Day: October 1, 2020

Brazil Supreme Court justice demands explanation on weakened coastal forest law

FILE PHOTO: Judge Rosa Weber attends a session of the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian Supreme Court justice Rosa Weber has demanded Environment Minister Ricardo Salles explain a decision earlier in the week, which sought to weaken laws around coastal woodlands.

Weber’s request, dated 30 Sept., gave Salles 48 hours to provide information surrounding the decision, citing the “urgency” of the issue.

On Monday, Brazil’s National Environmental Council (Conama) revoked protections for mangroves and a type of coastal forest known as restinga that grows on splits of seaside land.

Conama’s decision was later suspended by a federal judge who cited the risk to the environment that it posed.

Salles has argued that these forest types are already protected by a separate piece of Brazilian legislation, known as the Forest Code. However, there are some crucial differences between the Conama’s protections and the Forest Code that environmentalists said could be exploited to further coastal development.

The previous Conama regulation, for example, protected restingas for a minimum of 300 meters from the sea, a detail missing from the Forest Code. Without it, disputed areas, such as degraded woodland, might no longer be classified as protected – potentially opening the path for real estate development.

For mangroves, although the Forest Code protects them in their entirety, again the revoking of the Conama legislation opens up potential loopholes over what exactly is classified as mangrove.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer

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Southwest Airlines warns furloughs, wage cuts still possible without more government aid

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told employees Thursday that the Dallas-based airline may still have to furlough workers or cut wages and benefits if the aviation industry doesn’t get another round of economic aid.

Southwest, which has said it won’t furlough employees this year even as competitors began letting go of workers Thursday, is still lobbying for Congress to extend the Payroll Support Program that gave $25 billion in grants to airlines to cover worker costs and another $25 billion in loans.

“But, I need to be honest with you and remind you, if the PSP extension fails, as we have warned for months, we’ll be forced to find a way to further reduce our spending, reduce our salaries, wages and benefits specifically by seeking concessions, or as a last resort, layoffs and furloughs,” Kelly said in the video message to employees posted Thursday afternoon.

Passengers walk through a largely empty check-in area for American Airlines at Miami International Airport during the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Miami. The airline industry has been decimated by the pandemic. The Payroll Support Program given to the airlines as part of the CARES Act runs out Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A similar program passed in March and expired Wednesday. The airline industry is still down about 70% from a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., an extension is far from certain.

Southwest, which has never laid off or furloughed employees, avoided worker cuts by getting more than a quarter of its workforce to take voluntary leave and retirement, grounding planes and drastically cutting its schedule.

Nearby American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, began furloughing and laying off a combined 19,000 employees on Thursday. Without more government aid, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said, the company needs to adjust to an airline industry that has significantly less demand.

Parker told White House officials that American could recall furloughed workers if a deal is passed soon.

Chicago-based United Airlines is furloughing 13,000 employees as well.

Southwest has been slightly better positioned because it had less debt and does less international flying than its major competitors. But the carrier has still taken out billions of dollars in loans in recent months and burned through about $20 million of cash a day in August.

Kelly and other executives have also taken 20% salary cuts. Worker unions have so far resisted wage and benefit concessions, saying Southwest has an overstaffing problem, not a compensation problem.

“But, without the extension of PSP, we know all that won’t be enough,“ Kelly said. “The payroll support that we received in the original federal aid package has allowed us to avoid those difficult actions all the way through the end of this year, but you have to know that we are not immune to this.”

Kelly has said travel demand likely won’t recover significantly until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed. Until then, Southwest and other carriers may have to rely on government assistance, at least for the next six months, he said.

“We are not there yet,” Kelly said. “And, in the meantime, we await some action from Washington.”

Congressional leaders are talking with the White House about a deal for an extension of economic stimulus, which could include aid for airlines. But

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American Cancer Society Announces Drive-Thru Fundraiser At Jones Beach, Long Island’s Largest Breast Cancer Awareness Event Adjusts To Pandemic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Thursday marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The usual fundraising events, like breast cancer walks, are going to be much different this year. In fact, as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, one of Long Island’s biggest fundraisers has become a drive-thru event.

Breast cancer awareness is critical every year and every month, of course. But, many women have been putting off their mammograms, or even cancer treatments, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cancer doesn’t wait. So, this year, awareness and action are even more important.

The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides of Long Island cancer walks, said to be the largest in the country, have been held annually in October at Jones Beach.

But, these kinds of mass gatherings, especially for cancer patients and survivors, are simply off limits during the pandemic.

RELATED STORY: Doctors Urge Women To Get Breast Screenings Now, Don’t Wait For Pandemic To End

Long Island elected officials, spokeswomen for the American Cancer Society and survivors gathered to make sure breast cancer awareness stays top of mind this month.

“I just want to thank the American Cancer Society for all the things that they’re doing, for having my back and my front in so many ways throughout my fight over the past 16 months,” said Adina Perullo, a breast cancer survivor.

The most interesting announcement: this year’s Making Strides fundraiser will be a drive-thru event.

The fully in-car, rolling pep rally at Jones Beach will be fully compliant with COVID-19 safety guidelines. But, you must make reservations online, ahead of time, for a timeslot on October 18 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

LINK: CLICK HERE for more information about this year’s Making Strides event at Jones Beach.

For the top questions people have been asking about the coronavirus, visit cbsnewyork.com/max, and go to facebook.com/cbsnewyork to submit your question.

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Big Tech hearing gives clues on future of antitrust law

In the last of seven hearings to investigate concerns that Google parent Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL), Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) are operating as illegal monopolies, witnesses before the House Antitrust Subcommittee Thursday clashed on whether Congress should overhaul U.S. antitrust law.

Proposals from witnesses before the committee, including several antitrust experts, could be a clue to changes forthcoming from the committee. They ranged from introducing legislation that would break up Big Tech companies and overturn judicial precedent to increased funding for antitrust law enforcers to maintaining status quo. 

‘Quintessentially a congressional job’

Zephyr Teachout, associate professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, told the subcommittee on Thursday that Congress, not the Supreme Court, should regulate Big Tech. “It is quintessentially a congressional job to respond to this threat,” Teachout said, calling for “significant” new legislation.

NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2018/09/13: Zephyr Teachout seen speaking on phone during her campaign for Attorney General. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES – 2018/09/13: Zephyr Teachout seen speaking on phone during her campaign for Attorney General. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Michael Kades, director of markets and competition policy for Washington Center for Equitable Growth, also called for legislative reform, arguing that the filing of one or two cases would fall short of addressing the current level of anticompetitive conduct.

“Unless Congress acts it is accepting…that antitrust laws have little power to stop or deter anticompetitive conduct,” Kades said.

When acting to regulate Big Tech, Teachout argued, Congress should limit certain large companies to a single line of business, preventing Amazon, for example, from controlling businesses for online commerce while also controlling shipping and fulfillment. The approach would similarly impact Google’s ability to control platforms that both serve and sell online advertisements.

“Amazon takes as much as 30% of every sale,” Teachout said about seller transactions on the marketplace. “This is essentially a form of private tax…and that’s really dangerous for democracy.”

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School professor Christopher Yoo disagreed with this notion, arguing that restricting companies to a single line of business would cut against a central purpose of antitrust laws: to protect consumers. Dismantling the efficiencies of Amazon’s vertical integration, he said, would lead to higher consumer prices.

More modest proposals to change antitrust law

Meanwhile, William Baer, visiting fellow for governance studies at Brookings Institution, proposed “modest” changes to antitrust laws — including altering the legal standard of proof required for the government to prevail on antitrust actions. The standard, he said, is problematic because it often dissuades the Justice Department from challenging mergers or acquisitions, such as Google’s purchase of ad platform DoubleClick in 2007 and Facebook’s acquisition of photo-sharing site Instagram in 2012.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law during a hearing on "Online Platforms and Market Power" in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2020. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law during a hearing on “Online Platforms and Market Power” in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2020. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS

“Many courts demand a level of proof that is often unattainable that chills enforcement and limits our ability to

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Federal government no longer controlling key COVID-19 drug

Hospitals can order a coronavirus treatment directly from Gilead Sciences and its distributor instead of relying on the government as a go-between, the Trump administration announced Thursday, saying supply of the drug exceeds demand.

Remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, and other therapies are being wielded against the coronavirus and will remain a key tool even after the approval of a vaccine.

The U.S. government bought up much of the drugmaker’s supply of remdesivir in June after clinical trials suggested it could help COVID-19 patients recover faster. Federal officials wanted to lock down the drug for Americans during the scramble to get the pandemic under control.

“Now, federal government oversight of the allocation of Veklury is not required because the drug is no longer a scarce resource—a tribute to progress we have made against COVID-19 and to the strength of our partnerships with the private sector,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

Johanna Mercier, chief commercial officer at Gilead Sciences, said there is “enough supply on hand to treatment every existing COVID hospitalization in the U.S.”

She said they’re also confident they can meet demand even if the disease surges.

Though the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t fully approved a treatment for COVID-19, remdesivir is part of an expanding arsenal of drugs with emergency or temporary authorization for use on coronavirus patients.

A steroid, dexamethasone, has been shown to help some patients survive and — perhaps most exciting of all — companies are reporting positive results from trials involving synthetically produced proteins known as “monoclonal antibodies.”

Scientists say therapies will remain a key part of the response for the foreseeable future.

Efforts to inoculate the American public will stretch months into 2021 and the eventual vaccine will not be 100% protective, so doctors will rely on groundbreaking treatments to keep people out of the hospital or recover faster.

“There’s two issues — no vaccine works perfectly in everyone. Secondly, there will be some people who don’t end up getting the vaccine or are infected before they are able to get vaccinated,” said Dr. John Redd, HHS assistant health secretary for preparedness and response.

The administration made 500,000 doses of remdesivir available to states and territories between July and September.

Dr. Redd said localities and hospitals were not accepting or needing the full allocation made available to them, so the government no longer needed to be involved.

“We see this as a very good sign, and it’s been a key indicator that supply of remdesivir now outweighs demand,” Dr. Redd said.

Officials said AmerisourceBergen will remain the sole distributor of drug through the end of the year, and the price of the drug will not change. It will still be Gilead’s wholesale acquisition price — $3,2000 per treatment course, or $520 per vial.

Patients generally do not pay directly for drugs like remdesivir, since the costs are rolled into overall treatment costs paid by Medicare or private insurers.

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House Democrats discuss tougher antitrust law, some Republicans agree

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel discussed ways to tighten antitrust laws on Thursday, with two Republicans on the Democrat-dominated panel indicating potential support for some changes.

The antitrust subcommittee, chaired by Representative David Cicilline, is expected to release a much-anticipated report into the four big tech companies — Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O>, Facebook Inc <FB.O>, Apple <APPL.O> and Alphabet’s Google <GOOGL.O> — as soon as Monday.

In the hearing, Cicilline said the tech companies used strategies such as self-preferencing and predatory pricing to grow. “These once-scrappy, underdog startups have grown into the kinds of monopolies we last saw more than a century ago,” he said.

One witness, Bill Baer, who headed the Justice Department Antitrust Division during the Obama administration, argued to the committee that successive court rulings over the years have made it harder to block a merger.

“If courts are unwilling to step back from this overreach, legislation may well be needed to re-set the boundaries,” he said.

Representative Ken Buck, a Republican, appeared swayed by calls for tougher antitrust law, including giving more funding to the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission.

“We also need to seriously consider increasing scrutiny on big tech companies, including shifting the burden of proof required for a market dominant company to prove that a merger is not anti-competitive,” he said.

Representative Kelly Armstrong, a Republican, said he agreed with Buck on the need for “more money, more resources, (and) more enforcement.” He indicated he would be interested in discussing “tweaks” to antitrust law.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, repeated his concern that Big Tech firms were “out to get conservatives.”

The Justice Department is also probing the big four tech platforms, and is expected to file a lawsuit against Google next week.

Facebook and Amazon also face inquiries by the FTC, while U.S. state attorneys general are looking at Facebook and Google.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Secret Society of Second-Born Royals Director on Planning Sequels

secret-society-of-second-born-royals-cast-sliceFrom director Anna Mastro and based on an original story by Alex Litvak, Andrew Green and Austin Winsberg, the Disney+ original film Secret Society of Second-Born Royals follows Sam (Peyton Elizabeth Lee), a rebellious teenager whose royal lineage makes her second-born status something of an afterthought to her family. But when she learns that she has superpowers because of a genetic trait attributed only to those that are like her, it’s up to her to find her inner superhero and create her own legacy.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, filmmaker Anna Mastro talked about how she got attached to direct this project, blending the royal family genre with the superhero genre, the elements of the story that most spoke to her, the journey she’s taken as a director, how much the script changes over the course of making the movie, assembling this team of young actors, setting up a possible new franchise, and what she’d like to do next.

secret-society-of-second-born-royals-peyton-elizabeth-lee-image

Image via Disney+

Collider: How did this project and script come your way? Was it a random opportunity or were you looking for something like this?

ANNA MASTRO: Well, I’m always looking for inventive coming of age stories and I am always looking for things that involve action and teenage girls, especially. I had been looking for something to do with Disney for awhile and an exec who works there had been my boss’ assistant at an agency, probably 19 years ago, and every job she goes to, she sends me a project. This project, I thought was great. I thought it had so much potential. I thought it was pretty interesting. I loved the idea of doing original IP, especially for Disney. And so, it seemed like this really cool opportunity.

It’s cool because it’s this original thing, but then it also blends the royal family genre with the superhero genre, in a way that seems really new.

MASTRO: Thank you. That was definitely the goal. I just wanted to elevate what’s been in this space before but doing it in a different way and with a really diverse cast. I think that was exciting.

Were there elements about the story itself or the specific characters that most appealed to you and that you thought were most interesting?

MASTRO: Yeah, I love that idea of a kid in that coming of age genre, who’s looking for their place and they feel like they don’t fit in, within their family, within their world, and within their friend group. They just feel different and it makes them feel like something’s wrong with them. I think a major theme about this movie is that when you figure out really what makes you different or unique, that’s what makes you special and you’ll figure out what you can do with that. That theme was the one that really stuck out to me.

secret-society-of-second-born-royals-cast-02

Image via Disney+

You directed a movie early on in your career, but then did a

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California passes landmark law to study proposals for reparations

The law establishes a task force to make recommendations.

California became the first state to pass a law establishing a task force to study and make recommendations on reparations for Black Americans.

The landmark legislation calls for the creation of a nine-member commission to “inform Californians about slavery and explore ways the state might provide reparations,” according to a statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

The bill was authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego, who introduced it to state legislators back in February. Newsom signed it into law on Wednesday.

“California has historically led the country on civil rights, yet we have not come to terms with our state’s ugly past that allowed slaveholding within our borders and returned escaped slaves to their masters,” Weber said in a statement after Newsom signed the bill.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 10, 2020.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber calls on members of the Assembly to approve her measure to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to let voters decide if the state should overturn its ban on affirmative action programs, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 10, 2020.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber calls on members of the Assembly to approve her measure to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to let voters decide if the state should overturn its ban on affirmative action programs, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 10, 2020.

She added that Newsom’s signature on the bill “demonstrates that our state is dedicated to leading the nation on confronting and addressing systemic injustice.”

The text of the California bill calls for the task force to “study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, with a special consideration for Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.”

Weber’s legislation has gotten public support from rapper Ice Cube, who tweeted his thanks to Newsom.

“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive,” Newsom said in a statement. “Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions.”

The topic of reparations in the U.S. has courted controversy as economists and advocates debate who will pay, who qualifies for payments and what payments might look like.

The dark legacy of slavery in the U.S. has lived on for decades through discriminatory policies such as Jim Crow laws and redlining, overt and systemic racism that contributed significantly to a vast wealth gap.

In 2016, the typical white family had a net worth nearly 10 times that of a Black family, according to a Brookings Institute analysis. Moreover in 2019, the average wage gap between a Black and white worker in the U.S. was 26.5%, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

As the nation grapples with other inequities Black Americans face — disparate health outcomes amid the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting instances of police brutality — many advocates are renewing calls for state and

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Guelph Black Heritage Society receives $5,000 for #ChangeStartsNow campaign

The Guelph Black Heritage Society says it has received $5,000 for its #ChangeStartsNow educational campaign.



a sign in front of a brick building: Guelph Black Heritage Society's Heritage Hall on Essex Street.


© Matt Carty / Global Guelph
Guelph Black Heritage Society’s Heritage Hall on Essex Street.

The funding is from the Guelph Community Foundation and Guelph Historical Society.

Read more: Guelph Black Heritage Society raising money for #ChangeStartsNow campaign

The grant will support a key pillar in the heritage society’s campaign, which is the development of a booklet on Black history in Guelph and Wellington County.

Another aspect of the campaign is a list of 100 educational resources, such as books and movies, that are curated by volunteers for those seeking factual information on Black history and issues.

It also includes online educational and cultural events and a directory of Black-owned and operated businesses in Guelph, Wellington County and Waterloo Region.

There are also plans for Heritage Hall, the former British Methodist Episcopal Church on Essex Street that was bought by the organization in 2011.

Those include educational and cultural programming at the building and the establishment of a library of Black literature.

Read more: Work to tackle systemic racism in Guelph continues following protest, activist says

The goal of the campaign is to raise $135,000 — a figure that represents $1 from each of Guelph’s residents — by Dec. 1.

More information about the campaign and ways to donate can be found on the Guelph Black Heritage Society’s website.

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Barrett signed ad in 2006 decrying ?barbaric legacy? of Roe v. Wade, advocating overturning the law

Barrett, who met with 10 Republican senators at the Capitol on Thursday, likely will face questions at her confirmation hearings later this month about whether her personal beliefs will influence her legal rulings.

The White House, while not commenting directly on the ad, said Thursday that the president would never ask a judge to prejudge a case. Trump, who tapped Barrett last Saturday to replace Ginsburg, is pressing the Senate to confirm the nominee before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Barrett was a law professor at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., when she attached her name to the ad placed by the St. Joseph County Right to Life group, of which Barrett and her husband, both Catholic, were members.

“We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to the end of natural life,” read the ad in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune. “Please continue to pray to end abortion.”

The two-page ad ran on the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

“It’s time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children,” the ad said.

Barrett did not disclose that she signed the ad to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which asks nominees to list any “published material you have written or edited, including material published only on the Internet, regardless of whether it was published in your name, another name or anonymously.”

The existence of the ad was first reported by the Guardian.

A Democratic aide, with knowledge of the process, said the ad should have been included in her questionnaire that she submitted to the committee Tuesday. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the process.

During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Trump denied that abortion rights were on the ballot this November, and claimed not to know Barrett’s view on the issue even though he’s previously assured conservatives that he would nominate justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, responding to a question about this discrepancy, said Thursday, “the president has been clear that he would never ask a judge to prejudge a case.”

“Judge Amy Coney Barrett has on multiple occasions said it is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law,” McEnany said.

The beliefs of the St. Joseph County Right to Life members go further than some antiabortion groups. In their view, discarding unused embryos from in vitro fertilization was akin to abortion.

Jackie Appleman, the executive director of St Joseph County Right to Life, told the Guardian that the group not only supports the criminalization of doctors who perform abortions, but also making it illegal to throw away frozen embryos.

While it’s unclear if Barrett holds these same views, her opposition to abortion is well-documented in her

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