Impeachment Revenge Is Back as Trump Fires Intelligence Community's Chief Watchdog

While you slept late Friday night or decided to escape the hellscape of social media platforms and cable news networks that are deluged with depressing coronavirus reports by binge-watching Tiger King again, the president did something that has now become routine — fire someone who dared speak truth to power under his administration.

Trump told Congress in a letter that he is removing the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who will be relinquished from his position in 30 days. Trump did not name a permanent successor.

Atkinson was the agency’s chief watchdog and was the first to alert Congress last September about the whistleblower complaint involving Trump’s communications with Ukraine’s president, which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.

In the letter to both the Senate and House announcing Atkinson’s removal, Trump wrote that he “no longer” has confidence in Atkinson.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment… it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement on Friday night calling the move “shameful.”

Popular on Rolling Stone

“The shameful late-night firing of Inspector General Atkinson is a brazen act against a patriotic public servant who has honorably performed his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath. This latest act of reprisal against the Intelligence Community threatens to have a chilling effect against all willing to speak truth to power,” Pelosi wrote.

Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff also reacted late Friday night and accused the president of “settling [impeachment] scores.”

The list of Trump officials who were either pushed out of their jobs, reassigned or outright fired since their involvement with the impeachment process is rather lengthy. According to NPR, the list, to which Atkinson can now be added, includes:

  • Former European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
  • Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovich
  • Former Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor
  • Former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker
  • Career foreign service officer, Jennifer Williams
  • Top U.S. adviser to President Trump on Russia and Europe, Tim Morrison

Democratic Vice-Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Mark Warner also tweeted his displeasure while citing Trump’s attempts to “undermine the integrity of the intelligence community.”

“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another intelligence official, the ICIG, simply for doing his job,” Warner wrote.

Warner continued, “The work of the intelligence community has never been about loyalty to a single individual — it’s about keeping us all safe from those who wish to do our country harm. We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation’s intelligence agencies.”

Source: Read Full Article

Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures Gives The Big Picture On Exhibitions For Public Opening

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has provided new details of the exhibitions that will be on view when the museum opens to the public on December 14, 2020.

Motion picture artists Spike Lee, Pedro Almodóvar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Ben Burtt will serve as collaborators, contributing their own visions to the inaugural exhibitions, said Bill Kramer, the museum’s director.

“We will open the Academy Museum with exhibitions and programs that will illuminate the complex and fascinating world of cinema—its art, technology, artists, history, and social impact—through a variety of diverse and engaging voices,” Kramer said in a statement. “We will tell complete stories of moviemaking—celebratory, educational, and sometimes critical and uncomfortable. Global in outlook and grounded in the unparalleled collections and expertise of the Academy, these first exhibitions will establish this museum as incomparable in the world of cinema.

“We are keenly aware that we’re working towards the opening of the Academy Museum during a time of great challenge. Over the past century, motion pictures have reflected and impacted major historical issues and events. The stories we tell in the Academy Museum are part of those bigger stories, and we are committed to highlighting the social impact of motion pictures. We look forward to brighter days for everyone, everywhere.”

Cross-disciplinary design studio wHY Architecture has been retained to finalize the design of galleries spanning three floors in the museum’s Saban Building. The project is led by the Director of wHY’s Museums Workshop, Brian Butterfield, and Lead Exhibition Designer Jarrod Beck with creative direction from the studio’s founder, Kulapat Yantrasast.

wHY is known for projects including gallery design for the Fogg at Harvard Art Museums, the renovation and expansion of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, gallery renovations at the Art Institute of Chicago, and design of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The studio is currently working on the redesign of the Rockefeller Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Northwest Coast Hall at the American Museum of Natural History, both in New York City.

Ron Meyer, chair of the Academy Museum Board of Trustees and Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal, said, “The Board of Trustees is extremely enthusiastic about how the exhibition, design, and programming plans for the Museum have developed. We very much look forward to movie lovers around the world experiencing the thoughtful and unprecedented content the Academy Museum has to offer when its doors open.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson added, “When our long-held dream comes true, and we open our doors to the world, the Academy’s vast collection will be on display to the general public for the first time. The Academy Museum will be an ongoing showcase for the creativity and ingenuity of today’s greatest moviemakers. We are thrilled to have Academy members and Oscar® winners Spike Lee, Pedro Almodóvar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Ben Burtt participating in our opening exhibitions.”

The exhibition experience of the Academy Museum will begin in the Grand Lobby of the Saban Building with the Spielberg Family Gallery—which is open to the public without charge. This soaring, glass-walled gallery will serve as an introduction to the museum’s exhibitions by surrounding visitors with multiple screens featuring a rapid immersion into the history of cinema, from the Lumière brothers to present day.

Continuing to the second and third floors, museum-goers will discover the 31,000 square-foot, two-floor core exhibition Stories of Cinema in the Rolex and Wanda Galleries. Stories of Cinema will connect audiences to the celebratory, complex, diverse, and international history of motion pictures. All aspects of the arts and sciences of movie-making will be explored in the Stories of Cinema galleries, which, like cinema itself, will evolve and change over time—highlighting different movies, artists, eras, genres, and more.

Adopting the approach that there is no single narrative tied to the development of cinema, this exhibition will showcase multiple stories from a variety of voices and perspectives. Stories of Cinema will include galleries developed in collaboration with Academy Award-winning writer-directors Spike Lee and Pedro Almodóvar, Academy Award-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt. These moments will help visitors gain insight into the work, passions, and influences of these remarkable movie artists.

Within Stories of Cinema, a gallery devoted to The Wizard of Oz takes visitors behind the scenes of this classic movie to explore the many disciplines that made this film come to life—screenwriting, casting, make-up design, costume design, production design, sound design, special effects, acting, directing, producing, and more. Connected to this experience will be galleries that dive deeper into the worlds of casting and performance; the creation of identity through costume, hair, and makeup design; the various components of sound design; the creation of story; and the work of cinematographers.

Other Stories of Cinema galleries will be devoted to showing how worlds and characters are created in science fiction and fantasy movies through the collaborative work of production designers, visual effects artists, and costume designers; how documentaries and narrative movies reflect and impact social issues; hand-drawn, stop-motion, and digital animation; a history of the Academy Awards; and significant moments in cinema history as told though a diverse array of vignettes spotlighting movies and movie artists such as Bruce Lee, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Oscar Micheaux, Citizen Kane, and Real Women Have Curves.

On both floors, visitors will be surrounded by moving images, sound, props, costumes, scripts, posters, production and costume design drawings, matte paintings, photographs, backdrops, animation cels, puppets, maquettes, and more. While Stories of Cinema will celebrate and champion the stories, art, and artists of cinema, complex and difficult stories also will be told.

Adjacent to Stories of Cinemas will be three immersive experiences. Visitors will experience advanced and iconic moviemaking technologies firsthand in the Hurd Gallery, a dramatic, 34-foot double-height space. The Hurd Gallery’s inaugural installation will feature the original multi-camera rig from The Matrix, directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. Visitors will be able to learn about the history of this technology and how the film’s Oscar-winning visual effects—led by Visual Effects Supervisor John Gaeta—were made. Also, they will have the opportunity to reenact their own “Bullet Time” moment on a recreation of the original green screen set.

Located on the third floor in the East West Bank Gallery, the Oscars® Experience will create an immersive environment that simulates the experience of visitors walking onto the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and accepting an Oscar. Also located on the third floor will be a gallery devoted to special collections. This space will open with an exhibition that explores the foundation of cinema, featuring a collection of pre-cinema objects, including magic lanterns, zoetropes, camera obscuras, a Cinématographe Lumière, and more.

On the fourth floor, the 11,000-square-foot Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery will be dedicated to a regularly changing series of large-scale temporary exhibitions. The debut temporary exhibition Hayao Miyazaki is curated by the Academy Museum in collaboration with Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. Taking visitors on a journey into the enchanted and complex world of Miyazaki’s animated movies, this will be the first major retrospective of his work in the Americas. Using original production materials from Studio Ghibli’s archives, many of which are leaving Japan for the first time, the exhibition will present more than 300 concept sketches, character designs, storyboards, layouts, cels, backgrounds, film clips, and immersive environments. This exhibition represents the first time that Studio Ghibli has collaborated with an outside organization to curate a show on Hayao Miyazaki.

Following Hayao Miyazaki, in Fall 2021 the Academy Museum will present Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971, exploring the history, artists, and visual culture of Black cinema in America and its manifold expressions from its early days to the Civil Rights movement and just beyond. Regeneration will be the first exhibition of its kind—a research-driven, in-depth look at Black participation in American filmmaking.

The Academy Museum’s 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and 288-seat Ted Mann Theater will present a year-round calendar of screenings, retrospectives, film series, museum member programs, panel discussions, family programs, and symposia. Programs will include retrospectives and thematic series that illuminate the artistic and cultural contributions of a broad range of international film artists. Programs include: Impact/Reflection, which will focus on social impact, activism, and representation; In Conversation, which will feature movie artists in dialogue with those who have influenced, inspired, and informed their work; Inside the Academy, which will explore key moments in the history of the Academy and the Academy Awards; Branch Selects, where members of Academy branches will screen movies significant to their craft; Oscar Matinees, which will be Saturday and Sunday afternoon special screenings of Academy Award-winning and nominated movies; special screening series co-curated by movie artists; and a pair of annual programs, one devoted to film preservation and one focused on emerging movie artists.  

The Academy Museum’s curatorial team has expanded to include Jenny He, Shari Frilot, and Gary Dauphin.

Jenny He, Exhibitions Curator, spent the last eight years spearheading artist and moviemaker Tim Burton’s international touring exhibitions. She previously curated over 30 film programs and gallery exhibitions on subjects including Kathryn Bigelow, Lillian Gish, and Pixar Animation Studios at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Shari Frilot also joins the Academy Museum as a guest curator for new technology and expanded cinema. She is currently Chief Curator, New Frontier at Sundance—a program that she conceptualized and launched—and a Senior Programmer of the Sundance Film Festival, focused on American narrative features and movies that experiment and push the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Shari previously served as Co-Director of Programming for Outfest and Festival Director of MIX: The New York Experimental Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

Gary Dauphin, Associate Curator of Digital Presentations, is an award-winning writer and digital content producer whose writing has appeared in ArtforumBidounInterviewThe RootThe Village Voice, and Vibe. He oversaw the launches and relaunches of major African American websites, including AOL Black Voices, Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Africana.com, and Black Planet.com, and has held positions at USC’s Annenberg School for Journalism and KCETLink.

In addition, the museum’s curatorial team includes Doris Berger, Head of Curatorial Affairs; Jessica Niebel, Exhibitions Curator; Assistant Curators Raul Guzman, Dara Jaffe, and Ana Santiago; Curatorial Assistant Sophia Serrano; and Rhea Combs, Regeneration Guest Co-Curator. Academy Museum film programs are organized by Bernardo Rondeau, Associate Curator and Head of Film Programs, and Robert Reneau, Film Program Coordinator. Education and Public Programs are led by Amy Homma, Director of Education and Public Programs; Eduardo Sanchez, Manager of Public Programs; and Julia Velasquez, Manager of Youth Programs.

Through its collections, long-term exhibitions, temporary and traveling exhibitions, publications, and programs, the Academy Museum is committed to representing the diversity and scope of cinema history. The museum is working closely with its Inclusion Advisory Committee, chaired by producer and CEO of Gamechanger Effie Brown, to ensure that museum content is inclusive for all visitors. In addition, the museum is working with representatives from all 17 branches of the Academy’s membership to develop and refine museum content and programming related to the expertise of each branch.

 

Source: Read Full Article

Your Weekend Reading: The Crisis of Our Time

Want to receive a daily news briefing, including this weekend edition, in your inbox every day? Sign up here

Four months. More than 1 million people infected. The menace that is Covid-19 continues to ravage the world. Singapore will close schools and most workplaces, the U.S. is trying to rescue small businesses and the U.K.—a country passionate about its health system and whose prime minister remains in isolation—announced its deadliest day yet. When, and how, will it end?

Bloomberg is mapping the pandemic globally and across America. For the latest news, sign up for our Covid-19 podcast and daily newsletter.

What you’ll want to read this weekend

President Donald Trump shook up oil markets with a single tweet— “performance art,” Liam Denning calls it in Bloomberg Opinion. The OPEC+ cartel is pressing to form an unprecedented global coalition to cut production, but there’s another rift between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The virus knows no borders as it spreads to the unhealthiest part of the U.S.: the South. Blue-collar America is braced for another recession, the barter economy is back and mortgage firms are teetering. A bleak jobs report for March is a harbinger of the deluge to come.

Supply lines know no borders either. There’s still a heap of food out there, but trucking bottlenecks are one reason it’s not getting from farm to table. Brazil’s coffee growers are worried they won’t have enough fieldhands for the harvest, and U.S. farmers are even dumping milk.

U.S. intelligence contends China concealed the extent of the outbreak in its country, three officials told Bloomberg. China says the Trump administration is trying to deflect from its own mistakes. Speaking out about a lack of gear can come at a high cost for America’s doctors, while a literal about-face on masks may be underway.

Colleges are dropping the SAT, law deans are proposing this year’s class be allowed to skip the bar and universities are stepping in to sustain local businesses. Bloomberg Businessweek has some tips for those parents moonlighting as home-school teachers. Remember the concept of limiting kids’ screen time? How quaint.

What you’ll need to know next week

  • OPEC+ is planning to meet but it could be delayed.
  • Keep an eye out for WTO trade projections.
  • China is set to lift the lockdown of Wuhan.
  • FOMC minutes come out following a drastic March.
  • World Health Day, Passover and Good Friday arrive.

What you’ll want to read in Bloomberg Pursuits

What Would Have Been 2020’s Hottest New Cars

The pandemic and its attendant recession may be the worst time to launch a car since, well, since we’ve had cars. Here are some of most needle-moving whips rolled out in years—all for a pre-coronavirus world. With would-be buyers now focused on the terrible crisis at hand, this is less a preview of automaker glory than a wistful look at what might have been.

 

Source: Read Full Article

Decoding COVID-19 – Some Known Questions, Some Unknown Answers

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the globe, researchers, drug companies and world leaders are ramping up the fight against the novel coronavirus. An outbreak of a mysterious pneumonia which was first identified and confined only to the Chinese city of Wuhan, last December, is now a global pandemic, with a death toll nearing 60,000 and an unprecedented economic damage.

1. What is the infectious agent behind the ongoing pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). This pathogen belongs to the genera “Coronaviruses”, which are single-stranded RNA viruses.

2. Are there other coronaviruses that have infected humans?

Yes. Including the novel SARS-CoV-2, seven coronaviruses have infected humans.

Four coronaviruses, namely HCoV 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 are common in humans and they are associated with mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold.

Two other coronaviruses – MERS-CoV that causes MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS-CoV that causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) – are more virulent and have proven fatal in many cases.

The SARS-CoV-2, the causal agent behind the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is proving to be deadlier of the lot.

3. What does corona in the name “coronavirus” mean?

First identified in the mid-1960, the viruses were named coronaviruses because of the crown-like spikes on their surfaces when viewed under an electron microscope.

4. What is so novel about this coronavirus SARS-COV-2?

Although all coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they originated from animals, mostly bats, the pathogenicity (ability to cause disease) seems to be increasing with each evolving strain.

While the four common human coronaviruses (229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1) are considered mild pathogens as they cause only common cold, SARS-CoV, the virus implicated in the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic and MERS-CoV, the virus that caused an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012, are considered highly pathogenic.

Even deadlier than SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV, is SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

5. From where did SARS-CoV-2 originate?

As mentioned above, all coronaviruses are zoonotic.

While SARS-CoV originated in bats and was transmitted to people through infected civets, MERS-CoV originated in bats and spread through infected dromedary camels (Arabian camels) to people.

The source of origin of the SARS-CoV-2 has been widely debated, some claiming that it originated in bats, and some suggesting that it is from the scaly, anteater-like animals called pangolins. What is also still not confirmed is through which intermediate host SARS-CoV-2 spread to people.

A recent study in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 could have been transmitted from bats to humans through pangolins.

The Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) of the SARS-CoV-2 has been found to be 80% similar to SARS-CoV and 96% identical to a bat coronavirus. The RNA contains genetic information about the virus.

6. How does the SARS-CoV-2 spread?

The SARS-CoV-2 spreads through sneeze/cough-induced droplets of infected persons. Say, when infected people cough or sneeze without covering their mouth or nose, the virus-laden droplets may fall on persons standing near them and the virus may get into their body through mouth or eyes or nose. Sometimes, people can also contract the virus by touching infected surfaces and unknowingly touch their mouth or eyes or nose with the hand contaminated with the virus.

That’s the reason why washing of hands with soaps/sanitizers is recommended.

7. Is the COVID-19 virus airborne?

The World Health Organization says that according to current evidence, the COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes. In an analysis of 75,465 COVID-19 cases in China, the airborne transmission was not reported. But under certain conditions in hospital settings where procedures that generate aerosols are performed, the airborne transmission may be possible.

Tuberculosis, measles, and chickenpox are examples of airborne transmission of the virus.

Recently, the National Academy of Sciences, quoting certain studies, suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by asymptomatic patients’ exhalation, say through normal breathing or speech.

In the light of such findings, it is better to use a face mask when stepping out.

While updating guidelines for slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recently recommended the use of simple cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, i.e. in grocery stores and pharmacies. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators as they are critical supplies, reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

8. How long can SARS-CoV-2 survive outside the body?

SARS-COV-2 needs a living host to survive and multiply. Until it finds a susceptible host, the virus can linger in the air or remain on surfaces for a certain period of time without losing its viability. A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the SARS-COV-2 can survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours, on cardboard for 24 hours and on copper for four hours.

9. What is the death rate for COVID-19?

On March 3, 2020, the WHO announced that globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. The seasonal flu generally kills far less than 1% of those infected.

According to experts, it is very difficult to calculate the case fatality rate during a rapidly expanding pandemic.

10. How does the death toll due to COVID-19 compare against SARS and MERS, which are also caused by a coronavirus?

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 1,098,762 and the death toll is 59,172 as of this writing. During the SARS pandemic, there were 8,098 reported cases and 774 deaths. The MERS outbreak, which is still ongoing with sporadic flare-ups, has had 2,519 cases and 866 fatalities.

11. How is coronavirus detected?

Diagnostic tests, done on samples collected as swabs from a person’s nose and throat or as sputum, and sometimes on blood collected from them, help to identify if a person is infected with the virus or not. The collected samples are sent to a testing lab where it is processed. Most of the diagnostic tests take 4 hours to come out with the results.

Abbott’s ID NOWCOVID-19 rapid test, which was recently rolled out under emergency use, delivers results in as little as 5 minutes.

12. Why is coronavirus infection comparatively lower in Japan?

Despite being densely populated and having a higher percentage of senior citizens, Japan has recorded comparatively fewer COVID-19 cases. Critics say that it is only due to limited testing of people that the exact proportion of infection is not revealed. However, some experts say that the Japanese culture and etiquette like wearing masks or greeting others with a bow instead of shaking hands could be the reason for the slow spread of the pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases in Japan is 2,617, with 63 fatalities, as of this writing. (Source: Worldometer).

13. Can a person who has recovered from COVID-19 be re-infected with SARS-CoV-2?

It is only natural to assume that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may not contract that virus again, at least not immediately. But there have been instances in some countries, say China and Korea, where patients who seem to have recovered from COVID-19, re-testing positive for the virus after discharge.

Is a re-infection really possible immediately after recovery or does it have anything to do with the quality of the tests? More research is required.

14. Are there any treatments or vaccines for COVID-19?

Currently, there are no treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. A number of companies are racing to find a treatment or vaccine for the same.

Recently, the FDA gave emergency use authorization for Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine to be prescribed to adolescent and adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as appropriate. Besides malaria, the two drugs are used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

However, the European Medicines Agency has allowed the two drugs only to be used in clinical trials or emergency use programs in the indication of COVIS-19.

In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Task Force has recommended Hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against SARS-CoV-2 infection for high-risk population such as asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

15. What is the latest by which a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available?

Although a number of companies are engaged in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, leading the pack are Moderna Inc. (MRNA), which began a phase I trial of its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 in mid-March, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), which is planning to advance its experimental vaccine into phase I study by September of this year.

Moderna hopes to have its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use this fall while Johnson & Johnson is aiming to achieve emergency use authorization for its vaccine by early 2021.

Source: Read Full Article

US reminds airlines travelers are entitled to cash refunds amid coronavirus disruptions

The US Transportation Department on Friday issued a notice to airlines reminding them they are obligated to refund tickets when they cancel a flight or make a significant flight schedule change that passengers opt not to accept, but will not take any immediate action against airlines.

US and foreign airlines have canceled hundreds of thousands of flights and eliminated millions of seats in the wake of a massive falloff in travel demand because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Transportation Department said it is receiving a rising number of complaints and inquiries from passengers seeking refunds. Earlier this week, nine Democratic US senators urged the chief executives of 11 major airlines to issue full cash refunds to customers who cancel their flights.

The department said the “longstanding obligation of carriers to provide refunds for flights that carriers cancel or significantly delay does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control.”

The department said it could take an enforcement action when airlines deny refunds when a “carrier cancels a flight, makes a significant schedule change, or significantly delays a flight to be a violation of the carriers’ obligation.”

But the department said that, given the massive crisis, it “will exercise its prosecutorial discretion and provide carriers an opportunity to become compliant before taking further action.”

Airlines must contact in a timely manner passengers who were given vouchers “to notify those passengers that they have the option of a refund” and they must update refund policies to make it clear that they give refunds after a significant schedule change or canceled flight.

On Friday, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines both extended the amount of time travelers have to use unused travel funds to rebook travel for flights. Delta will give passengers up to two years to rebook flights that are or were scheduled through May.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group representing American Airlines and other major airlines, said earlier this week that “each airline has crafted an approach it believes will best address the concerns and interests of its passengers, crew and other stakeholders, including announcing travel policies to accommodate customers.”

Source: Read Full Article

Trump Rejects Voting-by-Mail Amid Virus, Citing Fraud Concerns

President Donald Trump said he doesn’t support mail-in voting as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus, arguing that sending ballots increases the likelihood of fraud.

“I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” Trump told reporters Friday at the White House. “I think people should vote with voter ID. I think voter ID is very important. The reason they don’t want voter ID is they intend to cheat.”

“All kids of bad things can happen,” he added without citing examples.

More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries because of concern that voters get too close one another and spread the coronavirus. Trump said Friday he still expects the general election to be held on Nov. 3.

32,133 in U.S.Most new cases today

-26% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​138 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, has asked his state’s Republican-controlled State Legislature to call a special session and vote to allow an all-mail election before planned primaries next week.

There’s no indication fraud has swayed elections in states where residents already vote by mail. Those states include Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Democrats have long resisted Republican efforts to increase voter identification requirements. GOP lawmakers have cited instances of voter impersonation, while Democrats have argued stricter ID requirements disproportionately harm low-income voters who may have a harder time getting a driver’s license.

Trump has raised concern that making it easier to vote would hurt the GOP. In an interview on “Fox & Friends” last week, he criticized a coronavirus-related funding proposal from Democrats that would have provided more money for mail-in voting.

“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had things -- levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she plans to seek $2 billion to $4 billion in the next coronavirus relief bill to give Americans a safer way to vote in the upcoming general election. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill signed by Trump late last month included $400 million for voting by mail.

Pelosi said the initiative was crucial “so that people have access to voting and not be deterred, especially at this time, by the admonition to stay home.”

Trump, who is registered to vote in Florida, has requested a vote-by-mail ballot in that state’s primary, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Source: Read Full Article

3M CEO on Trump coronavirus production claims: ‘False, nothing can be further from the truth’

3M CEO: Narratives on coronavirus supply manufacturing are ‘just not true’

3M CEO Mike Roman, in a wide-ranging interview, on manufacturing medical supplies, price gouging and exporting to foreign countries.

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox.  Sign up here.

Continue Reading Below

Under fire from the White House for exporting much-needed coronavirus protective masks to other countries, 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman said the idea that 3M is not doing everything possible for America “is false, nothing can be further from the truth.”

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
MMM 3M COMPANY 133.79 -4.12 -2.99%

Roman, in a wide-ranging interview with Maria Bartiromo on FOX Business' “Wall Street Week,” also said allegations against 3M for not fighting price gouging is “absurd.”

Charges of 3M shipping the protective equipment abroad to countries that offered to pay a higher price than the U.S. have been leveled against the company, but Roman was quick to deny there was any “bidding” process involved.

“We manufacture respirators," said Roman. "We sell them through authorized distributors and we sell directly to governments and the distributors take those to customers that have the greatest needs and we’ve been working with FEMA in the U.S. to make sure we are prioritizing those with the greatest need.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS

Roman admitted that even though 3M had ramped up production for the coveted N95 masks in the United States, the company did have humanitarian obligations with other countries. “A small percentage, less than 10 percent of our respirators in the United States are exported to Canada and Latin America to support their health care workers,” explained Roman. “We are often the sole provider of those respirators in those countries.”

WALMART EXPANDS CORONAVIRUS PRECAUTIONS, LIMITS STORE VISITORS

“As we've been telling the administration for days and days,” said Roman, “We're happy to ship our overseas production to the U.S. However, there are consequences on a humanitarian level and that includes stopping exports to Canada and Latin America.”

On Friday, President Trump blasted 3M again, one day after invoking the Defense Production Act, ordering 3M to prioritize orders N95 masks for the federal government’s national stockpile.

“We’re not happy with 3M, we’re not happy and the people that dealt with it directly are not at all happy with 3M,” said Trump during his daily coronavirus task force briefing.  After the mandate was made Thursday, both the president and Peter Navarro, one of his top advisers overseeing the enactment of the DPA, criticized 3M publicly.

The words sparked concerns across U.S. borders. Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario in Canada, expressed concern for what this could mean for the “health and well-being of our frontline workers” and stressed that the U.S. and Canada should work together during this crisis.

The Minnesota-based company normally produces between 16 to 20 million respirators a month in the U.S., and Roman said 3M has doubled its production during the crisis. In addition, masks are being imported from supplies in China at the rate of 10 million a month.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

Source: Read Full Article

KKR-Backed Envision Withholds Doctor Pay as Routine Care Slows

Envision Healthcare Corp., one of the biggest medical providers backed by private equity, is withholding some pay for doctors and contemplating salary cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The medical staffing company backed by KKR & Co. faces steep losses across its care units as patients avoid visiting doctors offices even for mandatory care during the outbreak, said people familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified because they were afraid of losing their jobs.

The cuts range anywhere from $4 million to $5 million per practice for a group of about 16 to 30 doctors, the people said. That equates to roughly a third of the annual compensation for each physician, they said.

With the coronavirus pandemic threatening to keep businesses shut around the world, health care is facing its own losses. In just two weeks, Envision’s business shrank by 65% to 75% at its 168 open ambulatory surgical centers, compared to the same period last year, Bloomberg reported. About 90 centers are closed.

32,133 in U.S.Most new cases today

-26% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​138 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23


Physicians across the country have deferred nonessential care or seen wary patients cancel appointments in staggering volumes. Some providers, including Envision, have quarantined staff because of potential exposure. Others have been rushing to switch as many appointments as possible to virtual visits.

The postponements of elective surgeries and other procedures are consistent with federal guidelines, Envision said in an emailed statement.

‘Unprecedented’ Crisis

“We are on the front lines caring for patients during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis,” the Nashville, Tennessee-based company said. “Envision Healthcare is 100 percent focused on saving lives and sustaining the nation’s fragile health-care system. The safety net we provide for millions of patients must remain fully intact for when we get to the other side of this national crisis.”

KKR said it didn’t have an additional comment.

Envision carries more than $7 billion of debt amassed through what was, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, the third-largest health-care leveraged buyout ever. The company told physician groups on a call that it would withhold pay for care provided in 2019, the people said. Those payments would have been distributed around the first week of April.

The company’s contracts with physicians stipulate both a base salary and performance-related payment for services provided in hospitals and other facilities. The performance-related pay will be withheld indefinitely as Envision grapples with losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, management said on the call.

Envision said it intends to pay the amounts owed at a later date, when there is more certainty on the future health of the company, the people said. The company is also contemplating making additional 20% cuts to doctors’ base salaries if conditions worsen, they said. Envision’s senior leadership team has already reduced its salary by 50%, one person said.

Some of the physician-staffing groups are prepared to litigate the matter, and plan to contact lawyers, the people with knowledge of the plans said. The potential legal battle could be costly for Envision.

With the pandemic expected to test the limits of the U.S. health-care system, hospitals saddled with billions of dollars in debt are the most susceptible to further losses, according to analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Publicly traded Community Health Systems Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. also carry high levels of debt and face significant strains on liquidity.

Surgery Partners Inc., backed by Bain Capital, has drawn on its credit and taken cost-cutting measures, according to the company’s filings.

Envision, which fully drew down its two credit lines to provide financial flexibility in recent weeks, spends about $1.5 billion on compensation for physicians quarterly, a person familiar with that matter has said.

Operating Loss

The company has about $140 million to $150 million in debt payments due in the next two weeks, according to Mike Holland of Bloomberg Intelligence. It has $650 million of cash on its balance sheet, $175 million of which is restricted and not for corporate use.

Envision’s managers told investors they may need additional financing to support liquidity if conditions worsen. They expect the business to operate at a loss for the time being and for volumes to shrink further if the pandemic worsens.

Envision and other health-care companies are evaluating all options and looking at potential relief from the federal government’s CARES Act, which sets aside $100 billion in emergency funds for facilities and providers. It’s unclear how companies such as Envision will benefit. The firm is evaluating the law to determine whether it will qualify for relief, management told investors.

Envision was built through a series of acquisitions, culminating in a merger with AmSurg, a large surgery center and physician staffing group in 2016. KKR bought the combined company in 2018 for $9.5 billion, including debt.

Source: Read Full Article

Some small business owners' coronavirus stimulus experience off to shaky start

JPMorgan delays coronavirus business loans over litigation fears: Gasparino

Confusion and delays come with the small business loans program. FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino with more.

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox.  Sign up here.

Continue Reading Below

President Trump says one of the nation's top banks is doing a "great job" complying with the federal government's new pandemic stimulus plan in handing out hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to small businesses; he even singled out one of the nation's largest, Bank of America, for its work getting small businesses the money they need to survive the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.

But the people on the front lines of the $350 billion loan application process, the small business owners, say their experience has been far from great. FOX Business has been contacted by several small business owners who say the loan program — which officially began Friday — is suffering from a series of defects and that loan applications are being summarily rejected for arbitrary reasons. Others say they're getting the brush-off from their bankers who say they still don't have guidance from the federal government to begin the application process even though that guidance was made official Thursday night, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

CORONAVIRUS CRISIS FORCES FIRST BANK TO CLOSE ITS DOORS 

Even more, small business owners say they find it odd that Trump in a tweet late Friday afternoon cited Bank of America for doing great work in handing out the loans. Bank of America may have been the first bank out of the gate to make the loans available to its customers Friday morning, but several business owners have contacted FOX Business through social media and other venues and said the bank found reasons to backlog their loan application or deny them altogether.

One small business owner wrote that Bank of America "is not processing our application because we don’t have a B of A credit card. This is such BS. We do all of our banking through them and they are limiting access to stimulus funds to my business because we don’t have a Credit card."

When contacted about these issues, a Bank of America spokesman declined comment but pointed to a memo circulated internally that said:

“In this first initial launch (of the small business loan program), we have focused on our full relationship clients first."

WILL CORONAVIRUS BE THE END OF PAPER MONEY?

A Treasury spokesman said, "Treasury and the Small Business Administration, in close coordination with the White House, have established an unprecedented $350 billion Main Street financial assistance program in just one week.  Billions of dollars in loans have been registered on the very first day of activity."

Of course, handing out $350 billion in small business loans — which is the target number in the government's $2 trillion pandemic economic relief effort — was never expected to run seamlessly. The $2 trillion bill was hastily cobbled together and passed on March 26 as lawmakers and the White House worried that the lockdowns to deal with the virus outbreak could lead to a severe economic recession, or worse. The early economic indicators show a dramatic slowdown in the US economy and unemployment rivaling levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, banks were on the forefront of a key piece of the plan in handing out government-backed loans to small businesses. Under the plan, the federal government will provide loans for banks to make available to small business, or outfits with less than 500 employees, with super-low interest rates. The loans will be forgiven and paid off by the government if the small business retains its workforce until the economy can resume possibly in the summer.

The program was considered key to the success of the virus relief package since small businesses employ nearly 50 percent of all working Americans, and they have been the hardest hit by the virus's impact on the economy, as salons, restaurants and other service-related companies have been shuttered laying off tens of millions of workers.

But questions immediately swirled about its effectiveness. The $350 billion size of the program seemed too small to meet the intense demand; as FOX Business reported, White House officials are considering another round of small business loans, meaning possibly tens of billions of dollars more will be added to the program.

Banks complained that even as the Friday deadline to start the loan program approached, the federal government didn't provide them guidelines on how to proceed. Those guidelines then came late Thursday, causing the nation's biggest bank, JP Morgan, to delay launching the loan program until later Friday afternoon. Other big banks, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, have yet to launch their programs as this story is published Friday.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS

By Friday afternoon, several thousand loan applications were processed or about $2 billion in loans, the Wall Street Journal reported, but that well understated the size and scope of demand. Bank of America was among the first banks to begin the loan program Friday morning. By the end of business Friday, a spokesman said it had processed $7 billion worth of loans from 75,000 applications.

But according to small business owners who contacted FOX Business, its handling of the onslaught of loan applications was uneven at best. One small business owner indicated Bank of America and other banks simply refused to take applications on Friday in some parts of the country. Another said that Bank of America declined applications of customers who didn't have both a checking account and a credit card open in February of this year, as well as a broader banking relationship.

Those customers who meet all of those criteria will be given preference over those that meet just one or two, business owners tell FOX Business.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

Source: Read Full Article

Automakers Have One Hot Seller Left: The Seven-Year Car Loan

In this article

U.S. auto sales just crashed to the slowest pace in a decade. But among those few consumers still buying cars, one product is seeing unusually high demand: the seven-year loan.

In the last full week of March, 23% of new-vehicle buyers took out 84-month loans to finance their purchase, Joe Spak, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a report Friday that cited data from J.D. Power. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, loans that long were only 7 to 8% of the mix.

General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Hyundai Motor Co. have all offered no-interest financing for 84 months to certain buyers as a way to buoy sales in the midst of what is almost certainly a recession. While stretching out the loan term helps consumers afford more vehicle than they might otherwise, the strategy isn’t without risk.

With longer-term loans, borrowers face greater risk of owing more than what their vehicle is actually worth. Consumers in this position — referred to as negative equity — are likely to take longer to re-enter the auto market.

Long-term loans are “hugely beneficial to keeping margins high throughout the automotive value chain,” Spak said. “However, it is not without potential repercussion down the road. The longer a loan goes out, the more likely negative equity is to build, which could delay or hinder a return to the market years later.”

Source: Read Full Article