Posts tagged with "NBC News"

Democrats blast FBI as new details of ‘sham’ Kavanaugh inquiry emerge

July 26, 2021

A group of Democratic senators is demanding more answers from the FBI after the agency revealed new details about the limited scope of its supplemental investigation into Brett Kavanaugh‘s background when he was a nominee for the Supreme Court in 2018, NBC News reports.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, June 30 to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware)—but only made public on Thursday, July 22Jill Tyson, assistant director of the FBI’s Congressional Affairs Office acknowledged that the department conducted only 10 additional interviews in its supplemental investigation, even though it had received over 4,500 tips.

Tyson said “relevant tips” from phone calls and messages were forwarded to the White House counsel’s office. It’s unclear what became of the tips after that.

Whitehouse, who had written then-FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for details about the inquiry, said, “This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing.”

While Wray has said the FBI followed tip line procedures, “he meant the ‘procedure’ of doing whatever Trump White House counsel told them to do,” Whitehouse tweeted, adding, “That’s misleading as hell.”

A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Then-President Donald Trump tasked the FBI with conducting a supplemental background investigation into Kavanaugh at the urging of some Republican senators after his nomination to the high court in 2018 was endangered by sexual misconduct allegations dating to his high school and college years. Kavanaugh repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” Trump said at the time.

Republicans said the subsequent FBI report vindicated Kavanaugh, while Democrats maintained that it was incomplete. NBC News reported at the time that the FBI hadn’t contacted over 40 people with potential information about the sexual misconduct allegations.

The Senate confirmed the nomination in a narrow 50-48 vote.

Attorneys for the accuser who testified at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, said in a statement that the FBI letter confirmed that the agency’s investigation was “a sham and a major institutional failure.”

“Because the FBI and Trump’s White House Counsel hid the ball on this, we do not know how many of those 4,500 tips were consequential, how many of those tips supported Dr. Ford’s testimony, or how many showed that Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said the lawyers, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks. “Our nation deserved better.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Senate Dems reveal $3.5 trillion plan to invest in healthcare, climate change, and more

July 15, 2021

Senate Democratic leaders announced an agreement on Tuesday evening, July 13,  to advance a $3.5 trillion spending plan to finance a major expansion of the nation’s economic safety net, NBC News reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said the $3.5 trillion would be in addition to the $579 billion in new spending in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement.

He said the deal would include a “robust expansion of Medicare” that would include new benefits like dental, vision and hearing coverage, along with major funding for clean energy. “If we pass this, this is the most profound change to help American families in generations,” he said.

“Joe Biden is coming to our lunch tomorrow to lead us on to getting this wonderful plan that affects American families in a so profound way, more than anything that’s happened to generations,” Schumer told reporters. “We are very proud of this plan. We know we have a long road to go. We’re going to get this done for the sake of making average Americans’ lives a whole lot better.”

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), a member of the Budget and Finance committees, said the plan would be “fully paid for.”

The agreement would prohibit tax increases on small businesses and people making under $400,000, a Democratic aide familiar with the deal told NBC News.

The announcement points to a challenge for Democrats, who will have to agree on a massive bill that is financed with new tax revenue to pass it through razor-thin congressional majorities, with no realistic hope of winning Republican support.

Democrats have no margin for error in the 50-50 Senate, and they can lose just four votes in the House before the legislation would be in danger of failing.

“This is, in our view, a pivotal moment in American history,” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), the Budget Committee chairman, told reporters.

“What this legislation says among many, many other things, is that those days are gone. The wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fair share of taxes, so that we can protect the working families in this country,” he said.

The agreement, a significant decrease from Sanders’ $6 trillion proposal, is an attempt to achieve consensus in an ideologically diverse Democratic Party with a host of competing interests. The legislation has yet to be written.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Princes William and Harry reunite for unveiling of statue of their mother, ‘People’s Princess’ Diana

July 2, 2021

Britain’s Prince William and Prince Harry reunited on July 1 to unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, outside the palace she once called home on the occasion of what would have been her 60th birthday, NBC News reports.

Yet, for many, catching a glimpse of the statue in the gardens of her former home in London’s Kensington Palace, took second place to looking for clues about the state of the relationship between the two royal brothers.

Reports of a rift between the siblings have swirled in the British press since 2018, and Harry has previously said that he and William had “been through hell together,” but were now on “different paths.”

It was only the second time the brothers have been seen together in public since Harry and his wife, Meghan, stepped back from their roles as senior royals last year. Harry’s last visit to the United Kingdom was in April for the funeral of his grandfather, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died at age 99.

Like-minded in their grief for their mother, who was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997, the brothers unveiled the figure of Diana, which showed her surrounded by three children who represent “the universality and generational impact of the princess’ work,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.

“The statue aims to reflect the warmth, elegance, and energy of Diana,” the Palace added.

Beneath the statue is a plinth engraved with her name and the date of the unveiling and a paving stone with lines of poetry.

The brothers commissioned British sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley to undertake the project. His effigy of Queen Elizabeth II already appears on British coins.

Today, on what would have been our mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength, and character—qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better,” William and Harry said in a rare joint statement.

“Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy.”

Harry, Duke of Sussex, and William, Duke of Cambridge, were joined at the unveiling by Diana’s siblings, Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and Lady Jane Fellowes, along with other close family members. The statue’s sculptor and the garden’s designer were also in attendance.

Outside, fans lined up with flowers, signs, birthday balloons and flags.

According to NBc News, the statue was placed in the area known as the Sunken Garden, one of Diana’s favorite locations, according to Kensington Palace. It’s also where Harry and Meghan posed for photos after their engagement in November 2017.

The garden was recently redesigned and replanted with 4,000 flowers—including roses, lavender and forget-me-nots, the palace said in a statement.

Diana lived at Kensington Palace during and after her tumultuous marriage to Prince Charles, and raised William and Harry there. It is now home to William’s family.

The brothers commissioned the statue of their mother in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of her death. However, it’s far from the only way they have invoked her memory.

Since his departure from the U.K., Harry often has called on his mother’s legacy. He displayed a photo of himself as a child on his mother’s shoulders prominently on his Archewell website, saying that he is “his mother’s son” and stated in a recent Apple TV+ documentary “The Me You Can’t See” that his mother would be proud of him “living the life she wanted for herself.”

Meanwhile, in May, William made a rare emotional statement following a BBC investigation that found the journalist Martin Bashir had used “deceitful behavior” to secure a landmark interview with Diana in 1995—wherein she famously said “there were three of us in this marriage,” referring to Camilla Parker Bowles, who would go on to marry Charles in 2005.

William and Harry’s father, Charles, the heir to the throne, did not join them at the event Thursday, nor did their wives.

The sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley said: “Diana, Princess of Wales was an icon who touched the lives of people right around the world, so it has been a privilege to work alongside Prince William and Prince Harry on this statue which commemorates her life.

Research contact: @NBCNews

‘Not going to happen’: Progressives slam McConnell effort to sabotage reconciliation bill

June 30, 2021

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is actively working to undermine the Democratic majority’s emerging infrastructure strategy by demanding the separation of the White House-backed bipartisan deal from a broader reconciliation package—a non-starter for progressives who say they will not support the former without simultaneous passage of the latter, Raw Story reports.

“It’s not going to happen,” Representative Ro Khanna (D-California) told NBC News on June 28, referring to McConnell’s request. “There is no way a bipartisan deal passes the House without a vote the same day on a Senate-passed reconciliation that has bold climate provisions.”

In a statement on Monday, McConnell called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Caliornia) to “walk back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass” a sweeping reconciliation package; which the newly re-elected Kentucky Republican referred to as “unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism.”

According to Raw Story, along with other members of his caucus, McConnell—despite being well aware of the Democrats’ two-track approach—voiced outrage last week after President Joe Biden said he would refuse to sign a bipartisan infrastructure bill that is not accompanied by separate legislation that addresses other Democratic priorities, from investments in green energy to child care to paid family leave. The Democratic package would pass through reconciliation, an arcane budget process that is exempt from the 60-vote legislative filibuster that McConnell has frequently wielded to stymie the majority party’s agenda.

Biden soon softened his position amid Republican backlash, saying in a statement Saturday that he intends to “pursue the passage” of the $579 billion bipartisan measure “with vigor” and will sign it if it reaches his desk.

But Biden’s shift was not enough for McConnell, who said the president’s vow will amount to a “hollow gesture” unless Schumer and Pelosi take the same position.

On Thursday, Pelosi said the House won’t hold a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate also passes the broader reconciliation package—a stance that won applause from progressive lawmakers, who are now urging the Democratic leadership to hold firm in the face of what they view as McConnell’s bad-faith sabotage effort.

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pointed to McConnell’s remark last month that “100%” of his focus is on “stopping this new administration.”

“The last person who should have a say on our agenda is Senate MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell,” Jayapal tweeted. “We’re going to go big and bold on our reconciliation package because that’s what people voted us in to do.”

Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee—which is headed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)—are expected to hold a call this week to discuss the size and scope of the nascent reconciliation bill.

Sanders is reportedly pushing for a roughly $6 trillion package that includes Medicare expansion, significant spending on climate action, and other investments. The youth-led Sunrise Movement is demanding that Democrats to go even further by embracing a $10 trillion in climate and infrastructure spending over the next decade.

But, in order to pass, any reconciliation bill must win the vote of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WestVirginia), who indicated over the weekend that he would not be willing to support a package larger than $2 trillion, according to Raw Story.

In a tweet on Monday, Sanders addressed those suggesting his reconciliation offer is too pricey.

“For those who say the budget framework I proposed costs ‘too much,’ what would you cut?” the Vermont senator asked. “Combating climate change? Childcare? Universal Pre-K? Paid family and medical leave? Dental, hearing, and vision [for Medicare recipients]? Housing? Long-term home healthcare? Child Tax Credit? Waiting…”

Research contact: @RawStoryRaw S

Supreme Court spares Obamacare from GOP challenge

June 18, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, June 17, that the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, remains valid—rejecting a claim by a group of conservative states that a recent change to the law made it unconstitutional, NBC News reports.

By a 7-2 vote, the court said the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue because they did not make a strong enough showing that the law harmed them. But the decision also suggested it would be difficult for any challengers to try again on the same legal theory.

Two of former President Donald Trump’s three appointees to the court— Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—joined the majority opinion, while the third, Neil Gorsuch, dissented.

In their dissent, JusticesSamuel Alito and Gorsuch said the court should have taken the case and declared it unconstitutional.

According to NBC News, the law’s challengers, 18 red states led by Texas, urged the court to rule that Obamacare’s requirement for nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay an income tax penalty — known as the individual mandate — is unconstitutional. For that reason, they said, the entire law must be scrapped.

“The plaintiffs claim that without the penalty the act’s minimum essential coverage requirement is unconstitutional,” Breyer wrote for the court’s majority, adding, “They also argue that the minimum essential coverage requirement is not severable from the rest of the act,” meaning the entire law is invalid.

“We do not reach these questions of the act’s validity, however, for Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them,” he wrote.

Republicans have long opposed the law, former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. But more than 20 million Americans now depend on it for their health insurance, and there is broad public support for its requirement that insurance companies must cover pre-existing health conditions.

The Supreme Court first upheld the health care law in 2012. The majority opinion written by John Roberts said the individual was a legitimate exercise of Congress’s taxing authority. But in 2017, the Republican-led Congress set the tax penalty at zero.

That led the red states to argue that because the tax was effectively eliminated, the revised law could not be saved as a tax and was therefore an unconstitutional effort to require all Americans to obtain something. A federal judge in Texas agreed, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld that ruling.

But 20 blue states, led by California, asked the Supreme Court to overturn those lower court decisions. They said with the tax penalty at zero, there effectively is no individual mandate, so the law is not unconstitutional. It may encourage Americans to buy insurance, but it does not require anyone to do anything, they said.

What’s more, the red states said Congress meant the healthcare law to work as an integrated whole. Prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay longer on the policies of their parents were meant to work because of the near-universal command to buy insurance. Without the mandate, the challengers said, the law falls apart.

However, the blue states said the test for deciding whether the rest of a law can be saved if part of it is struck down is a simple one: What did Congress want? They said the answer is found in the 2017 action that set the tax at zero: Congress left the rest of the law intact.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden-Putin summit: U.S. and Russian leaders meet for tense Geneva talks

June 17, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Geneva, Switzerland on June 16 for four hours during their first, highly-anticipated summit, the BBC reports.

The talks came at a time when both sides describe relations as being “at rock bottom.” President Biden had said that he expected no major breakthroughs —but hoped to find small areas of agreement.

Among the topics that were slated to be covered, according to the BBC, were the following:

  • Diplomacy: The two sides are expected to discuss the withdrawal of their ambassadors, who returned home amid heightened tensions. America has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and shut down two compounds in recent years; while U.S. missions in Russia are set to be barred from employing locals, meaning dramatic cuts in services including visas.
  • Arms control: Officials also believe there could be common ground on arms control. In February, the countries extended their New Start nuclear arms control treaty. Russia wants this to be further extended.
  • Cyberattacks: Biden is expected to raise concerns over recent cyberattacks that the United States has linked to Russia-based hackers. Putin has denied Russian involvement.
  • Elections: The issue of alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections is also likely to come up. Again, Putin denies any involvement.
  • Prisoners:The families of two former U.S.Marines who are being held in Russian prisons have pressed for their release ahead of the summit. Asked if he would be willing to negotiate on a prisoner swap, Putin told NBC News, “Of course”
  • Navalny:The Russian side has called the alleged poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny an internal political matter. But a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press news agency that there is “no issue that is off the table for the president.”
  • Ukraine: Relations with America when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. There have been warnings this year of a build-up of Russian troops in Crimea and near Ukraine’s border,sparking concerns of preparations for war. Putin also has baulked recently at the idea of Ukrainian membership of NATO.
  • Syria:Biden is expected to appeal to Russia not to close the only remaining UN aid corridor from Turkey into opposition-held northwest Syria. A vote on r-authorizing the corridor will be held by the UN Security Council, in which Russia—which supports Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad—has veto power

According to The New York Times, emerging from his first meeting with Biden since his election as U.S. president, Putin began by saying the talks had gone well—but it soon became clear that tensions between the countries may be unlikely to ease significantly any time soon.

Putin denied that Russia has played a role in a spate of increasingly bold cyberattacks against U.S. institutions, and said the United States was the biggest offender.

The Times reported that the Russian leader’s remarks suggested that he was not interested in discussing what Biden had said was a key objective of the talks: to establish some “guardrails” about what kinds of attacks on critical infrastructure are off limits in peacetime.

Putin did suggest that there had been some kind of agreement to establish expert groups to examine these issues, but U.S. officials fear it is little more than a ploy to tie the matter up in committee.

“There has been no hostility,” Putin declared. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.”

Addressing reporters at the Geneva villa where the meeting took place, the Russian president said: “Both sides expressed their intention to understand each other and seek common ground. The talks were quite constructive.”

Research contact: @BBCNews

Seeing eye-to-eye: Why we love pugs—and other snub-nosed dogs

June 15, 2021

If you’ve ever wondered why some dogs seem eager to make eye contact with people and others don’t, a new study offers some clues.

Dogs that are snub-nosed, young. or playful—and those that have been bred to respond to visual cues, such as shepherd breeds—are the most likely to look directly into the human eye, researchers have found. And it’s that loving eye contact with a dog that can help build a close bond with humans, NBC News reports.

Eye contact is a very important signal for us humans,” says the study’s lead author, Zsófia Bognár, a Ph.D. student in the department of Ethology and a research member of the Senior Family Dog Project at Eötvös Loránd University in Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Shorter-headed dogs—among them, boxers, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers and pug— have that earnest gaze because their eyes are structured differently from those of other dogs; they have more retinal ganglion cells, which are responsible for initial processing visual information in the center of their visual fields, the researchers said. That means they can more easily focus on what’s in front of them, such as human owners.

What’s more, puppies and playful canines also are more likely to stare into their owners’ eyes. The working or herding dogs are a natural, because they are bred to “perform their tasks alongside humans,” Bognár said. “They are in continuous visual contact with their owner or handler.”

By contrast, dogs with long snouts have eyes more geared to peripheral vision; that is, seeing what is beside them, rather than what is in front of them..

While some dogs might naturally seek eye contact, that doesn’t mean others can’t learn, Bognár said in an email to the network. “Although dog-human eye contact can be affected by at least four independent traits on the dogs’ side, it does not mean that these are the only things [that] determine your relationship with your dog.”

Other studies have shown that humans and dogs benefit from locking eyes: Levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, rise for both species when they make and hold eye contact.

To explore what factors might make eye contact more likely, Bognár and her colleagues rounded up 125 family dogs for the behavior experiment. All the dogs were run through a battery of tests, which started with the dogs’ meeting an unfamiliar experimenter. In a later part of the series, the dogs were invited to play with the experimenter.MARCH 29, 202106:00

The tenth test evaluated the dogs’ willingness to make eye contact with their new human friends.

In that test, a researcher stood in the middle of a room in the lab with a food pouch attached to her belt, called the dog to her, and threw a piece of sausage on the ground when the dog arrived. The experimenter then stood still and waited until the dog made eye contact with her and then rewarded the dog with another bit of sausage.

What they found was that, even among dogs that didn’t lock eyes during the experiment, the pooches were willing to be trained to do it.

“You can improve your dog’s willingness to form eye contact, which could improve your relationship, too,” Bognár told NBC News.

Indeed, Dr. Katherine Houpt, an emeritus professor of Animal Behavioral Medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Ithaca, New York, said it’s a good idea to train a dog to make eye contact.

“Because if you say ‘look’ and the dog looks into your eyes, he’s not focused on the car going by or another dog he wants to chase,” Houpt said. “You’ll have more control over him, as well as a better relationship.”

“It’s really easy to train a dog to do it,” Houpt said. “You hold a piece of food away from you. Most, if they can’t get what they want, will look up at you. As soon as they do, you say ‘look’ and give the food. After about 20 times, it becomes a command.”

Eye contact is important to humans, said Anne Burrows, a specialist in Evolutionary Anatomy and a professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

“I volunteer at a dog shelter, and those that do not make eye contact don’t go very fast,” she said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Jardigans and zebra pants: Welcome to the new office dress code

June 14, 2021

Casual Friday may have gone the way of the power suit. Office workers are rushing to refresh their wardrobes as companies start calling employees back to their cubicles. But after months at home in pajamas, the back-to-workers are looking to trade in traditional business attire for more comfortable clothing, NBC News reports.

Pencil skirts, suit pants, and classic black are out. Today’s office worker is brightly dressed—focusing on wide, loose-fitting clothing and softer fabrics, according to major U.S. retailers.

“We as a business evolved our merchandising to talk more about ‘power casual,’” Sarah LaFleur, CEO of the women’s work wear company M.M.LaFleur, told NBC News. “Formality wise, it’s one step down from business casual. There is definitely something below that, that is still a dress code similar to how women who work in media or in the tech space might dress.”

The company’s new line, which includes a “jardigan,” or blazer made out of soft cardigan material, has been booming. Before the country went into lockdown last spring, casual work wear made up about 25% of M.M.LaFleur sales; now, it’s 60%.

Retailers were among the first to be hammered by the pandemic, with dozens of retailers filing for bankruptcy, including iconic brands such as Lord & Taylor, J.Crew, and Neiman Marcus. Other stores were forced to shutter thousands of locations.

But as vaccination rates increase and federal public health agencies relax masking rules, shoppers and workers are eager to get back to living life in person — and with that comes the urge to wear something new and bright, according to retail analysts and brands.

“We believe the world is back,” Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-III Apparel, which owns brands such as DKNY, told investors this week. “People are going out, people are partying. They’re not just wearing their fleece leisure wear. They’re wearing denim, and they’re wearing jeans, they’re wearing stretch fabrics, and they’re wearing sculptured products.”

Employed shoppers plan to spend more across all categories, including casual and dress wear in both men and women’s clothing, compared to last year, according to data from the retail analytics company Prosper Insights & Analytics. But consumers say they also plan to spend more on comfort style brands such as Levi’s rather than luxury brands such as Calvin Klein or Coach, according to the data.

“The ‘work-from-home’ consumer still has a preference for the ‘comfort’ brands versus the ‘dress to impress’ brands,” Phil Rist, executive vice president of Prosper Insights & Analytics, told NBC News in an email.

Retailers and brands are betting that comfort fits across the board are likely here to stay. Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandising manager, said that some of its brand partners have adjusted their products to be more comfortable.

“Loungewear and comfort is still important to the customer. Some of the season’s new pants have incorporated an elastic waist or looser leg.”

“Loungewear and comfort is still important to the customer,” she said in an email. “Some of the season’s new pants have incorporated an elastic waist, a looser leg or very soft materials without sacrificing fashion and newness.”

But shoppers aren’t just looking for comfort in their clothes. After a year in grey sweatpants, colors and prints are an opportunity to change up their attire. Gen Z is largely driving this maximalism trend, bucking the minimalism of their millennial counterparts.

Indeed, an April report from Pinterest found Gen Z led a 14-fold increase in searches for “zebra pants,” a 12-fold increase in “plaid pleated skirt” and a 133-fold increase in “’60s and ’70s fashion” between the first quarter of last year and the same time this year.

“We’re back to school, back to work, going out to restaurants and traveling — and what will that mean to retailers?” said Brian Dodge, president of the retail trade group Retail Industry Leaders Association. “The answer is, it’s a great opportunity, because maybe your clothing doesn’t fit anymore or your style changed, and retailers are in a great position to help customers to return to life.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Colonial Pipeline hack claimed by Russian group DarkSide spurs emergency order from White House

May 11, 2021

The federal government issued a rare emergency declaration on Sunday, May 9, after a cyberattack on a major U.S. pipeline choked the transportation of oil to the East Coast, NBC News reports.

The Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the United States—transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel daily to meet the energy needs of consumers from Houston, Texas to the New York Harbor.

The pipeline shut down all its operations on Friday, May 7, after hackers broke into some of its networks, NBC News said. All four of its main lines remain offline.

The emergency declaration from the Department of Transportation aims to ramp up alternative transportation routes for oil and gas. It lifts regulations on drivers carrying fuel in 17 states across the South and eastern United States, as well as the District of Columbia—allowing them to drive between fuel distributors and local gas stations on more overtime hours and less sleep than federal restrictions normally allow. America already is dealing with a shortage of tanker truck drivers.M10, 202103:00

The emergency order extends through June 8, and can be renewed. Colonial has yet to declare a date it expects it will resume full operations.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the company indicated it was working to slowly resume operations: “While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said in a press release.

Industry experts already have warned that a prolonged shutdown of the pipeline could push gas prices higher and cause disruptions in eastern parts of the United States

The FBI confirmed Monday that the culprit is a strain of ransomware called DarkSide, believed to be operated by a Russian cybercrime gang referred to by the same name. Like many ransomware gangs, DarkSide makes money by hacking a victim’s network, encrypting their files so they can’t be accessed and threatening to publish them online if they’re not paid a hefty fee.

The cyberattack is believed to be the work of a Russian cybercrime gang called DarkSide. Like many ransomware gangs, it makes money by hacking a victim’s network, encrypting their files so they can’t be accessed, and threatening to publish them online if they’re not paid a hefty fee.

In a statement posted to its website, DarkSide echoed a sentiment common across ransomware gangs—that they’re an apolitical group, only interested in making mone —but seemed to acknowledge that by hampering the fuel industry, they may have crossed a line with the United States that no ransomware gang has crossed before.

“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined goverment and look for other our motives,” the gang posted, misspelling “government.”

“Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”

Brett Callow, a threatt analyst at the cybersecurity company Emsisoft who tracks ransomware, said there were signs in DarkSide’s malicious software that it was meant to hit targets outside Russia and eastern Europe. He noted that the software is coded to not work against computers where Russian or one of several other eastern European languages are set as the default.

“DarkSide doesn’t eat in Russia,” Callow said. “It checks the language used by the system and, if it’s Russian, it quits without encrypting.”

In any scenario, it will take some time for Colonial to recover from the event, Callow said. It can take days for any large company to restore its system from data backups. Even if Colonial were to acquire a file decryptor program from the gang itself—either through paying the ransom or if DarkSide were to voluntarily provide one— t would be a slow process because of the way it’s encoded, he said.

“Remediation and recovery is not necessarily a quick and easy process, and while essential functionality can be restored more quickly, it can take organizations weeks or even months to fully return to normal operations,” he said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Melinda Gates’ petition for divorce says marriage to Bill is ‘irretrievably broken’

May 5, 2021

It was a marriage made at Microsoft that produced three children, a philanthropic foundation—and now, after 27 years, a separation contract. Indeed, Melinda Gates says her marriage to Bill Gates is “irretrievably broken,” according to court documents obtained Tuesday by NBC News.

In her petition for divorce, filed Monday in King County, Washington, she said “spousal support is not needed” and a separation contract will determine property divisions.

“We ask the court to dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date stated in our separation contract,” according to the document. It is not clear from the petition when the couple separated or if they had a prenuptial agreement.

Bill, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, first announced their divorce on Monday, May 3,  in a joint statement. The pair, who married on New Year’s Day in Hawaii in 1994, said that they no longer “believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” they said in the statement, according to NBC. “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”

Jennifer Katharine Gates, 25, the oldest of their offspring, wrote in a statement that it has “been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family.”

“I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as family members at this time,” she wrote.

The couple in 2000 founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private philanthropic organization which funds research and advocacy work across the globe, including in some of the world’s most impoverished nations.

The foundation has given billions to support issues like global healthdevelopment and education, as well as combating climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and served as its chief executive until 2000, stepped down from the company’s board last year and has since focused the majority of his efforts on philanthropy.

He still owns roughly 1.3% of Microsoft’s shares. His net worth is roughly $130 billion, according to Forbes—making him the fourth-richest person in the world.

The Gates Foundation’s assets are nearly $50 billion, according to its financial statements, and it’s been considered the world’s largest private philanthropic organization for the past 20 years. It issued about $5 billion in grants annually during 2018 and 2019.

In their statement announcing their split, the couple—who are co-chairs of the foundation—said they would continue to work together in the philanthropic mission.

Research contact: @NBCNews