Tech

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.

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.

EMPLOYMENT & IMMIGRATION

U.S. jobless claims fall to 684,000, fewest since pandemic

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims fell from 781,000 the week before. It is the first time that weekly applications for jobless aid have fallen below 700,000 since mid-March of last year. Before the pandemic tore through the economy, applications had never topped that level.

GlaxoSmithKline

Trump vaccine chief Slaoui fired from board over sexual harassment allegations

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced Wednesday that Moncef Slaoui, who led the Trump administration's coronavirus vaccine accelerator, was terminated from the board of directors of Galvani Bioelectronics, a GSK joint venture, following sexual harassment allegations.

Russia

Veselnitskaya’s Trump Tower coverup linked to secret Russian weapons program

A company newly sanctioned by the U.S. over Alexei Navalny’s poisoning attack is tied to the money-laundering network that Natalia Veselnitskaya tried to cover up at the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, according to financial records obtained by The Daily Beast. Now we know why Vladimir Putin was so desperate to play down the international corruption probes that began when Sergei Magnitsky uncovered a $230 million fraud on the Russian people. For the first time, that dark-money network can be linked to the murderous chemical-weapons program run by Russia’s notorious intelligence services. After exposing the massive theft of state money, Magnitsky ended up dead in a Russian prison cell.

Republican National Congress

RNC brushes back Donald Trump's team on cease-and-desist demand

The RNC is denying a cease-and-desist demand from Donald Trump’s attorneys, who asked the party organization to stop using the former president’s name and likeness in fundraising appeals. In a letter sent to Trump attorney Alex Cannon, RNC chief counsel Justin Riemer asserted that the committee “has every right to refer to public figures as it engages in core, First Amendment-protected political speech, and it will continue to do so in pursuit of these common goals.” The letter is a brush-back to the Trump team, which sent a request that the RNC “immediately cease and desist the unauthorized use of President Donald J. Trump’s name, image, and/or likeness in all fundraising, persuasion, and/or issue speech.”

GOP

Donald Trump orders GOP's three biggest fundraisers to stop using his name

Donald Trump has sent legal warnings to the three biggest fundraising entities for the Republican Party, ordering them to stop using his name and likeness on emails and merchandise, according to a new report. Trump's lawyers sent the cease-and-desist letters on Friday to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senate Committee, a Trump advisor told Politico. 'President Trump remains committed to the Republican Party and electing America First conservatives, but that doesn't give anyone - friend or foe - permission to use his likeness without explicit approval,' the advisor said.

universal basic income (UBI)

Californians on universal basic income paid off debt and got full-time jobs

After receiving $500 per month for two years without rules on how to spend it, 125 people in California paid off debt, got full-time jobs and had “statistically significant improvements” in emotional health, according to a study released Wednesday. The program was the nation’s highest-profile experiment in decades of universal basic income (UBI), an idea that gained national attention when it became a major part of Andrew Yang’s 2020 campaign for president.

Amazon

Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy to take over in Q3

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will step down later this year, turning over the helm to the company's top cloud executive Andy Jassy, the company announced Tuesday. Bezos will transition to executive chairman of Amazon's board.^

Rudy Giuliani

Dominion Voting Systems sues for $1.3bn over baseless election claims

Dominion Voting Systems, the voting equipment manufacturer at the centre of baseless election fraud conspiracy theories pushed by Donald Trump and his allies, has sued the former president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in a $1.3bn defamation lawsuit. The 107-page complaint, filed in federal court on Monday, accuses the former New York City mayor of having “manufactured and disseminated” a conspiracy theory related to the company’s voting machines.

US unemployment

Claims climb past one million for second week in a row

One million people filed for unemployment benefits last week in the US as the coronavirus pandemic continued to take a historic toll on the job market.

Fox News

Tucker Carlson defends actions of teen charged in Kenosha killings

The rightwing Fox News host Tucker Carlson has defended the actions of a 17-year-old who was arrested and charged with murder after two people were killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as white vigilante agitators shot at Black Lives Matter protesters.

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.