Posts tagged with "Reuters"

Vladimir veers left: Putin rejects Trump’s criticism of Biden family business

October 27, 2020

Russia, are you listening? Russian President Vladimir Putin said on October 25 that he saw nothing criminal in Hunter Biden’s past business ties with Ukraine or Russia—openly breaking with Donald Trump on one of the POTUS’s key attack lines in the U.S. presidential election.

Putin was responding to comments made by Trump during televised debates with Democratic challenger Joe Biden ahead of the November 3 election.

According to Reuters, the Russian leader made his position clear, saying: “[Hunter Biden] had at least one company, which he practically headed up, and judging from everything he made good money. I don’t see anything criminal about this, at least we don’t know anything about this.”

The unexpected statement of support for the Bidens “could be interpreted as the Russian president trying to offer an olive branch to Joe Biden days out from the election,” said The Daily Beast.

Trump, who is trailing in opinion polls, has used the debates to make accusations that Biden and his son Hunter engaged in unethical practices in Ukraine. No evidence has been verified to support the allegations, and Joe Biden has called them false and discredited.

Putin, who has praised Trump in the past for saying he wanted better ties with Moscow, has said Russia will work with any U.S. leader, while noting what he called Joe Biden’s “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric”.

However, in a clear effort to distance himself from Trump’s claims, the Russian leader added, “Yes, in Ukraine he (Hunter Biden) had or maybe still has a business, I don’t know. It doesn’t concern us. It concerns the Americans and the Ukrainians,” said Putin.

Putin also reacted with visible irritation when asked about comments Trump has made concerning Putin’s ties to the former mayor of Moscow, and to an alleged payment made to Hunter Biden by the ex-mayor’s widow. Putin said he knew nothing about the existence of any commercial relationship between Hunter and the woman. Joe Biden says the accusation about his son is not true.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to tilt the contest in Trump’s favour, an allegation Moscow has denied. Russia has also dismissed accusations by U.S. intelligence agencies of trying to interfere with this year’s election too.

Research contact: @Reuters

Verizon launches $44 million ‘upskilling program’ for Americans who wants to land an in-demand job

October 23, 2020

Telecommunications giant Verizon is investing $44 million in an upskilling program to help Americans unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Americans looking for better jobs, Business Insider reports.

Currently, applications are being accepted for residents of Dallas, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Spartanburg, SC, and Washington, DC. The program will start in November and expand to more cities in 2021.

People who are Black or Latinx (a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina), unemployed, or without a four-year-degree will be given priority admissions.

To deliver the program, the company is partnering with two nonprofits focused on workforce development, Generation and JFF, to launch the initiative.

It will train those in need to get jobs like junior cloud practitioner, junior web developer, IT help desk technician and digital marketing analyst.

The upskilling program is part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon’s recently unveiled responsible business plan that includes a goal of preparing 500,000 people for jobs of the future by 2030.

Digital upskilling has increased during the pandemic as millions of Americans look for in-demand jobs, Reuters reported.

In addition to Verizon, Business Insider notes, Amazon,  PwC,  IBM,  and  AT&T have launched major upskilling programs to retrain their workforces or attract new talent in recent years.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Former Takata plant shipped 9 million faulty seat belts to car companies in Japan

October 19, 2020

A former unit of bankrupt airbag maker Takata shipped 9 million seat belts to car companies in Japan with inaccurate test data that could result in around 2 million safety recalls, the Nikkei newspaper reported on October 16.

This is the second time in recent years that Takata has been involved in a major recall. In 2014, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ordered Takata to initiate a nationwide airbag recall. The action came as ten automakers in the United States. recalled hundreds of thousands of cars equipped with potentially faulty air bags manufactured by Takata.

As of 2015, Takata had become responsible for the largest auto recall in history. Takata in 2017 pleaded guilty to criminal wrongdoing, saying it submitted false inflator test results to automaker clients

Last week, U.S. automotive component maker Joyson Safety Systems (JSS) said it was investigating inaccuracies in the reporting of belt webbing test data over a 20-year period at the Japanese factory in Hikone it acquired from Takata in 2018. It said the inaccuracies arose before its acquisition.

“We are still investigating the matter and can’t say yet how many seat belts were involved,” an official in charge of recalls at Japan’s transport ministry told Reuters. The result of the investigation will be shared with transport authorities in other countries, the official added on condition of anonymity as the probe is still ongoing.

A Joyson representative in Japan did not immediately respond to a Reuters request from comment. The Michigan-based firm took over what was left of Takata after it went out of business.

JSS Japan is the top seat belt maker in the country with a market share of about 40%, as well as just under 30% globally, according to Nikkei.

Research contact: @nikkei

Pandemic prompts drive-through pet blessing in the Philippines

October 8, 2020

Coronavirus-wary (and weary) animal owners in the Philippines had their pets blessed during a drive-through ceremony on Sunday, October 4, to mark World Animal Day and the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

From a safe distance inside their owners’ cars, cats, dogs, and birds were sprinkled with holy water by a Catholic priest in Manila, as the nation’s coronavirus cases continued to surge, Reuters reports, noting that the Philippines had confirmed a total of 322,497 coronavirus infections as of that date—the highest in Southeast Asia.

But the numbers continue to spiral upward: as of October 7, the Philippines’ Health Ministry had recorded 2,825 new coronavirus infections and 50 additional deaths.

Organizers and participants said this year’s unusual way of blessing pets for World Animal Day ensured social distancing.

“We have to adapt to the new normal and the pandemic should never stop us from paying tribute to the furry animals that we have,” said Ritchie Pascual, one of the event organizers.

For dog-owner Arlene Pedron, having her pet blessed is “very important…because we really feel like our pet is part of our family.

“We also want the best for his health,” Pedron said, while waiting in line with her two-year-old golden retriever.

Research contact: @Reuters

Strut your stuff: A digital dance-off spreads from Argentina to the world

September 7, 2020

Care to dance? With theaters closed around the world, three South American hoofers have created a digital dance-off for aspiring twirlers, with Instagram the new stage where competitors from Argentina and Brazil to Israel and Italy post clips of their moves, Reuters reports.

The competition, open to all, has attracted hundreds of applicants— some professionals, others amateurs—dancing from lockdown in their own homes. A panel described as “renowned expert judges” assesses each dance, and viewers also can vote with “likes.”

“We were struck by the desire of participants to be seen, to express themselves and their dance, what is happening to them at the moment,” Argentine Facundo Luqui, who organized the ‘@stayhomedancecompetition’ event with two other dancers, told Reuters.

“What we thought when we started this project was that anyone can participate,” added Luqui, 23, who is a member of the ballet company at Buenos Aires’ iconic Teatro Colón.

The competition, which wraps up on Sunday, September 6, challenged dancers to raise awareness about the pandemic, reference the coronavirus, and honor an artist. In one video, a mother wearing a doctor’s coat and a mask guards her daughter while she dances.

Giovana Soria, 18, a Paraguayan who has studied Latin rhythms for two years, told the news outlet that her dance was to encourage people to take steps to prevent infections spreading.

“I started to watch the news and saw that many people respected the quarantine, but when going out they did not take measures like putting on a mask, they touched everything and didn’t wash their hands,” said Soria.

Paz Schattenhofer, an 11-year-old who studies classical dance and who took part from Buenos Aires, said her performance was a homage to Russian photographer Yulia Artemyeva, who made a series of works comparing ballerinas to flowers.

“I would love to win it, but in reality it’s to have fun. It is great when people ‘like’ you and that people see me, it is like a stage,” she said.

Performance art globally has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, closing theaters and leaving dance troupes unable to perform or rehearse at close quarters.

 “I think dance at the moment is undergoing a great crisis,” said Manuela Lavalle, 24, another of the organizers, who dances in a company in the United States but is passing the quarantine in her native Buenos Aires.

“It’s complicated because many companies do not have the money they need to get by. I believe the world of dance is going to change a lot and we still do not know how, but it is a matter of waiting and continuing to create in the meantime.”

Research contact: @Reuters

Reuters/Ipsos poll: No bounce in support for Trump as Americans see pandemic, not crime, as top issue

September 3, 2020

It’s the pandemic, stupid! President Donald Trump’s attempt to mobilize his base by making civil unrest a central theme of his re-election campaign has yet to boost his political standing, as a majority of U.S. voters remain sympathetic to protests against racism, according to findings of a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday, September 2.

Conducted between August 31 and September 1, the national opinion poll found that 40% of registered voters support Trump, a Republican; compared with 47% who said they will vote for his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Biden’s lead over Trump has remained largely unchanged over the past three weeks—a time during which both parties held their nominating conventions.

Trailing Biden in most national opinion polls since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus this year, Trump has sought to change the subject from a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, blaming Black Lives Matters protesters for violence in the cities and accusing Biden of being weak on crime, Reuters notes.

However,  in the poll, the majority of respondents— 78% — remained “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the coronavirus. Nearly 60% said Trump is at least partly responsible for the protracted school and business closures due to the virus, as well as for the high number of coronavirus cases in the United States. More than 6 million Americans have been infected with the virus, more people than in any other country.

By contrast, most Americans do not see crime as a major priority and do not think it is increasing in their communities, the poll showed. Only about 8% of American adults listed crime as a top priority for the country, compared with 30% who said it was the economy or jobs, and 16% who said it was the healthcare system.

What’s more, 62% of registered voters—including 62% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans—said crime was not increasing in their communities

According to the poll, 53% of American adults said they remain sympathetic to people out protesting against racial inequality, nearly unchanged from 52% in a similar poll that ran in late July.

While support for the protesters has declined overall since the immediate aftermath of the police killing in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked a national conversation on race, the poll showed more than half of suburban Americans and more than half of undecided registered voters are still sympathetic to them.

“The simple truth is Donald Trump failed to protect America. So now he’s trying to scare America,” Biden said in Pittsburgh this week.

Research contact: @Reuters

Double or nothing? Microsoft’s dual-screen Android phone will arrive September 10

August 13, 2020

Microsoft announced on Wednesday, August 12, that its new Surface Duo—a dual-screen smartphone powered by Alphabet’s Android operating system—initially will be offered at a price point of $1,399. It will arrive in stores beginning September 10—and is available for pre-order now.

According to a report by Reuters, the device will fold closed like a book. Unlike devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2—which uses special flexible glass to create a single display—the Duo will feature two traditional screens separated by a hinge but synchronized to work together.

At a media briefing ahead of the Surface Duo announcement, Microsoft executives positioned the phone as a tool for getting work done with its productivity apps, similar to how many business users employ dual-monitor setups with PCs.

In the company’s Teams chat app, for example, a video chat occupies one screen while the other screen displays chats. In Microsoft’s Outlook email app, clicking a link in the body of an email opens the link on the opposite screen, so the user can continue reading or responding to the email.

 “I’m not trying to reinvent the phone,” Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, told reporters. “But I do believe this is a better way to get things done.”

The dual-screen setup also allows users to pair up non-Microsoft apps, such as running social networks Twitter and Instagram side by side, notes Reuters. Panay said that one of Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella’s favorite combinations was using Amazon.com’s Kindle app to read books while taking notes with a stylus in Microsoft’s OneNote app on the other screen.

Panay said Microsoft chose Google’s operating system because it would give users access to Android’s large ecosystem of mobile apps. “Having the Play Store is critical,” he said.

Microsoft said pre-orders for the device begin Wednesday at its own site, AT&T, and BestBuy. Devices will work on wireless networks from AT&T, Verizon Communications, and T-Mobile US.

The device does not have 5G connectivity and is only available in the United States at launch. Microsoft gave no timeline for other markets, Reuters said.

Research contact: @Reuters

New York prosecutor warns Trump not to ‘run out the clock’ on financial probe

July 20, 2020

A New York prosecutor has warned the White House not to try to “run out the clock” on the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe into President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.

Carey Dunne, general counsel for District Attorney Cyrus Vance, spoke at a hearing by teleconference in federal court on Thursday, July 16, in Manhattan to discuss Trump’s renewed legal challenge to block or narrow Vance’s ability to see his tax returns.

The case concerns an August 2019 subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of personal and corporate tax returns, related to Vance’s criminal probe into the Trump and his Trump Organization.

According to Reuters, Dunne told U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero that there are looming deadlines to prosecute cases because of statutes of limitations, and more delays could give Trump the “absolute temporary immunity” the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected.

“Let’s not let delay kill this case,” Dunne said. “Justice delayed becomes justice denied.”

Marrero approved a jointly negotiated schedule giving Trump until July 27 to file papers formally opposing the subpoena and its scope. Vance won’t enforce the subpoena that date.

William Consovoy, a lawyer for Trump, said the president could argue that the subpoena was “wildly overbroad” as to reflect Vance’s bad faith, which the prosecutor has denied.

Consovoy said the subpoena was similar to congressional subpoenas that the Supreme Court refused to enforce, and that Vance, a Democrat, might have gone after the Republican president to harass him or because of political differences.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll this week, 66% of adults agreed that Trump should release his tax returns from earlier years, and 68% said Americans have a right to see presidential candidates’ returns before the November 3 election.

Vance’s investigation began after news reports that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence about claimed sexual encounters with Trump in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election. Trump has denied that the payoff ever occurred.

On July 9, the Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote rejected Trump’s earlier argument that he was immune from state criminal probes while in the White House, UPI reported.

Even if Vance prevails, grand jury secrecy rules make it unlikely Trump’s financial records will become before the election, those in the know say.

According to Reuters, all of that could change if criminal charges were brought against anyone, including other defendants. The litigation has made it unlikely this would happen, at least until after the election.

The case is Trump v Vance et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-08694.

Research contact: @Reuters

Virus whistle-blower Rick Bright says Trump Administration steered contracts to cronies

May 7, 2020

A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job after he argued against the president’s recommendation of an unproven coronavirus treatment—a malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine—is fighting back. This week, he filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency.

Rick Bright, an expert in vaccine development who was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that he had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017.

Indeed, Bright claimed on May 5 that top Trump Administration officials repeatedly had pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected pharmaceutical consultant, The New York Times reported.

Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser,

Even more damningly, the complaint said Dr. Bright was retaliated against by his superiors, who pushed him out because of “his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency.”

A lawyer for Dr. Bright, Debra Katz, said he felt a “moral obligation” to get the word out that the administration was pressing to stockpile an unproven and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatment, which was supplied by drugmakers in India and Pakistan and had not been certified by the Food and Drug Administration.

The 89-page complaint, obtained by the Times, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from department superiors — including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex  Azar —when he pushed as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging coronavirus pandemic.

According to the news outlet, the report provides a window into the inner workings of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a tiny agency created in 2006 as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It partners with industry in developing “medical countermeasures” that can be stockpiled by the federal government to combat biological or chemical attacks and pandemic threats.

BARDA has spent billions of dollars on contracts with dozens of different suppliers, including major pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechnology firms.

Both allies and Dr. Bright say his nearly four-year tenure as the head of BARDA was marked by clashes with his superiors—especially Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response —and tension with some industry executives. Dr. Bright conceded in the complaint that those clashes came to a head after he leaked information on the dispute over the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to a reporter from Reuters.

The complaint says top Department of Health and Human Services officials, including Dr. Kadlec, who oversees the strategic national stockpile, overruled scientific experts while awarding contracts to firms represented by the consultant, John Clerici, a founder and principal of DC-based Tiber Creek Partners—which Clerici has said “has been at the forefront in the creation of the public health preparedness sector, including helping large pharmaceutical and emerging biotechnology companies develop creative approaches … to fund the development of biotechnology for emergency disease and engineered threats.” .

Clerici was instrumental, along with Dr. Kadlec, in writing the legislation that created BARDA.

“Dr. Bright was vocal about his concerns regarding the inappropriate and possibly illegal communications between Mr. Clerici, Dr. Kadlec, Mr. Shuy and Mr. Meekins,” the complaint stated, referring to Bryan Shuy and Chris Meekins, two other department officials.

A spokesperson for the department, Caitlin Oakley, did not address the complaints about officials there, when approached by the Times. “Dr. Bright was transferred to N.I.H. to work on diagnostics testing—critical to combating COVID-19—where he has been entrusted to spend upward of $1 billion to advance that effort,” she said in an statement emailed to the news outlet.

She added,“We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor.”

Dr. Bright initially was offered a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health to work on a new “Shark Tank”-style program to develop coronavirus treatments, but Katz told reporters he “has no role” and did not receive his last paycheck, the Times said.

Clerici said he “unequivocally” denied any wrongdoing, adding: “It’s sad that during a pandemic, Dr. Bright and his team have chosen to distract people like Dr. Kadlec, who are critical to the response, with politically motivated allegations. The record is clear that his allegations are false and will be proven so.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Going south? Facebook, Netflix, and Twitter beg off South by Southwest over coronavirus fears

March 9, 2020

They may be “social media,” but right now, hobnobbing with hordes of people is not their mission: Facebook, Netflix, TikTok, and Twitter have joined the growing list of companies—including Warner Music—that are dropping out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, ABC News reports.

Apple is also, by many accounts, pulling out—but has not confirmed the rumors.

The tech, film, and music festival is slated to take place March 13 to 22 in Austin, Texas—and organizers said at a news conference on March 4 that the event is still scheduled to take place, as planned; and that canceling it wouldn’t make the community safer.

“Right now, there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer. We are constantly monitoring that situation,” Dr. Mark Escott, the interim medical director for Austin Public Health, told reporters. “One of the concerns is that if we shut down or make the recommendation to shut down South by Southwest, people will still continue to come here … but without that organizational structure that South by Southwest provides.”

Festival organizers are increasing the availability of hand-washing and sanitizing stations— as well as screening employees’ and volunteers’ temperatures—to help allay anxieties over COVID-19, Escott added.

Also on Wednesday, health officials in Texas announced the state’s first confirmed case of coronavirus in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was scheduled to be one of the event’s speakers, but his name no longer appears on the website, ABC News noted. “Twitter is implementing a mandatory global business travel restriction for our employees, effective immediately. This unfortunately includes SXSW,” a Twitter spokesperson told the nework news outlet.

A Facebook spokesperson similarly said, “Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year.”

Netflix and TikTok also both confirmed to ABC News on Thursday, March 5, that they would not be participating. Apple did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, although Reuters reported that the company had opted not to attend.

Organizers and the city of Austin have faced widespread calls to call off the festival this year. A Change.org petition calling for it to be canceled had garnered nearly 50,000 signatures as of Thursday.

Calling off the festival would be a major blow to the local economy. The gathering injects up to $350 million into Austin’s economy, according to a 2018 analysis by Greyhill Advisors, funded by South by Southwest.

Research contact: @ABC

Editor’s note: Under pressure to keep a lid on COVID-19, Austin has canceled SXSW, as of Friday night, March 6.