as the coronavirus spreads across the world, overwhelming health care systems and cratering national economies, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) doubled down on its commitment to hold the 2020 Games in Tokyo this summer, stunning athletes and other stakeholders who had been preparing for a postponement.
"The Scheme" Exposes the Racket of Recruiting
A documentary pulls back the layers of corruption in college basketball with a talent scout who was a part of it. Christian Dawkins, a middle man and a scout for a top NBA agent, reappears as a star of "The Scheme," an HBO Sports documentary directed by Pat Kondelis that will air on March 31. The film exposes the septic tank that is college basketball, and the coaches and university officials who claim not to notice the stink.
For Female Athletes, the Financial Fallout Hits Especially Hard
The coronavirus has upended the sports world, throwing many professional athletes into uncertainty. Women, who have fought so hard to get to the top level of sports, might feel a sharper pain than travel woes. Their paychecks and sponsor deals are often much smaller than men's and their leagues are less established. The specter of a recession is an additional concern. Women's professional leagues are usually laser-focused on building on their successes and finding ways to cultivate their brands to make them sustainable for the long run. Yet like the rest of a population faced with daily complications caused by the coronavirus, they now have to figure out how to navigate a world that changes seemingly by the minute.
French Open Pushed to September
The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that define success in tennis, will be postponed until September because of the coronavirus. French Open organizers announced the decision amid a wide lockdown in France aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. "The current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with the dates as originally planned," tournament officials said in a statement. Officials have now shifted those dates to September 20 to October 4.
Euro 2020 and Copa América Are Postponed for a Year
The quadrennial championships, two of the most important events on the sport's calendar, were scheduled for this summer but will now be moved to 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Tournament organizers announced that the European Championship (Euros), second only to the World Cup in importance and value in international soccer, will be postponed until 2021. Shortly afterwards, the organizers of the Copa América, South America's continental championship, which was scheduled to run concurrently with the Euros, announced that it would do the same, moving its event -- set for Argentina and Colombia this summer -- back a year. The move by the governing body for soccer in Europe, UEFA, will clear the month of summer dates blocked out for the tournament, known as Euro 2020, and could allow national leagues that have been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak to complete their seasons.
Social Distancing Tests the Internet
With millions of people suddenly working and learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic, internet companies are being put to the test with one of the biggest mass behavior changes that the nation has experienced. That is set to strain the internet's underlying infrastructure, with the burden likely to be particularly felt in two areas: the home networks that people have set up in their residences, and the home internet services from Comcast, Charter, and Verizon that those upon which home networks rely. "We just don't know" how the infrastructure will fare, said Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. "What is sufficient bandwidth for a couple of home computers for a husband and wife may not be sufficient when you add students who are going to class all day long operating from home." In response, Verizon, Charter, Cox, Comcast, and AT&T said that they were confident they could meet the demands placed on their home internet services, which includes cable broadband like Xfinity, fiber-based broadband like FIOS, mobile LTE services from Verizon and AT&T, and Wi-Fi hot spots. They added that they were taking measures to help people who were working and learning from home.
China to Expel American Journalists
In a sharp escalation of tensions between the U.S. and China, China announced that it would expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. It also demanded that those outlets, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, provide the Chinese government with detailed information about their operations. The announcement, made by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came weeks after the Trump administration limited to 100 the number of Chinese citizens who can work in the United States for five state-run Chinese news organizations that are widely considered propaganda outlets.
China Defends Move Against American Journalists
An increasingly rancorous rivalry between the United States and China entered a new phase, as Beijing accused the Trump administration of starting a diplomatic clash that led it to expel almost all American journalists from three newspapers. The Chinese government cast its expulsion of the journalists as necessary to defend Beijing against what it perceived as an ideological campaign by the United States to impose its values on China. Around a dozen reporters could be required to leave, in a move that Beijing said was reciprocation for the United States' forcing out of about 60 Chinese reporters, who worked for propaganda outlets, this month. An official said the expulsions were needed to defend China's media against American suppression. Chinese state media outlets criticized American newspapers for coverage that they described as biased.
Coronavirus Outrage Spurs China's Internet Police to Action
As China tries to reshape the narrative of its fumbled response to the coronavirus outbreak, it is turning to a new breed of police that carry out real-world reprisals for digital misdeeds. The internet police, as they are known there, have gained power as the Communist Party has worked to seize greater control over the thoughts, words, and even memories of China's 800 million web users. Now, the force is emerging as a bulwark against the groundswell of anger over governance breakdowns that exacerbated the epidemic. Officers arrive with an unexpected rap at the door of online critics. They drag off offenders for hours of interrogation. They force their targets to sign loyalty pledges and recant remarks deemed politically unacceptable, even if those words were made in the relative privacy of a group chat. For example, a Wuhan doctor named Li Wenliang tried to alert colleagues about the spread of a mysterious virus in a chat group. Shortly afterwards, he was called to a police station and forced to sign a confession for spreading rumors. When Dr. Li died of the coronavirus, waves of mourning and anger swept across China's internet. To stanch anger over Dr. Li's death, and the deaths of the many others his warning might have saved, authorities have doubled down on the very tactics that drove the fury in the first place: using the internet police to muffle the most outspoken.
Trump Urges Limits Amid Pandemic, but Stops Short of National Mandates
Trump, under pressure to take more significant steps to slow the spreading coronavirus, issued national guidelines that included closing schools and avoiding bars, restaurants, and groups of more than 10 as he prepared for months of upheaval. The national guidelines, which also advise home-schooling and the curtailing of visits to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, are the most robust response so far from the Trump administration. Yet the guidelines, which officials described as a trial set, are not mandatory and fall short of a national quarantine and internal travel restrictions, which many health officials had urged.
As Virus Toll Soars, Feds Cut Rates
With the fast-spreading coronavirus posing a dire threat to economic growth, the Federal Reserve (Fed) took the dramatic step of slashing interest rates to near-zero and unveiled a sweeping set of programs in an effort backstop the United States economy. In addition to cutting its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point, returning it to a range of 0 to 0.25%, the Fed said it would inject huge sums into the economy by snapping up at least $500 billion of Treasury securities and at least $200 billion of mortgage-backed debt "over coming months." The action reflects the imminent peril facing the global economy as the virus shutters factories, quarantines workers, and disrupts everyday life. Trump, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Fed, praised the central bank's move and sought to assure worried Americans that food supplies would not be disrupted.
Trial of Coronavirus Vaccine Begins
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that the first testing in humans of an experimental vaccine for the new coronavirus began last week. The main goal of this first set of tests is to find out if the vaccine is safe. If it is, later studies will determine how well it works. The trial was "launched in record speed," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the institute's director, said in a statement. Such rapid development of a potential vaccine is unprecedented, and it was possible because researchers were able to use what they already knew about related coronaviruses that had caused SARS and MERS outbreaks.
LinkedIn Files Cert Petition in Data Scraping Case
LinkedIn filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with SCOTUS, requesting review of the Ninth Circuit's decision in the data scraping case, hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp. The Ninth Circuit had denied LinkedIn's request for a preliminary injunction and found that hiQ's scraping was unlikely to constitute a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and that LinkedIn in fact could be in violation of California unfair competition law. Even with the Ninth Circuit's opinion, the law surrounding data scraping still remains unsettled. LinkedIn advanced several arguments as to why the Court should grant its petition and provide guidance in this area. In essence, LinkedIn declares that the hiQ decision was "unprecedented" and "denied operators of public-facing websites a critical means of protecting user data from unauthorized third-party scrapers."
See the full petition below.
Coronavirus Testing Website Goes Live and Quickly Hits Capacity
Google's sister company, Verily (a life sciences unit of Google's parent company, Alphabet) launched a website intended to facilitate nationwide testing for coronavirus. The website was meant to point people to testing locations in two San Francisco Bay Area counties, but it ran into two issues: First, it was telling people with symptoms of the virus that they were not eligible for the screening program. Second, users were asked to create an account with Google or log in to an existing Google account and sign an authorization form. Still, within a few hours of launching, Verily said that it could not schedule any more appointments at the time because it had reached capacity.
Charges Filed by Mueller Against Russian Companies May be Dropped
The Justice Department moved on Monday to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing schemes to interfere in the 2016 election, saying that they were exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize. The companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 in an indictment secured by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, along with 13 Russians and another company, the Internet Research Agency. Prosecutors said they operated a sophisticated scheme to use social media to spread disinformation, exploit American social divisions, and try to subvert the 2016 election.
Senate Votes to Temporarily Reinstate FBI Spy Tools
The Senate voted to temporarily reinstate a handful of newly expired FBI tools for investigating terrorism and espionage in an attempt to grant lawmakers time to sort out broader differences over surveillance laws and move to addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Senators unanimously agreed to extend until early June the FBI powers that put into place after the September 11 attacks, without making other changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Accused Al-Qaeda Sympathizer Goes Home
When Uzair Paracha was convicted in 2005 in Manhattan of trying to help a terrorist enter the United States, federal prosecutors hailed the verdict as "another victory in the global fight against terrorism." He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Yet now -- nearly 17 years after he was first arrested -- Paracha, 40, has been released and flown to Pakistan, the land of his birth, with all charges against him dropped, according to his lawyer. Paracha's release followed months of secret negotiations between the government and his lawyers and comes nearly two years after a judge ordered a new trial for him, saying that newly discovered evidence called his guilt into question.
Trump Cites Coronavirus as He Announces a Border Crackdown
Citing the threat of the coronavirus to the American public, the Trump administration said that it would begin rapidly sending people who illegally cross the United States borders to their home countries and would halt the processing of undocumented migrants at ports of entry. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said the United States would also close the legal entry points along the border with Mexico and Canada to tourism. American citizens, lawful permanent residents and those crossing a border to seek medical treatment or attend educational institutions would not be affected. Commercial traffic would remain open, but port officers would stop processing those without legal authority to be in the United States, including asylum seekers.
Seeking Asylum but Sent into Peril
A new agreement allows the United, States to transfer asylum seekers to Guatemala, which poses its own risks and offers them little protection. The action is permitted under a recent accord between the Trump administration and Guatemala, and the administration began moving to tighten the southwestern border even further in response to the coronavirus crisis, adding another level of uncertainty to the fragile lives of asylum seekers. Critics said the deal may be a death sentence for migrants, because Guatemala has high crime rates, a nascent asylum process, and few protections for those fleeing threats and violence.
Inside Prisons on Edge
In jails and prisons across the country, concerns are rising of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars. Cases have already been reported. A Washington State prison employee tested positive for the virus and the sheriff in Hancock County, Indiana said that a staff member at the local jail was being isolated at home after a positive test. New York State has also confirmed that an employee at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility had tested positive. To try to prevent an outbreak in the federal prison system that holds more than 175,000 people, the Bureau of Prisons has suspended all visits for 30 days, including by lawyers. It has also barred transfers of inmates between facilities, with few exceptions. The Bureau said that the densely packed nature of prisons "creates a risk of infection and transmission for inmates and staff." Advocates in the United States have sounded alarms over whether correctional facilities here are adequately prepared to stop an outbreak within their walls. Much of the advice given by the CDC -- such as staying six feet away from others and routinely disinfecting surfaces -- can be nearly impossible to follow behind bars.
U.S. Retail Sales Post Biggest Drop in a Year
U.S. retail sales fell by the most in more than a year in February and the coronavirus pandemic is expected to depress sales in the months ahead, which could strengthen economists' expectations of a consumer-led recession by the second quarter. The Commerce Department issued a report showing broad weakness in sales; the report came on the heels of the Fed's aggressive step to cut interest rates to near zero, pledge hundreds of billions of dollars in asset purchases, and backstop foreign authorities with the offer of cheap dollar financing.
Retail Workers "Scared to go to Work"
The retail industry has endured a recent raft of bankruptcies and closures, as well as the pressure of new tariffs in the past year. It makes the prospect of losing weeks of business to the coronavirus even more chilling for many stores. However, staying open has also caused anxiety for their employees, who have to travel to their jobs and then interact with the public.
Warnings of Pandemic Went Unheeded
The outbreak of the coronavirus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead. That scenario, code-named "Crimson Contagion" and imagining an influenza pandemic, was simulated by the Trump administration's Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August. The simulation's sobering results -- contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that had not previously been reported -- drove home just how underfunded, underprepared, and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed. The draft report, marked "not to be disclosed," laid out in stark detail repeated cases of "confusion" in the exercise. Federal agencies jockeyed over who was in charge. State officials and hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was stockpiled or available. Cities and states went their own ways on school closings. Many of the potentially deadly consequences of a failure to address the shortcomings are now playing out in all-too-real fashion across the country.
Democrats Sue Wisconsin Over Early Voting
The Wisconsin Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee sued Wisconsin elections officials last week, demanding that the deadline for online voter registration and vote by mail applications be extended beyond midnight on Wednesday. The lawsuit came as states around the country are scrambling to safely hold primary elections during the coronavirus outbreak. Five states so far have postponed their primaries, and Wyoming has canceled its in-person caucuses, opting to conduct its presidential nominating contest wholly by mail. Yet the Wisconsin primary, scheduled for April 7, includes numerous state, local, and municipal elections that would be more difficult to reschedule than just a presidential primary, because some involve a transfer of executive power. There is also an election for a State Supreme Court justice. The lawsuit calls for a new deadline of April 3 for electronic and by-mail registration. The suit is also seeking to drop a requirement that voters provide photo identification when requesting absentee ballots, and to allow any absentee or vote by mail ballot postmarked by April 7 to be valid for the election.
Math Nobel Prize Shared by Pioneers
Two mathematicians who showed how an underappreciated branch of the field could be employed to solve important problems share this year's Abel Prize, the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel. The winners are Hillel Furstenberg, 84, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Gregory Margulis, 74, of Yale University. Both are retired professors. The citation for the prize, awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, lauds the two mathematicians "for pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory and combinatorics."
Schools Want Guidance but Are Getting Confusion
The spread of the coronavirus is shutting down school systems across the country, but the federal government is offering little clarity on when they can reopen and what they should offer meanwhile. More than half of the states have shut down all their schools for two to six weeks, and some state leaders have begun to predict that their schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. So far, instructions from the federal government have been contradictory and inconclusive. The CDC first recommended hygiene. Then it advised against gatherings of more than 50 people, hours before Trump lowered that to 10 for the next two weeks, with a vague call for home schooling where possible. "If you can't have groups of more than 10 congregated, how the hell are you going to keep schools open with hundreds, if not thousands, of people?" asked Dan Domenech, executive director of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Superintendents are wondering if their schools will be turned into hospitals, maybe even homeless shelters. As they contemplate transitioning to online classes -- which the vast majority of schools are not equipped to do -- they are worried about lawsuits or the loss of federal funding if they cannot provide the same level of education to all students.
Who's Protecting Janitors as We Vacate Buildings?
While many Americans are fleeing their offices to avoid any contact with the coronavirus, low-wage janitors are sometimes being asked to do the opposite. Although millions of Americans have been ordered to shelter in place, janitors are still being asked to go into offices to battle the invisible germs that threaten public health, even as those germs, and the new, powerful cleaning solutions they are being asked to use, may endanger their own health. They often operate without specialized protective gear and the increasing demand for their services is adding new stress and risks. Janitors wonder why they are left in the dark when companies go to great lengths to ensure that the tech, finance, and other workers occupying the buildings that they clean are aware of the most remote possibility of coming into contact with the virus. It shows, they say, how disparities play out in a public health crisis -- how their lives sometimes seem to be valued less than those of people with resources and power.
Trump Calls Coronavirus "Chinese Virus" + House Officials Call It "Kung Flu"
Since coronavirus infections started appearing in the United States in January, Asian Americans have shared stories of minor aggression to blatant attacks from people blaming them for the pandemic. Even with evidence of increased xenophobia, Trump said that he doesn't think calling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" -- or the "kung-flu," as one administration official reportedly called it -- puts Asian Americans at risk of retaliation despite growing reports they are facing virus-related discrimination.
Income Tax Filing Deadline Extended to July
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet, saying that at Trump's direction, "we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties." At a White House briefing, Trump said the delay on filing and paying taxes until July 15 was done to give taxpayers more time and "hopefully by that time, people will be getting back to their lives." Trump said that if people are expecting refunds, they should go ahead and file now so that they can get their refunds from the IRS more quickly.
Stock Sales by Senator Richard Burr Ignite Political Uproar
As the nation remained fixated on the final acts of the impeachment drama in early February, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, already had his eye on a troubling new threat: the coronavirus. On the morning of February 4, Burr assembled members of the committee in a secure room on Capitol Hill to hear for the first time from intelligence officials about how foreign powers were responding to what the World Health Organization had days earlier declared a global health emergency. Two weeks later, on February 13, Burr sold off 33 different stock holdings, worth a collective $628,000 to $1.7 million, liquidating a large share of his portfolio. Burr's sale of the shares in the weeks before the market plunged over concerns about the economic impact of the virus at a time when Trump and other Republican officials were playing down the threat is now coming under intense scrutiny. It has also raised questions about whether he avoided losses by trading on inside information as Americans are looking to Washington for help in a severe crisis.
Coronavirus Stimulus Package Spurs a Lobbying Gold Rush
Some industries are in dire need of a bailout. Others see a rare chance to win special breaks at a moment when the fiscal spigots are open. While the halls of the Capitol are eerily quiet, lobbyists are burning up the phone lines and flooding email inboxes trying to capitalize on the stimulus bills moving quickly through Congress. Trump has already signed into law a coronavirus relief package including funds to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing and food and medical aid to people affected by the pandemic.
One in Five Americans Ordered to Stay Home in Coronavirus Crackdown
By the end of the weekend, at least 1 in 5 Americans will be under orders to stay home in NYC, and more states were expected to follow suit. Increasingly severe shutdowns and restrictions on Americans' movement -- which public experts consider essential to reduce the alarming rate of infection -- have turned much of the country quiet. Forty-five states have closed all their schools and the other five have closed at least some of them. Bars, restaurants, and other gathering spots have been abruptly shuttered. New York State has become the epicenter of the outbreak and health officials have flagged with urgency a looming shortage of hospital beds and equipment. With six percent of the U.S. population, the state now accounts for over one-third of all confirmed cases in the country.
In This Crisis, U.S. Sheds Its Role as Global Leader
The United States led the world's response to other epidemics, like Ebola and AIDS, but a more nationalist United States is ceding leadership on this virus to China. As the coronavirus crisis escalates across the globe, the United States is stepping back further, abandoning its longtime role as a generous global leader able to coordinate an ambitious, multinational response to a worldwide emergency.
Governments and Companies Race to Make Masks Vital to Virus Fight
Trump sought to assure an anxious American public that help was on the way to overwhelmed hospitals, and that private companies had agreed to provide desperately needed medical supplies to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus. However, he resisted appeals from state and local officials and hospital administrators for more aggressive action, saying that he would not compel companies to make face masks and other gear to protect front-line health workers from the virus. Speaking at a White House briefing with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence said that the federal government had placed orders for "hundreds of millions" of the N-95 face masks that can shield medical workers from the virus. Trump said the clothing company Hanes was among those that had been enlisted to start churning out masks, although the company said it would not be making the N-95 masks that are most effective in protecting medical workers.
Used to Meeting Challenges with Bluster and Force, Trump Confronts a Crisis Unlike Any Before
The ways with which Trump dealt with crises in his business, real estate, and even his personal life prove jarring as he leads the government's response to a pandemic. Trump's performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring -- the profound need for personal praise, the propensity to blame others, the lack of human empathy, the penchant for rewriting history, the disregard for expertise, the distortion of facts, and the impatience with scrutiny or criticism. For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis threatening the nation, and now they know.
Top U.S. Intelligence Official Taps New Counterterrorism Chief
Lora Shiao, a career American intelligence officer, will be the next acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the government's central clearinghouse for intelligence on terrorist threats. Shiao, who is currently the center's third-ranking official, replaces Russell Travers, who was abruptly replaced recently amid planned cutbacks by the acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, that have prompted fears among career officials of potential political retribution and a widespread loss of expertise. Shiao will begin serving as acting director on April 3.
Court Says Putin Can Bypass Term Limits
Russia's highest court approved constitutional changes that opened the way for President Vladimir V. Putin to crash through term limits and stay in power through 2036. Putin has already been in power for two decades, either as president or prime minister, and was supposed to step down at the end of his current term in 2024 because of constitutional term limits. However, these limits were swept aside when lawmakers voted to reset the clock to zero when Putin's term runs out, allowing him to run for two more six-year terms.
Europe Barricades Borders to Slow Coronavirus
As European countries erect barriers between one another, the European Union (EU) announced a coordinated ban on nearly all travelers from the rest of the world. The EU banned nonessential travel from outside the bloc into 26 nations stretching from Portugal to Finland, home to more than 400 million people, for 30 days, as Europe's leaders grudgingly, belatedly accepted that being at the heart of a global pandemic and trying to fight it will mean severe social and economic hardship. The move by Brussels was just the most dramatic on a day full of evidence that European life was abruptly becoming more atomized and constrained than anything in Europe's modern history outside wartime.