Business

COVID-19

Walmart to stop requiring masks for vaccinated workers and shoppers

American companies began to rethink their requirements for face masks after federal health regulators relaxed their guidelines this week, and on Friday Walmart made the first big move to bend to the new view. The U.S.’s largest private employer said it would no longer require vaccinated workers and shoppers to wear masks in stores and warehouses outside of municipalities that require it. Walmart’s new policy for its 1.6 million U.S. workers goes into effect May 18, the company said, while vaccinated customers could shop maskless immediately.

National Rifle Association

Judge dismisses NRA bankruptcy case

A federal bankruptcy judge dismissed an effort by the National Rifle Association to declare bankruptcy on Tuesday, ruling that the gun rights group had not filed the case in good faith. The ruling slams the door on the NRA's attempt to use bankruptcy laws to evade New York officials seeking to dissolve the organization. In his decision, the federal judge said that "using this bankruptcy case to address a regulatory enforcement problem" was not a permitted use of bankruptcy.

Bitcoin Fog

Feds arrest an alleged $336M Bitcoin-laundering kingpin

For a decade, Bitcoin Fog has offered to obscure the source and destination of its customers' cryptocurrency, making it one of the most venerable institutions in the dark web economy. Now the IRS says it has finally identified the Russian-Swedish administrator behind that long-running anonymizing system and charged him with laundering hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bitcoins, much of which was sent to or from dark web drug markets. What gave him away? The trail of his own decade-old digital transactions.

Bernie Madoff

Mastermind of the nation's biggest investment fraud, dies at 82

Infamous fraudster Bernie Madoff has died at age 82. Madoff masterminded the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history, a Ponzi scheme that ripped off tens of thousands of people of as much as $65 billion. Madoff was serving a 150-year sentence at the federal prison care center in Butner, North Carolina, where he was being treated for what his attorney called terminal kidney disease.

The far right conspiracy

Facebook knew of Honduran president’s manipulation campaign – and let it go

Facebook allowed the president of Honduras to artificially inflate the appearance of popularity on his posts for nearly a year after the company was first alerted to the activity. The astroturfing – the digital equivalent of a bussed-in crowd – was just one facet of a broader online disinformation effort that the administration has used to attack critics and undermine social movements, Honduran activists and scholars say. Facebook posts by Juan Orlando Hernández, an authoritarian rightwinger whose 2017 re-election is widely viewed as fraudulent.

Bitcoin

Value of cryptocurrency climbs 5% to record high of $63,000

The value of the cryptocurrency bitcoin has surged to a record high, reaching $63,000. The cryptocurrency, which has risen in value by 450% in the last six months, continued to climb by a further 5% during trading on Tuesday. Bitcoin’s price has more than doubled since the start of 2021. The digital currency has been on a rollercoaster ride in the last year, and was trading at about only $7,000 in April 2020.

John Boehner

'Unemployed' Trump 'has nothing else to do' but 'cause trouble'

Former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday said the "unemployed" former President Trump has nothing better to do than stir up trouble following his departure from Washington. "Here's a guy who's unemployed, has nothing else to do but cause trouble. And clearly, it's obvious to me that he's not going away," Boehner said on "The View."

Voter Suppression

CEOs plan new push on voting legislation

Dozens of chief executives and other senior leaders gathered on Zoom this weekend to plot what several said big businesses should do next about new voting laws under way in Texas and other states.

Fox News

Mike Lindell says he hired investigators to find out why network won’t book him

Mike Lindell, the formerly ubiquitous purveyor of both Donald Trump’s election lies and his own range of My Pillow bedding accoutrements, says he has hired private investigators to find out why he appears to have fallen out of favor with Fox News.

Facebook

Trump faces a narrow path to victory against suspension

If former President Donald Trump manages to get back on Facebook and Instagram this month, his win will rest on a series of close calls. Facebook’s oversight board is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether to uphold or overturn Trump’s indefinite suspension from the platforms, which the company imposed after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots over fears he might incite further violence. So far, the panel of scholars, lawyers and other outside experts has bucked Facebook’s judgment in five of the six decisions it has rendered.

One Billion Dollars

Suez canal has reopened, but Ever Given isn’t free to go

Egypt won’t release the massive container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week in March until its owners agree to pay as much as a billion dollars in compensation, according to local authorities, as they investigate how the Ever Given got stuck and shut down one of the world’s most important waterways.

Fox News

Anti-Defamation League calls for Tucker Carlson to be fired

The head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called for Fox News host Tucker Carlson to be fired after a segment Thursday that referenced "replacement" theory. Greenblatt was referring to Carlson’s appearance on “Fox News Primetime,” when, talking to columnist Mark Steyn, the host offered a theory on why Democrats are pro-immigration.

The Logan Circle Group

Gaetz-tied group threatens to sue reporters writing on his Trump relationship

A boutique conservative consultancy group working on behalf of Rep. Matt Gaetz is threatening to sue journalists for their coverage of the embattled congressman. The entity, Logan Circle Group, is run by Harlan Hill, a former Democrat who became a top Trump surrogate during the 2016 presidential election. The official behind the recent legal threats is Erin Elmore, a colleague of Hill’s at the Washington-based consulting firm and a Season 3 contestant on “The Apprentice.”

Bill Gates

The biggest private owner of farmland in the United States

Bill Gates has never been a farmer. So why did the Land Report dub him “Farmer Bill” this year? The third richest man on the planet doesn’t have a green thumb. Nor does he put in the back-breaking labor humble people do to grow our food and who get far less praise for it. That kind of hard work isn’t what made him rich.

Trump Swamp

Fox News hires Mike Pompeo as contributor

Fox News has hired former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a contributor, the network announced Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader

Mich McConnell backs away from warning businesses to stay out of politics

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday backed off his stern warning that major companies such as Major League Baseball, Delta and Coca-Cola should stay out of high-profile political fights after they criticized Georgia’s new election law.

Matt Gaetz Scandal

Showed lawmakers nude photos of women he claimed to have slept with

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations, made a name for himself when he arrived on Capitol Hill as a conservative firebrand on TV and staunch defender of then-President Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN. Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN.

Apple

Tim Cook joins chorus in denouncing Georgia’s voting law

Apple chief executive Tim Cook joined the chorus of business leaders who have come out in support of voting rights in light of voting restrictions Georgia’s governor signed into law last week.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian

Delta CEO and Georgia governor get heated in voter law square-off

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp launched a counterattack on Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Bastian said the voting bill Kemp signed last week was "unacceptable," "wrong" and "based on a lie." The clash was an unusual one for two of the state's most powerful executives. But it showed the pressure that both were under because of the controversial voting measure.

$2.25 trillion

Joe Biden's infrastructure proposal prioritizes funds for emerging technologies

President Biden’s newly unveiled infrastructure proposal includes billions of dollars in proposed funding to invest in “technologies of the future,” with a particular focus on ensuring the U.S. can compete on the global stage against countries such as China. The proposed investment package, which totals around $2.25 trillion, proposes that over $180 billion be set aside for enhancing research and development of new and emerging technologies, along with addressing racial and gender inequalities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Media

Washington Post lifts ban on reporter from covering sexual assault

The Washington Post on Monday lifted a ban on breaking news reporter Felicia Sonmez, which she says had barred her from covering stories related to sexual assault and harassment after she criticized newsroom leadership. Sonmez tweeted she had been informed by her editors that the ban was being lifted on Monday afternoon.

The Talk

Sharon Osbourne leaves TV show after row about Meghan and Piers Morgan

Sharon Osbourne has left US chat show The Talk following an on-air row over Piers Morgan’s comments about the Duchess of Sussex, CBS said. Osbourne clashed with her co-hosts while defending Morgan, who left his job on Good Morning Britain following his comments about Meghan. The Talk is off air while CBS investigates the incident.

Shortnews

Voltswagen

Volkswagen accidentally posts new company name

Volkswagen on Monday appeared to accidentally announce a rebranding with the new name “Voltswagen,” before quickly removing the press release from its website. On Monday morning, the German automaker posted a statement on its website announcing the “rebranding,” in an apparent shift towards its investment in electric vehicles, before taking it down, USA Today reported. In the release, the automaker said the rebranding is “more than a name change."

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Voltswagen

Volkswagen accidentally posts new company name

Volkswagen on Monday appeared to accidentally announce a rebranding with the new name “Voltswagen,” before quickly removing the press release from its website. On Monday morning, the German automaker posted a statement on its website announcing the “rebranding,” in an apparent shift towards its investment in electric vehicles, before taking it down, USA Today reported. In the release, the automaker said the rebranding is “more than a name change."

"‘Voltswagen’ is a public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility,” the release said, according to USA Today, which saved a photo of the statement before it was removed.

“The new name and branding symbolize the highly-charged forward momentum Voltswagen has put in motion, pursuing a goal of moving all people point-to-point with EVs,” the statement added.

A person familiar with the company’s plans told USA TODAY that Volkswagen is planning on making the change permanently. The source added that the company was not hacked, that the announcement was not a joke, and that it was not a marketing ploy.

Volkswagen’s plans to rebrand come as several automakers are beginning to invest more in electric vehicles. In November, General Motors announced that it was investing $27 billion through 2025 as part of its commitment to electric and autonomous vehicles. Additionally, the company unveiled plans to launch 30 electric vehicles globally by 2025.

Recovery

White House downplays surprising February jobs gain

Top White House officials took little solace in the better-than-expected February jobs report, insisting Friday that the U.S. was far from a full and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The February jobs report released Friday showed the U.S. gaining 379,000 jobs last month, nearly double the consensus estimates of economists. The unemployment rate also dropped 0.1 percentage points to 6.2 percent, its lowest level since March 2020, as businesses prepared for a post-pandemic world.

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Recovery

White House downplays surprising February jobs gain

Top White House officials took little solace in the better-than-expected February jobs report, insisting Friday that the U.S. was far from a full and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The February jobs report released Friday showed the U.S. gaining 379,000 jobs last month, nearly double the consensus estimates of economists. The unemployment rate also dropped 0.1 percentage points to 6.2 percent, its lowest level since March 2020, as businesses prepared for a post-pandemic world. President Biden’s top advisers, however, sought to spotlight how much economic damage the U.S. needs to repair and shortcomings of the rebound so far as Democrats push a $1.9 trillion aid bill through Congress.

“If you think today's jobs report is ‘good enough,’ then know that at this pace … it would take until April 2023 to get back to where we were in February 2020,” tweeted White House chief of staff Ron Klain.

If you think today's jobs report is "good enough," then know that at this pace (+379,000 jobs/month), it would take until April 2023 to get back to where we were in February 2020.

— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) March 5, 2021
Even with February’s gain, the U.S. is still 9.5 million jobs short of replacing those lost to the pandemic, and 18 million Americans are on some form of jobless aid, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate has also been artificially depressed by the exit of nearly 5 million Americans from the workforce since the onset of the pandemic.

Cecilia Rouse, chair of Biden’s White House Council of Economic Advisers, highlighted in a Friday analysis how Black and Hispanic women have suffered the greatest declines in labor force participation.

“Black women were only 14 percent of the female labor force in February 2020, but have accounted for a disproportionate 26 percent of female labor force dropouts since then,” she wrote. “Hispanic women were only 17 percent of the female labor force in February 2020 but have accounted for 27 percent of the female labor force dropouts.”

The White House’s concerns are shared broadly by economists, who are generally optimistic in the economy’s prospects for 2021 but concerned about the depth of damage yet to be repaired.

“The pace of job growth in February was a pleasant surprise, but it is still too early to get excited,” wrote Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed.com.

“At this pace, it will take about four and a half years to get back to where the labor market would have been without the pandemic. Millions of Americans out of work do not have that time,” Bunker wrote.

Even so, Republicans — who are almost unanimously opposed to Biden's relief bill — touted the surprising February jobs gain as proof the recovery is well underway.

"America’s hard work and perseverance during the challenges of the last year are finally being realized, and more Americans are being vaccinated," said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), former chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. "With a third vaccine now available for distribution, expectations are set for a record recovery from the pandemic-induced recession."

COVID-19

CDC signs off on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday formally accepted the recommendation from its advisory panel that Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine can be given to people ages 18 and older in the United States. The announcement by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will allow vaccinations to begin as soon as the doses are received. Walensky called the decision "another milestone toward an end to the pandemic."

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COVID-19

CDC signs off on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday formally accepted the recommendation from its advisory panel that Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine can be given to people ages 18 and older in the United States. The announcement by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will allow vaccinations to begin as soon as the doses are received. Walensky called the decision "another milestone toward an end to the pandemic."

"This vaccine is also another important tool in our toolbox to equitably vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible," Walensky said in a statement.

A senior administration official told reporters Sunday evening that Johnson & Johnson will ship 3.9 million doses immediately, and vaccine distribution centers will start receiving them as early as Tuesday.

Experts have said the vaccine could be targeted at places like rural communities, health centers or individual physician offices because of its relatively easy storage requirements.

However, senior administration officials said the goal is equitable distribution, and doses will be allocated to states by population, just as the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are.

Most communities will have doses of all three vaccines, but not every vaccination site will because of limited availability. Officials stressed people should take whatever vaccine is available.

An administration official said the 3.9 million doses are Johnson & Johnson's entire inventory. There will not be any additional deliveries next week, and the official said governors are aware distribution through the early and middle parts of March will be "uneven."

A total 20 million doses of J&J's vaccine will be sent in March, but they will be concentrated more toward the end of the month. The U.S. has paid for 100 million doses, which the company has pledged will be delivered by June.

The U.S. paid more than $1 billion to aid in the manufacturing and delivery of J&J's vaccine. Nearly a year ago, the company also won $465 million in federal funding for vaccine research and development, bringing its U.S. funding total on the project to almost $1.5 billion.

The nation's third coronavirus vaccine arrives days after the United States surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 deaths.

While nursing home deaths have sharply dropped, as have overall cases and deaths, the CDC is warning the decline in new cases has stalled amid a rise in more contagious variants of the virus.

At the same time, governors across the country are lifting coronavirus restrictions, including mask mandates and capacity limits, despite warning signs of a new spike from the virus mutations.

"This third safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine comes at a potentially pivotal time," Walensky said in the statement.

"CDC’s latest data suggest that recent declines in COVID-19 cases may be stalling and potentially leveling off at still very high numbers. That is why it is so critical that we remain vigilant and consistently take all of the mitigation steps we know work to stop the spread of COVID-19 while we work our way toward mass vaccination," Walensky said.

CPAC

News outlets diverge over airing Trump's speech

CNN and MSNBC did not air former President Trump's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday while Fox News and other conservative outlets such as Newsmax and OANN carried his remarks live. Fox News began airing Trump's speech after the former president took to to the stage at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday. CNN continued on with coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and MSNBC continued to air its "PoliticsNation" program, though it aired a short clip from the speech.

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CPAC

News outlets diverge over airing Trump's speech

CNN and MSNBC did not air former President Trump's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday while Fox News and other conservative outlets such as Newsmax and OANN carried his remarks live. Fox News began airing Trump's speech after the former president took to to the stage at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday. CNN continued on with coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and MSNBC continued to air its "PoliticsNation" program, though it aired a short clip from the speech.

Trump was the last scheduled speaker to at CPAC. During his first major post-presidency address, the former president attacked the Biden administration, the media and immigrants, in many ways echoing the first campaign speech he made when announcing his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump's relationship with media has largely been combative, with the former president sometimes even attacking outlets that were sympathetic to him. He attacked Fox News over its polling and after the outlet declared Biden the winner of the Arizona in the 2020 election.

During his speech, Trump also attacked the multiple changes the Biden administration made after assuming office, many of which reversed the actions of the Trump administration, including ending the transgender military ban, rejoining the Paris Climate agreement and reversing Trump's visa ban on legal immigration.

He also repeated numerous false claims about voter fraud and the results of the 2020 election.

Trump revealed in his speech that he would not be starting a new political party, ending speculation that he was starting a separate party.

Payments

Federal Reserve suffers widespread disruption

The Federal Reserve suffered a widespread disruption in multiple payment services Wednesday, including a system that banks and businesses rely on to zip trillions of dollars around the financial system each day. After experiencing problems for several hours, the crucial payment system, known as Fedwire, resumed normal operations shortly before 3 p.m. ET, according to the Fed's website.

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Payments

Federal Reserve suffers widespread disruption

The Federal Reserve suffered a widespread disruption in multiple payment services Wednesday, including a system that banks and businesses rely on to zip trillions of dollars around the financial system each day. After experiencing problems for several hours, the crucial payment system, known as Fedwire, resumed normal operations shortly before 3 p.m. ET, according to the Fed's website.

Other Fed services are still down, however.

In a statement, the Fed blamed an "operational error" and said it is working to restore services and communicate with customers.

Banks, businesses and government agencies rely on Fedwire to transfer vast sums of money around the US banking system. More than $3 trillion was transferred daily using Fedwire during the fourth quarter.

The problems were widespread. Fed staff "became aware of a disruption for all services" beginning around 11:15 a.m. ET, according to a message on the Fed website.

"Our technical teams have determined that the cause is a Federal Reserve operational error," the message said.
In an update, the Fed said that it has "taken steps to help ensure the resilience" of Fedwire and national settlement service applications "including to the point of failure."

It's not clear how many banks or companies are affected by the outage.

Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange backed by the Winklevoss twins, said some of its systems are experiencing outages because of the Fed disruption. "All funds remain secure while we investigate the issue," Gemini said in a status update.

A person familiar with the matter at a major bank told CNN Business that Fedwire flows have resumed. There are few concerns that any payments will fail to be executed due to the outage, the person added.