Jeffrey Epstein Pitched a New Narrative. These Sites Published It.

After Jeffrey Epstein got out of the Palm Beach County jail in 2009, having served 13 months of an 18-month sentence resulting from a plea deal that has been widely criticized, he began a media campaign to remake his public image.

The effort led to the publication of articles describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost.

The article, posted in 2013, praised him as “one of the largest backers of cutting-edge science around the world” while making no mention of his criminal past. The National Review piece, from the same year, called him “a smart businessman” with a “passion for cutting-edge science.” The HuffPost article, from 2017, credited Mr. Epstein for “taking action to help a number of scientists thrive during the ‘Trump Era’,” a time of “anti-science policies and budget cuts.”

All three articles have been removed from their sites in recent days, after inquiries from The New York Times.

Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution, a deal that he and his legal team negotiated after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of young women and girls. Under its terms, he faced no federal charges and was made to register as a sex offender.

The agreement was brokered by R. Alexander Acosta, who was then the United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida and went on to become the labor secretary under President Trump. Two days after defending how he had handled the case in a news conference, Mr. Acosta resigned under pressure.

The articles in praise of Mr. Epstein came about partly because of an online publishing model adopted by some news organizations that relied on outside contributors who often wrote for little or no pay, with little or no input from editors.


The article on the Forbes website was attributed to Drew Hendricks, a contributing writer. As The Times revealed in an article last week, he was not the author of the piece. Instead, it was delivered to him by a public relations firm, and he said he was paid $600 to attach his byline and post it at

Mr. Hendricks said he had not been aware of Mr. Epstein’s history. “All I knew was, this is a guy doing a science thing,” he said. “If I had known otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Forbes removed the item last week “for failing to meet our editorial standards,” it said in an editors note on the page.

Randall Lane, the chief content officer of Forbes Media, said an article like the one attributed to Mr. Hendricks should not have been posted and would not make the cut now, because the process for screening outside contributors has been strengthened.

“Our North Star is always transparency,” Mr. Lane said of Forbes’ handling of problematic articles. “What we’ve learned over the last few days is that this is an area we need to re-evaluate.”

A staff of roughly 200 employees produces Forbes’s in-house journalism, but most of the 100 articles the site publishes each day come from a group of nearly 3,000 outside writers. More content means more readers, and the number of unique visitors to has surged nearly 70 percent over the last four years, to 60.9 million last month, according to comScore.

While the number of views has gone up, the limited editing of contributors at Forbes has come in for criticism, with some noting problematic posts like one in 2014 headlined “Drunk Female Guests are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities.”

The heavy use of outside contributors has been profitable, said Damon Kiesow, the Knight Chair in digital editing and producing at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, but it has come with risks to the Forbes name. “It changed their reputation from being a respectable business publication to a content farm,” Mr. Kiesow said.

CreditYana Paskova for The New York Times

HuffPost discontinued the model of allowing outside writers to post freely last year. Before the system ended, contributors “could post their content with no editorial review,” HuffPost said in a statement. Its 2017 article on Mr. Epstein appeared under the former setup.

The byline belonged to Rachel Wolfson, once a frequent contributor to the site who described herself in her author bio as a digital marketer. On Friday, HuffPost said in a statement that it had removed the piece “at the author’s request.” Ms. Wolfson did not respond to requests for comment.

Between 2005 and 2018, more than 100,000 contributors took advantage of HuffPost’s open-door model. At the time it was shut down, the HuffPost editor in chief Lydia Polgreen wrote, “Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy. When everyone has a megaphone, no one can be heard.”

The article on Mr. Epstein published by National Review, the conservative publication founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley Jr., was also removed on Friday. It was credited to Christina Galbraith, who identified herself in her bio as a science writer who had published at Forbes and HuffPost.

Ms. Galbraith was also a publicist for Mr. Epstein, according to several news releases promoting Mr. Epstein’s foundations and initiatives in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that included her as a contact. Ms. Galbraith did not respond to requests for comment. In the article that appeared on the National Review site, she described him as having “given thoughtfully to countless organizations that help educate underprivileged children.”

“We took down the piece, and regret publishing it,” Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review since 1997, said in an email. He added that the publication had “had a process in place for a while now to weed out such commercially self-interested pieces from lobbyists and PR flacks.”

In addition to Forbes, HuffPost and National Review, a technology-focused website called The Next Web, now controlled by The Financial Times, published an interview with Mr. Epstein that didn’t note his status as a sex offender and stated that he used “his resources to beneficial, unlikely ends.” The name in the byline was Dylan Love, who calls himself an “editorial gun for hire” on his website. Mr. Love did not respond to requests for comment. The Next Web amended the article on Friday to point out “the glaring oversight” of failing to note Mr. Epstein’s conviction.

The website’s program for outside contributors “used to be a free-for-all model, where anyone could publish anything,” until it was reformed in 2017, said Alejandro Tauber, the publisher of The Next Web. He added that the story on Mr. Epstein “was one of the layovers from the old system.”

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Start-Up Says It’s Changing Eye Care for the Better. Others See It Differently.

The colorful ads on Facebook and Instagram promise a fantastic bargain: “Stop overpaying for contact lenses. Get 30 contacts delivered to your door for ONLY $1.” Captions like “wow” and “what a steal” splash across images of teal containers and lenses perched on fingertips, urging consumers to act fast.

This social media marketing has been integral to the growth of the online contact lens start-up Hubble since its founding in 2016. It has raised more than $70 million from venture firms and companies like Colgate-Palmolive, which are attracted to its plan to disrupt the contact lens industry by providing a line of low-cost daily lenses through monthly $39 subscriptions. It’s like Dollar Shave Club — for eyeballs.

But Hubble’s early success has been criticized by numerous optometrists and ophthalmologists, who say that its direct-to-consumer model bypasses eye care professionals, that it does not properly vet prescriptions and that it takes advantage of federal regulations to sell customers its own brand of contact lenses. The company, they say, switches people out of their prescribed lens brands and into Hubble’s lenses, sometimes to the detriment of consumers. Those lenses, they say, use a material that some consider to be outdated and can sometimes not fit properly.

The company says its sales are legal. And plenty of customers seem happy with the product. But others have developed eye issues after using the lenses.

CreditHubble, via Facebook

Bailey Brown, a 31-year-old in Dallas, developed a corneal ulcer in June. When she was treated at an ophthalmologist’s office, they asked about her lenses. “I said Hubble and they said, ‘Oh, that’s it. You’re not the first,’” she said.

Dr. Lauren Lodholz, an optometrist who practices in Lexington, Ky., said that she had seen complications in more than half of her patients who say they got their lenses from Hubble.

“They’re just assuming the lenses they get from Hubble are the same thing I prescribe them,” Dr. Lodholz said. “They see it’s a great price and see the bottom line.”

Contact lenses are typically fitted, prescribed and sold by optometrists, who often specify brands from major manufacturers like Acuvue Oasys or Biofinity Toric in prescriptions. Sellers can substitute another brand for the lens on the prescription, but only if the substitute lens is the identical product from the same manufacturer. (Some manufacturers make lenses that are sold under different names at retail chains.) Brands like Hubble can also be prescribed.

Other companies like 1-800-Contacts also sell major contact brands to consumers, filling orders through copies of prescriptions or getting the prescription information and confirming its accuracy with the consumer’s eye care practitioner.

The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the market, allows what is known as “passive verification.” Under this method, sellers can try to verify prescriptions through faxes and voice messages and, if eye doctors don’t respond within eight business hours, the orders can be filled. The rule was created in the early 2000s, when companies like 1-800-Contacts pushed to sell brand-name lenses and ran up against eye doctors who did not want to work with them.

Hubble — and its founders and co-chief executives, Ben Cogan and Jesse Horwitz — saw an opportunity in the rule.

A sudden jump in Mr. Cogan’s lens prices in 2015 led to the idea for Hubble — monthly shipments of daily lenses that cost roughly $1 a day. (Prices have since increased.) At the time, he was working for Harry’s, the subscription razor brand, while Mr. Horwitz was on the investment team for Columbia University’s endowment fund.

“It was one of three or four or five things I was tinkering around with,” Mr. Horwitz said at a conference in January, “and we said for all of them, anything that I can go actually raise a seed round for and sort of have investors be stupid alongside me, I’ll go do that one. And so that’s why we did Hubble.”

In December 2015, when Mr. Cogan was seeking a lens manufacturer, he contacted Dr. Sally Dillehay, who was then the chief medical officer at a small lens company and has worked in the contact lens industry for more than 30 years. During a telephone call, Mr. Cogan laid out a plan to move consumers from their prescribed brands and into a private label brand through passive verification, Dr. Dillehay said. This would put consumers into a new type of lens that the patient’s doctor had not prescribed, she said.

“I told them I did not want to be involved with such a company and described in great detail why contact lenses are not generic items like socks or razors, how even small micron level changes in something such as the edge design can completely alter the fit and safety profile of a contact lens,” said Dr. Dillehay, who now runs a consulting company called ClinTrialSolutions in Georgia.

CreditDiwang Valdez for The New York Times

Hubble, in a written response to questions sent by email, said, “The suggestion that Hubble is engaging in impermissible contact lens substitution is simply not based on the facts or the law, and does not reflect our business practices or the standards by which we operate.”

Hubble declined to make Mr. Cogan or Mr. Horwitz available for an interview. It said it was no different from other online sellers that “routinely use passive verification” to fill orders. Hubble also noted that the F.T.C. does not require online sellers to ask customers to list the lens brand on their prescription.

“All Hubble customers are required to have a current prescription for the daily disposable contact lenses that Hubble offers,” the company said. “Hubble uses industry-standard policies and procedures to verify that customers who sign up for Hubble subscriptions have such valid prescriptions.” It declined to comment on Mr. Cogan’s phone call with Dr. Dillehay and did not say how many eye care professionals in the United States prescribe Hubble’s lenses.

In the past decade, attention has been heaped on hip new direct-to-consumer brands selling everything from razors to mattresses. Such companies have typically been built through social media marketing, often offering lower prices than established competitors and sometimes selling their products through subscriptions. Interest increased with successes like Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion in 2016.

When it comes to health care, however, a start-up’s bold ambitions can sometimes collide with regulations, doctors and patients.

About 45 million Americans wear contact lenses and an estimated 35 percent wear daily disposables. The market is dominated by brands from Johnson & Johnson, Alcon, CooperVision and Bausch & Lomb, and is tough to crack without support from optometrists. That was part of Hubble’s motivation — lenses, especially daily disposables, can be expensive, and the major manufacturers have been accused of anticompetitive practices in recent years. Many optometrists make money by selling contact lenses.

“This incentivizes eye care providers to both prescribe expensive lenses and thwart the efforts of online sellers to offer more affordable options, neither of which are good for consumers,” Hubble said.

Industry groups like the American Optometric Association, which have long been at odds with sellers like 1-800-Contacts, have been more critical of Hubble. Optometrists have complained that Hubble’s messages seeking verification can be difficult to understand, arrive at odd hours and refer to patients that they have never seen. A December 2017 report on the business news website Quartz detailed multiple instances of Hubble sending lenses to people who had entered fake prescriptions and made up doctor names.

Hubble’s website states that prescriptions “must be tailored to Hubble’s lenses” and that they are made by St. Shine Optical Company, a manufacturer in Taiwan whose products have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. Multiple Hubble customers told The Times they simply entered the strength of the lenses they needed and a doctor’s name and received their boxes.

As Hubble’s business has grown, its founders have been feted at advertising industry gatherings in New York and Cannes, France, where executives are keen to learn the ways of brands built on Facebook and Instagram. Hubble has appeared on “disrupter” lists with companies like the direct-to-consumer eyeglasses company Warby Parker and Harry’s and its marketing tactics have been described glowingly in a Harvard Business School case study. Its founders were on Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of leading young entrepreneurs in manufacturing and industry in 2017. And the company was mentioned prominently in an article in The New York Times Magazine about successful start-ups that built their business through advertising on Facebook.

Last year, Colgate-Palmolive took what it described as a “very small, passive stake” in the company. Hubble is providing marketing support to Colgate’s direct-to-consumer “oral care efforts” in the United States.

Investors have viewed Mr. Horwitz and Mr. Cogan as bright entrepreneurs taking on an entrenched industry — and with the law on their side. A 2017 review of Hubble by the venture firm FirstMark Capital, which was obtained by The Times, noted that the company’s dependence on passive verification was a risk but that the rule was likely to stay in place despite “constant attack by optometrists and sympathetic politicians.”

In May, the F.T.C., which has been reviewing its contact lens sales rules, made public a proposal to modify its regulations. It expressed concern “with what appears to be the use of prescription verification to change consumers from their prescribed lens to another brand of lens entirely.” It specifically referred to the rise of new companies reaching consumers through ads on Facebook. If a seller knows or should know that the verification request includes a different brand and manufacturer than what a patient was prescribed, that request is not valid, the agency said.

The F.T.C., which did not mention Hubble, said it believed that this type of “illegal substitution” was growing quickly and acknowledged anecdotal reports of eye injury from patients wearing lenses that weren’t prescribed for them. When contacted for this article, the agency said it did not comment on specific companies. Hubble said that the F.T.C. has never “specifically claimed” that an online seller using its allowed verification methods “is nonetheless engaged in impermissible contact lens substitution.”

Some contact lens fitters and industry experts say that the hydrogel material used by Hubble is outdated and could cause particular discomfort for lens wearers with dry or sensitive eyes. Hubble, in its statement, referred to a recent study of daily disposable lenses that said there were “no clinically significant differences” between hydrogel lenses and ones made with silicone hydrogel, which is used in more expensive lenses.

Dr. Dillehay said that complications could emerge from the absence of fittings and doctor involvement. “If this lens was never seen on someone’s eye, regardless of material, it may never have been the proper lens for that patient,” she said.

The Times interviewed eight people who complained of eye problems after ordering Hubble’s lenses online and the mother of a teenager who wore the lenses. One Hubble user, Ashley McCormick, 20, of Hackensack, Minn., said she woke up one morning in January, barely able to open one eye and seeing flashes of light. Doctors at the emergency room told her that Hubble’s lens material was problematic for her sensitive eyes and that the situation had worsened over several months of daily use. She was diagnosed with uveitis, an inflammation inside the eye.

CreditAshley McCormick

“By the time I put them in the following morning, even if it was a new pair, my eye wasn’t healing fast enough,” Ms. McCormick said. She said that she had not been aware that the lenses were significantly different from what her eye doctor previously prescribed and estimated that the problem cost her $1,000 in doctor visits, prescription eye drops, gas and lost wages.

“The convenience and affordability of Hubble’s subscriptions encourage customers to engage in healthy practices, instead of overwearing lenses to save money or to avoid the inconvenience of obtaining additional lenses if they run out,” Hubble said in its statement. “Hubble believes that patients should not have to choose between their eye health and their wallet.”

The F.T.C. has received 279 complaints about Hubble and Vision Path, its parent company, since 2016, according to a Freedom of Information Act request. Some of those complaints came from consumers who struggled to stop their subscriptions after signing up for an advertised free trial.

An investor presentation in January 2017 by Hubble outlined several new “retention initiatives.” The company said it switched to phone-only cancellations from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and suspended emails, like notifications about a customer’s first paid order following a free trial, that were “reminding” people to cancel their subscriptions.

Critics, like the American Optometric Association, say this is another example of Hubble putting profits before patients.

“When you go to Hubble’s website, they’re not promoting good eye health and frequent eye exams and all the things necessary for good vision, they’re only promoting sales of what they do,” said Dr. Samuel Pierce, the former president of the industry group. “Every doctor I know, their goal is to make sure their patients have healthy eyes and the best vision possible.”

Email Sapna Maheshwari at or follow her on Twitter: @sapna.

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Batman and AT&T: A New Dynamic Duo?

After 80 years of fighting villains like the Joker and the Riddler, Batman faces his biggest battle yet: the streaming wars.

The Dark Knight, Wonder Woman and other Justice Leaguers appearing in DC comic books came under new ownership last year, when AT&T closed on its $85.4 billion acquisition of DC’s parent, Time Warner. And now they must prove their worth to their new bosses in an entertainment universe dominated by streaming.

Batman and AT&T joined forces in public for the first time this week at Comic-Con International, the annual comic book convention in San Diego, in an exhibit called “The Batman Experience Powered by AT&T.”

CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

With comic book art, vintage video games, movie props and costumes, the exhibit celebrated the character’s 80th year as an American pop-culture staple. The centerpiece was the Dark Knight Dive, a skydiving attraction with a virtual reality element.

But the Dallas-based AT&T had bigger plans when it bought Time Warner, and its HBO properties like “Game of Thrones” and Warner Bros. films like the Harry Potter series. The combination of the two companies was intended to create something new in the media industry: a powerhouse that could reach millions of people through its vast distribution system of mobile devices and satellite networks, while also creating the content that will fill their screens.

That’s where DC comes in. As AT&T challenges Netflix, Disney, Amazon and others in the streaming business, it is likely to lean on Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and DC’s other crime fighters. “Content creation is a real area of focus,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG Research. “And this content has tremendous value.”

As consumers continue to cut the cord, annual revenue from streaming services worldwide is expected to climb 8 percent in 2019, to nearly $25 billion, according to Statista. Netflix leads the pack, with more than 151 million subscribers globally. Wall Street expects that company alone to generate $20 billion in streaming revenue this year.

CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times
CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

AT&T’s main streaming service, announced this month as HBO Max, will arrive next spring. With the superhero genre showing no signs of slowing down its blockbuster run, the addition of Batman and the rest of DC’s vault to AT&T’s new service would make sense, analysts say.

“DC has a vast library of content they can put on this platform,” said Frank Louthan, a telecommunications analyst at Raymond James. “Logically, it would make sense to put the DC Universe on the HBO Max service.”

Batman and his fellow superheroes already have a streaming home, DC Universe, a hub that includes original content and classic TV shows and movies, as well as digital comic books, merchandise and a community forum. Planning for DC Universe was well underway before AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner went through last summer, and the service went live a few months afterward.

The competition in streaming will get tougher in the coming months as the Walt Disney Company enters the fray this fall with a new service, Disney Plus. With Pixar movies and the “Star Wars” franchise, among countless other hits, Disney’s service will certainly not lack for content — and at $7 a month, it will cost less than the typical Netflix subscription. Disney also owns DC’s main rival, Marvel Entertainment, the home of the Avengers, a team of superpowered frenemies that in recent years has generated more hit movies than its Justice League counterparts.

Unlike Marvel, DC has not created a cinematic universe dependent on interwoven, serial narratives. Its á la carte approach to superhero storytelling may have its drawbacks, but it has allowed consumers to watch movies like “Wonder Woman” and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, not to mention TV series like “The Flash” and “Gotham,” without feeling lost.

CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times
CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

Apple also plans to get in on the streaming boom this fall, with a lineup of shows from Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Reese Witherspoon and others, and NBCUniversal is prepping a service of its own.

Will AT&T’s content division, WarnerMedia — which includes HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio and Turner Broadcasting — decide to keep the relatively small DC Universe as the exclusive streaming home for its stars?

Mr. Louthan, the analyst, cautioned that fatigue could set in for consumers forced to sift through too many platforms to find what they want. “We believe there is a limit to how many streaming services that customers will subscribe to,” he said.

But DC appears to be pushing ahead with its stand-alone service for a sophomore year. “Doom Patrol,” a DC Universe series about a misfit band of superheroes that premiered last year to critical acclaim, will return for a second season, making its debut simultaneously on both DC Universe and HBO Max, DC announced on Saturday.

DC declined to comment for this article. AT&T and WarnerMedia did not return a request for comment.

DC has also started to reorganize its comic-book lineup, dropping three imprints, DC Zoom, DC Ink and Vertigo, and moving its content under age-specific labels. Earlier this month, the company put Mad magazine on life support.

“They are looking to streamline the brand,” said John Jackson Miller, the founder and curator of Comichron, a database of comic book sales figures.

Just as movies built on comic-book franchises have dominated the box office, old-fashioned comic books themselves have thrived lately, with sales reaching a new high in 2018, climbing to approximately $1.095 billion in North America, an $80 million increase over 2017, according to Comichron and ICv2, an online trade magazine.


CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

To produce the fresh content that entertainment companies need to stay relevant for streaming, AT&T is likely to have a use for comic book stories and characters that can translate from the page to the screen.

Vertigo, one of the canceled imprints, was a valuable resource for material aimed at adults. Several of its titles, including Constantine and V for Vendetta, were made into movies, while others like Lucifer and Preacher were adapted into TV shows. Offsetting the loss of Vertigo, the publisher has announced new deals, including a “pop up” line of comic books in a partnership with the horror writer Joe Hill.

Rather than keeping an exclusive focus on DC Universe and HBO Max, DC is free to license its content to other platforms. In one such deal, Netflix just ordered a series based on The Sandman, a Vertigo comic book.

Mr. Greenfield called this an arms-dealer strategy, in which entertainment companies sell to multiple platforms. “Warner Bros. has been one of the most successful arms dealers in history,” he said.

And the biggest hits must go where the eyeballs are, he added.

“Aquaman” is scheduled to appear on HBO Aug. 9, and Netflix is streaming “The Dark Knight.” DC Universe users are left with older titles from before the time when superheroes were all the rage, like that 1978 semi-classic “Superman: The Movie.”

“The quickest way to kill a franchise is to put it where nobody is watching,” Mr. Greenfield said.

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Wealth Tax and Free College Get Poll Support. Democrats Worry It Won’t Last.

anastasios pallis

There is a puzzle for the Democratic challengers hoping to unseat President Trump, and it is evident in public reaction to some of their breakout policy ideas.

Polls show several of those ideas are quite popular with the electorate, including taxing the assets of very wealthy Americans and offering free college and government-paid health care to everyone in the country. But Democratic voters — even ones who support the plans enthusiastically — worry that the popularity of the proposals will fade before next year’s general election and become a liability for their party’s nominee.

New polling for The New York Times by the internet research firm SurveyMonkey shows that two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor a plan by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to impose a so-called wealth tax on assets exceeding $50 million.

About three in five Americans — including seven in 10 political independents — support plans for a “Medicare for all” health care program and guaranteed free tuition to two- and four-year colleges. Those ideas have been proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and other candidates.

In interviews, Democratic poll respondents said those proposals would help fight rising economic inequality — but worry that they won’t fly in today’s polarized political climate.

“All the great ideas they have for the economy are interesting, but I think we all know it’s kind of a heavy lift to get them through,” said one of the respondents, Grant Cooper, 67, who runs a résumé writing business in New Orleans.

He said that the country was “getting more and more open to the idea that the 1 percent have been not really paying their fair share,” but that Democrats would be better off taking a more incremental approach in that direction.

Strategists in both parties caution that the messaging fight over policy in the presidential campaign has not yet ramped up. Mr. Trump, other Republicans and conservative interest groups have attacked some of the Democrats’ tax-and-spend plans — particularly Medicare for all — but have yet to fight the wealth tax with the same force they trained on previous Democratic proposals to increase taxes on very rich Americans. Mr. Trump has focused less on policy details than on deriding his potential rivals as “socialists.”

Still, strategists say that several of the Democrats’ plans are tailored well for the pithy world of political communication, and that some, like the wealth tax, could prove durable against Republican criticism. Now they’re trying to convince Democratic voters that is the case, along with candidates like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who has warned that some of Mr. Sanders’s proposals would be political liabilities.

“In terms of progressive policy,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has tested those and other liberal plans extensively in voter surveys, “one of the big things we’re finding is it’s not opposition we’re fighting, it’s cynicism. People don’t think it can happen.”

Mr. Trump has already begun to make the strong economy a selling point in his case for re-election. But the SurveyMonkey polling shows support for liberal economic policies that often cuts across income lines. The wealth tax and Medicare for all each won majority support from low-, middle- and high-income Americans. Free college won strong support from the poor and middle income earners, but respondents who earn $100,000 a year or more were nearly evenly divided.

The polling also shows about three in five Americans support policies to narrow the gap between wealthy and less-well-off Americans. Respondents echoed that sentiment in interviews.

“The economy is really good for the top half of 1 percent,” said Melissa Devlin, 44, a Democrat in South Florida. “People have jobs, but they don’t have great jobs.”

Ms. Devlin, an administrator at a local charter school network, is still paying off student loans, and has two sons who will be heading to college in the next few years. Housing costs are rising, she said, and salaries aren’t keeping pace. She said she supported progressive policies such as Medicare for all and free college, and she welcomed Ms. Warren’s proposal for a wealth tax. She rejected suggestions from Republican leaders that such policies amount to socialism.

But as much as she would like to see such policies enacted, Ms. Devlin said she was nervous about nominating a candidate who espoused them. She worries that Ms. Warren or Senator Kamala Harris of California would seem too far to the left to swing-state voters.

“I would like someone more radical, but because the situation is so dire, I think Joe is our safest bet to beat Trump,” Ms. Devlin said, referring to Mr. Biden. “I used to think that policy was more important, but because of the stinging defeat that we had, I don’t trust that anymore.”

The batch of soak-the-rich proposals draws support well beyond core Democrats, the polling shows. Some Republican strategists say it’s easy to see why: Americans, they say, generally like the idea of taxing other people in order to provide benefits for people like themselves. And they say Ms. Warren’s proposal, which would tax only net worth above $50 million, is narrowly defined enough that most Americans can feel confident they will never pay it. Economists advising Ms. Warren estimate that 75,000 high-wealth American households would owe money to the government under her proposal.

“One of the things that I think is particularly savvy about wealth taxes is, it appeals to people because they don’t think it’s taxing them,” said Mattie Duppler, a conservative political strategist who is a senior fellow at the National Taxpayers Union in Washington.

Kim Mitchell, a 58-year-old Ohio resident, voted for Mr. Trump in 2016. But she is now leaning toward supporting Ms. Warren, largely because of her economic proposals. Wealthy individuals and corporations have too many ways to get out of paying taxes, Ms. Mitchell said. And a country as rich as the United States should be able to ensure its citizens can get health care and a college education without going into debt.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a Republican, but she’s enough to make me jump the fence,” she said of Ms. Warren.

Ms. Mitchell’s father worked for General Electric and retired with a pension. Her husband, now deceased, spent a career in the military. But she is now scraping to get by on a disability check that isn’t keeping up with the cost of living. She said Mr. Trump had failed to deliver on his promise to help people like her improve their lot.

“My husband spent 20 years in the Navy, and I’m living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “I think the upper 5 or 10 percent are probably succeeding. Us down here in the bottom 10 percent are not.”

Ms. Lake, the Democratic pollster, said Republicans could find it difficult to attack the wealth tax proposal in particular, because it appealed to voters’ values and emotions.

“It doesn’t require you to do math to figure it out,” she said.

Ms. Duppler, though, pointed to an internal Democratic math debate over the efficacy of the tax, noting criticisms from former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers over how much revenue it would raise to fund programs such as free college.

“Republicans are wise to let Democrats fight amongst themselves on this,” she said.

There are signs that the policies do not poll as a block — some voters like only a sampling of what the Democrats are offering.

Lonnie Shumate is a Marine veteran who works as a manager for an oil-change chain in western North Carolina. He earns less than $40,000 a year and lives mostly paycheck to paycheck. The American middle class, he said, is dying out. He considers himself conservative on economic issues, and generally votes for Republicans.

Yet Mr. Shumate, 35, said he was open to Medicare for all and noted that government-run health care systems worked in Europe. And he said he liked the idea of offering free college tuition, at least for two-year programs.

“I don’t mind the free college idea because college is way too expensive,” he said.

But while Mr. Shumate said he was concerned about inequality, he draws the line at the wealth tax. Some — but not all — of the assets subject to the tax would have already been taxed as income, which he said would not be fair.

“I don’t believe in taxing somebody on money that they’ve earned twice,” he said. “There are plenty of other places they could cut money from.”

About the survey: The data in this article came from an online survey of 2,662 adults conducted by the polling firm SurveyMonkey from July 1 to July 7. The company selected respondents at random from the nearly three million people who take surveys on its platform each day. Responses were weighted to match the demographic profile of the population of the United States. The survey has a modeled error estimate (similar to a margin of error in a standard telephone poll) of plus or minus three percentage points, so differences of less than that amount are statistically insignificant.

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Renault and Nissan Need Each Other to Thrive in Future, 2 Leaders Say

A hoped-for merger between Fiat Chrysler and Renault is dead. Long live the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance — or else.

That, in essence, was the message that emerged from interviews last week with Jean-Dominique Senard, the chairman of Renault, and Keiko Ihara, an independent Nissan board member, about the future of the troubled partnership between the automakers.

Neither executive put it quite so bluntly. But both acknowledged the overwhelming technological and market forces that are prompting carmakers like Volkswagen and Ford to bury longtime rivalries so they can confront what increasingly appears to be the greatest threat to their survival: Silicon Valley companies like Google and Uber.

Mr. Senard and Ms. Ihara both stressed the importance of rescuing the longtime partnership between Renault and Nissan, despite the turmoil that followed the arrest last year and subsequent ouster of its longtime leader, Carlos Ghosn. Tensions between the two carmakers increased in May after Renault failed to tell Nissan about merger talks with Fiat Chrysler until late in the game. The merger eventually fell through.

Only by combining forces can Nissan and Renault afford the huge investments they need to make in autonomous driving and other technologies to avoid obsolescence, the executives said. Unlike carmakers, the big tech companies, swimming in money, do not have to struggle to sell their core product while devising revolutionary ways of travel.

“If the auto industry doesn’t bear those investments,” Mr. Senard told a small group of journalists at Renault’s offices outside Paris at a meeting organized by the Anglo-American Press Association, “someone else will.”

Asked whether that someone might be Google, which has invested heavily in autonomous-driving technology, Mr. Senard answered: “Maybe. Why not? It could be anyone, even players that do not yet exist.”

The automotive industry is “entering a new era” in which industrial scale and new technologies will separate winners from losers, Ms. Ihara said in a separate interview at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan.

“We need to increase the speed at which we provide service and improve our products,” she said. “That’s going to require increased costs, and the ability to split up those costs is going to make us extremely efficient.”

CreditPhilippe Wojazer/Reuters

When Renault and Nissan founded the alliance in 1999, it was ahead of its time in many ways, an example of two big carmakers joining forces to share the costs of developing new vehicles and buying components. Mitsubishi joined in 2016.

Now alliances are all the rage as traditional automakers begin to develop battery-powered vehicles and self-driving technology.

The transformation of the industry, the biggest in a century, is occurring amid a slump in global auto sales that is eroding the amount of money carmakers have to invest in new technologies and production lines. That puts established carmakers at a disadvantage against well-financed tech companies like Uber, which is also working on self-driving cars.

Events this month underscored the challenges. Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, issued a profit warning. BMW replaced its chief executive. And Renault reported a 6.7 percent decline in sales in the first half of the year, to 1.9 million vehicles, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Nissan is also struggling. Its worldwide sales were down 7.5 percent in the first five months of 2019 from a year earlier, to 2.2 million vehicles.

The future of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance has been uncertain since Mr. Ghosn, the architect of the partnership and its longtime leader, was arrested in Japan in November on charges of financial wrongdoing, which he has denied.

Fiat Chrysler’s attempt to merge with Renault added to the strain. Renault executives did not tell their Nissan counterparts about the talks with Fiat Chrysler until days before the potential deal was announced. The merger plan fell apart abruptly in June after Fiat Chrysler complained of meddling by the French government.

Mr. Senard said he believed that discussing a possible merger with Fiat Chrysler made sense, and did not rule out reviving it. “As we speak, there are no talks,” he said. “It’s dead. But you can always dream about things.”

Relations between the French and Japanese deteriorated further as the companies argued about plans to create committees within Nissan’s board of directors that would oversee appointments of managers and scrutinize company finances. Mr. Senard threatened to use Renault’s controlling stake in the Japanese automaker to kill the changes unless the company included him and Thierry Bolloré, Renault’s chief executive, on the committees.

Nissan eventually acceded to the demands, and the board was reorganized last month to include more independent directors with more diverse backgrounds, including in the legal and entertainment industries. In the interviews last week, Mr. Senard and Ms. Ihara portrayed the changes as a turning point.

Tensions do remain, however. Mr. Senard acknowledged that people close to Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan’s chief executive, were motivated by nationalism in trying to define the relationship.

CreditStephane Mahe/Reuters

He said that he believed the group harboring such beliefs was “a very small one” and had a limited life span because Nissan’s new board saw the necessity for change.

“I spend a tremendous amount of time on the relationship with Mr. Saikawa,” Mr. Senard added. “I speak to him sometimes almost every day.”

“The alliance will revive,” he said. “I’m not worried about that at all.”

The view from inside the alliance is not so rosy. More than a dozen joint Renault-Nissan projects have stalled since Mr. Ghosn’s ouster, according to two people familiar with the company’s operations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal corporate information.

Ms. Ihara acknowledged that some projects had been shut down, but she said that was a normal part of the alliance’s work. “We’ve taken a look at operations and projects and canceled those that should be canceled,” she said. “New areas of cooperation are increasing.”

Earlier this year, “there were points of concern and voices of uncertainty within the company,” Ms. Ihara said. “Now, on the contrary, I feel that we’re carrying out constructive projects and constructive investments together.”

Mr. Senard said that in the face of a changing industry, “the only risk I see is, will we be strong enough to have enough resources to invest massively in the technology necessary to let us keep the leadership?”

“That’s why I’m incredibly anxious to see the alliance strengthen,” he said. “The real risk is that in a few years’ time we aren’t strong enough to generate sufficient cash flow in what we think should be the direction of mobility.”

The alliance’s problems will probably continue to be publicly aired, particularly if Mr. Ghosn succeeds in his legal effort in the Netherlands to wrest open some of the details of his ouster.

He has sued Nissan-Mitsubishi BV for wrongful dismissal in Amsterdam, where the two carmakers’ joint venture is based, according to a spokesman of the Court of Amsterdam. Mr. Ghosn’s lawyers contend that, under Dutch law, he has the right to see the files and arguments that led to his dismissal.

Nissan International Holding, which is also based in the Netherlands, is named as a defendant in the same suit.

Mr. Ghosn is also seeking back pay, which his legal team estimates at nearly $17 million, for the months he was detained and unable to work before being voted off the companies’ boards. His filing, which will be reviewed by the court on Thursday, is a bid to gain information in open court about his dismissal that may be useful in his upcoming trial in Japan. The revelations may well prolong the turmoil between the carmakers.

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‘Lion King’ Remake Becomes Disney’s Latest Box-Office Smash

LOS ANGELES — Another weekend at the multiplex, another monster hit from Walt Disney Studios. “The trail of tears,” as an executive at a rival movie studio recently put it.

Jon Favreau’s hyperrealistic remake of “The Lion King” sold an estimated $185 million in tickets at theaters in the United States and Canada between Thursday night and Sunday. In total, Disney’s domestic market share now stands at about 40 percent for the year, including its newly acquired Fox division. Second-place Warner Bros. has roughly 14 percent.

Disney said “The Lion King,” which features the vocal talents of Beyoncé, Seth Rogen and a parade of other stars, collected an additional $346 million overseas, with turnout at Imax theaters particularly strong. Reviews were decidedly mixed for the film, which cost an estimated $400 million to make and market worldwide. But ticket buyers seemed to disagree, giving it an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls.

[Read our “Lion King” review.]

Disney was also celebrating another box-office coup on Sunday. “Avengers: Endgame,” released by the company’s Marvel division in April, squeaked past “Avatar” to rank as the highest-grossing movie on record, not adjusting for inflation. “Avatar” collected $2.79 billion by the end of its run a decade ago, or about $3.3 billion in today’s money.

In the coming days, Disney’s remake of “Aladdin,” released in May, will cross $1 billion worldwide. “Toy Story 4,” which arrived in June from Disney’s Pixar division, is also approaching that threshold; its total now stands at $859 million, according to Comscore.

And the barrage is nowhere near over: Still to come from Disney this year are “Frozen 2,” a “Maleficent” sequel and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” among others. David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, noted that Disney has two more live-action films based on animated predecessors scheduled for next year — a “Mulan” remake and “Cruella,” an origin story for the “101 Dalmatians” villain.

“It remains to be seen whether this format will hit a wall of saturation,” Gross said.


On the other end of the box-office spectrum, Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” (A24) delivered impressive results in limited release. The PG-rated, subtitled dramedy about a family’s bittersweet reunion in China expanded into 35 theaters and grossed $1.2 million, for a per-screen average of $33,473 — the second best of the weekend behind “The Lion King.”

“The Farewell,” which received rave reviews and stars Awkwafina, will roll out nationwide in early August. Over the weekend, Jon M. Chu, who directed “Crazy Rich Asians,” bought out a theater in New York to support “The Farewell.”

Like Chu did with his film, Wang and her producing partners declined a hefty distribution offer from Netflix, deciding instead to pursue a theatrical run. A24, the indie outfit behind “Moonlight” and “Lady Bird,” promised Wang it would give her one. If she were willing to pound enough pavement to promote her film, the audience would come, A24 told her.

“The Farewell” initially arrived in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 12 and attracted a surprisingly young crowd (35 and under), with a large swath coming from the Asian-American community. The traditional art-house audience has also supported the film. “There is no limit to who responds to this movie,” said Nicolette Aizenberg, a senior A24 executive. “What we’ve learned is it’s just going to get better and stronger with time.”

CreditCasi Moss/A24

A24’s knack for delivering surprising films to sophisticated audiences has allowed the seven-year-old studio to thrive this summer while others have struggled.

With the help of influencers like Lena Waithe, who hosted a screening and bought out a theater in Oakland, A24’s low-budget “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is on its way to a respectable $5 million gross, while A24’s loony, hard-to-define horror film “Midsommar” has collected $22.5 million since it debuted two weeks ago.

“Those movies prove that people are still interested in original content and will go see things in the movie theater even if they don’t have the brand recognition,” Aizenberg said.

More about Disney remakes

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Chinese Money in the U.S. Dries Up as Trade War Drags On

WASHINGTON — Growing distrust between the United States and China has slowed the once steady flow of Chinese cash into America, with Chinese investment plummeting by nearly 90 percent since President Trump took office.

The falloff, which is being felt broadly across the economy, stems from tougher regulatory scrutiny in the United States and a less hospitable climate toward Chinese investment, as well Beijing’s tightened limits on foreign spending. It is affecting a range of industries including Silicon Valley start-ups, the Manhattan real estate market and state governments that spent years wooing Chinese investment, underscoring how the world’s two largest economies are beginning to decouple after years of increasing integration.

“The fact that the foreign direct investment has fallen so sharply is symbolic of how badly the economic relationship between the United States and China has deteriorated,” said Eswar Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. “The U.S. doesn’t trust the Chinese, and China doesn’t trust the U.S.”

For years, Chinese investment into the United States had been accelerating, with money pouring into autos, tech, energy and agriculture and fueling new jobs in Michigan, South Carolina, Missouri, Texas and other states. As China’s economy boomed, state and local governments along with American companies looked to snap up some of those Chinese funds.

But Mr. Trump’s economic Cold War has helped reverse that trend.

Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States fell to $5.4 billion in 2018 from a peak of $46.5 billion in 2016, a drop of 88 percent, according to data from Rhodium Group, an economic research firm. Preliminary figures through April of this year, which account for investments by mainland Chinese companies, suggested only a modest uptick from last year, with transactions valued at $2.8 billion.

“I certainly hear in conversations with investors a lot of concern about whether the U.S. market is still open,” said Rod Hunter, a lawyer at Baker McKenzie who specializes in foreign investment reviews. “You have a potentially chilling effect for Chinese investors.”

A confluence of forces appear to be at play. A slowing economy and stricter capital controls in China have made it more difficult for Chinese investors to buy American, according to trade and mergers and acquisitions advisers. Mr. Trump’s penchant for imposing punishing tariffs on Chinese goods and an increasingly powerful regulatory group that is heavily scrutinizing foreign investment, particularly involving Chinese investors, have also spooked businesses in both countries.

China, which has retaliated against American goods with its own tariffs, may also be turning off the investment spigot as punishment for Mr. Trump’s economic crackdown.

Concerns about America’s receptiveness to Chinese investment have been aggravated by a flurry of transactions that collapsed under heavy scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The group, which is headed by the Treasury Department, gained expanded powers in 2018 that allow it to block a broader array of transactions, including minority stakes and investments in sensitive technologies like telecommunications and computing.

Shortly after the New Year, China’s HNA Group took a $41 million loss on a glass and aluminum Manhattan high-rise after American regulators forced it to sell the property because of security concerns about its proximity to Trump Tower, only a few blocks away.

CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

In March, the Chinese owners of a gay dating app known as Grindr were told by regulators to find a buyer for the company. The Trump administration feared Beijing could use personal information as leverage over American officials.

Those interventions followed prominent cases earlier in Mr. Trump’s term, such as Broadcom’s quashed bid for Qualcomm and the sale of MoneyGram to a unit of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last year. An agreement involving Lattice Semiconductor and an investment firm with reported ties to the Chinese government was also rejected.

In some cases, the chill has benefited American companies. In June, UnitedHealth swooped in to buy PatientsLikeMe, a health care technology start-up, after the committee said it was a security risk to allow the company’s Chinese owner to have access to health data. The purchase amount was not disclosed.

But the increased scrutiny is also complicating efforts by American industries to team up with Chinese investors and leading to a retrenchment in certain sectors. The real estate sector, which has been buttressed by investors from China in the last decade, has had a steep falloff as relations sour and as Chinese officials clamp down on foreign real estate investment.

A May report from Cushman & Wakefield noted a “frenzy of disposal activity” among Chinese commercial real estate investors in the United States. In 2018, there were 37 property acquisitions by Chinese buyers worth $2.3 billion, but $3.1 billion of commercial real estate was sold off. The report said that the treatment of HNA and tough trade talk made Chinese investors feel unwelcome.

Chinese investors are also showing less appetite for residential real estate in the United States. Research released recently by the National Association of Realtors found that purchases of homes in America by Chinese buyers declined by 56 percent to $13.4 billion in the year to March.

“The magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S.,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the realtor’s group.

Despite the decline, China was still the top foreign buyer of American properties from April 2018 to March 2019.

The financial sector, including banks and private equity, is also feeling the effects. A fund that Goldman Sachs started with the China Investment Corporation in 2017 is being looked at closely by the Treasury Department, according to two Treasury officials. The fund, the China-US Industrial Cooperation Partnership, was set up to invest in American manufacturing and health care companies and then forge business ties in China.

A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman said that the bank was in compliance with all government regulations.

John Kabealo, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in cross-border transactions, said that American private equity funds are now less likely to team up with foreign funds when making acquisitions because doing so could raise red flags.

“I think there’s a whole lot of concern in the fund world right now,” Mr. Kabealo said. “Funds still want to take Chinese money, but they’re being much more cautious in the way that they do it.”

CreditAly Song/Reuters

Even if the two countries reach a trade deal, tepid Chinese investment is expected to continue. The administration is rolling out new barriers to investment, including controls on the types of American technology that can be sold overseas and placing Chinese firms like Huawei on a government blacklist.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which previously only had the authority to review transactions in which a foreign investor took a controlling stake of an American business, is now reviewing a broader range of transactions, including joint ventures and smaller investments by foreigners in American businesses that make critical technology.

“There’s certainly a degree of hesitation in China in investing in the U.S.,” said Aimen Mir, the former assistant secretary for investment security at the Treasury Department who recently joined the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. “It’s hard to argue against the fact that these rules have clearly had some impact on Chinese investment.”

Weaker Chinese investment is unlikely to derail the United States economy, as it is a small fraction of that from Britain, Canada, Japan and Germany. China also continues to be largest buyer of United States Treasuries; however, its holdings have fallen in recent years to $1.1 trillion, according to the latest Treasury Department data.

But the decline in investment could hurt areas that are already economically disadvantaged and that have become dependent on Chinese cash. States like Michigan have increasingly wooed Chinese investment, resulting in new factories and jobs in a part of the country that has struggled to recover from the Great Recession.

Craig Allen, the president of the U.S.-China Business Council, said the loss of Chinese investment would be felt predominately in rural states where Chinese investors have bought factories and revived struggling businesses.

“The not-so-welcome mat is out, and it is having a deleterious effect on relatively poorer areas in the United States that need jobs,” he said.

“The Chinese hear from our state and local officials that they’re welcome,” Mr. Allen said. “What they’re hearing from federal officials is quite different.”

In Kentucky’s Ballard County, local officials are grateful that China’s Shanying International Holdings acquired a shuttered paper mill last year. In May, the mill reopened and filled many of the 300 jobs that had been lost.

Mayor Brandi Harless of Paducah, Ky., who traveled to China to meet executives of the company this year, said that it would be a shame if trade tensions hampered manufacturing investments in towns such as hers.

“Given our national conversation, I expected there to be some hesitancy,” Ms. Harless said. “But I haven’t heard anyone in our community be negative about this opportunity.”

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Marvel Studios Unveils Diverse Film Lineup at Comic-Con

LOS ANGELES — Marvel Studios has generated more than $22 billion in global ticket sales since 2008. Its 23 movies during that period have turned minor comic-book characters like Iron Man and Rocket Raccoon into cultural touchstones. Even “Ant-Man” was a hit.

But for months Marvel played coy with fans, not to mention rival studios and Wall Street, about its future projects.

On Saturday night, the studio finally unveiled what is coming next: a slate of interconnected movies and streaming-service shows that emphasizes diversity on both sides of the camera. The lineup includes the first openly L.G.B.T.Q. superhero in a Marvel film, a superhero who is disabled, and a film anchored by an Asian superhero.

The films and TV shows will either push Marvel further into the stratosphere or at long last reveal the studio’s limitations. Until now, Kevin Feige, Marvel’s fanboy in chief, has focused almost entirely on movies. But the Walt Disney Company, which owns Marvel, is now counting on him to also make must-watch shows for its Disney Plus streaming service, which is scheduled to go live on Nov. 12.

And he will have to do it without some of Marvel’s most popular characters, including Iron Man and the Hulk, who are taking much-needed rests.

Mr. Feige announced Marvel’s new projects during an evening presentation at Comic-Con International, an annual fan convention in San Diego that attracts 140,000 people.

Scarlett Johansson will headline “Black Widow,” reprising her role as a spy and superassassin from earlier Marvel films like “Captain America: Civil War.” Fans have long pressed Marvel to give the character her own movie (and sell more related merchandise). “Black Widow,” directed by Cate Shortland, will be released in theaters in May.

Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry and Richard Madden will star in “The Eternals,” a film scheduled for November 2020. It will focus on mysterious immortals, one of whom is deaf. The movie’s director, Chloé Zhao, is Chinese and known for little-seen art films like “The Rider,” which collected $2.4 million worldwide last year.

CreditChris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

Marvel will also seek to replicate its theatrical success with “Black Panther,” which featured a majority black cast, by adding a standout Asian superhero to its cinematic universe. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will star a Chinese-Canadian actor, Simu Liu, in the title role. Awkwafina will join him in the film, which is scheduled to be released in theaters in February 2021. “Shang-Chi” is being directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the Japanese-American filmmaker known for the 2013 indie film “Short Term 12.”

Marvel’s coming slate also includes “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (May 2021) and “Thor: Love and Thunder” (November 2021). In a major twist, Natalie Portman will return to the “Thor” series as a female version of the god of thunder. The fourth “Thor” installment will also find Tessa Thompson reprising her role as Valkyrie; Ms. Thompson confirmed during the Comic-Con presentation that her character will have a lesbian narrative.

“As new king, she needs to find her queen,” Ms. Thompson said. “That will be the first order of business.”

Mr. Feige said he was also working on a new version of the vampire thriller “Blade,” this time starring Mahershala Ali, and a new “Fantastic Four” movie, along with “Captain Marvel 2,” “Black Panther 2” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Those films are expected to start arriving in 2022.

If not king of the world, Mr. Feige at least became the king of Hollywood over the weekend: Disney said that Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” as expected, would squeak past James Cameron’s “Avatar” by Sunday to become the highest-grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office, not adjusting for inflation. “Avatar” collected $2.79 billion by the end of its run a decade ago, or $3.3 billion in today’s money.

“The astonishing achievements of both of these films are ongoing proof of the power of movies to move people,” Alan F. Horn, co-chairman and chief creative officer of Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement. Mr. Horn cannot gloat too much about dethroning “Avatar”: It became part of the Disney empire in the spring with the completion of a $71.3 billion deal to buy most of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment assets, and four sequels are on the way.

The next batch of Marvel movies — Phase 4 in the studio’s vernacular, with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” wrapping up the previous phase — will feature story lines that overtly extend to smaller screens, a first for Mr. Feige’s operation. Until now, Marvel-branded TV shows like “Jessica Jones” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” have been made by a lesser Marvel division.

Four of the five shows that Mr. Feige is working on for the Disney Plus app, all previously announced, focus on “Avengers” characters. Tom Hiddleston is reprising his villainous role in “Loki” (2021). Elizabeth Olsen will reprise her ethereal Scarlet Witch character in “WandaVision” (2021). Anthony Mackie will return as the Falcon in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2020). And Jeremy Renner stars in “Hawkeye” (2021).

A fifth series, “What If … ?” (2021), is animated. It focuses on new versions of pivotal moments from old Marvel movies.

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British Airways Suspends Flights to Cairo, Citing Security Risks

anastasios pallis

LONDON — British Airways abruptly canceled all flights to Cairo on Saturday for what it described as security reasons, a day after the British government warned of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks against airplanes over Egypt.

The airline told stunned passengers at their departure gate in London that they could not fly and could not reschedule their flights for a week.

“We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world,” the airline said in a statement, “and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment.”

British Airways did not describe the security issue.

Youssef Chouhoud, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, said on Twitter that his flight to Cairo from London’s Heathrow Airport had been canceled. He asked why other airlines were not taking similar precautions.

“What does @British_Airways know about the security situation in Cairo that we don’t??” he said.

Reuters, citing Egyptian airport security officials, reported that British workers had examined security at Cairo’s main airport on Wednesday and Thursday.

The cancellation is bad news for Egyptian tourism, an important economic sector that has staged a tentative recovery in recent years after a deep slump caused first by the Arab Spring in 2011 and then by a string of terrorist attacks.

Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said Saturday that it would increase the capacity of EgyptAir flights to London and schedule an additional flight to Heathrow Airport. The statement did not address the security concerns.

Aviation security has been a central focus since October 2015 when Islamic State militants based in Sinai brought down a Russian jetliner moments after takeoff from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh. Since then Egypt has stepped up security at major airports.

Yet Britain refuses to resume flights to Sharm el Sheikh, despite loud and repeated reassurances from frustrated Egyptian officials, in what has become a sore point between the two countries.

Saturday’s move by British Airways is likely to bring new scrutiny to the security at Egypt’s major airports, which include the main international airport in northern Cairo and the new Sphinx airport to the west of the city. Sphinx operated its first internal flight in January.

The British government released updated travel advice for Egypt on Friday, warning against nonessential trips to most of the Sinai Peninsula and the area west of the Nile Valley and saying that travelers to Cairo should be cautious, too.

“There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation,” the government said.

A State Department travel warning on Friday also described “risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Egypt,” as well as “threats from terrorist and violent political opposition groups.”

In a notice in March, the Federal Aviation Administration said there was “continued risk to U.S. civil aviation operating into, out of, within or over” parts of the Sinai Peninsula at certain altitudes. It cited the danger of mortar and rocket attacks and small arms attacks from militant groups.

Sinai has been a hot spot for violence involving the Islamic State. After years fighting Egypt’s security forces there, Islamic State militants broadened their range of targets in 2017 to Christians and Sufi Muslims. Dozens of Christians were killed as they prayed or traveled to places of pilgrimage, and 311 people were killed at a Sufi mosque in Sinai in Egypt’s deadliest attack ever.

The killings prompted an Egyptian military operation in Sinai that has drawn accusations of widespread abuses that Human Rights Watch and other groups say may constitute war crimes. Egypt denies the accusations but has refused news media access to the area.

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A New Red Scare Is Reshaping Washington

WASHINGTON — In a ballroom across from the Capitol building, an unlikely group of military hawks, populist crusaders, Chinese Muslim freedom fighters and followers of the Falun Gong has been meeting to warn anyone who will listen that China poses an existential threat to the United States that will not end until the Communist Party is overthrown.

If the warnings sound straight out of the Cold War, they are. The Committee on the Present Danger, a long-defunct group that campaigned against the dangers of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, has recently been revived with the help of Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, to warn against the dangers of China.

Once dismissed as xenophobes and fringe elements, the group’s members are finding their views increasingly embraced in President Trump’s Washington, where skepticism and mistrust of China have taken hold. Fear of China has spread across the government, from the White House to Congress to federal agencies, where Beijing’s rise is unquestioningly viewed as an economic and national security threat and the defining challenge of the 21st century.

“These are two systems that are incompatible,” Mr. Bannon said of the United States and China. “One side is going to win, and one side is going to lose.”

The United States and China have been locked in difficult trade negotiations for the past two years, with talks plagued by a series of missteps and misunderstandings. Mr. Trump has responded to the lack of progress by steadily ratcheting up American tariffs on Chinese goods and finding other ways to retaliate. China has responded in kind.

The two sides now appear far from any agreement that would resolve the administration’s concerns about China, including forcing American companies operating there to hand over valuable technology. Even if a deal is reached, the two sides are busy constructing broader economic barriers.

In addition to placing a 25 percent tariff on roughly half of the goods China exports, the United States has restricted the kinds of technologies that can be exported to China, tried to cut off some Chinese companies, like telecom giant Huawei, from purchasing American products and rolled out hurdles for Chinese investment in the United States.

American intelligence agencies have also ratcheted up efforts to combat Chinese espionage, particularly at universities and research institutions. Officials from the F.B.I. and the National Security Council have been dispatched to Ivy League universities to warn administrators to be vigilant against Chinese students who may be gathering technological secrets from their laboratories to pass to Beijing.

The administration paints the crackdown as necessary to protect the United States. But there are growing concerns that it is stoking a new red scare, fueling discrimination against students, scientists and companies with ties to China and risking the collapse of a fraught but deeply enmeshed trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

“I’m worried that some people are going to say, because of this fear, any policy is justifiable,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The climate of fear that is being created needs to help generate the conversation, not end the conversation.”

CreditChina Daily/Reuters

Anti-China sentiment has spread quickly, with Republicans and Democrats, labor union leaders, Fox News hosts and others warning that China’s efforts to build up its military and advanced industries threaten America’s global leadership, and that the United States should respond aggressively. Skepticism has seeped into nearly every aspect of China’s interaction with the United States, with officials questioning China’s presence on American stock markets, its construction of American subway cars and its purchase of social media networks.

Yet there is little agreement on what America can or should do. The United States has tried for decades to entice and cajole China to become a more open society, but the Communist Party has steadily tightened its grip over the Chinese people and the economy. American leaders now face a choice of whether to continue down a path of engagement that could leave the country vulnerable to economic and security threats — or embark on a path of disengagement that could weaken both economies and might one day even lead to war.

An increasing number of people in Washington now view the decoupling of the two economies as inevitable — including many of the members of the Committee on the Present Danger. At an inaugural meeting in April, Mr. Bannon, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and others issued paeans to Ronald Reagan — a former member of the group — and were met with standing ovations as they called for vigilance against China.

They praised Mr. Reagan’s Cold War victory over the Soviet Union and his doctrine of “peace through strength,” but there was also an air of inevitability that war might come, only this time with China.

Mr. Bannon was just off the plane from Rome, with a slight shadow of a mustache and his silver hair brushed back. Clad in a black button-down and long black suit jacket, he thumped the podium as he described China as a rising power and the United States as a declining power that would inevitably clash.

“This is the defining event of our time, and 100 years from now, this is what they’re going to remember us for,” he said.

The committee’s two earliest iterations, in the 1950s and again in the 1970s, called for an arms buildup to counter the Soviets. The second iteration, formed over a luncheon table at Washington’s Metropolitan Club in 1976, issued documents warning against Soviet expansionism, with titles like “Is America Becoming Number 2?”

The group reached the height of its influence during the Reagan administration, in which dozens of its members eventually held posts, including as the national security adviser and C.I.A. director. But as the Soviet threat faded, so did the committee.

The group was briefly active again starting in 2004, this time to warn against the threat of Islamic extremism. The committee’s vice chair, Frank Gaffney, is the founder of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank that argues that mosques and Muslims across America are engaged in a “stealth jihad” to “Islamize” the country by taking advantage of American pluralism and democracy.

The group’s activity largely died down until concern over China rekindled interest.

Today’s committee acknowledges that the threat from China is different from Soviet Russia because the American and Chinese economies are much more integrated. But Washington is increasingly reaching back into the Cold War toolbox to confront the threat.

The administration has placed Chinese tech companies on an “entity list,” essentially blacklisting them from doing business with American firms. In keeping with a law passed last year, the administration has increased its checks of Chinese investment, including of minority stakes in American companies. Last June, the administration began restricting visas for Chinese graduate students in sensitive research fields like robotics and aviation. And the United States has begun barring Chinese academics from the United States if they are suspected of having links to Chinese intelligence agencies.

“They’re not the Soviet Union. But this kind of government control, statism, never works for long,” Larry Kudlow, the White House chief economic adviser, said in a July 16 interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group. The possibility that China could collapse like the Soviet Union has “always been an undercurrent” in the trade war, he said.

The new Cold War has not been one-sided. Many of the changes in Washington have been triggered by a darker turn in Beijing.

China has increased its scrutiny of American firms, and many American companies and their employees in China now fear reprisal. In addition to detaining millions of Chinese Muslims, democracy activists and others, Chinese authorities have jailed foreign diplomats, academics and businesspeople — prompting some to cancel or delay trips to China.

China is also projecting its power abroad, funding global infrastructure and constructing an archipelago of artificial islands with giant air bases reaching almost to the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia. Beijing has made it clear that it intends to help its companies dominate the industries of the future, from artificial intelligence and supercomputers to aerospace equipment. Its policies have sought to replace imports of high-tech products with Chinese-made goods, pressuring multinationals to move factories from the United States and resulting in the loss of American jobs.

China has rejected entreaties by the Trump administration to curb these activities, arguing that it is simply pursuing its own economic development. In an interview after trade talks broke down in May, Liu He, China’s top negotiator, said that areas of disagreement between the United States and China focused on “major matters of principle” on which China was unlikely to bend.

The chill in relations has begun to weigh on Chinese investment in the United States, along with Chinese students and tourism. Chinese investment in American residential and commercial real estate has begun to decline. Companies are increasingly diversifying away from China, wary of the president’s ongoing economic war.

CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Nintendo, GoPro, Hasbro and other companies are reconsidering factories in China, choosing to source products from Vietnam, the United States, Mexico and India instead.

Susan Shirk, the chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California at San Diego, said the United States is at risk of being gripped by “an anti-Chinese version of the Red Scare” that is driving Chinese talent away and could rupture what little good will is left between the two countries.

“We’ve made this mistake once before, during the Cold War,” Ms. Shirk said. “And I don’t think we should make it again.”

Chinese nationals and Americans of Chinese heritage say they have felt the chilling effects. Some suspect they are being passed over for promotions and grants. Supporters of engagement have been dismissed as apologists or even traitors.

“Chinese Americans feel targeted,” said Charlie Woo, chief executive of Megatoys and a member of the Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese-Americans. “And that’s really hurtful.”

The Trump administration and the Committee on the Present Danger have been careful to say their targets are the Chinese government and the Communist Party, not the Chinese people. But the distinction can be a difficult one to make. In the rush to protect against new threats from China, the line between preparedness and paranoia is sometimes unclear.

At a Senate hearing last year, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said the Trump administration was trying to “view the China threat as not just a whole-of-government threat, but a whole-of-society threat,” adding, “I think it’s going to take a whole-of-society response by us.”

Many Chinese people and their defenders have bristled at the implication that the entire Chinese society poses a national security threat.

Toby Smith, vice president for policy at the Association for American Universities, said that American universities were working hard to remain vigilant to espionage threats, but that they thrive on openness and access to talent and science from around the world — including from China.

“The situation with China is different than the Cold War,” he said. “The concern with the Soviet Union was primarily military. Now it’s a concern about economic competitiveness.”

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