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Trump is using the coronavirus as an excuse to go full kleptocrat, and the GOP is going right along with him

Sun, 09/27/2020 - 8:27am  |  Clusterstock
President Trump and Jared Kushner during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France
  • Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic the way any kleptocrat would – by putting family in charge and keeping things as under wraps as possible in order to hide his team's incompetence.
  • It also appears that companies and individuals with ties to the Trump administration have found ways to enrich themselves during this disaster. Go figure.
  • When Democrats on the House Financial Services held a hearing asking questions about this stuff, Republicans freaked out and said the hearing was a waste of everyone's time.
  • Probably nothing, right?
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Trump and his associates are using the confusion and desperation of the coronavirus to enrich themselves like kleptocrats, and the GOP is going right along with it.

We are living in a strange moment. The entire whole world is hanging on to any and every word about a vaccine for COVID-19. The entire world needs the same supplies to get through pandemic. These conditions have created a low information environment where certain goods and information are extremely valuable. It just so happens that those with access to those goods and that information are in the White House. And it just so happens that the people in the White House have no scruples to speak of.

Trump has marketed himself as a pro-business president who understands capitalism, but his behavior says otherwise. Capitalism thrives on transparency and a level playing field, but the Trump administration's dealings in the business world have been marked by opacity and cronyism, even more so since the coronavirus pandemic started.

From the beginning, Trump has handled the scientific, economic, financial, and logistical challenge of the coronavirus like a kleptocrat would — by keeping things within the family/inner circle. This set up is why kleptocracies are rife with fraud, waste, and incompetence. Those with experience need not apply.

Trump's family beneficiary during the pandemic has been his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was placed in charge of the coronavirus response. Once in charge Kushner then, according to Vanity Fair, hired his friends. He eschewed government agencies with the capabilities to fight the pandemic and conducted his task force's business in secret, off of government emails and other official modes of communication. Secrecy and opacity are a key elements of kleptocracy.

That task force prioritized friends of the president when it came to distributing personal protective equipment. It used the pandemic to advance Trump's goal of a better relationship with Russia by buying ventilators from Moscow (they turned out to be defective) and then sending supplies to Moscow. Kushner ignored and subverted the needs of Americans in order to reward and punish his father-in-laws friends and enemies. That is what kleptocrats do with resources.

Klepto bubbles

While all of this was going on at the White House, Wall Street was starting to experience the kinds of peculiarities one might expect in a market where there is something strange afoot. The one thing linking all of these odd bubbles and distortions was and is the Trump administration.

The first sign of eyebrow-raising irregularity was back in May, when Moncef Slaoui, a former longtime executive at GlaxoSmithKline, was picked to helm the White House's "Operation Warp Speed" program that is tasked with funding and accelerating the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Shortly after he was appointed, a drug company that he was invested in called Moderna announced preliminary, partial data from an early phase of its vaccine trial that said... not much. 

Before the market realized how little information was in Moderna's data the stock jumped, and Slaoui's $2.4 million investment in the company ballooned to $12.4 million. He sold his shares the next day, around the time Moderna's stock price started coming back to earth. Watchdog groups were less than pleased, and urged the SEC to investigate what happened. Slaoui still owns $10 million worth of stock in his former employer, GlaxoSmithKline, which is still raising questions.

Most recently, the Trump administration has had to pause a deal it made with Eastman Kodak, the historic but largely defunct camera maker. In August the company announced it was receiving $765 million from the government to make pharmaceutical ingredients — something it has no experience in. The deal was put together, in part, by a friend of Jared Kushner's — Adam Boehler, who joined the administration as CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation, according to Vanity Fair. This is Boehler's first stint in the public sector.

The rollout of the deal Kodak deal was sloppy, with a local paper announcing the deal ahead of schedule. There was a bunch of weird trading around the stock at the time the deal was announced too. Worse than all that, though, was that the company's CEO got stock options right before the deal was announced. Afterward those options came to be worth around $50 million. This is what has the SEC — which brought the fewest insider trading cases in decades in 2019 — so very concerned.

Party of business or Party of Trump?

To address these and other market inconsistencies that have resulted from the pandemic, a subcommittee of the House Financial Services committee held a hearing called "Insider Trading and Stock Option Grants: An Examination of Corporate Integrity in the COVID-19 Pandemic" earlier this month.

What was shocking about the hearing was not what the witnesses said. Everyone agreed that the pandemic has created irregular conditions in the market, and that some actors are benefiting. What was strange was the petulance from Republicans who insisted — despite the strangeness of our times — that the hearing was completely unnecessary. They did not want more transparency around why, when, or how companies make disclosures related to the pandemic. They did not want there to be more scrutiny around executive share compensation.

Michigan Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga complained that "instead of playing judge, jury, and executioner in the court of public opinion" the committee should instead be helping "job creators" do more of what they're doing.

In short: Nothing to see here.

Now you may chock this up to the GOP being the "party of business," but that ignores what's going on at the root of these deals. Allowing the President's friends and inner circle to take advantage of a their information edge only helps one kind of people — the President's friends and inner circle.

To quote JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, what has made Wall Street great is that America has "the widest, deepest, most transparent capital markets" in the world." Corruption prevents that transparency, it kills capitalism. No doubt the Boy Scouts at Goldman Sachs prefer a light regulatory touch, but what House Republicans did during that hearing does not serve Wall Street, it only serves Donald Trump.

In this way the pandemic has made it clear that the GOP has a dilemma. It can be the party of Trump or the party of business, it cannot do both.

How regulators proceed will determine what the White House and its friends believe they can get away with. Already Trump has been emboldened. His attempt to ban Chinese social media app TikTok is also a clear play to enrich his friend and campaign donor, billionaire Larry Ellison. Ellison founded Oracle, which is reportedly trying to gain a lucrative contract out of the TikTok deal.

Earlier this week Expedia and IAC Chairman Barry Diller, a legendary dealmaker on Wall Street, called the deal said of the deal, "the whole thing is a crock." He called it a "political mishmash" which could set off a salvo of protectionist actions that would be hard to stop.

It's unclear if the deal would actually mollify those with national security concerns. There are still questions about where US data will be housed, and how much control US nationals would have on the board. There is no precedent for this kind of US government encroachment on a foreign technology company.  So we don't know the full details of the deal or how it'll turn out at all.

Like I said before, secrecy and opacity are a key elements of kleptocracy.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Airbus' new zero-emission concepts reveal the direction of the aviation industry's planes of the future — here's why today's aircraft aren't cutting it

Sun, 09/27/2020 - 8:22am  |  Clusterstock
A rendering of Airbus' future zero-emission aircraft.
  • Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are investing millions to create truly sustainable aircraft after years of improving emissions in aircraft is proving not enough. 
  • Airbus just unveiled a fleet of zero-emission aircraft powered by hydrogen that it says may be flying by 2035.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic Airways are all investing in similar alternatives to today's offerings.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Airlines have long desired to end their dependency on fossil fuels but the lack of alternatives has kept them in the turbulent relationship that often wreaks havoc on the bottom line and draws scorn from environmentalists and climate activists.

Recent advances in aircraft and engine technology have made airliners more efficient but, aviation still accounts for between 2% and 3% of global emissions

Airbus just put forward plans to create a new fleet of zero-emission aircraft aimed at creating a more sustainable aviation industry. Its new hydrogen-powered planes, the manufacturer claims, could begin to replace fossil fuel guzzlers in the skies as early as 15 years. 

Sustainability in aviation has largely hit a roadblock as been dabbling in biofuel, including sustainable aviation fuel, but have been restricted by its limited availability in the marketplace. Only a few airports currently offer alternate fuel besides kerosene-based jet fuels that require additional infrastructure and commitments by airlines to use the fuel. 

Airlines and manufacturers are realizing that only a radical shift will allow aviation to become truly sustainable and are using their wallets to make it a reality. 

Here's how the aviation industry got here and why sustainability in aviation isn't as far away as we think. 

Fuel costs can make or break an airline with the volatile market a constant concern for the aviation industry. An aircraft being fueled with jet fuel. The 2000s has seen countless airlines including Aloha Airlines, SkyBus, EOS, and Germania, among others, collapse or declare bankruptcy due to rising fuel costs, especially as oil prices peaked in 2008. An Aloha Airlines Boeing 737.

Source: CNBC and The Guardian

Rising fuel prices lead to higher operating costs for airlines and some can't survive in that environment, especially during lulls in traffic, as was the case with the Trump Shuttle in the early 1990s. Donald Trump and a model of his airline's Boeing 727 aircraft.

Watch Now: The rise and fall of Donald Trump's $365 million airline

Some airlines hedge fuel, effectively pre-determining a rate for fuel, which helps mitigate any problems if the price of fuel increases. An aircraft being fueled with jet fuel. On the downside, the price of fuel can also go down and airlines that hedge miss out on those savings, as airlines saw in early 2020. The price of contracts for near-term US crude oil fell to about negative $40 during the pandemic. Aircraft efficiency in the modern era has dramatically increased, starting with the increased use of lightweight composites to build airplanes and new engines with better rates of fuel consumption. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing is credited with kicking off the next-generation revolution with the 787 Dreamliner. A Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Source: Boeing's revolutionary 787 Dreamliner has changed air travel forever. Here's how the company left competitors in the dust with a risky $8 billion bet.

Half of the aircraft's structure utilized composites and new engines from Rolls-Royce and General Electric helped increase fuel efficiency by up to 25% compared to older generation aircraft, Boeing claims. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner being constructed at Boeing's Everett, Washington plant.

Source: Boeing

Airbus soon followed with the A350 XWB. An Airbus A350-1000 XWB aircraft. Just like the Dreamliner, Airbus claims that the A350 lowers operating costs by 25% thanks to the use of composites and more fuel-efficient engines. An Airbus A350-1000 XWB aircraft.

Source: Airbus

Both aircraft are prominently featured on the list of the world's longest flights, with seven out of 10 being operated by either an Airbus A350 or Boeing 787. The first flight of a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Read More: The 10 longest routes flown by airlines in 2019

A modified Airbus A350-900 XWB also flies the current longest flight in the world between Singapore and Newark. A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft. And Qantas plans to use the Airbus A350 to fly non-stop from Sydney to London and New York. Qantas aircraft are seen on the tarmac at Melbourne Airport. The Australian flag carrier recently opened up the sole non-stop link between the UK and Australia using a Boeing 787. A Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner. These designs have also trickled down into narrow-body aircraft including the Airbus A220... An Airbus A220 aircraft. Boeing 737 Max... A Boeing 737 MAX airplane lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. Airbus A320neo family... An Airbus A320neo in Airbus house colors. And Embraer E190-E2. An Embraer E190-E2 aircraft. Each is cheaper to operate for airlines and require less fuel, despite flying longer distances. And the lower operating costs of these aircraft have opened up previously unprofitable routes for airlines, offering more direct flights for passengers. A British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Airlines were quick to abandon older and bulkier aircraft, like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, to take advantage of the economic benefits of the smaller aircraft. An Air France Airbus A380. But the aviation industry is only expected to grow, the coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, as more travelers take to the skies every year. Serving them, while also keeping emissions down, has forced airlines and manufacturers to seek options for more sustainable flights. Airbus' new zero-emission aircraft fleet. Airbus' three designs all utilize hydrogen as fuel instead of kerosene-based products. Airbus' new zero-emission aircraft fleet. This ZEROe jet looks much like an existing Airbus A320 family aircraft with slight aerodynamic enhancements including swept-back wings. It boasts a range of around 2,000 nautical miles and capacity for up to 200 passengers. Airbus' new zero-emission aircraft fleet. Airbus would also create a propeller aircraft, similar to the ones currently being produced by ATR. Its range would be around 1,000 nautical miles with seating for up to 100. Airbus' new zero-emission aircraft fleet. The most radical design is the blended wing concept, which Airbus hinted at earlier this year with its Maveric demonstrator. Airbus' new zero-emission aircraft fleet. All would be powered by hydrogen, either by hydrogen composition or by using hydrogen and oxygen atoms to generate electricity. Airbus' new zero-emission aircraft fleet. The blended wing concept is also proving to be a new way forward as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is also investing in a blended wing design, which it calls the Flying-V. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' Flying-V prototype.

Read More: A prototype of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' futuristic-looking flying-wing aircraft just took its first flight in Germany — take a look at the Flying-V

It's supposed to be the same size as the Airbus A350 but able to fly further while carrying the same number of passengers. A rendering of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' Flying-V. So far, the European airline – working with researchers and engineers at TU Delft – have only come up with a flying prototype. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' Flying-V prototype. The US military currently employs a blended wing aircraft, the B-2 Spirit, which was designed for speed, stealth, and range. A B-2 Spirit bomber aircraft. The alien-looking bomber can fly 6,000 miles in a single flight and has an exceptional safety record, except for a 2008 incident in Guam where erroneous sensor readings caused a crash. A B-2 Spirit bomber aircraft.

Source: Stars and Stripes

Boom, the Colorado aerospace startup, is also courting airline investors for a new Concorde-like aircraft capable of breaking the sound barrier while using sustainable fuels. A rendering of the Boom Overture. Japan Airlines invested $10 million into the company while Virgin Atlantic Airways is also an investor. A rendering of the Boom Overture. The US Air Force also just issued a contract to Boom to study supersonic transportation, with possible uses for executive transport as the future Air Force One. A rendering of the Boom Overture.

Read More: The Boom Overture jet is vying to become the first supersonic Air Force One — here's an early look

The trend isn't limited to airlines with private aircraft manufacturers seeking to jump on the trend. Otto Aviation's Celera 500L. The Celera 500L currently in development by Otto Aviation boasts a fuel consumption rate of up to 25 miles per gallon with a 4,500 nautical mile range, making among the most fuel-efficient aircraft currently flying. Otto Aviation's Celera 500L.

Read More: A new single-engine plane was designed to be so efficient it can make flying private cost the same as a commercial airline – see the Celera 500L

The single-engine plane is so cheap to operate that its builders say it will make flying private comparable to the cost of flying commercial. Otto Aviation's Celera 500L. San Francisco has established itself a hub for alternate fuels by partnering Finnish supplier Neste, which recently announced a deal with Shell to produce more biofuel. San Francisco International Airport.

Source: Neste and San Francisco International Airport

JetBlue Airways announced in January that its flights from the Bay Area's largest international airport will utilize Neste's sustainable aviation fuels. A JetBlue Airways Airbus A321.

Source: JetBlue Airways

Private aircraft operators like NetJets and VistaJet are also pledging to use more sustainable aviation fuels in their operations. A private jet receiving jet fuel for its next flight. NetJets announced earlier this month that it will buy up to 3 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel at San Francisco International Airport. A NetJets Bombardier Challenger aircraft. And VistaJet also announced a commitment to make sustainable aviation fuel available globally. A VistaJet Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft. A sustainable aviation industry is on the horizon as airlines are clearly ready to abandon fossil fuels. But it will require investment at a time when airlines are losing millions and aircraft manufacturers are cutting production rates. An Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft. With a major manufacturer and innovator like Airbus onboard, however, the possibilities are endless. An Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft. Read the original article on Business Insider

The Senate could vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court just days before the presidential election

Sun, 09/27/2020 - 12:06am  |  Clusterstock
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020.
  • Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Saturday night that the final confirmation vote for Judge Amy Coney Barrett could occur just days before Election Day.
  • In an interview with Fox News' Jeanine Pirro, Graham laid out a timeline for the confirmation process, saying he hopes to begin confirmation hearings on October 12, then hold the confirmation vote during the week of October 26.
  • Election Day is November 3.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The United States Senate could vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court just one week before Election Day, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Graham outlined a potential timeline for Barrett's confirmation process in an interview on Fox News' "Justice with Judge Jeanine" on Saturday evening.

He said he's hoping the final confirmation vote on the Senate floor will occur during the week of October 26. Election Day is November 3.

Graham also said he expects the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin four days of confirmation hearings starting on October 12.

—Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) September 27, 2020


"That'd be 16 days from nomination," Graham said. "Monday will be introduction, opening statements, a statement by the nominee. Tuesday and Wednesday will be question days, and Thursday we will begin the markup process."

Trump formally nominated Barrett to the Supreme Court earlier on Saturday afternoon after days of rumors that she was his pick.

If confirmed, Barrett — a staunch conservative who said Saturday she follows the judicial philosophy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia — will fill the seat left vacant by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The timing of the nomination has set off a bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have responded with outrage to Republicans' efforts to confirm a Supreme Court justice so close to a presidential election, when just four years ago Republicans declined to hold hearings during an election year for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Tucker Carlson says 'every story' about Jacob Blake and George Floyd is a lie, the same day a federal judge wrote that viewers don't take Carlson's statements seriously

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 11:05pm  |  Clusterstock
Tucker Carlson.
  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Thursday that "every story" told of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and other victims of police brutality is "at its core" a lie.
  • His remarks came on the same day that a federal judge dismissed a defamation case against Fox News, arguing that nobody takes Carlson seriously.
  • Carlson made several claims about Floyd and Blake that omitted certain details.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On the same day a federal judge dismissed a defamation case against Fox News, largely due to the network's argument that nobody takes Tucker Carlson seriously, the primetime host said on national television that "every story" about police brutality victims is a lie.

"It's hard to think clearly when things are on fire," Carlson said Thursday night.

"If you wanted to keep the public from thinking clearly about what you plan to do to their country, you might riot and no one would notice that you're lying," he continued. "And they definitely have been lying. Every story we've been told for the past three months has been, at its core, a lie."

Ironically, Carlson's allegations of media dishonesty came just after Fox News won a defamation case in which Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil wrote that the network "persuasively argues" that "given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statements he makes."

Carlson went on to misleadingly characterize the death of George Floyd, the Black man killed on Memorial Day after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

"George Floyd was executed by racist cops on the street. That's what they told us, that's what everyone believed," Carlson said. "Yet when the autopsy became public, it showed that George Floyd had lethal levels of fentanyl in his system, among other drugs. Floyd said he couldn't breathe long before police landed on him as he was in fact sitting untouched in the back of a patrol car."

Though the Hennepin County Medical Examiner told investigators Floyd had lethal levels of fentanyl in his system, the final autopsy also labeled Floyd's death a homicide, saying it was caused by "law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression."

An independent autopsy report requested by Floyd's family also concluded that Floyd died of asphyxiation and ruled his death a homicide.

All four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's death are facing criminal charges.

Following his charges against Floyd, Carlson turned immediately to Jacob Blake, the Black man shot multiple times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August. 

Carlson said police initially "tried nonlethal force to subdue him; they tased Blake. That didn't work." 

"When they saw him reach for a knife, they shot him," Carlson continued. "What else where they supposed to do exactly?"

A news release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice dated Aug. 26 said investigators found a knife on the floor of the vehicle that Blake was attempting to get into and "a search of the vehicle located no additional weapons."

The lawyer representing the officer who fired the shots recently told CNN in an interview that Blake had been holding a knife and turning towards the officer, who opened fire. The widely viewed cellphone video of the shooting does not show the alleged movement, though Blake's body can't fully be seen behind the vehicle's door.

Officers in Kenosha are not equipped with body cameras that could have provided a close-up view of the altercation, and Wisconsin officials have not released dash cam footage of the incident.

A witness, Raysean White, told CNN he didn't see a knife in Blake's hand, but he did hear officers tell Blake to "drop the knife." 

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

On Thursday, Fox News won a case in which former Playboy model Karen McDougal accused Carlson of defaming her on his show. Vyskocil dismissed the case on Thursday, saying "given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer" would be skeptical "about the statements he makes," a court filing said

McDougal said that Carlson on his show "accused her of extorting now-President Donald J. Trump out of approximately $150,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair between Ms. McDougal and President Trump," according to the filing.  

Vyskocil wrote in her ruling that McDougal did not prove that Carlson's remarks on his show were "statements of fact." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Minnesota officials stopped a door-to-door coronavirus survey after public health workers faced racial slurs and intimidation

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 9:05pm  |  Clusterstock
Coronavirus survey
  • State and federal officials halted a COVID-19 survey in Minnesota after residents harassed and threatened public health workers, the Star Tribune reported. 
  • One Hispanic worker said she had been called more racist slurs carrying out the survey than she had in her whole life. 
  • The coronavirus pandemic-induced fear has Americans induced harassment and hostility in some communities.
  • A city in Oklahoma overturned a face mask mandate after residents threatened to harm employees wearing masks, and retail workers have faced harassment trying to enforce company policies. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Minnesota officials halted a door-to-door COVID-19 survey gauging the prevalence of the virus after residents intimidated and shouted racist slurs at health care workers, The Star Tribune reported. 

The newspaper reported that the surveyors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were insulted by angry residents at their doors and from nearby neighbors.

One Hispanic surveyor said she had been called more slurs in the week of doing the survey than she had "in her entire life," according to The Star Tribune.

A state health official also told the newspaper one team felt threatened by three men, including one whose hand was on a holstered gun, though the city's mayor later disputed that account, said no one was armed, and that the men had approached due to concerns about an unmarked car with out-of-state license plates going door-do-door.

"In a small town where everyone knows everyone, a group of unfamiliar people with out-of-state plates is unusual, and to some residents is a cause for concern," Adamson said in a statement, according to MPR. "This situation was handled professionally, courteously and unbiased with no racial slurs, threats or inappropriate comments made." 

The survey was part of the CDC's CASPER — Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response — door-to-door survey that determines the needs of each community following crises. 

Per the Star Tribune, state public health officials opted to end the survey to protect surveyors from further harm. 

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked hostility and even violence in many communities across the United States. A city in Oklahoma overturned a face mask mandate after residents threatened to harm employees wearing masks. 

Retail workers at chains like Kroger, Costco, and Waffle House told Business Insider they've faced violence and threats when enforcing their stores' mask policies. 

The pandemic has also brought about racial resentment, particularly towards Asian Americans, who say they've experienced an increase in xenophobia and discrimination this year. President Donald Trump has defended his use of the phrase "China virus" to refer to COVID-19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump nominates antiabortion conservative Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 5:07pm  |  Clusterstock
US President Donald Trump announces his US Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett (R), in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020.
  • President Donald Trump on Saturday announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, an antiabortion conservative, to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
  • Barrett's addition to the court would shift the ideological balance of it sharply to the right, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.
  • Republican leadership, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has vowed to vet, hold hearings for, and confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, which is just 38 days away.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a deeply conservative opponent of abortion rights, to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Before an audience in the White House's Rose Garden, Trump called Barrett "a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution."

Barrett, whom Trump appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017, is widely viewed as an ideological heir to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who Barrett clerked for in the late 1990s.

Barrett confirmed that theory in a brief speech Saturday afternoon, saying Scalia's "judicial philosophy is mine too."

"A judge must apply the law as it is written. Judges are not policy makers," she said. "They must set aside any political views they hold."

In her remarks, Barrett also paid homage to Ginsburg, calling her "a woman of enormous talent and consequence."

"Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings — she smashed them," Barrett said.

The crowd also gave a standing ovation when Trump noted that if confirmed, Barrett would make history of her own, becoming the first mother of school-aged children to serve on the Supreme Court.

Conservatives are thrilled with Trump's pick

If confirmed to the vacancy Ginsburg left behind, the 48-year-old judge would shift the ideological balance of the court sharply to the right, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.

Reactions to the nomination were predictably polarized — Republicans responded with delight, while Democrats condemned the decision, arguing that the nomination could gut the Affordable Care Act and weaken women's reproductive rights.

"Everything hangs in the balance with this nomination: a woman's constitutional right to make her own medical decisions about her own body, the right of LGBTQ Americans to marry who they love, the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages, the future of our planet and environmental protections, voting rights and the right of every American to have a voice in our democracy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said in a statement that Trump "could not have made a better decision," calling Barrett "a shining example of strong female leadership at the very top of her field."

Conservatives praised Trump's pick and promised to push forward with the nomination process. Barrett appeared on Trump's 2018 list of prospective Supreme Court nominees, but Trump told associates he was "saving her for Ginsburg," referring to his pick to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, according to Axios.

"This is a fantastic choice. We're thrilled," Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List, told Business Insider. "It absolutely invigorates the pro-life grassroots and people for whom the Supreme Court is their No. 1 issue."

The group announced its preference for Barrett earlier this week, and its president spoke with Trump about the judge.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020.

Republican leadership, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has vowed to vet, hold hearings for, and confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, which is just 38 days away. The average Supreme Court nomination process takes about 70 days. Two Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have said they don't support a vote on the nominee before Inauguration Day.

Republicans' decision to vote on Trump's nominee so soon before the election has infuriated Democrats, as it's a reversal of the GOP's 2016 position that Supreme Court nominees shouldn't be considered in an election year. The GOP refused to even hold hearings for President Barack Obama's 2016 Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, who serves on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 

Democrats and progressive advocacy groups sharply condemned Trump's pick. They expressed concern with the new court's future decisions on healthcare, voting rights, reproductive rights, and worker rights.

"The stakes could not be higher," Daniel Goldberg, the legal director of the left-leaning Alliance for Justice, told Business Insider of Barrett's nomination battle. "Literally people's lives are in jeopardy if she becomes a Supreme Court justice."

Barrett would be the third antiabortion justice Trump has nominated to the court after Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. But she has the clearest judicial record of antiabortion positions of any of Trump's picks. 

Before her short stint as a judge, Barrett taught at her alma mater, Notre Dame Law School, where she was a member of the antiabortion faculty group, Faculty for Life. A devout Catholic, Barrett has been open about her belief that life begins at conception and has called abortion "always immoral."

She's suggested that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights, was wrongly decided and said it's not a "superprecedent" that no court would consider overturning. She wrote in 2013 that "the Constitution does not expressly protect the right to privacy" and that the court's decision in Roe v. Wade was made by "judicial fiat."

As a judge, Barrett has heard two abortion-rights cases and voted to restrict access to the medical procedure in both cases. 

Notably, Barrett's views on abortion do not align with the majority of Americans' opinions. A large majority — 61% — of 4,175 Americans in a 2019 Pew Research survey said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 70% said they didn't want to see Roe v. Wade completely overturned. Support for abortion rights is the highest it's been in two decades, according to Pew polling.

Barrett's membership in a small religious group called People of Praise has sparked criticism from some Democrats

Another area of concern for progressives is Barrett's record on healthcare. The judge has publicly disagreed with Chief Justice John Roberts' 2012 opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and its insurance mandate.

"Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute," she wrote in a 2017 law-review article.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Trump administration's lawsuit seeking to overturn the ACA just one week after the election.

Repealing the ACA would strip millions of Americans of health insurance, even as millions of others have lost their coverage amid the pandemic and economic crisis. More than 130 million Americans would lose protections guaranteed under the ACA for their preexisting health conditions. 

Barrett has also attracted scrutiny over her membership in a small religious group called People of Praise. The New York Times reported in 2018 that the largely Catholic group "teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family." Members swear an oath of loyalty to the group, The Times said.

During her 2017 appeals-court confirmation hearings, Democrats took issue with a scholarly article Barrett authored in 1988 in which she argued Catholic judges should recuse themselves from sentencing in death-penalty cases. Barrett distanced herself in 2017 from the article and said she couldn't conceive of a situation in which her faith would require her to recuse herself from a case. 

Quigley said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's questioning of Barrett's religious beliefs during those hearings was widely interpreted as evidence of anti-Catholic bias and backfired on Democrats. In an infamous remark that drew headlines, Feinstein told Barrett, "The dogma lives loudly within you."

"That really sparked a fire within the movement, and people have been following her ever since," Quigley said, referring to Barrett.

Goldberg said senators should ask her "absolutely nothing" about her affiliation with the group or her religious beliefs. Instead, they should focus on her positions on key issues that will come before the court.

"Her private religious views are irrelevant and should not be an avenue of questioning," Goldberg said. "We have Amy Coney Barrett's views on the Affordable Care Act. We have her record on the bench of repeatedly siding with the wealthy and the powerful over the rights of everyday Americans. We know she will erode critical protections for millions of people. We're confident that that will be the focus of the hearings." 

Amy Coney Barrett. Political implications for Trump's reelection 

The impending nomination hearings have the potential to draw voters on both sides of the aisle to the polls and change the conversation in the last weeks leading up to the election. 

Republicans say the Supreme Court debate will help Trump by distracting from the pandemic, economic crisis, and other politically problematic issues for the president. 

"This takes other issues out of the headlines," Bryan Lanza, a GOP strategist and former Trump campaign adviser, told Business Insider. "Supreme Court battles, which in the last decade have been epic if not historical by standards of human decency, get thrust in the middle of a campaign ... This takes COVID out of the headlines." 

But the high-court debate has also boosted enthusiasm among Democratic voters. Barrett's social conservatism, particularly her views on abortion, will undoubtedly invite backlash from progressives and women across the spectrum in the weeks leading up to the election. 

In the days following Ginsburg's death, 60% of Democrats in a Morning Consult/Politico poll said the Supreme Court was "very important" in deciding their vote in November — a 12-point jump compared with the previous week. Fifty-four percent of Republicans said the same, a 4% increase.

A majority of Americans in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Friday — 57% — said the winner of the presidential election should pick Ginsburg's replacement. Just 38% said Trump and Republican senators should nominate and confirm a new justice before the election.

Over the past week, Democrats have raised nearly $200 million, an unprecedented flood of cash that's helping boost both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Democratic congressional candidates across the country. Progressives hope this backlash will convince enough vulnerable Republican senators to change their mind. 

"We're hopeful that at least four Republican senators respond to their constituents and allow the next president, whomever is elected on November 3, to make this selection," Goldberg said. 

Michelle Mark contributed to this report.

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How to watch UFC 253: Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya faces undefeated challenger Paulo Costa

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 4:53pm  |  Clusterstock

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UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya hoists his belt.
  • Israel Adesanya will defend the UFC Middleweight Championship against Paulo Costa in the main event of UFC 253 tonight on ESPN+.
  • Adesanya and Costa both enter UFC 253 undefeated; Costa is known for his knockout power while Adesanya is respected for his fluid fighting style.
  • UFC 253 is the first in a series of five new events planned for UFC's Fight Island campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
  • You'll need an ESPN+ subscription to watch UFC 253 in full — the main card is a $64.99 pay-per-view event, plus the price of your subscription.
  • Read more: All your questions answered about ESPN's streaming service

UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya will defend his title against Brazil's Paulo Costa in a clash of undefeated fighters at UFC 253 tonight on ESPN+. UFC 253 will stream exclusively via ESPN+ with the main card starting at 10 p.m. ET and early prelims beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

Adesanya established himself as one of UFC's most dominant champions in 2019, defeating UFC legends Anderson Silva and Robert Whittaker to claim the belt. Costa has a reputation as one of UFC's most powerful fighters, earning knockouts in 11 of his 13 career matches. Positive tests for performance enhancing substances derailed Costa's UFC career in 2018 but his unbeaten record and knockout prowess make him one of UFC's most highly regarded fighters.

UFC 253 is the first in a series of five new events planned for UFC's Fight Island campus on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The league held a previous series of events on the island back in July. The new UFC Fight Island matches will include multiple UFC Fight Night events with high profile fighters, like Holly Holm, Marlon Moraes, and Chan Sung Jung a.k.a. "The Korean Zombie."

Fans will not be in attendance for UFC 253 or any of the other events due to the coronavirus pandemic. UFC has implemented at least 18 different safety precautions for staff, including advanced medical screenings, temperature checks, and social distancing guidelines.

Updated on 9/26/2020 by Steven Cohen: We've revised the language of this article to remind readers that UFC 253 will be streamed tonight on ESPN+.

Here's the match schedule for UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa Early Prelims — 7 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. PT only on UFC Fight Pass
  • Khadis Ibragimov versus Danilo Marques [Light Heavyweight]
  • Juan Espino versus Jeff Hughes [Heavyweight]
Prelims — 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on ESPN+ and ESPN
  • William Knight versus Aleksa Camur [Light Heavyweight]
  • Shane Young versus Nate Landwehr [Featherweight]
  • Diego Sanchez versus Jake Matthews [Welterweight
  • Brad Riddell versus Alex Da Silva [Lightweight]
Main Card — 10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT only on ESPN+ for $64.99
  • Hakeem Dawodu versus Zubaira Tukhugov [Featherweight]
  • Ketlen Vieira versus Sijara Eubanks [Women's Bantamweight]
  • Kai Kara-France versus Brandon Royval [Flyweight]
  • Dominick Reyes versus Jan Blachowicz [Light Heavyweight]
  • Israel Adesanya versus Paulo Costa [Middleweight Title Match]
How to watch UFC 253

UFC 253 is separated into three portions: the early prelims, the prelims, and the main card. The early prelims are only available to UFC Fight Pass subscribers, while the prelims will air on ESPN+ and the ESPN cable channel. The main card, meanwhile, is an ESPN+ exclusive pay-per-view event.

This means that you have to subscribe to the ESPN+ streaming service before you're able to purchase the PPV fight. An ESPN+ membership costs $5.99 per month or $49.99 per year. The UFC 253 PPV event costs $64.99 for ESPN+ subscribers.

You can access the ESPN+ app on all major mobile and connected TV devices, including Amazon Fire, Apple, Android, Chromecast, PS4, Xbox One, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, and more.

Ways to save on the UFC 253 pay-per-view price

If you plan on signing up for ESPN+ to watch UFC 253, you can take advantage of a special discounted package.

New subscribers can purchase a year-long ESPN+ membership with access to UFC 253 included for a total of $84.98. That's over 25% off the standard price. Following your first year of service, ESPN+ will then renew for the regular annual price of $49.99.

Bundle the next UFC PPV with an ESPN+ Annual Plan to save over 25% UFC Fight Island will deliver 4 events from a private 'bubble' in the United Arab Emirates — here's the full schedule and how to watchESPN+: All your questions answered about ESPN's streaming serviceHow to get the Disney Plus bundle with ESPN+ and the different versions of HuluGermany's premier soccer league, the Bundesliga, will begin its new season on September 18 — here's how to watch live on ESPN+


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2 Former GOP congressmen announce they support Biden, calling Trump 'an ill-formed man who lacks basic self-control'

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 4:34pm  |  Clusterstock
The American flag at half-staff at the US Capitol after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Two former GOP congressmen, Charles Djou of Hawaii and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma, announced their support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in a Roll Call opinion article.
  • Djou and Edwards are part of "Republicans and Independents for Biden," a group of nearly 100 former GOP lawmakers who are supporting the former vice president.
  • The pair blasted President Donald Trump as "an ill-formed man who lacks basic self-control and shows no semblance of inner character."
  • Both Djou and Edwards said they would like to see a return to civility in politics, and they see a Biden presidency as the best way to achieve their goal.
  • "Joe Biden is not a perfect man, but he is a man of humble decency," they wrote.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two former Republican congressmen sharply condemned President Donald Trump's behavior in a opinion piece published Friday, calling for a return to bipartisanship and declaring their support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Charles Djou, a military veteran who represented Hawaii's 1st Congressional district from 2010 to 2011, and Mickey Edwards, a founding trustee of the conservative Heritage Foundation who held Oklahoma's 5th district seat from 1977 to 1993, co-wrote the Roll Call article that highlighted how they felt the incumbent president failed to embody Republican principles.

"Donald Trump may pretend to be heir to the great Republican tradition that appealed to us both but he is no Republican," they wrote. "He is simply an ill-formed man who lacks basic self-control and shows no semblance of inner character... We are so disturbed by Trump's name-calling and childish taunting, his penchant for conspiracy theories and his embrace of conspiracy websites, all of which reflect a disturbing paranoia."

While Djou, 50, and Edwards, 83, are from vastly different states and generations, they were unified by what they perceived as Trump's lack of respect for the country's diversity.

"America is a nation of immigrants, and it benefits from a national fabric woven with the threads of many people, of many backgrounds and cultures, all united in the common belief and love of American liberty," they wrote. "He recklessly declares that immigrants are 'animals' and 'rapists.' His anti-immigrant approach bears a much closer relationship to the autocrats in Turkey or Russia or China than the American Statue of Liberty."

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the group, an affiliate of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, will spend at least $10 million on pro-Biden ads and mailers targeted towards suburban voters in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

The former congressmen concluded their article with a message of support for the former vice president.

"Joe Biden is not a perfect man, but he is a man of humble decency," they stated. "America needs a restored sense of national unity, basic civility and true character in our president."

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Senate will reportedly begin hearings to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick on October 12

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 3:57pm  |  Clusterstock
Amy Coney Barrett has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017. Multiple outlets have reported that Trump will name her to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • The GOP-led Senate will reportedly begin confirmation hearings on President Donald Trump's pick to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on October 12, according to reports from The Hill and Politico on Saturday. 
  • The hearing is expected to last four days and could allow for a vote ahead of the November election, according to the reports. 
  • Trump is expected to name anti-abortion conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The GOP-led Senate will begin its confirmation hearings to confirm a new justice to the Supreme Court on October 12, according to Saturday reports from The Hill and Politico

According to Politico, members on the Senate Judiciary Committee members are being notified that hearings for Trump's nominee for a seat left vacant by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg will begin on October 12, two people familiar with the schedule told the outlet. A person also familiar with the schedule confirmed that date to The Hill. 

As Politico noted, hearings that begin on October 12 could allow for time for the Senate to vote to confirm the nominee before the election. According to the report, the hearing would begin on Monday and last four days, following the pattern of other recent appointees, like Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed and confirmed in 2018.  

According to multiple reports, Trump is expected later Saturday to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, an anti-abortion conservative, to replace the liberal Justice Ginsburg, as Business Insider's Eliza Relman previously reported.

Democrats have insisted the winner of the November 3 election should nominate Ginsburg's successor, following the Senate's 2016 refusal to vote on Merrick Garland, then-President Obama's nominee to the court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia who died during his final year in office. 

Most Republicans, however, have said they support confirming a nominee. Some Republicans, namely Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said that the Senate should wait to vote on a nominee until after the election. 

As The Hill noted, GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is expected to officially announce the schedule later Saturday. 

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Trump makes a $500 billion economic appeal to Black Americans, while pledging to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 3:53pm  |  Clusterstock
President Trump greets former NFL running back Herschel Walker at a campaign event aimed at Black Americans on Sept. 25, 2020.
  • At a Georgia campaign event on Friday, President Trump unveiled a $500 billion economic plan designed to boost opportunities for for Black Americans.
  • The "Platinum Plan" would create 3 million new jobs and 500,000 new black-owned businesses, according to Forbes.
  • Trump also announced that he supports making Juneteenth a federal holiday, along with designating the Ku Klux Klan and Antifa as terrorist organizations.
  • The incumbent president has struggled with racial controversies throughout his first term and hopes to peel off enough disaffected black Democrats and political independents to win reelection.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Friday, President Trump pledged to increase economic opportunities for Black Americans with a $500 billion measure aimed at creating 3 million new jobs and 500,000 new black-owned businesses, according to Forbes.

"I'm here today to announce a brand-new plan to deliver more opportunity, more security, more fairness, and more prosperity to Black communities," Trump said in his address at a Georgia campaign event. "We call it the Platinum Plan, and that's a contract with Black Americans."

The event featured two of Trump's most prominent Black supporters, Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Herschel Walker, the former NFL player.

In his speech, Trump described himself as a friend to the Black community who would make investments in treatments for kidney disease, diabetes, and sickle cell. He also pledged to continue the economic gains that occurred under his administration before the coronavirus pandemic reached the US.

"In the first three years, we've achieved the lowest black unemployment rate in history," he said. "The black youth unemployment rate reached an all-time low. I will always put Americans first and that includes ­­— very importantly — Black Americans."

Trump then pivoted to the Democrats, accusing the party of neglecting Black Americans.

"They want to take the Black voter for granted and they have taken the Black voter for granted," he said. "It's not right and it's not fair and it's not going to happen."

As Trump enters the general election with most Black voters solidly behind former Vice President Joe Biden, he's aimed his re-election pitch at the economy, an issue where he still receives high marks by many voters. In 2016, Trump received 8% of the black vote, compared to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who won 88% of the black vote, according to the Pew Research Center.

Trump also pledged his support for making Juneteenth a national holiday, along with prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan and Antifa as terrorist organizations.

Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the US, dates to June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black Americans in Texas were finally informed that they had been set free. In June, after heavy criticism, Trump moved the date of a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., that would have coincided with the anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, where an unknown number of black citizens were killed by white vigilantes. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal this summer, Trump falsely claimed that he made the holiday "very famous."

Trump has struggled with racial issues for years, from his "birther" campaign aimed at former President Barack Obama, the first Black president in US history, and his 2017 handling of the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., to pointed criticisms of prominent Black journalists and his open disparagement of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Putin says Russia and the US should make a deal to stop meddling in each other's elections

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 3:29pm  |  Clusterstock
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to election meddling in a statement released Friday. 
  • The suggestion comes as a part of a "comprehensive program" meant to enhance and strengthen the relationship between the two countries, according to the statement. 
  • Lawmakers learned earlier this year that Russia was taking steps to influence the votes in this year's presidential election.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for a truce between the United States and Russia, asking for both countries to agree not to meddle in this year's elections. 

In a statement, Putin wrote that he proposes "to exchange, in a mutually acceptable format, guarantees of non-intervention into internal affairs of each other, including into electoral processes, inter alia, by means of the ICTs and high-tech methods."

The suggestion is part of a "comprehensive program" meant to enhance and strengthen the relationship between the two countries, according to the statement. 

"These measures are aimed at building up trust between our States, promoting security and prosperity of our peoples," Putin said in the statement. "They will significantly contribute to ensuring global peace in the information space."

Despite evidence presented by US intelligence, Russia did not admit to interfering in the 2016 presidential election in the statement released Friday. 

"Dialogue like this is obviously hard to take seriously with Russia, China, Iran, or any other party that continues to interfere in our election process," a senior administration official told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

"According to Microsoft, Russian groups have attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties, and political consultants," the official continued. "According to the Washington Post, just today Facebook removed additional Russian disinformation networks with ties to Russian national intelligence services."

While over the last four years, multiple government agencies — including the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, and the Senate Intelligence Committee — have presented reports that support the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Trump has repeatedly downplayed Russian attempts to subvert US democracy.

Earlier this year, lawmakers were warned that Russia is trying to meddle in this year's election. 

As Business Insider Tom Porter reported, a report from the CIA has found that Putin is "probably" personally involved in a Russian bid to smear Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, according to sources who spoke to The Washington Post. The report marked the first time Putin has been identified by US intelligence as being potentially personally involved in the 2020 US election.

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DOJ accuses TikTok owner of being a 'mouthpiece' of Chinese Communist Party

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 3:00pm  |  Clusterstock

The Justice Department filed a response to TikTok's request for an injunction to delay President Donald Trump's partial ban on the app that is scheduled for September 27, to be followed by a total ban on November 12. 

According to the DOJ's claims filed Friday night, the Justice Department lawyers accused TikTok parent company Byte Dance's CEO Zhang Yiming of acting as a "mouthpiece" for the Chinese Communist Party and publicly making statements that demonstrate he is  "committed to promoting the CCP's agenda and messaging," The Verge and NPR reported. 

The DOJ claimed that "US user data being stored outside of the United States presents significant risks in this case," but the section relevant to how this is the case is redacted, according to The Verge and NPR.

ByteDance's head of security previously stated that it's impossible for the Chinese government to access user data from TikTok because the app's servers are based in the US and thus any data transmission must go through the US government. 

TikTok did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment regarding the DOJ's claims on Friday. 

TikTok's injunction is part of its lawsuit against the US government that was filed in late August, which claimed that Trump's executive orders that banned ByteDance from doing business with US companies ignored TikTok's right to "due process." The lawsuit also argued that the US government's claims that the app brought risked national security were not supported with evidence.

Earlier this month, the US Commerce Department announced it would enact a partial ban that would prevent US citizens from downloading the TikTok app beginning on September 20. That ban was delayed to September 27 on September 19. The US government has also threatened to ban the app on November 12 from "enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the US," which will mean users will effectively stop using the app. 

Trump said earlier this month that he "approves a deal in concept," where Oracle and Walmart become stakeholders for a commercial partnership with TikTok, allowing the app to resume US operations. Oracle announced that it will be a 12.5% stakeholder of TikTok Global as the app's security cloud technology provider and Walmart also announced that it was tentatively approved to purchase 7.5% of TikTok Global.

US officials are reportedly questioning whether the TikTok-Oracle partnership will sufficiently contend to national security concerns,  which puts into question whether this deal will be approved formally. Meanwhile, the US government "tentatively agreed" to Oracle's bid for TikTok, according to reports from Bloomberg and Reuters.


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The UK pledged more than $700 million to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is distributed fairly across the world

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 2:48pm  |  Clusterstock
Johnson urged countries to unite against the virus, which he called a "common foe."
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged £571 million ($727 million) to a World Health Organization effort to ensure a coronavirus vaccine is distributed fairly across the globe. 
  • Johnson addressed the UN General Assembly in a recorded speech on Saturday. He said the COVID-19 pandemic caused countries to have divided approaches to mitigating its spread. 
  • He told leaders that they "simply can't continue in this way," and urged them to unite against the "common foe," or the virus. 
  • The prime minister had initially been slow to issue country-wide stay-at-home mandates and distribute testing before contracting the virus himself on March 27.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would pledge £571 million ($727 million) to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine would get distributed to the world's poorest countries.

Johnson announced the move during a prerecorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. The funding will go toward COVAX, an effort spearheaded by the World Health Organization to develop, manufacture, and distribute coronavirus vaccines evenly across the world.

In his remarks, Johnson urged countries to unite against the virus, which he called "common foe." He said the coronavirus has divided countries, resulting in a global patchwork of coronavirus regulations and closed borders.

"After nine months of fighting COVID-19, the very notion of the international community looks, frankly, pretty tattered," Johnson said. "And we know that we simply can't continue in this way. Unless we get our act together."

The US and China opted out of participating in COVAX, which an initial plan projects would raise funding from its wealthiest member countries to release vaccine doses to "all countries reach enough quantities to cover 20% of their population" before a second wave would allocate doses based on each country's "COVID threat and vulnerability." 

The prime minister had initially been slow to issue country-wide stay-at-home mandates and distribute testing before contracting the virus himself on March 27. Johnson ordered restaurants to close and people to work from home earlier this week after the country recorded thousands of new cases in several parts of the country. A September study found coronavirus infections were doubling every week from people returning to work and increasing social interaction.

Johnson also said he would increase funding to WHO by 30%, or £340 million ($433 million) over the next four years.

"Here in the UK, the birthplace of Edward Jenner who pioneered the world's first vaccine, we are determined to do everything in our power to work with our friends across the UN, to heal those divisions and to heal the world," Johnson said.

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2020 is a stressful mess. Now, brands are trying to capitalize on the dystopian year from hell.

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 1:35pm  |  Clusterstock
Reese's Big Cups with Pretzels.

Everyone can agree that 2020 has been filled with stress and chaos. Now, brands are trying to capitalize on the year from hell. 

This week, Reese's decided to launch its new Big Cups with Pretzels with a series of "salty" tweets. 

"Yearning for the days when the world's biggest problem was that Reese's wasn't stuffed with pretzels," one reads.

"Spent the day sneering every time I heard 'the new normal' instead of 'the new Reese's.' Feeling pretty good about my time management skills," reads another. 

—REESE'S (@reeses) September 21, 2020

Reese's explained that the new treat represents how people are feeling in 2020 — "keeping it together on the outside, but we're salty on the inside." 

"Let's face it, we're all feeling a little bit salty this year," Ian Norton, Reese's senior director, said in a statement. "In true Reese's fashion, we channeled our feelings into sweet and salty deliciousness with new Reese's Big Cups with Pretzels."

There is plenty to feel 'salty' about in 2020

There is plenty to feel "salty" about, though perhaps a more accurate word for some would be "depressed" or "enraged."

The unemployment rate is at 8.4%, as roughly 12.6 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits. Millions of protesters have taken to the streets across America to rally against racism and police brutality since the killing of George Floyd on May 25. The US is a little over a month away from an election that President Trump has said he expects to "end up in the Supreme Court," while also refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. More than 200,000 people in the US have died of COVID-19, and a widely available vaccine is still months away. 

In March, brands were quick to update their marketing strategies to reflect the pandemic, as companies scrapped ads that showed people failing to social distance, hugging, or — in KFC's case — licking their fingers after eating fried chicken. 

Many new advertisements early in the pandemic addressed the coronavirus head on. Budweiser and McDonald's were among the companies that ran ads celebrating first responders in April. But, as the pandemic stretches on, marketing has shifted to what executives call the "new normal." 

Now things are just terrible in general 

Brands are now building strategies that acknowledge the general hellishness of this year, without focusing specifically on the coronavirus. 

The most obvious channel that brands have used to  show that they "get" 2020 is social media, where companies tend to be more casual and strive towards relatability. Burger King, for example, has tweeted numerous times about how terrible and bizarre this year has been. 

—Burger King (@BurgerKing) May 21, 2020—Burger King (@BurgerKing) July 22, 2020—Burger King (@BurgerKing) September 15, 2020—Burger King (@BurgerKing) May 19, 2020


Other campaigns that play on how horrible 2020 is include Natural Lights' offer to build a "mobile dorm" as colleges go remote due to COVID and one of KFC's temporary slogans in the UK: "It's make you forget about 2020 good."

People's struggles are also playing into companies' strategies in more subtle ways. For example, Starbucks and Dunkin' launched their Pumpkin Spice products earlier than ever before this year. The decision seems to have been sparked in part by people's desperation for 2020 to end — or at least to have something to brighten their days as the year dragged on. 

"While there is so much uncertainty heading into the fall, one thing our fans can count on is the return of pumpkin at Dunkin'," Dunkin's vice president of marketing strategy, Jill Nelson, said in a statement to USA TODAY. "We're excited to bring them one of the most anticipated flavors earlier than ever before."

Katherine Cullen, NRF's senior director of industry and consumer insights, told Business Insider that people are looking for anything that will distinguish one day from the rest. For example, Americans who plan to celebrate Halloween are spending more money on costumes, decorations, and candy than ever before, allotting more than $92 simply to break up the monotony of 2020. 

"It's a way to have a little joy and share a little joy at a time when people are dealing with a lot of uncertainty," Cullen said. 

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US presidents tend to make far more money after they leave office — here's how

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 1:16pm  |  Clusterstock

Becoming the president of the United States is a live-changing transition – but one commonly asked question is how US presidents make money after leaving office.

A US president makes an annual salary of $400,000 while in office. This is on top of being able to live in the White House for free, and having a separate budget for travel, entertainment, and other expenses.

But US presidents often make far more once they leave office. Here's how.


As part of the Former Presidents Act, US presidents are entitled to a pension once they leave office. While the creation of the act was inspired by President Harry Truman's life after the presidency, President Dwight Eisenhower was the first recipient of the pension, as reported by ThoughtCo.

Congress sets the amount annually, and it's currently at $210,700.

According to Money, former President Barak Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter all receive this pension, which takes effect at 12 p.m. on Inauguration Day. 

Public Appearances 

It's not unusual for former presidents to make their rounds giving speeches and making other public appearances.

But the appearance can come with a pretty hefty price tag.

In the most recent numbers available, Obama charges up to $400,000 for a speaking engagement, according to the Los Angeles Times in 2017. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush charged up to $200,00 and $700,00 (after adjusting for inflation), respectively.

Book Deals

Writing a book after leaving office is a well-known part of being a president, and publishers pay a pretty penny for the rights to a presidential memoir. 

In 2017, Barack and Michelle Obama signed a joint book deal with Penguin Random House to the tune of over $60 million, the Financial Times reported. The former president had already published two other books with Penguin Random House, including his memoir "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," as previously reported by Business Insider.  "Becoming" by Michelle Obama was released in early 2019, and Barack Obama's book, "A Promised Land," will be available in November, according to the Associated Press.

Before the Obamas' book deals, the record was previously held by Bill Clinton, who got about $14 million (or about $21 million in today's currency) for his post-presidency book deal, as reported by Vox.

It's worth noting that both book deals still rank in the top 10 book deals — ever. 

George W. Bush was also given a hefty amount for his book deal— $10 million, according to Financial Times— but it wasn't record breaking.

Brand Deals 

While brand sponsorships are normally reserved for celebrities, former political figures are starting to dip their toes in brand deals.

In 2018, the Obamas signed a deal with Netflix to produce content for the streaming giant, as reported by Variety. Most notably, that deal birthed both "American Factory" and "Crip Camp", which garnered positive reviews, and the former even won an Oscar.

In 2019, Spotify announced a deal with Higher Ground Productions. This deal included a 9-episode podcast that was hosted by Michelle Obama and featured guests including Barack, according to The Verge.

Joining in on podcasts, Forbes reported that Bill Clinton signed a deal with iHeartMedia to produce a podcast that is due to premiere in 2021. This is second podcast deal for Clinton with the media company.

Corporate Boards and other Honorary Positions 

While this is more common among members of Congress, former presidents sometimes take positions within corporate boards or other grandiose titles. 

Although sometimes these roles aren't as cut and dry as book deals and a pension. 

In 2016, the Washington Post reported that former president Clinton had made $18 million as an honorary chancellor for a for-profit school. 

From 2002-2009, Bill Clinton served as an advisor to his friend and investor, Ron Burkle. It's estimated that Clinton made over $12 million while working with Burkle,according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Only 1,000 boxes of Pumpkin Spice mac and cheese are being raffled off by Kraft, which says it's 'trolling the classic PSL' from Starbucks

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 1:00pm  |  Clusterstock
Kraft's limited edition Pumpkin Spice Macaroni and Cheese
  • Kraft is releasing a limited edition Pumpkin Spice Macaroni and Cheese flavor this fall.
  • 1,000 lucky winners will get to try a box, which comes with a coffee cup and a special pumpkin-spice flavor packet.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the leaves turn orange, flannel-wearers everywhere anticipate the arrival of the classic drink: The Pumpkin Spice Latte. But this year, there's another seasonal treat to look forward to: Pumpkin Spice Mac & Cheese.

On Tuesday, Kraft Canada announced that they would be raffling off 1,000 boxes come October, and directed people to an online waitlist to enter for a chance to win. 30,000 Canadians signed up for the waitlist in 48 hours, according to Today. On Friday, Kraft announced that Americans have the chance to taste the special edition mac and cheese too. 

"While Pumpkin Spice KD may be trolling the classic 'PSL', this spicy cheesy treat is very real and will come in a signature white cup with cinnamon spice topping," Kraft said in a press release.

The pasta dish is made with Kraft's traditional cheese powder and has a fall twist: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. A box of Pumpkin Spice Mac & Cheese also comes with a coffee cup "with your name written on it (spelled wrong of course)," in a nod to the classic PSL — a not-so-subtle reference to Starbucks.

"After seeing the huge response Pumpkin Spice Mac & Cheese received north of the border, and even hearing some heated debates about it down here, we had to bring it to the U.S. for Americans to try," said Martina Davis, brand manager for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese said, according to Today.

Pumpkin Spice Mac & Cheese follows other unusual announcements from the classic brand. In August, Kraft released a Cheetos mac and cheese, complete with a Flamin' Hot flavor, and a special breakfast edition mac and cheese. In a press release titled, "It's Official: Kraft Mac & Cheese Is Approved for Breakfast," the company said that 56% of parents served their children mac and cheese for breakfast more often since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Curious cooks have until September 29 to enter the sweepstakes to win Pumpkin Spice Macaroni and Cheese. Only 1,000 lucky winners will be able to taste the experimental new dish. 

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John Legend says that Americans 'will have to start thinking about going somewhere else' if Trump is reelected

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 12:41pm  |  Clusterstock
John Legend performs "Glory" with the rapper Common at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
  • In an interview with Cosmopolitan UK, John Legend says that Americans may have to consider leaving the country if President Trump is reelected.
  • "Every once in a while you think about it," Legend said. "I don't know what one's supposed to do when you have a leader who is trying to destroy democracy."
  • Trump has feuded with Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, throughout his presidency.
  • Legend, a strong supporter of 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, has been a prominent political activist for years, with a particular passion for criminal justice reform.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan UK, John Legend says that Americans may have to think about leaving the country if President Trump is reelected to a second term.

"Every once in a while you think about it," he said. "We were born and raised here, all of our families are here. It would be hard to leave. But I don't know what one's supposed to do when you have a leader who is trying to destroy democracy."

Legend continued, saying that "If that project [to destroy democracy] was to be in any way successful, you'd have to think about going somewhere that is a true democracy, that has respect for the rule of law and human rights."

"If America chooses to be that place then people will have to start thinking about going somewhere else," he said. "It is truly disturbing and concerning."

Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, who are currently expecting their third child together, are vocal opponents of Trump, and he's engaged in harsh rhetoric with the couple on Twitter.

Last year, Trump criticized the couple when he felt as though Legend was insufficiently appreciative of him enacting the First Step Act, the legislation that reformed drug sentencing laws. At the time, Trump tweeted that Legend was "boring" and called Teigen "his filthy mouthed wife."

Legend responded to Trump in an interview with The Evening Standard, saying that Trump was "so sad and petty and narcissistic and immature." Teigen called Trump a "p---y a-- b---h" on Twitter and criticized him for not tagging her in his earlier insult. In 2017, Trump blocked Teigen on the social media platform after she tweeted "Lolllllll no one likes you," in response to his online complaints that Republicans were insufficiently protective of him. 

The Cosmopolitan interview progressed with Legend expressing hope that Americans would steer the country in a different direction.

"I strongly believe America is exhausted from three and a half years of Donald Trump," he said. "We can't bear another four years of this. As Michelle Obama said, we have to vote like our lives depend on it. I honestly think the American people will do it."

Legend, who supports Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, has been a prominent political activist for years. This past summer, he called for the arrest of the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and performed with the rapper and actor Common at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

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A Tesla Model 3 in China was caught on video smashing into a fake pedestrian in an automatic braking test

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 12:40pm  |  Clusterstock
  • A widely shared clip on Twitter appears to show a Tesla Model 3 dramatically failing an automatic braking test in China.
  • In the clip, originally posted to the social media site Weibo, a simulated pedestrian on a controlled path is mowed down by the car.
  • In the US, AAA has found major flaws with many automakers' emergency braking software, including Tesla. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


Tesla's automatic braking apparently wasn't enough to save a simulated pedestrian in China.

Video from social media site Weibo, posted to Twitter this month, shows a stuffed dummy on a track walking in front of a quickly accelerating Model 3. It doesn't end well for the inanimate walker.

—Stultus (@StultusVox) September 20, 2020


Jalopnik first spotted the video. Tesla didn't respond to questions about it. 

It's not clear who organized the event where the clip was taken, but it appears to be similar in form to tests conducted by AAA in the US in 2019.

The automobile association used 2019 model-year cars, including the Model 3, to test different manufacturers' automatic braking technology. Like the Chinese dummy, these faked pedestrians didn't fare well either. 

Despite the increasing prevalence of these technologies, pedestrian deaths in the United States hit a 30-year high in 2019.

CEO Elon Musk, who has pushed back against criticism of Tesla's Autopilot, said this month that a new version of the software was coming by November, including the much-anticipated launch of "full self-driving," a feature the company has long touted.

"We had to rewrite everything, labeling software, just the entire code base, it took us quite a while," Musk said of the forthcoming beta release. "I call it like 4D in the sense that it's 3-dimensions plus time. It's just taken us a while to rewrite everything. It's amazing. Yes. It's just — it's clearly going to work."

—Stultus (@StultusVox) September 20, 2020




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A Black fourth grader was suspended for having a BB gun visible in his online class

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 11:44am  |  Clusterstock
Ka Mauri Harrison, a 9-year-old in Harvey, Louisiana, got suspended for showing a BB gun during his virtual class.
  • A Harvey, Louisiana elementary school suspended a Black fourth grader for unintentionally showing a BB gun during class. 
  • reported that 9-year-old Ka Mauri Harrison moved a BB gun that his younger brother tripped on during an English test. Because the gun was visible during class, school officials said it violated their internet usage policy.
  • Harrison's suspension is one of several instances of Black children being disciplined during the country's disorganized shift to online school. In May, a Michigan judge incarcerated 15-year-old Black girl for not completing her homework, which led to national petitions and protests.
  • Black students are disproportionately suspended or expelled, and some educators worry the virtual school could perpetuate racial bias in discipline. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


A Louisiana school suspended and nearly expelled a fourth-grader for unintentionally showing a BB gun during his virtual class. 

Ka Mauri Harrison, a 9-year-old in Harvey, Louisiana, moved a BB gun that his younger brother tripped on during an English test, reported. The teacher attempted to speak to him, but because he muted the computer for the test, he was disconnected from the class. The school then called his parents notifying them of his suspension.

The school suspended Harrison for violating their policy for handling weapons in the classroom setting and the school's internet usage policy, according to the report. Expulsion had been recommended, but the school's hearing officer later opted not to expel Harrison.

Business Insider reached out to the school and the Harrison family for further comment.

The fourth grader's suspension is one of several instances of Black children being disciplined during the disorganized shift to online school, further perpetuating racial bias in education. In May, a Michigan judge incarcerated a 15-year-old Black girl for not completing her homework, leading to protests and petitions demanding her release. A Colorado school suspended and sent the sheriff to a 12-year-old Black boy's home for showing his toy gun in class

Black students are disproportionately suspended or expelled, one of the ways that make up the "school-to-prison" pipeline. In Minneapolis, Black students made up 41% of the overall student population, but 76% of suspensions. In Paramus, New Jersey, Black students were 12.4 times more likely to get suspended than white students between 2015 to 2016.

Specifically, Black boys represented 8% of all enrolled students in 2015-2016 but accounted for a whopping 25% of all school suspensions, the US Education Department found.

Educators told The New York Time's Aaricka Washington that the rules set up to maintain order during "Zoom schooling" could lead to unnecessary discipline. But overseeing their children during the virtual school — an already tedious task for working parents — could particularly disadvantage Black and Latino families that faced higher job loss and illness during the pandemic. 

"All the situations that we know make people vulnerable to bias exist in this situation," Miranda Johnson, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago who studies school discipline, told Chalkbeat. "High stress situations, people are at their limits both professionally and personally, lots of discretion in these decisions because there's not clear guidance, and everyone is sort of making things up as they go."

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How to manage devices on HBO Max and remove or add their access to your account

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 11:34am  |  Clusterstock
You can add or remove a single device or unlink all of your devices from your HBO Max account.
  • You can manage devices on HBO Max to use any number of devices and web browsers with the streaming platform, but you can only stream on up to three devices at once.
  • You can review and remove devices you're no longer using from the list of devices on both the mobile app and a browser on your computer.
  • If you want to prevent a device from using HBO Max in the future, change your password before you sign it out. 
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

HBO Max keeps track of all the devices, including phones, tablets, smart TVs, and streaming devices, that you use with the service. And while it doesn't track computers, it does remember which web browsers you have used to stream its library content. 

You can review the list of devices that have used your HBO Max account and sign out of any that you no longer need. 

If you suspect someone is using your HBO Max service without your permission, you should change your password in your account settings before you sign out. 

Here's how to manage your devices linked to HBO Max. 

How to manage devices on HBO Max using a mobile device 

1. Start the HBO Max app on your iPhone or Android. 

2. Tap your profile icon in the lower right corner. 

3. You need to be using an adult profile, so if the current profile is for a child, tap "Switch Profiles" and choose an adult, then tap the profile icon again. 

To manage your devices, tap your profile icon.

4. Select the Settings icon, shaped like a gear, in the upper left corner.

5. Choose "Manage Devices."

6. To remove a device from the list, tap the "X" to its right. 

7. To sign out of all devices, tap "Sign All Devices Out."

You can sign out of devices one at a time or all at once. How to manage devices on HBO Max using a computer

1. Open in a web browser.

2. Click your profile icon in the upper right corner. 

3. You need to be using an adult profile, so if the current profile is for a child, click "Switch Profiles" and choose an adult. Then select the profile icon again. 

Start by clicking the profile icon at the top right.

4. Select "Manage Devices."

5. You'll see a list of devices. To remove one, click "Sign Out."

6. To sign out of all devices, click "Sign All Devices Out."

Click "Sign Out" to remove a device you no longer want to use with HBO Max. Related coverage from Tech Reference:Read the original article on Business Insider

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