Posts tagged with "COVID-19 pandemic"

Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over ‘Black Widow’ streaming release

August 2, 2021

Movie stars often work for a share of box office profits—so when a film opens simultaneously on both cinema screens and streaming services, their cut of the final take is bound to be smaller.

And now, Scarlett Johansson—star of the latest Marvel movie “Black Widow”—has filed a lawsuit for just that reason, The Wall Street Journal reports.

On Thursday, July 29, in Los Angeles Superior Court, Johannson filed a suit against Disney, alleging her contract had been breached when the media giant released the film on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time as its theatrical debut.

Johansson said in the suit that her agreement with Disney’s Marvel Entertainment guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release, and her salary was based in large part on the box-office performance of the film.

“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent … Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the suit alleged.

A Disney spokesperson told the Journal that  Johansson’s suit had no merit and is “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The company said it “fully complied with ,,, Johansson’s contract and, furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date.”

Indeed, according to the Journal, the suit could be a bellwether for the entertainment industry. Major media companies are giving priority to their streaming services in pursuit of growth, and are increasingly putting their high-value content on those platforms. Those changes have significant financial implications for actors and producers, who want to ensure that growth in streaming doesn’t come at their expense.

“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” said John Berlinski, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP who represents Johansson.

According to the complaint, Johansson’s representatives sought to renegotiate her contract after learning of the dual-release strategy for “Black Widow,” which she has said is her ninth and last Marvel movie. Disney and Marvel were unresponsive, the suit said.

The decision to put the movie on Disney+ is projected to cost Johansson more than $50 million, a person familiar with details of her contract claimed.

Even before the pandemic, Ms. Johansson was concerned that “Black Widow” could end up on Disney+ as part of its wide release. In 2019, Ms. Johansson’s representatives reached out to Marvel seeking assurance that “Black Widow” would have a theatrical-only release, according to the complaint. In a March 2019 email included in the suit, Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi said the release would be according to a traditional theatrical model, adding, “We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Missing the Great White North, eh? On August 9, Canada’s border will open to vaccinated Americans

July 21, 2021

Save the date. Canadian officials announced on July 19 that the nation’s border with the United States will begin reopening next month to fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents, more than 16 months after closing to non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The US Express News reports.

“As a first step, starting August 9, 2021, Canada plans to begin allowing entry to American citizens and permanent residents, who are currently residing in the United States, and have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel,” according to a statement. “This preliminary step allows for the Government of Canada to fully operationalize the adjusted border measures ahead of September 7, [when the borders will open for international travel] and recognizes the many close ties between Canadians and Americans.”

To enter Canada, travelers must use the government’s ArriveCAN “vaccine passport” app, which allows travelers to upload passport information as well as COVID-19 vaccination records and PCR test results. Fully vaccinated residents of other countries will be able to enter Canada beginning September 7, “provided that Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable.”

It is unclear when the United States will allow Canadians to enter across the land border for nonessential travel. It is also not clear when unvaccinated and partially vaccinated U.S. residents will be able to visit Canada.

Americans who hae received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine must upload a photo of their vaccination record or enter the information manually. They will also be required to upload a negative result from a PCR Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of flight departure or arrival at a land crossing.

ArriveCAN is free and available for iPhone and Android. Creating an account begins with entering an email address and a password. The app uses a smartphone camera to scan documents, but does not retain those images. Users can revoke permission for the app to use their camera at any time.

Travelers who prefer not to use their smartphone camera can enter the relevant information manually. Travelers who don’t have a smartphone can enter their information directly on the ArriveCAN website.

Once a traveler has completed entering his or her information, the ArriveCAN app provides a receipt with a digital code that must be shown at the Canadian border. Those using the website should print or take a screen shot of their receipt and bring it to the border. 

All non-essential travelers to Canada, including fully vaccinated individuals, will be tested again at the border or airport upon arrival into the country.

The 5,525-mile border between the U.S. and Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020. The closure has been extended on a month-by-month basis, and the current restrictions were officially due to expire on July 21.

Research contact: @theusxpressnews

Editor’s note: According to a July 21 report in The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration is extending non-essential travel restrictions for the US northern and southernborders until August 21.

Heineken responds perfectly to the implosion of the European Super League

April 27, 2021

In America, the XFL is the most iconic example of a football league that couldn’t go the distance: After its eight teams engaged in just five weeks of play in its inaugural 2020 season, the league’s operations slowly came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic—leading to bankruptcy.

But, Adweek reports, the XFL feels like an enduring cultural institution compared to the European Super League, an audacious concept that lasted a mere 60 hours in late April before imploding spectacularly.

Now, brewmaker and soccer sponsor Heineken and its advertising agency Publicis have cheekily marked the misguided attempt at a new soccer league with an Instagram post that bears a simple warning: Don’t drink and start a league.

The social post was created through Publicis Italy and the agency’s dedicated Heineken group, Le Pub.

As a longtime sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, Heineken obviously had a clear side in the debate, but it’s also one that the brand could rest comfortably knowing that its sense of humor would be shared by most fans.

Indeed, according to Adweek, the Instagram post developed by Publicis has received more than 12,800 likes in its first six hours, with comments consistently describing the response as “brilliant” and “genius.”

Research contact: @Adweek

Zoom, Peacock, and TikTok lead the fastest-growing brands of 2020

December11, 2020

While the pandemic has been anything but good for most U.S. businesses (think: restaurants, bars, air carriers, movie theaters, and gyms), some brand names actually saw rapid growth during the shutdown; as Americans relied on digital and vehicular delivery of food, prescriptions, cleaning products and masks, pet products, entertainment, and even business and casual meetings.

Now, Morning Consult has published its annual “Fastest Growing Brands” list, which it describes as “the definitive measure of brand growth for both emerging and established brands, showcasing a wide range of companies and products that have accelerated their consumer appeal and awareness in 2020.”

On this year’s list, the top spot was claimed by digital meetings provider  Zoom, Fast Company reports. No need to guess why, right? Surprisingly NBCUniversal’s fledgling video streaming service took the number-two spot. Less of a surprise was the brand that claimed the number-three honors: TikTok, a leading destination for short-form mobile video.

Morning Consult says that all the brands on this year’s list were shaped by changing consumer behavior resulting from the pandemic: “Nearly every brand that occupies a spot on the Fastest Growing Brands list is meaningfully connected to pandemic-related behavior, from at-home entertainment to cleaning products to pharmaceutical companies.”

The top 10 on Morning Consult’s fastest-growing brands of 2020 are:

  1. Zoom
  2. Peacock
  3. TikTok
  4. Instacart
  5. DoorDash
  6. HBO Max
  7. WhatsApp
  8. Microsoft Teams
  9. T Mobile
  10. Pfizer

You can check out the full list of brands here.

Research contact: @FastCompanyTop b

Matzoball to launch ‘largest Jewish virtual speed dating event in the world’ on Christmas Eve

December 1, 2020

The original Matzoball—founded by Andrew Rudnick in 1987 as a Christmas Eve party for single Jewish Americans—has reinvented itself for the pandemic: Although the company usually throws as many 20 parties in cities nationwide and worldwide, this year, the fun will go virtual.

In a press release, Rudnick explains, “This year we needed to think outside the box. Every year we give tens of thousands of single Jews the opportunity to meet in person at the hottest nightclubs all over the country. This year, we are inviting partygoers to attend online—and it will be a much bigger and better event than anyone can imagine. We are beyond thrilled to announce the launch of Matzoball Online!”

The parties start on Christmas Eve at 9 p.m. and will be broken down by region and age range. Each event will guarantee a minimum of 20 to 30, five-minute dates, and the participants will then have the opportunity to anonymously choose whom they felt they had a connection with. If the connection is mutual, they will be notified via email of their mutual connections 15 minutes after the event and will be given the opportunity to connect again.

The Matzoball Online is set to go online in the following regions/countries, but also anticipates adding more: Atlanta, Boca, Delray Beach, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angelese, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Montreal, Toronto, London, Sydney, and Tel Aviv.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.matzoball.org and cost $35, which includes entry into the 1st Matzoball Online event, and also will offer ticket purchasers exclusive discounts to the monthly speed dating events that will be hosted by Matzoball in 2021.

According to Guinness World Records, the largest known speed dating event, which drew 964 people, occurred on February 14, 2019, Valentine’s Day, in Dublin, Ireland. Matzoball anticipates five times as many people will participate in their event.

The Matzoball claims to have been responsible for thousands of marriages over the past 34 years—and having been named the #1 Holiday Party by USA Today..

Research contact: @MatzoBall24M

Moderna announces vaccine nearly 95% effective

November 17, 2020

The new vaccine from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna, the biotechnology company, is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to a release from the company on November 16—making it the second vaccine to look promising enough to hit the market soon in America, Yahoo reports in an article picked up from the blog, Eat This, Not That.

Last week, New York City-based Pfizer’s vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective.

“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement. “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible. All along, we have known that each day matters.”

Bancel emphasizes, “This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease.”

On hearing the news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor commented to CNN, “These are obviously very exciting results …. It’s just as good as it gets—94.5% is truly outstanding.”

Regarding the timetable, Fauci said of the Pfizer vaccine the following, which could also apply to Moderna: “What will happen is that,” after the emergency authorization is approved, “at the end of November, the beginning of December, if that goes through—and again, I don’t want to get ahead of the FDA, if they’re going to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s—but I believe with the impressive nature of the data that that should go through smoothly, that by the time we get into December, we’ll be able to have doses available for people who are judged to be at the highest priority to get.”

As for logistics, “about getting the supply chain intact with the cold requirements”—the vaccine needs to be shipped at a certain low temperature—”that’s all been anticipated and part of Operation Warp Speed, particularly on the general, Gus Perna, the general from the army who has been responsible for making sure this goes smoothly. We anticipate, although they’re all logistic challenges that it will be done successfully.”

As for who gets these vaccines first, Fauci said: “What we have well-established in this country is that the ultimate decision of the distribution in priority, or it goes with the CDC, their advisory committee on immunization practices, traditionally over the years for other vaccines has been responsible for advising them as to the prioritization of the distribution.”

Regular folks with no underlying conditions might have theirs by April.

Research contact: @Yahoo

Supreme Court declines to diminish extended ballot deadlines in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

October30, 2020

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett, still getting up to speed, didn’t participate in either case—but, on October 28, the Supreme Court “declined to disturb” extended ballot deadlines in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania—leaving the states more time to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the North Carolina litigation, the justices denied Republican requests to block a decision by state elections officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots until November 12, a six-day extension of the date set by the legislature.

North Carolina elections officials said they extended their deadline “to keep voters from having their votes thrown out because of mail delays that the Postal Service had explicitly warned the state about.”

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, the GOP state lawmakers, and others challenged the deadline extension and other changes—saying those officials improperly rewrote unambiguous rules set COVID -19 pandemic.

The high court didn’t explain its reasons for rejecting the requests, the Journal notes. Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, registered objections and said they would have granted the challengers’ request to roll back the deadline. Justice Gorsuch wrote that the pandemic wasn’t the kind of natural disaster that gave the state board of elections a license to change voting rules.

The Supreme Court in the Pennsylvania matter refused to expedite a Republican challenge to a state court order providing three extra days for the state to accept absentee ballots mailed by Election Day.

The court’s order in that case included no noted dissents, although the same three conservative justices issued a statement indicating they were open to considering the case after Election Day.

On Friday, October 23, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, backed by the Trump campaign, asked the Supreme Court to hear and decide its challenge before Election Day, November 3. The motion was unusual in that, only days earlier, the Supreme Court, by a 4-4 vote, had refused to block the three-day extension.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended to 5 p.m., November 6, the deadline to accept absentee ballots, from 8 p.m., November 3. The court credited guidance from the Pennsylvania secretary of state that the three-day extension would adequately account for processing backlogs in elections offices and postal delivery delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, who sued for public-health accommodations in accepting ballots, had asked for a weeklong extension, equivalent to the deadline federal law sets for accepting ballots mailed by military families and Americans overseas.

Although it leaves intact, for now, the Pennsylvania court order, Wednesday’s decision indicated that at least four justices are skeptical that state courts can alter election regulations adopted by state legislatures for presidential and congressional elections.

In its 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had likened the coronavirus pandemic to a natural disaster, which allows state courts to alter voting procedures should it occur on Election Day. The state justices invoked their power under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause, which the state high court has found more protective of voting rights than corresponding provisions in the federal Constitution.

In last week’s decision, Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh voted to block the Pennsylvania court’s three-day extension. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to leave the Pennsylvania order in

Justice Alito issued a statement saying “there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” but the proximity of Election Day made it impractical to decide the issue now. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined the statement; in a separate case from Wisconsin on Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion expressing similar views.

The court indicated that the justices may issue additional opinions in the case. The Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case after the election, particularly if the outcome depends on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.i

Research contact: @WSJ

How to move to Canada: Fearing a Trump win, many Americans are hoping to pack their bags

October 2, 2020

Exactly four years ago, Stephen Shainbart made an important decision: If Donald Trump got elected president, he was going to leave the United States.

But while many Americans threatened to move away in the months leading up to the 2016 election, he actually followed through—swapping New York for Toronto, Fast Company reports.

The night Trump won his bid for the White House, the 56-year-old psychologist started seriously researching the land that begat Margaret AtwoodDan Levy, and Garrett Camp—and then spent so much money becoming a permanent resident that he doesn’t yet own property in the 416.

“I didn’t think his judgment was sound because of his personality and his narcissism, and I thought he’d probably put his own interests in front of the people’s. As a native New Yorker, I’ve known all about Trump my entire life,” Shainbart explains, adding that with a father who survived the Holocaust and a grandfather killed in Auschwitz, he had personal reasons, too.

In 2020, Americans whose exposure to Trump had been limited to The Celebrity Apprentice, juicy tabloid stories about his marriages and real estate, and The Art of the Deal now have a presidential track record of 3.5 years to examine.

And for those willing to leave in the wake of another Trump victory, Canada is once again emerging as the most attractive choice. Our northern neighbor has the advantage of language, proximity, and a similar culture; and professionals on the front lines of the relocation, like real estate agents and immigration lawyers, say they’re fielding more calls from Americans.

Daniel Dagenais of Sotheby’s International Realty in Quebec, for example, has had a 50% increase in queries from Americans, while Wayne Ellis, president of the Prince Edward Island Real Estate Association, reports a 300% jump.

People in California, New York, and Florida have been contacting Brenda Westbrook of the Sutton Group Admiral Realty in Toronto, looking for executive homes or cottages, Fast Company notes.

“People are afraid on both ends, both Democrats and Republicans,” she says. “You can buy as a foreign investor and come just to have a foot in the door. They usually rent them until they need them . . . They think it’s unbearable. It’s crazy.”

Traffic from American IP addresses to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website was up this summer over the same period in 2019, according to the government agency, which reports an estimated 135,000 additional visits in July and 180,000 more in August. However, traffic from the U.S. was down in the winter and spring, compared to 2019, and the IRCC website features information about not only permanent immigration to Canada, but also temporary visits and work, international study, and COVID-related border restrictions.

According to Fast Company, attorneys are contending with a similar spike. Evan Green, who’s practiced law in Toronto for 30 years, says he used to file one or two immigration applications for people in the U.S. per month, but now, he’s doing one or two per day. His clients are primarily what he calls “wayward Canadians,” citizens of his country who moved to America years ago, built lives in the States, and now want to go home; Americans in commuter marriages with Canadians; and Americans who simply want out.

They are “people who are somewhat disillusioned by the United States in its current form,” Green explains. “These are people who while certainly worried about results of the elections, are also worried about other things which they see as issues in the United States; like violence and divisions within society they feel are much stronger.”

The naïveté Americans once had about Canada has disappeared. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the historically porous—and even post-9/11, relatively easy to pass through—borders between the countries that have been friends since the end of the War of 1812. (The White House played a role in that, too. In 1814, troops from Britain, which at the time claimed parts of Canada as colonies, burned down the presidential home, then inhabited by James Madison and his wife, Dolley.)

“We’re a regular country with laws . . . I don’t live in perfect country, but I’m very happy where I live right now,” says Green, who saw an uptick in interest from Americans in 2016, but not as much as now. “COVID has added a level of uncertainty to people’s lives. ‘You know what? Things are so unsettled. I’m feeling so unstable. Let’s get some place more stable.’”

But, Fast Company warns: If you’re planning to make the move now, be prepared to wait. No paperwork will be ready by November 3. For that, you can blame Canada—in this case bureaucracy, and not enough people in the department and not enough case processing centers. Also, causing the slowdown are the delays caused by COVID-19, according to Véronique Malka, a Canadian attorney licensed to operate in the U.S.A., whose inquiries from Americans are up 30%.

People whose paperwork is expedited tend to be refugees (not applicable here), individuals running startups, and self-employed extraordinarily accomplished people, like musicians, she explains. Other shortcuts may be available for people who can qualify for citizenship, which in 2019 was limited to the children of ex-pats; students; the dozens of professions set aside under NAFTA, such as accountants, dentists, certain types of scientists, social workers, and urban planners; and individuals willing to live in rural or far-northern communities.

“They thought about it during first election in 2016 and now they’re serious about it. The Canadian immigration website shut down, because it crashed on the night of the election,” Malka says. “There’s almost nothing under a two-year wait. That’s a big piece of it. It’s a big burst of the bubble. People say, ‘I want to get out of here.’”

Unlike realtors and attorneys who wait for clients to contact them, Rob Calabrese is actively recruiting Americans to relocate to Canada. In 2016, he launched cbiftrumpwins.com to promote an island off Nova Scotia called Cape Breton ( the CB in the URL). The D.J. turned apple cider maker has seen a steady increase in queries—now about a dozen a day, though he’s certain that’ll increase.

“People threaten to move to Canada every year you guys have an election. Usually, it’s Democrats, though I heard lots of Republicans threatened to move to Canada when Obama was elected, and I don’t think they really understood what we have going on here. My aim was to put Cape Breton in front of a large audience,” Calabrese explains. “Canada is a big place and we’re not just two big English cities and a French city.”

Cape Breton, which almost the size of the big island of Hawaii, has been losing about 1,000 people a year. The population drain concerns Calabrese.

“We have problems absolutely but nothing like yours,” he adds. “I love America and I love going to the United States. We would love for Americans to stay where they are and vote for someone other than Donald Trump. I’d much rather that. Canada and U.S.A, I thought we were best friends and now, we’re not.”

Shainbart says voting Trump out of office won’t change much, though. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election in November, he’s not heading back to America. When he immigrated to the Great White North, he knew he was there for good.

“All the Trump supporters are still going to be there,” he explains. “Trump is as much of a symptom of the problem in America as the cause . . . I think something’s very wrong with the U.S. that we elected such a person, and that will remain.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

Old Navy will pay employees to work at polling places on Election Day

September 3, 2020

Tuesday, September. 1, was  National Poll Worker Recruitment Day in the United States—and, the level of response among Americans nationwide will determine just how many of the 250,000 poll workers positions that remain open for the 2020 election will be filled, Fortune reports.

Poll workers will be desperately needed this year, as many at-risk individuals are opting out of serving because of health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

To engage field employees across the country in the voting process and ensure that polling sites operate efficiently this year, Old Navy announced it will pay its store employees who wish to work the polls on Election Day in November.

The retailer is working with the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition of businesses encouraging voter turnout; and Power the Polls, a nonpartisan initiative to recruit poll workers for the 2020 U.S. presidential election to ensure a safe and fair election for all voters. The Civic Alliance is leading all corporate partnerships for Power the Polls in a national effort to enlist a new wave of poll workers.

“Voting is for everyone, regardless of beliefs or affiliations, and we believe we are all better when we engage in the process,” an Old Navy spokesperson recently told Fortune. “We felt this opportunity was a new and unique way to provide the opportunity and encouragement to our employees in stores across the country to become more involved in the democratic process without worrying about sacrificing a shift at work. This election has the potential for a[n] historic turnout, and our teams can help make a difference in our communities.”

The initiative is completely voluntary, and it is the first time the company has conducted an event like this. Old Navy field employees will be able to apply to join Power the Polls through internal communication channels. Upon completing the application, Power the Polls will connect individuals with their local counties to continue the process. Poll workers are ultimately selected by the election commissioner of each county, depending on the needs of the jurisdiction.

Old Navy says it will compensate associates who serve as poll workers with a day of pay, regardless of whether they are scheduled to work on Tuesday, November 3. Employees who serve at voting sites can also be paid by their county election commission, and it won’t conflict with wages paid out by Old Navy. (Local jurisdictions often pay poll workers a stipend via check for participation. In some cases, poll working may be voluntary and unpaid.)

Old Navy says all employees are welcome to apply to serve as poll workers in their communities, but pay coverage is available only for in-store, hourly employees, not employees on the corporate side of the company. The retailer is also offering shift coverage on Election Day for store employees who cannot or do not want to work at polling sites, but still need time to vote. Store managers will be directed to work with their teams to provide up to three hours of paid time off on Election Day to allow employees to cast their ballots in person.

And the company says November 3 will be designated as a “no meetings day” for employees who work in corporate functions to provide flexibility to vote in person and/or to serve locally, as best fits their schedules.

“As a company, we believe that participating in the democratic process is a vital right, and we are committed to removing roadblocks so employees don’t have to choose between serving or voting and work,” says a spokesperson for Old Navy.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine