Posts tagged with "NBC News"

Apple ends production of its iconic iPod

May 12, 2022

RIP to the iconic iPod. Apple announced  on Tuesday, May 10, that it’s discontinuing the iPod Touch—the last iPod model produced by the company—marking an end to the gadget that helped shape the music listening experience for 20 years, reports NBC News.

“Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry; it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, said in a statement.

The company first introduced the iPod in 2001—boasting about the device’s “1,000 CD-quality songs” capacity. It launched the iPod Touch, which looked like an iPhone, in 2007.

Apple introduced the most recent iPod Touch model in 2019. With an Internet connection, the latest iPod Touch can send iMessages and make FaceTime calls. Apple said the iPod Touch will still be available for purchase online and at Apple Store locations “while supplies last.”

Many on Twitter mourned the product, which one person noted was the first gadget he ever owned.

“You changed the game,” one user wrote.

“Thank you for making Music and consumer electronics fun!” said another Twitter user, who linked to images of the iPod over time. One image included the iPod ads that featured dark silhouettes, holding iPods in their hands, dancing to upbeat music with bright backgrounds.

“Thank you for 20 years of service,” wrote one Twitter user. “We still miss that click wheel and the tactile buttons.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Democrats test a midterm strategy: Meddling in G.O.P. governor’s races

May 11, 2022

Democrats are investing millions of dollars to meddle in Republican primaries for governor—either to elevate their preferred competitors in November or toweaken their biggest threats, reports NBC News.

Next week’s messy G.O.P. battle in Pennsylvania is the most blatant example. State Senator Doug Mastriano (R) is ahead in recent polls—and his would-be Democratic opponent wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way.

Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general running unopposed in his party’s primary for governor, is airing an ad that brandishes Mastriano’s conservative credentials, making sure to say a Mastriano victory is a win “for what Donald Trump stands for.” That’s all but an endorsement in a GOP primary, but it could hurt later in a race where even some Republicans have doubts about Mastriano’s electability.

That a Democrat is behind the ad underscores the lengths to which the party will go to engineer an easier general election in what’s expected to be a volatile environment this fall.

“Both public and private polling indicate that Doug Mastriano is poised to become the Republican nominee on May 17—and our campaign is prepared to start the general election now and make sure Pennsylvanians know his real record,” Shapiro spokesperson Will Simons said in a statement to NBC News.

Shapiro’s efforts mirror those by the Democratic Governors Association and affiliated groups that could hamstring Republicans in three other states currently led by Democrats.

As of Monday, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, the DGA had already spent $4 million on advertising in Illinois, where the organization is attacking Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Backed by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, Irvin is seen by many as Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker’s toughest potential rival, but he must first win a crowded June 28 primary.

In Nevada, the group, A Stronger NV, which registered with the state using the DGA’s telephone number in Washington, D.C., already had spent $500,000 on ads, with at least another $111,000 reserved through the June 14 primary. There, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and allies of his re-election bid are focused hard on Joe Lombardo—the Clark County sheriff who has Trump’s endorsement and is leading a crowded GOP field that includes former Sen. Dean Heller and retired professional boxer Joey Gilbert, who has the state party’s endorsement.

“If he doesn’t make it through the primary, then we’ve knocked out what is seen as the front-runner,” a Democrat familiar with the DGA strategy said of Lombardo.

And although the strategy doesn’t involve a primary, an Oregon group backed by DGA donations is preparing a campaign that will brand nonaffiliated gubernatorial hopeful Betsy Johnson—until recently a Democratic state senator— as a conservative.

The early interference amounts to what Democrats see as a viable path to keeping their statehouses blue as they enter a tumultuous campaign season during which inflation and gas prices are on the rise and President Joe Biden’s favorability is stubbornly low.

Of the four states where the DGA is playing defense, Pennsylvania and Nevada are expected to be the most competitive this fall, with Illinois and Oregon being harder lifts for Republicans. But, buoyed by a bloc of deep red counties downstate Illinois, well-funded Republicans have managed to win statewide. Whether the Democrats are pushing the right buttons to be victorious in the general elections remains to be seen.

Research contact: @NBCNews

U.S. Intelligence helped Ukraine strike Russian flagship, officials say

May 9, 2022

The United States provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces to locate and strike the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet last month—another sign that the Administration is easing its self-imposed limitations on how far it will go in helping Ukraine fight Russia, U.S. officials told The New York Times.

The targeting help, which contributed to the eventual sinking of the flagship, the Moskva, is part of a continuing classified effort by the Biden Administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine, the Times said.

That intelligence also includes sharing anticipated Russian troop movements, gleaned from a recent American assessment of Moscow’s battle plan for the fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the officials said.

The Administration has sought to keep much of the battlefield and maritime intelligence it is sharing with the Ukrainians secret out of fear it will be seen as an escalation and provoke President Vladimir Putin of Russia into a wider war. But in recent weeks, the United States has sped heavier weapons to Ukraine;  and  requested an extraordinary $33 billion in additional military, economic, and humanitarian aid from Congress, demonstrating how quickly American restraints on support for Ukraine are shifting.

Two senior American officials said that Ukraine already had obtained the Moskva’s targeting data on its own, and that the United States provided only confirmation. But other officials said the American intelligence was crucial to Ukraine’s sinking of the ship.

The U.S. intelligence help in striking the Moskva was reported earlier by NBC News.

On April 13, Ukrainian forces on the ground fired two Neptune missiles, striking the Moskva and igniting a fire that eventually led to the sinking of the warship.

Attention also has focused on whether the aging ship’s radar systems were working properly. Ukrainian and U.S. officials said the Moskva was possibly distracted by Ukraine’s deploying of a Turkish-made Bayraktar unmanned drone nearby.

Immediately after the strike, Biden Administration officials were scrupulously silent, declining to confirm even that the Moskva had been struck. But in recent days, American officials confirmed that targeting data from American intelligence sources was provided to Ukraine in the hours before the Neptune missiles were launched.

Russia has denied Ukrainian missiles played any role in the Moskva’s demise, claiming instead that an onboard fire caused a munitions explosion that doomed the ship. Independent Russian news outlets based outside the country have reported that about 40 men died and an additional 100 were injured when the warship was damaged and sank.

Research contact: @nytimes

Online brands open stores in the suburbs to be closer to customers

April 14, 2022

As in-store shopping returns, small direct-to-consumer retailers like Allbirds and Parachute Home are counting on bricks to drive more clicks, reports NBC News.

Long before the pandemic forced the slow-moving giants of retail to fast-track their online operations—or risk going out of business—a growing number of online companies, including Everlane, Burrow ,and Allbirds, were catering to shoppers who preferred to scroll social media rather than roam their local malls.

Now, as the pandemic moves into its third year, many of those Millennial shoppers have traded in city life for the suburbs, where they can work remotely. And as many of those online brands open their first stores or add new ones as in-store shopping returns, they’re meeting their customers where they are—close to home.

The result is a “tapestry of stores,” which are narrowly targeted toward specific but often different types of customers, said Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of Marketing with the retail location analytics company Placer.ai. He points out that, as more of these digitally native companies expand into brick-and-mortar, they are starting to reshape shopping districts across the country.

“Pre-pandemic, the predominant store growth plan for more traditional store openings was starting with the A malls in the country and then street retail,” said Vince Tibone, a senior analyst with the commercial real estate research and advisory firm Green Street.

“Post-pandemic,” Tibone says, “you’re still seeing them open in those two venues, but also more suburban locations that are closer to people’s homes.”

That expansion comes on the heels of a boom in e-commerce during the past two years that shows no signs of letting up, despite the full reopening of the economy. Online sales now make up 14% of retail sales overall, and are expected to top $1 trillion this year, compared to just over $760 billion in 2020, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Still, brick-and-mortar remains the most powerful part of the equation. A recent report from Deloitte InsightQ found that 55% of shoppers who began their product search online made the purchase in a store. That trend is fueling a growing recognition that the combination of stores and websites produces the biggest payoff.

Retail was always part of the strategy,” said Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute Home, which began in 2014 as a direct-to-consumer company selling bedding products and grew into a high-end boutique retailer selling a curated collection of furniture, mattresses, and home goods. 

“Customers want to see and touch and feel products in person, and we knew there was an opportunity to improve and think about the retail shopping experience differently.”

Parachute has opened 15 stores since 2016 and plans to add another 15 this year. Unlike traditional furniture stores, with their expansive showrooms of products, Parachute Home’s stores are Instagram perfect, with an abundance of natural light, bleached wood, and minimalist furniture arrangements. Kaye said that in markets where the company has stores, she’s seen traffic to the website climb by 50%.

Like the vast majority of online retailers, Parachute Home has collected mountains of data on its customers, which it relies on to shape decisions about where to locate new stores. “We look to see where they [shoppers] are located and use proprietary data about their shopping behavior ” she said, adding, “We do love being in neighborhoods because a lot of people work from home. They step out on their lunch break and shop, and being close makes it easy to have that access.”

Being close is still a challenge for bigger retailers, which are only beginning to find their footing with smaller, more-targeted stores. Nordstrom has opened seven Nordstrom Local stores since 2017 that focus on services rather than just shopping. Customers can pick up and return online orders or arrange for alterations.

Macy’s new Market by Macy’s stores are less than one-quarter the size of a traditional Macy’s and offer personalized styling services along with a collection of products popular with shoppers.

Indeed, today’s retail landscape is no longer dominated by a few companies with hundreds of copy-and-paste stores across the country. It’s driven by a broader group of companies, often with online roots, that plan to open only a few dozen to a couple hundred shops nationwide, said Chernofsky with Placer.ai.

Allbirds, whose sustainable wool shoes became popular in Silicon Valley and quickly caught on nationwide, opened its first store in 2017. By the end of last year, it had 35 locations worldwide. Travis Boyce, Allbird’s vice president of Business Development, said that people who shop with the company both in-store and online for at least a year spend 1.5 times more than shoppers who buy through a single channel.

“Brick-and-mortar retail has been central to our growth as a brand,” Boyce said.

“Online-only doesn’t work,” Chernofsky agrees. “You still need stores. I think that’s why they [internet retailers] generate so much excitement,” he added. “Because they’re this kind of amazing testament to the power of physical retail.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden finalizes restrictions on ‘ghost guns,’ names new ATF nominee

April 13, 2022

President Joe Biden announced new restrictions on homemade guns known as “ghost guns,” as well as a new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Monday, April 11, reports NBC News.

The new rule would require makers of gun kits to include a serial number on the firearms and would mandate that sellers follow the same standard as with other guns, including requiring a background check for purchase.

“These guns are the weapons of choice for many criminals,” Biden said. “We are going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice.”

Biden also said he would nominate former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to be head of the ATF, which has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2015.

The announcement comes nearly one year to the day after Biden announced from the White House the proposed rule on ghost guns and the nomination of a different ATF head, David Chipman. Biden blamed lobbying from gun rights advocates for delaying the finalization of the rule.

The White House withdrew Chipman from consideration in September following unanimous opposition from Republicans.

Biden pledged during his campaign to make stricter gun control measures, like universal background checks, a priority if elected.

But many of those changes require action from Congress, where lawmakers have been unable to reach a compromise on stricter gun control measures. Gun control advocates have been pushing the White House to go further.

“The president has done more to fight gun violence and keep our community safe than any president in history in his first year in office,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, adding that the issue was obviously one “that is close to his heart, something he’s passionate about and has been for decades.”

Biden said his administration is continuing to go after gun dealers who do not follow the law and gun trafficking across state lines, and is calling for additional funding for community policing programs and the hiring of more police officers.

“The answer is not to defund the police. It is to fund the police and give them the tools and training and support they need to be better partners and protectors of our communities,” Biden said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

January 6 panel has enough evidence to refer Trump for criminal charges, Cheney says

April 12, 2022

The House panel investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has enough evidence to refer former President Donald Trump for criminal charges, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) said on April 10, reports NBC News.

It’s absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing — what a number of people around him were doing — that they knew it was unlawful. They did it anyway,” Cheney, the vice chair of the House panel and one of two Republicans on the committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when host Jake Tapper asked her whether the panel had enough evidence to make a criminal referral for Trump. Cheney said the panel has not made a decision about moving forward with the referral.

The New York Times reported that the committee has concluded that it has enough evidence to make a criminal referral but that its leaders were divided over whether to do so.

“I think what we have seen is a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election,” Cheney said. The committee has “got a tremendous amount of testimony and documents that I think very, very clearly demonstrate the extent of the planning and the organization and the objective.”

She added: “The objective was absolutely to try to stop the kind of electoral votes, to try to interfere with that official proceeding. And it’s absolutely clear that they knew what they were doing was wrong.”

She referred to a ruling in a civil suit involving the committee last month, in which a federal judge found that based on evidence, Trump most likely “attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress” on the day of the attack, which would be a crime.

“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote of Trump and lawyer John Eastman’s plan to have then-Vice President Mike Pence determine the results of the 2020 election. “Every American—and certainly the president of the United States—knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed. With a plan this ‘BOLD,’ President Trump knowingly tried to subvert this fundamental principle.”

Trump, who has not been charged with a crime, has denied any wrongdoing.

In recent months, the panel has ramped up its investigation ahead of public hearings expected next month.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Ivanka Trump to testify to House panel investigating January 6 attack

April 6, 2022

Ivanka Trump—former President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter, who served as one of his senior advisers—was scheduled to testify on Tuesday, April 5, before the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, reports The New York Times.

Trump reputably was one of several aides who tried to persuade the president to call off the violence at the U.S. Capitol that ultimately injured more than 150 police officers; and sent lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence fleeing for safety, according to evidence gathered by the committee.

The schedule for her testimony, which was reported earlier by NBC News, came just days after her husband, Jared Kushner, who was also a top adviser to Trump, sat for an interview and provided what one member of the panel described as “valuable” and “helpful” information.

“There were some things revealed, but we’ll just share that a little later,” Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), the chairman of the committee, said of Kushner’s testimony.

Trump and Kushner are among the highest-ranking Trump White House officials to testify before the committee. The interviews have been closed to the public as the panel conducts its work in secret.

Indeed, Ivanka Trump’s lawyers have been in talks with the committee since January, when it sent her a letter requesting voluntary testimony. In the letter, dated January 20, the committee said it had heard from Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general who was Pence’s national security adviser.

Kellogg had described the former president’s refusal to condemn the violence as the mob engulfed the Capitol, even as White House officials—including Ivanka Trump, at least twice—urged him to do so, the letter said.

Kellogg testified that the president had rejected entreaties from him; as well as from Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary. Kellogg then appealed to Ivanka Trump to intervene.

“She went back in, because Ivanka can be pretty tenacious,” Kellogg testified.

Kellogg also testified that he and Ivanka Trump had witnessed a telephone call in the Oval Office on the morning of January 6 during which the former president pressured Pence to go along with a plan to throw out electoral votes for Joe Biden when Congress met to certify the Electoral College results. The call to Pence was part of an effort to invalidate the 2020 election and give Trump a chance to stay in office.

Kellogg told the committee that the president had accused Pence of not being “tough enough” to overturn the election. Ivanka Trump then said to Kellogg, “Mike Pence is a good man,” he testified.

The committee has interviewed more than 800 witnesses and plans to interview dozens more. Thompson told reporters on Monday that he had authorized five additional subpoenas that day.

Thompson said the committee had ruled out a subpoena for Pence, citing “significant information” it had received from two of his aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob.

“There won’t be a subpoena,” Mr. Thompson said, adding, “We’ve been able to validate a lot of the statements attributed to [then-]President Trump and the vice president without his specific testimony.”

“There’s no effort on the part of the committee to get him to come in,” he said of Pence, adding: “We initially thought it would be important, but at this point we know that people broke in here and wanted to hang him. We know that his security detail had to protect him in an undisclosed location in the Capitol. We know the people who tried to get him to change his mind, about the count and all of that. So what is it we need?”

Mr. Thompson also indicated that the panel would be likely to the former president as a witness. “I don’t know anything else we could ask Donald Trump that the public doesn’t already know,” Thompson said. “He ran his mouth for four years.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Jared Kushner testifies to January 6 committee for more than six hours

April 4, 2022

The House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol has interviewed its first Trump family member and the highest-ranking official to date from the previous administration—meeting with Jared Kushner on Thursday, March 31, for more than six hours, reports NBC News.

The panel met virtually with Kushner—Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a former senior White House adviser—after he voluntarily agreed to speak with the committee, which Trump has accused of conducting a “witch hunt.”

A source described Kushner as being cooperative and friendly; adding that he did the talking, as opposed to having his lawyers speak for him.

The committee did not immediately comment on Kushner’s appearance.

Representative Elaine Luria (D-Virginia), a member of the January 6 committee, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace that Kushner “was able to voluntarily provide information to us to verify, substantiate, provide his own take on this different reporting,” adding, “So it was really valuable for us to have the opportunity to speak to him.”

A representative for Kushner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asked about Kushner’s planned interview this week, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said the “White House has decided not to assert executive privilege over the testimony of Jared Kushner,” essentially allowing him to speak about discussions with Trump that would otherwise be considered confidential.

Several witnesses have refused to answer the committee’s questions by arguing that only Trump can waive that privilege, not President Joe Biden.

It’s unclear what exactly the committee asked Kushner. The panel had been expected to inquire about Trump’s false claims that he won the election and other information related to the deadly attack on the Capitol.

While Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, was in the White House and met with her father on January 6, 2021, Kushner was returning to Washington from a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Jan. 6 panel, which has interviewed hundreds of witnesses and issued dozens of subpoenas, is also in talks with Ivanka Trump for a voluntary interview, NBC News has reported. Bedingfield said Tuesday that the White House would not assert executive privilege in her interview, either.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Jill Biden decorates White House lawn for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2022

First Lady Jill Biden is at it again with Valentine’s Day decorations. This year, she’s celebrating with life-size displays of faith, hope, and love—and some animal appreciation, as well, reports NBC’s Today show.

Overnight, large, hand-painted, wooden artwork in the shape of the Biden’s new puppy, Commander, and new cat, Willow, appeared on the North Lawn of the White House.

There is also a jumbo heart inscribed with 1 Corinthians 13:13: “Three things will last forever, faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell shared photos of the display on Twitter.

But the love doesn’t stop there. There is also a Valentine’s Day display inside the East Wing of the White House. FLOTUS organized a display of 42 “heart-work” created by the second-grade classes of the Washington, DC 2021 Teacher of the Year, Mr. Alejandro Diasgranados, of Aiton Elementary School.

Twenty of those students were invited to visit the White House on Monday, February 14, and tour the State Floor.

“The First Lady is known for her sense of humor, love of surprises, and celebrating traditions, especially with her family, Valentine’s Day has always been one of her favorite holidays,” her office said in a statement to NBC News at the time.

“Sending messages of healing, unity, hope, and compassion, this is her Valentine to the country.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court, paving way for Biden appointment

January 27, 2022

Justice Stephen Breyer will step down from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term, according to people familiar with his thinking. The liberal justice’s decision to retire after more than 27 years on the court allows President Joe Biden to appoint a successor who could serve for several decades, reports NBC News.

Breyer is one of the three remaining liberal justices, and, in the short term, his retirement would maintain the current 6-3 split between conservative and liberal justices.

At 83, Breyer is the court’s oldest member. Liberal activists have urged him for months to retire while Democrats hold both the White House and the Senate. They contended that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed too long despite her history of health problems and should have stepped down during the Obama Administration.

Ginsburg’s death from cancer at 87 allowed former President Donald Trump to appoint her successor, Amy Coney Barrett—moving the court further to the right.

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in May urging Breyer to retire that there are times “when the stewards of our system must put the good of an institution they love, and of the country they love, above their own interests. They have to recognize that no one, not even a brilliant justice, is irreplaceable, and that the risks presented by remaining are more than hypothetical.”

The progressive group Demand Justice, meanwhile, hired a truck last year to drive around the Supreme Court’s neighborhood bearing this sign: “Breyer Retire. It’s time for a Black woman Supreme Court justice.”

Biden has pledged to make just such an appointment. Among likely contenders are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer law clerk; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on California’s Supreme Court.

Despite calls from some Biden supporters to add more seats to the Supreme Court to counter its current conservative lean, Breyer said in March that such a move would risk undermining confidence in the court. Advocates of court packing, he said, should “think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.”

Biden is expected to act quickly to nominate a successor who can be ready to serve when the court’s new term begins on October 3. A former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he knows firsthand how the confirmation process works.

Research contact: @NBCNews