Posts tagged with "The Wall Street Journal"

Report: Abbott Labs under criminal investigation over baby formula shortage

January 214, 2023

The Justice Department is investigating Abbott Laboratories’ baby formula plant in Michigan, which was at the center of a nationwide formula shortage that plagued millions of families, reports Fox Business.

In May, Abbott reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reopen the company’s manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan to help ease a nationwide shortage of baby formula, after the facility was closed due to bacterial contamination, according to an earlier story by The Wall Street Journal.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said Abbott, under the conditions of the agreement, would correct unsanitary conditions that led to the contamination and plant closure.

“The DOJ has informed us of its investigation, and we’re cooperating fully,” an Abbott spokesman told the Journal.

The investigation signals further scrutiny of Abbott’s operation of the plant—a major source of baby formula in the United States.

Last January, FDA inspectors found the cronobacter pathogen at the plant after receiving reports of babies who drank the company’s formula and became sick. The bacteria that was detected in the supply found let to at least four infant illnesses—including two deaths.

The inspectors also found standing water, damage to drying equipment, and defects in the seams of formula cans, among other problems at the Sturgis plant.

In a ten-page report published last September, the FDA stated that conditions observed at the Abbott facility “were not consistent with a strong food safety culture.”

Abbott temporarily halted production at the Sturgis factory in February 2022 and recalled baby formula made at the plant. The move sparked a national formula shortage which forced America to airlift millions of pounds of powdered formula from overseas.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Jeff Zients to be named White House chief of staff

January 24, 2023

President Joe Biden is planning to name Jeff Zients—an investor and former Obama Administration official who led the current administration’s COVID-19 response—to be his next chief of staff, according to people familiar with the decision, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Ron Klain, Biden’s current chief of staffis expected to step down in the coming weeks after more than two years on the job. The Washington Post earlier reported that Zients was expected to replace him. Zients didn’t respond to requests for comment, and the White House declined to comment.

Zients helmed the White House efforts to increase distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine during the first year of Biden’s presidency—helping to cobble together a network to make the shots available nationally.

He left the administration in April 2022, saying he had no specific job plans; and, in recent months, was tapped by Klain to prepare for staff departures and help to identify potential replacements, according to people familiar with the matter. Zients also co-chaired Biden’s presidential transition team in 2020.

The president is turning to Zients as his next chief of staff because of his reputation as a manager with a history of navigating government bureaucracy, the people familiar with the matter said.

Zients is expected to bring to the job a more decentralized approach than the one favored by Klain, who was involved in nearly every aspect of day-to-day operations at the White House, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

While Zients is expected to focus on policy and governing, other longtime aides to Biden are likely to be more involved in advising the president on political matters as he faces investigations from newly empowered House Republicans and prepares to announce his reelection bid. 

In the coming year, White House officials expect to focus on implementing a slate of laws signed by the president since he took office—including measures to fix the country’s aging infrastructure, invest in renewable energy, and boost semiconductor manufacturing. Options for major legislative breakthroughs will be limited now that Republicans have taken control of the House.

Zients was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, serving as the director of the National Economic Council and a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget. Zients joined the board of Facebook—now part of Meta Platforms—in 2018 after leaving the Obama Administration. He was a top executive with the Cranemere Group, an investment holding company.

At the beginning of Obama’s presidency, Zients was appointed the administration’s chief performance officer—a newly created role that centered on making the government more efficient.

He later led a mission aimed at fixing HealthCare.gov, the federal website for the Affordable Care Act, when it experienced technological difficulties in 2013. He brought in private companies and technology firms to undertake a rapid review of the platform’s problems.

Zients is known as a meticulous planner. In his beginning days handling the COVID-19 response, he scheduled hour-by-hour what needed to be done to execute his pandemic plan. He and Biden spoke three to four times a week while he was overseeing the coronavirus response.

While Mr. Zients’ selection to handle the pandemic was initially criticized by some progressives who said he lacked public health experience, he earned bipartisan praise in hearings for his efforts to rapidly disseminate vaccines after a bumpy rollout during the end of the Trump administration. About 65% of the population, or more than 200 million people, were fully vaccinated by the time he announced in March 2022 that he would be leaving his position.

He also won high marks for shifting the administration from a more reactive approach to the pandemic to responding to COVID-19 as an ongoing public health issue. He pledged a wartime response to the administration’s global response to COVID-19, but some donations to poor countries fell short of targets because of low demand and limited funding.

Biden and Zients developed a relationship during the Obama Administration, and became closer when Zients was brought on as an adviser to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Zients doesn’t have the kind of decades-long relationship with Biden that some of the president’s closest aides have. But those advisers—including senior White House aides Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti, and Bruce Reed—are expected to continue working closely with Biden as he prepares to announce his reelection bid in the coming month.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump is sued by estate of Capitol Police Officer who died after January 6 attack

January 9, 2023

The estate of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, sued Donald Trump on Thursday, January 5—alleging that the officer’s death resulted from the former president’s “incendiary” rhetoric and false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In a 47-page lawsuit, lawyers for Sicknick’s estate said Trump “intentionally riled up the crowd and directed and encouraged a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol and attack those who opposed him.” The lawsuit cited Trump’s speech at the Ellipse earlier that day, in which he urged a crowd of supporters to “fight like hell” and march to the Capitol.

“As a direct and foreseeable consequence of Defendant Trump’s false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to Defendant Trump’s express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit also names as defendants two men convicted in connection with the Capitol attack: Julian Elie Khater, who admitted last year to deploying a chemical spray against Sicknick and other officers; and George Pierre Tanios, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from the Capitol attack. Khater and Tanios are to be sentenced on January 27, court records show. Prosecutors didn’t link their actions specifically to Sicknick’s death.

A spokesperson for the former president said that, at the time of the attack on the Capitol, Trump urged the protesters to “peacefully and patriotically make their voices heard,’” and said that “Big Tech companies unilaterally censored and suppressed his calls for peace and should thus be held accountable for their appalling actions.” Trump was “immune from frivolous attacks,” the spokesperson said.

A lawyer for Khater, Chad Seigel, declined to comment. Lawyers for Tanios didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawyers for Sicknick’s estate are seeking damages of at least $10 million for alleged wrongful death and conspiracy to violate civil rights from all the defendants; as well as claims for aiding and abetting an assault from Trump and for assault from Khater and Tanios.

“The horrific events of January 6, 2021, including Officer Sicknick’s tragic, wrongful death, were a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants’ unlawful actions,” the lawsuit said, referring to Trump, Khater, and Tanios. “As such, the Defendants are responsible for the injury and destruction that followed.”

In April 2021, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Washington. D.C., determined that Sicknick died of a stroke and ruled the manner of his death as natural, using a term it said applied if “disease alone causes death.” The office said that if a death is “hastened by an injury,” it wouldn’t consider the manner of death to be natural.

In response to that determination, the Capitol Police at the time issued a statement saying, “This does not change the fact Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol.”

The lawsuit comes on the eve of the second anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, in which one protester was shot and killed by police and three others died due to medical emergencies.

On Friday, President Joe Biden is expected to mark the anniversary by honoring Sicknick posthumously with the Presidential Citizens Medal, as well as several other officers of the Capitol Police and Washington’s Metropolitan Police.

Research contact: @WSJ

TikTok security dilemma revives push for U.S. control

December 27, 2022

Security concerns over TikTok have led some Biden Administration officials to push for a sale of the Chinese-owned company’s U.S. operations, in order to ensure that Beijing can’t harness the app for espionage and political influence, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The proposal for a forced sale has arisen in discussions by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency government panel that has been negotiating with TikTok for more than two years on a way to wall off the company’s data and operations from the Chinese government.

Pentagon and Justice Department representatives on the panel are among those supporting a forced sale, the people said, on grounds that the risk of Beijing accessing TikTok data or influencing the videos that Americans view on TikTok can only be addressed by separating the app from its Chinese owner, Beijing-based ByteDance.

“We’re talking about a government that, in our own intelligence community’s estimation, has a purpose to move global technology use and norms to privilege its own interests and its values, which are not consistent with our own,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in an interview, in which she declined to discuss TikTok specifically. “That’s the perspective I bring to these issues.” 

But the Treasury Department, which chairs the panel, is worried that such an order might be overturned in court, and is looking for other possible solutions, according to a person familiar with that department’s thinking.

CFIUS experts say the committee could make a recommendation to the president—who has the authority to force a sale, or divestiture, of TikTok by its Chinese owners for it to continue operating in the United States.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment on a continuing CFIUS case.

The wildly popular TikTok is used by more than 100 million Americans and, increasingly, by businesses as a way to connect with customers.

But the app’s Chinese ownership has put increasing pressure on the Biden administration to resolve security concerns. Former President Donald Trump unsuccessfully attempted to force TikTok to come under U.S. control; then, tried to impose a ban on the app when that didn’t happen.

President Biden rescinded Trump’s attempted ban after taking office, saying it wasn’t enforceable in the wake of successful legal challenges. He promised a comprehensive plan to address the security risk from TikTok and other apps based in adversarial nations—but has yet to deliver, helping fuel efforts in Congress and in the states to constrain TikTok. 

TikTok has consistently maintained that it would never share user data with the Chinese government. On Thursday, December 22, TikTok said it had fired employees and tightened protocols after discovering they had improperly accessed the data of journalists.

TikTok declined to comment on the prospect of a forced sale. It said it believed it can address the concerns that the U.S. government has raised. TikTok has been negotiating with U.S. officials since 2020 on an arrangement to ensure that data on U.S. users can’t be shared with Beijing.

As a result of those talks, TikTok has agreed to have the data of American users managed by a subsidiary called TikTok U.S. Data Security, according to people with knowledge of the proposal. Only vetted employees of the subsidiary could access user data, the people said.

The subsidiary would be monitored by approved third parties, including Oracle, whose servers would store the data, and would be overseen by a three-person board composed of U.S. national-security experts, the people said.

The agreement would also give Oracle the power to examine TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, which gives priority to the short videos that users see, the people said.

Despite these promises, some U.S. security officials and lawmakers believe that no Chinese company could withstand pressure from the Chinese government to turn over information. Many of these same people are concerned that China could seek to dictate videos that are shown—or blocked—on TikTok in a bid to influence U.S. popular opinion.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that TikTok poses legitimate national-security concerns, but the people familiar with internal CFIUS discussions say Treasury officials are concerned that an attempt to force a sale could be caught up in a protracted legal battle the government could ultimately lose.

Besides a potential legal challenge, another hurdle in forcing ByteDance to sell its American operations to a company in the United States, or perhaps an allied nation, is the cooperation of the Chinese government. Beijing could use export controls and forbid ByteDance from selling technology related to the video-recommendation algorithm that has made TikTok so successful.

The United States long has been skeptical of foreign ownership of domestic media. For decades it has placed tight limits on foreign ownership of U.S. broadcast media, even local radio stations. But the lightly regulated Internet has never had such rules.

The Pentagon, State Department and other agencies already have banned TikTok on government-issued smartphones and other devices, and Congress recently voted to expand that ban to all government agencies. A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers also have introduced legislation to ban TikTok.

And over the past month, Republican governors in more than a dozen states have enacted orders barring the use of TikTok from government devices. Departing Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican who ordered such a ban in his state in 2020, said concerns about TikTok have only grown since his action.

“Two years ago, it was, ‘What kind of data are they collecting?’” he said. Now, he said, another concern is, “TikTok pushes out what the American consumer audience sees.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Senators agree to move forward on omnibus spending bill

December 23, 2022

Senators broke an immigration-related impasse on Thursday morning, December 22—reaching a deal on amendments that clears the way to pass a $1.65 trillion spending bill just ahead of the Christmas holiday and a looming winter storm, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“We will vote on all of the amendments in order and then vote on final passage,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said on the Senate floor. Schumer said that an immigration amendment from Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I- Arizona) and Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) would be added to the list of amendment votes ahead of final passage, alongside one by Senator Mike Lee (R- Utah) that had frozen Senate business as Senate Democrats scrambled to keep it from passing.

Schumer told senators to remain close by and try to remain in the chairs so that the Senate could vote quickly, rather than the more leisurely pace typical of chamber votes. In all, there are more than a dozen planned amendments, including votes aimed at stopping discrimination against pregnant workers and eliminating earmarks tagged for specific projects in members’ home states or districts; and other legislation aimed at giving Ukraine funds from forfeited property.

Senators had been trying to reach an agreement on the terms for cutting off debate and proceeding to a vote on the government funding bill for fiscal 2023. The bill, which would keep the government funded beyond December 23, also carries $45 billion in aid for Ukraine and NATO allies, and would finance big increases in military and domestic spending, including military pay raises.

Lawmakers said the holdup in negotiations had centered on Republican efforts to get an amendment vote on Title 42the pandemic-era public-health measure allowing migrants to be expelled back to Mexico after crossing the U.S. border illegally. The policy was set to end this week but has been kept in place temporarily by the Supreme Court.

Sinema’s amendment resembles parts of an immigration compromise she has been working on with Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. It would extend Title 42 until a different plan to manage the border is in place.

The amendment also includes $330 million to create two additional central processing centers at the southern border, increases Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention space and gives Border Patrol agents a pay raise. It also would provide $200 million to fill in gaps of the border wall former President Donald Trump’s Administration rapidly expanded.

Offering both Title-42-related amendments gives lawmakers in each party the opportunity to vote for the legislation they prefer, but will likely keep Lee’s from passing in the evenly divided chamber. Under the agreement, Lee’s amendment will need a simple majority to pass, while the Sinema-Tester bill will need 60 votes. Tillis said it wasn’t clear ahead of the vote if his compromise amendment had enough votes to pass.

Lee said the Sinema-Tester bill was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing to mislead the American people to believe Dems are doing something to secure our borders.” He said the bill was designed to give some Democrats a way to look tough on the border while voting against his extension of Title 42.

Senate Democratic leadership had been concerned that, without another option, some centrist Democrats would join with Republicans to pass Lee’s amendment at the majority threshold. The Senate is currently split 50-50. If the bill were amended to keep Title 42 in place, Senate Democrats were concerned that it would cause the bill to fail once it was sent to the House.

Unlike the Senate, which is expected to pull in strong bipartisan support for the omnibus, House Republicans urged members to vote against the spending bill. While a handful may still support the legislation, it is unclear if enough Democrats would vote for the legislation if the Title 42 measure was included. Many progressive Democrats oppose Title 42.

The Title 42 policy, first rolled out by the Trump Administration as COVID-19 was starting to spread, is believed to have acted as a deterrent for some migrants seeking asylum because they could be turned back even if they asked for protection in the United States.

Most border analysts expect that lifting the policy will lead to at least a temporary spike in illegal border crossings. In anticipation of the policy’s expiration, which had been set for Wednesday, some border cities were seeing surges. In El Paso, Texas, migrants primarily from Nicaragua slept on the streets in near-freezing temperatures because bus or plane tickets to leave the city were booked up.

On Tuesday, congressional appropriators unveiled the wide-ranging spending bill for fiscal 2023 with sharp increases in military and domestic funding, with the aim to get it passed before the deadline and to go home before Christmas.

The bipartisan legislation cleared its first procedural hurdle on Tuesday, with a 70-25 vote to proceed to the bill. The bill needs 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate and a simple majority to pass. However, all senators must agree to give back debate time to hurry the process along.

The spending package drew objections from some Republicans in the Senate and House who said it was bloated and full of unnecessary spending. Critics said that leadership should have released the bill sooner rather than forcing lawmakers to vote after just days to review it.

“It’s three times the size of the bible,” said Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida) of the more than 4,000-page spending bill. “It’s Democrats’ spending.”

Some House Republicans also had argued that Republicans should refuse to begin talks on the bill until the next Congress, when the GOP will control the House. But those calls were ignored by Senate negotiators.

The bill includes $858 billion in military spending, $45 billion more than President Biden had requested and up about 10% from $782 billion the prior year. Senate negotiators said it also includes $772.5 billion in nondefense discretionary spending, up almost 6% from $730 billion the prior year. The overall discretionary price tag works out to about $1.65 trillion, compared with $1.5 trillion the prior fiscal year.

The bill also includes changes to the 1887 Electoral Count Act that would make it harder to block the certification of a presidential election, would widen a ban on TikTok on government devices, and would extend a December 27 deadline for Boeing  to secure federal safety approvals for two new versions of the 737 MAX airplane.

Legal and political fights have kept the Title 42 policy in place for months longer than the Biden Administration intended when it moved to end its use last May. More than a dozen GOP states sued to keep it in place, and a federal judge in Louisiana extended the policy’s use indefinitely on the grounds that the Biden administration didn’t use the proper administrative procedure to end it.

In November, a federal court in Washington ruled in a separate lawsuit that the policy’s use was illegal from the start as it violates federal refugee laws by denying migrants at the border a chance to ask for asylum.

Research contact: @WSJ

Spend $50 to watch your child’s dance recital? Definitely.

December 21, 2022

Excited for your child’s dance recital? It isn’t just the pirouettes that will leave you spinning, reports The Wall Street Journal.

December is prime time for recitals, as children across the country perform in elaborate shows like The Nutcracker or simple holiday concerts. In the process, parents already spending money on dance lessons and sequined costumes are now being asked to spend even more to see their little ones take the stage.

In fact, the Journal reports, the costs of these amateur performances has skyrocketed in recent years: Some parents are spending $80 or more to see their kid for a few minutes in the spotlight.

Diana Alvear planned to invite a gaggle of neighbors and friends to her toddler’s recital. Then she caught the fine print. Each ticket cost $27, including fees. Rather than asking others to foot the bill or buy tickets herself, she didn’t mention it.

“I didn’t want anyone to feel like they have to pay $50 to see a 2½-year-old dance at a recital,” says Alvear, a communications professional in Bridgewater, New Jersey. 

She says she has no regrets attending the 90-minute concert with just her son and husband. Her daughter’s diaper was full during her few minutes on-stage, but seeing her in a purple rhinestone leotard and tulle skirt that cost $95 was worth it. 

“Everybody just melted,” Alvear says. “You’re just like: Here, take my wallet.”

Parental demand is driving these ticket hikes. They want better theatrical value, says Susan McGreevy-Nichols, executive director of the National Dance Education Organization, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based nonprofit. And schools face more competition. “They really feel like they need to be bigger and better,” she says.

Recitals average $19 per ticket—up from $16 in 2017—with roughly five tickets purchased per child, according to data from Dance Recital Ticketing. The specialized software company has sold 2.4 million tickets throughout the United States and Canada this year.

Recitals can be performed several times over the course of a weekend; parents often attend each time, Dance Recital Ticketing Chief Executive Joshua Olson says. Studio recitals that include the youngest classes tend to be most profitable.

“They attract more family. Grandma and Grandpa will fly in,” he says. “By the time the kids get older, they’ve seen it all.”

Jason Wooten, co-founder of the Broadway Arts & Dance Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, started offering VIP seating for the school’s recitals last year. This month, parents in the first two rows who purchase an $80 ticket receive a stuffed unicorn dressed in the dance company’s T-shirt.

“Some of our very high-end clientele were the first to tell me, ‘I’ll pay for very good seats,’ ” Wooten says. “I wanted to make it worth their while.”

Along with VIP tickets, the academy sells $50 floor seats and $20 for others. The tickets help offset the $15,000 theater rental, Wooten says. The school’s roughly 300 students, with classes including Twinkle Two’s and Peewee MTV, fill up about 1,000 seats between two shows. In the past, he sold general-admission tickets, which caused parents to scuffle over the best seats.

Research contact: @WSJ

Robert Iger returns as Disney CEO, as Bob Chapek is ousted

November 22, 2022

On Sunday night,  November 20, Walt Disney’s board of directors CEO Bob Chapek with Robert Iger, the company’s former chairman and CEO who left the company at the end of last year, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“The board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period,” said Susan Arnold, chairman of Disney’s board, in a statement.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” she added.

The surprise change comes at a tumultuous time for Disney.

This month, the company reported weaker-than-expected fourth quarter financial results—killing the momentum built up over a strong year that saw record revenue and profits in multiple divisions, especially the one that includes theme parks.

Disney’s theme-park business has recovered strongly since the coronavirus pandemic shut down its venues across the world, but the division continues to subsidize widening losses in the streaming video business.

Chapek has said repeatedly that he expects the streaming business to be profitable by September 2024. In the most recent quarter, however, it lost $1.47 billion, more than twice the year-earlier loss.

The company also cautioned that its profitability target would only be met if there weren’t a significant economic downturn—the first time it has added such a caveat. Disney’s stock price shot up 9% to more than $100 a share in premarket trading early Monday. Some observers said the management change might benefit the company’s stock.

In anemail to employees Sunday night, Iger said he was returning to the company.

“It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I must admit, a bit of amazement—that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to the Walt Disney Company as chief executive officer,” he wrote in the email, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Several top Disney executives first learned the news that Iger was returning after they read his Sunday email, while some of them were together attending an Elton John concert at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that was streamed live on Disney’s flagship streaming service Disney+, according to people familiar with the matter.

Chapek also was expected to attend the event and the company had planned for him to introduce Elton John from the stage before the concert, according to two people with knowledge of the plans, although it isn’t clear if Chapek actually was there, they said. Other Disney employees said they were baffled by Iger’s Sunday email and immediately began asking if the message to employees was real or if it came from a hacked email account.

Negotiations between Iger and the board to return as CEO were initiated only in recent days, according to a person familiar with the talks. Iger has said publicly on at least two occasions over the past year that he isn’t interested in returning to Disney. In recent months, he has focused on investing in and advising startups, particularly in the technology industry.

Adding to the surprise, Chapek, who has served as CEO since February 2020, over the summer saw his contract renewed through the end of 2024. At the time,. Arnold, the board chair, said that while the company was “dealt a tough hand by the pandemic,” Chapek “not only weathered the storm but emerged in a position of strength.”

Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall wrote in a note to clients: “Iger will be viewed as a catalyst to improve the content aspects of Disney, and we expect bigger potential strategic changes around the long-term shape of” the streaming business.

Chapek couldn’t be reached for comment.

Research contact: @WSJ

Ready to rock: Netflix sets first live-streamed event with Chris Rock special

November 14, 2022

Netflix will stream an event live for the first time next year, with comedian Chris Rock hosting a real-time special for the on-demand platform that has lured millions of viewers away from traditional broadcast television, reports Yahoo.

The standup show—which will be Rock’s second for Netflix after 2018’s “Chris Rock: Tamborine,”—will be available to watch in early 2023, the company said, without providing further details.

“Chris Rock is one of the most iconic and important comedic voices of our generation,” said Netflix Comedy VP Robbie Praw, in a statement. “We’re thrilled the entire world will be able to experience a live Chris Rock comedy event and be a part of Netflix history.

Praw added, “This will be an unforgettable moment and we’re so honored that Chris is carrying this torch.”

Netflix, which lost subscribers for the first time earlier this year before recently reporting a return to growth, has been experimenting with new models, including a cheaper subscription option subsidized by advertisements.

On Tuesday, November 8, The Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix was looking into offering live sports on its platform for the first time. Rivals including Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video already offer live events, including sports and musical events.

Netflix hosts a live comedy festival at more than 35 venues in Los Angeles, but those shows have not yet been available to stream live on its platform.

Rock, one of the world’s biggest comics, drew headlines in March when he was slapped on-stage by Will Smith at the Oscars.

Research contact: @Yahoo

South Korea to sell arms to U.S.A. for Ukrainian forces fighting Russia

November 14, 2022

South Korea will for the first time sell artillery shells destined for Ukrainian forces through a confidential arms deal between Seoul and Washington, D.C.—a move that reflects a global scramble for munitions after months of war with Russia, reports The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. officials familiar with the deal said that America plan to purchase 100,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition that will be delivered to Ukraine—enough to supply Ukraine’s artillery units for at least several weeks of intensive combat.

Indeed, routing the deal through the United States allows South Korea to stick to the letter of its public commitment not to send lethal military support to Ukraine while assisting Washington, Seoul’s paramount ally in deterring North Korea.

The South Korea-provided arms will enable the United States to supply the Ukrainians without digging deeper into the American inventory of artillery rounds, which U.S. officials have acknowledged is dwindling quickly. In August, the stockpile of U.S. 155mm artillery rounds had fallen to levels that concerned the Pentagon, as Ukraine engaged in fierce artillery duels with the Russian forces, and U.S. officials say the situation is considerably worse now.

South Korea Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month and agreed in principle to proceed with the artillery deal.

The Defense Ministry in Seoul said in a statement that a South Korean company is in talks with the America to supplement the U.S. stockpile of 155mm artillery shells. The South Korean government’s position of not supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine remains unchanged, according to the statement.

“The negotiations are happening under the premise that the U.S. will be the final user,” the statement added.

The White House recently said North Korea was providing artillery shells to Russia, setting the unusual stage for armaments from the two Asian countries to be used by opposing forces in Europe. The arms deals highlight the limits of industrial bases in the United States and Russia, which have been stretched to the limit during the war in Ukraine.

Research contact: @WSJ

In races for governor, few states change control

November 10, 2022

Gubernatorial elections resulted in few changes of control on Election Day, as Democrats held off challengers in several races that polls showed could be close—including Wisconsin, New York, and Michigan—while Republican incumbents won decisively in Florida and Texas, according to the Associated Press.

Democrats also prevailed in the only two states to flip, Maryland and Massachusetts, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In Maryland, The New York Times notes, Wes Moore, a celebrity author and nonprofit executive, is projected to take back the governor’s office for Democrats after eight years under Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who has reached his term limit. Moore, who will become the first Black governor of his state, faced up against Dan Cox, a far-right state delegate.

In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey, with more than 63% of the vote as of Wednesday morning, November 9, has fended off gubernatorial candidate Republican Geoff Diehl (with 35%), the Times reports.

One of the most hotly contested races in the nation was in Wisconsin, where incumbent Democrat Tony Evers is projected to have fended off Republican businessman Tim Michels. Evers ran on a platform of investing in education and infrastructure—opposing gerrymandering and supporting abortion access—while Michels said he would do more to fight crime and touted his support from former President Donald Trump.

In New York, incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, according to the AP. Zelden gained on her in recent polls, which gave Republicans hope he could become the first candidate from their party to win statewide office in two decades as he focused on voter concern about rising crime. Hochul campaigned on her record from her year in office, including new gun-control laws, COVID-19 pandemic management, and rebate checks for taxpayers. She will become the first woman elected as governor in New York history.

Robust victories for Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott put the two men into strong positions as they both prepare for possible presidential runs in 2024, according to political analysts.

Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer defeated conservative political commentator Tudor Dixon, who criticized the incumbent for the length of COVID-19 shutdowns and pledged to expand the state’s economy and stop the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Whitmer focused on her record repairing roads and increasing education spending.

New Mexico Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham defeated former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, a Republican, according to the AP, in a race focused on issues including crime and abortion access.

In Maine, Democratic Governor Janet Mills won re-election over former Republican Governor Paul LePage. LePage hammered the incumbent over energy costs, while Mills touted her efforts to diversify the state’s energy sources.

Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro beat Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano in the gubernatorial race, according to CNBC. After focusing his campaign on law-and-order issues and protecting abortion access, Shapiro will succeed departing Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp defeated former State House minority leader Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, according to TIME magazine. Kemp largely ignored attacks from Trump over President Joe Biden’s win in the state in 2020 and focused on his efforts to promote business development, loosen gun laws, and open the state quickly following COVID-19 lockdowns.

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom easily won re-election, NBC reports, in the nation’s most populous state, after a campaign in which he spent much of his time feuding with Republicans and promoting liberal positions on such issues as climate change and abortion access.

Races that were too close to call in the early-morning hours on Wednesday, November 9, included Kansas and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents sought to keep their seat; and Alaska, where a Republican governor is campaigning for reelection.

Research contact: @WSJ