ImageJeff Bezos at the National Press Club in Washington in 2019. Since stepping down as chief executive of Amazon in July, Mr. Bezos has significantly raised his profile as a philanthropist.Credit…Emma Howells for The New York Times
Former President Barack Obama’s private foundation announced on Monday that it had been promised a donation of $100 million from the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The gift, the largest yet for the Obama Foundation, was one in a series of splashy donations by Mr. Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, in recent months. Last week, Mr. Bezos announced $96.2 million in grants to groups working to end family homelessness.
Since stepping down as chief executive of Amazon in July, Mr. Bezos has significantly raised his profile as a philanthropist, in addition to traveling to space on a ship made by his rocket company, Blue Origin.
In return for the donation, Mr. Bezos asked that a plaza at the Obama Presidential Center be named for the civil rights leader John Lewis, who died last year. The foundation broke ground on the center, which will include Mr. Obama’s presidential library, a museum, an athletic center and more, earlier this year.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Mr. Bezos said in a statement released by the Obama Foundation. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”
News of the gift was earlier reported by the online news group Puck.
It was neither Mr. Bezos’s biggest gift in recent months nor his first brush with Mr. Obama’s orbit. In September, Mr. Bezos, standing alongside John Kerry, Mr. Obama’s former Secretary of State, pledged $1 billion through his Bezos Earth Fund for conservation.
Read moreIn another shift, Target has begun offering holiday shopping discounts earlier in October instead of waiting until Black Friday. Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Target stores will close their doors for Thanksgiving Day, the retailer announced Monday, and will continue the policy every year moving forward.
The retail giant shut its stores on Thanksgiving Day last year, citing safety considerations during the pandemic. It has also started offering discounts for the holiday shopping season earlier in October instead of reserving those deals for Black Friday.
“What started as a temporary measure driven by the pandemic is now our new standard,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Target announced earlier this month that most stores would reopen at 7 a.m. local time on Black Friday.
The trial of Elizabeth Holmes is being held in San Jose, Calif.Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times
The high-stakes trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the collapsed medical start-up Theranos, is headed toward a dramatic finish. The latest twist came on Friday, when Ms. Holmes unexpectedly took the stand in her own defense, after the prosecution rested its case.
She testified for an hour, and is expected to continue on Monday. Ms. Holmes has been charged with 11 counts of fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison on each count. She has pleaded not guilty.
Whether Ms. Holmes would testify had been one of the biggest questions of the trial. Up until Friday afternoon, many legal experts predicted that she would not. The benefits of doing so, the experts argued, could be offset by the risks of cross-examination.
At first, her testimony raised concerns for her defense. Her lawyers’ strategy has been to paint her as inexperienced, led astray by others like her former boyfriend and business partner Sunny Balwani (who is being tried separately).
But on the stand, Ms. Holmes depicted herself as very much in control. She presented herself as an expert in the technology Theranos was developing and detailed how she used that knowledge to attract investors, whose money would eventually be wiped out.
She also rebutted a key argument by prosecutors. The prosecution sought to establish that Ms. Holmes withheld information, particularly financial reports, from investors.
On the stand, Holmes detailed the “very comprehensive diligence process” of Don Lucas, a venture capitalist who eventually invested in Theranos and became its chairman. The defense presented a 2006 email in which Ms. Holmes sent Mr. Lucas detailed financial information. (However, this may undermine another defense argument: that investors were careless and at least partially to blame.)
The trial is also a referendum on Silicon Valley’s start-up culture. If Ms. Holmes is found guilty, it would put truth-stretching start-up founders on notice. But if she is acquitted, it would bolster the tech industry’s “fake it til you make it” approach.
“A non-guilty verdict will vindicate a Silicon Valley culture of celebrating aggressive innovation at the expense of the complete and whole truth,” said Jeffrey Cohen of Boston College Law School.
Stock prices rose on Monday on news that Jerome H. Powell will be renominated for another four-year term as chair of the Federal Reserve, reflecting investor relief that he would remain at the helm of the central bank, whose monetary policy has been a key driver of the market’s remarkable run over the past two years.
“The announcement of Powell’s renomination ensures continuity in the stance on policy,” wrote Ellen Zentner, the chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley, in a note to clients shortly after the announcement.
The S&P 500 climbed 0.9 percent in the first half-hour of trading on Monday, to what would be a new closing high. The benchmark index is up nearly 26 percent this year.
Mr. Powell’s renomination shifted expectations in the bond market, where investors’ movements showed slightly increased expectations for higher interest rates in the coming years.
Treasury bond prices declined, and yields — which move in the opposite direction — rose. Government bond yields, which essentially act as the foundation for interest rates charged on new car loans, mortgages, multibillion-dollar Wall Street bond offerings and more are heavily influenced by market expectations about what the Federal Reserve will do with monetary policy.
Yields on the two-year Treasury note, which had been hovering around 0.52 percent before the announcement, climbed to 0.56 percent. The yield on the five-year Treasury bill, which captures market expectations for how the Fed’s monetary policy will evolve over the next few years, a topic of considerable debate in the market, rose to 1.29 percent shortly after the announcement.
The rise in bond yields suggests that at least some investors were betting that Lael Brainard, a Fed governor whom Mr. Biden will promote to vice chair, could have been instead chosen to lead the central bank. Many progressive groups had championed her to replace Mr. Powell.
Steve Sosnick, the chief strategist at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Conn., said the rise in yields were an indication that some bond investors had thought Ms. Brainard, who is believed to be less aggressive about interest rate increases, had a chance to be Mr. Biden’s pick.
Read moreThe Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., last December. Disney has urged visitors to exercise caution and wear masks in the park.Credit…Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via Associated Press
The Walt Disney Company has paused a coronavirus vaccine mandate for employees of its Florida theme park after the State Legislature and the governor made it illegal for employers to require all workers get the shots, a company spokesperson confirmed Saturday.
Walt Disney World could have been facing fines under the policy, illustrating how even one of the most well-known tourism brands in the state has to deal with the headwinds of political debate over the pandemic response.
Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.
The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature delivered the bill blocking Covid-19 vaccine mandates on Wednesday and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law on Thursday, casting the measures as an effort to protect workers who could lose their jobs for lack of compliance.
Governor DeSantis, also a Republican, has been at the forefront of the political fight to curtail mask and vaccine mandates, saying the push against those restrictions counters overreach from the federal government. “Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed Covid mandates, and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida,” the governor said in a statement.
The Biden administration has ordered vaccinations for workers in large companies and members of the federal work force, but the effort has met resistance across the country. Florida is among states that have challenged federal mandates in court.
The new Florida law prohibits employers from enforcing strict vaccine mandates, allowing employees to choose exemptions that include health or religious concerns, pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy, and having had the virus and recovered from it. Unvaccinated workers could instead undergo periodic testing or wear protective equipment, at the employers’ cost. Fines for violation could cost $10,000 a day per employee violation for businesses with fewer than 99 employees or up to $50,000 per employee violation for larger businesses.
Government entities and school districts are also restricted by the Covid mandate ban.
Disney World previously struck a deal with employees to require theme park workers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to keep their jobs, and the company defended that rule in a statement Saturday. “We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our cast members and guests,” the statement said.
Walt Disney’s website tells visitors it has been “very intentional and gradual” in operating safely, recommending guests exercise caution: wearing face coverings, checking for symptoms and getting the shots. “We encourage people to get vaccinated,” it says.
Todd Gregory contributed to this report.
Read moreJerome Powell in September. The White House is expected to provide an update on President Biden’s choice for the chair of the Federal Reserve.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Retailer earnings: Another week of quarterly financial reports from big retailers will give investors more clues on whether supply chain disruptions are hampering businesses ahead of the holiday season. Best Buy and Dollar Tree are set to publish their reports on Tuesday for the three months ending October. Gap, Nordstrom, American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch will also report on Tuesday.
Fed minutes: The Federal Reserve will publish minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee meeting that was held this month. Investors will get a clearer picture of any disagreements among Fed officials about whether they expect that inflationary pressures will persist.
Consumer sentiment: The University of Michigan will publish the final numbers of its survey of consumer sentiment for November. The survey measures how optimistic consumers feel about the overall economy. The index fell to its lowest level in a decade in early November.
Markets closed: The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, as will bond markets.
Black Friday: The traditional start of the holiday shopping season kicks off. Many shoppers have started early, concerned over whether product shortages and supply chain disruptions will make it harder to find the gifts they want.
Read moreA family scheduled for eviction waiting outside their home, owned by Cerberus, in Piera, near Barcelona, Spain, this month. A court eventually delayed the eviction by a month. Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times
By Nicholas Casey and Roser Toll Piraffé
BARCELONA, Spain — Protesters in Barcelona are pushing back against foreign investment firms that have bought up thousands of homes over the past decade and are forcing out residents who can’t pay the rent.
The beach in Barcelona last month. Giant foreign investment firms snapped up properties in Spain at bargain prices following the global financial crisis that began in 2008.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesAna María Banegas at the apartment in Barcelona where she is squatting.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times
Giant investment firms like Cerberus Capital Management, Blackstone and Lone Star have been snapping up properties across Spain at bargain prices since the global financial crisis that began in 2008. The firms then put them up for rent at a time when the country’s economy was on a stronger footing.
But the pandemic pushed the Spanish unemployment rate up to 15 percent and evictions nationwide spiked in the first half of 2021. The investment firm landlords sent out a slew of eviction notices to tenants across the country or canceled leases for those who fell behind on the rent, residents said.
In the streets of Barcelona, a group called War Against Cerberus decided to fight back.
When lawyers of private equity firms come with police officers to force residents from their homes, members of the group — some of them longtime housing activists — surround the building to block their entry. As residents are pushed out of apartments, the group sends squatters to occupy properties owned by the firms elsewhere in the city — sometimes breaking in to gain entry.
The activists even took over the offices of a Cerberus real estate servicer in Barcelona for a time last year.
Activists with the War Against Cerberus group met in Barcelona in October. Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesThe center of Barcelona has become a hotspot for foreign investment by private equity firms like Cerberus.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times
According to War Against Cerberus, dozens of families have occupied buildings owned by private equity firms in Barcelona, which has long been a target of outside investors. That can translate into years of courtroom hearings and millions of dollars in legal fees to remove the squatters.
“This property belongs to Cerberus,” said Ana María Banegas, a resident who, along with a dozen other families, has occupied a building in central Barcelona since April and now refuses to leave. “And from this home, we aim to pressure them.”
Miquel Hernández, a spokesman for War Against Cerberus who helped Ms. Banegas find the home where she is squatting, accused the private equity firms of profiting from the economic distress caused by the pandemic.
“They’re treating them like any other asset,” he said, referring to the homes owned by the firms.
The problem has caught the attention of Spain’s national government, led by a left-wing coalition. It has proposed the imposition of rent controls on investment funds and other large landlords.
The proposed legislation, supported by Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, would allow for rent caps for owners with more than 10 properties in areas where rent increases have outpaced inflation.
A public housing project being built by the Barcelona municipality. “We have to civilize a market that has gotten out of control,” said the city’s mayor, Ada Colau.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesMayor Colau is a former housing activist who rose to prominence with an organization that fought foreclosures.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times
“We have to civilize a market that has gotten out of control,” said Ms. Colau, a former housing activist who rose to power with an organization that fought against foreclosures. “A problem that was bad before the pandemic has suddenly gotten worse.”
Spain imposed a partial moratorium on evictions for much of the pandemic, but only for those in “vulnerable situations,” such as single parents. In cases that went to the courts, the judiciary was seen as siding largely with the landlords.
In the first quarter of 2021, evictions of renters in Spain rose by 14 percent compared with the same period the previous year, according to the government. By the second quarter of this year, they surged to eight times as many as in the same period in 2020.
Samuel Aranda contributed reporting from Barcelona.
Read moreA Christmas market in Salzburg, Austria, was closed on Monday after the country entered a national lockdown.Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times
By Melissa Eddy and Christopher F. Schuetze
VIENNA — As Europe experiences a menacing fourth wave of the coronavirus, Austria entered a nationwide lockdown on Monday and the possibility of a vaccine mandate in Germany was under discussion as the only way to sustainably overcome the pandemic.
“Probably by the end of this winter, as is sometimes cynically said,” the German health minister, Jens Spahn, said on Monday, “pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered or dead.”
Mr. Spahn has spoken out against a universal vaccine mandate in Germany.
The lockdown in Austria, in which people are allowed to leave their homes only to go to work or to procure groceries or medicines, will last at least 10 days and as many as 20 and comes after months of struggling attempts to halt the contagion through widespread testing and partial restrictions.
While Austria may be the first European country to respond with a lockdown, it may not be the last. That prospect, along with increasingly stringent vaccine mandates, has set off a backlash in Austria and elsewhere, with mass demonstrations in Vienna, Brussels and the Dutch city of Rotterdam over the weekend, sometimes punctuated with violent outbreaks.
Austrians Protest Lockdown and Vaccine Mandate
Thousands in Vienna over the weekend demonstrated against the measures, which include a nationwide lockdown.
[drums] [chanting] [drums] [whistles] [drums]
Thousands in Vienna over the weekend demonstrated against the measures, which include a nationwide lockdown.CreditCredit…Lisa Leutner/Associated Press
The new Covid wave is being driven by widespread resistance to vaccines and to the growing prevalence of vaccine and mask mandates. Austrian officials have said they will enforce a nationwide vaccine mandate in February, the first European nation to do so.
Austria, where 66 percent of the population is vaccinated, reported more than 14,000 new cases of the virus within 24 hours on Sunday. Over the past week the Netherlands has been averaging more than 20,000, while Germany has seen roughly double that number.
The German health ministry said on Monday that the country was facing a dwindling supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which was partly developed in the country, as it races to provide booster shots.
And while the European Medicines Agency is poised to approve the vaccine for use on children 5 to 11 this week, first doses will not begin until Dec. 20, when shots for children are scheduled to be delivered to European Union countries, Mr. Spahn, the health minister, said.
The opposition to the lockdown and vaccine mandates in Austria is being fueled in part by the far-right Freedom Party, which has used its platform in the Austrian Parliament to spread doubt about the effectiveness of the vaccines and to promote ivermectin, a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms that has repeatedly failed against the coronavirus in clinical trials.
But the fury is not limited to far-right activists, as the throngs that filled Vienna’s streets on Saturday attested. The police estimated the crowd at 40,000, with many families and others far outnumbering the right-wing extremists.
Source by www.nytimes.com