Polish dancer Kamil Szpejenkowski created a crazy arm dance inspired by SpongeBob
Polish dancer Kamil Szpejenkowski created a crazy arm dance inspired by SpongeBob
Impromptu street celebrations erupted across Spain as the clock struck midnight on Saturday, when a six-month-long national state of emergency to contain the spread of coronavirus ended and many nighttime curfews were lifted. In Madrid, police had to usher revelers out of the central Puerta del Sol square, where the scenes of unmasked dancing and group signing esembled pre-pandemic nightlife. Teenagers and young adults also poured into central squares and beaches of Barcelona to mark the relaxation of restrictions.
Overhanging rocks crushed some victims and buried others inside the clandestine mine.
The Detroit Tigers take on the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a three-game set. The game will be broadcast on Bally Sports Detroit.
GettyEvery book I write is a journey. Yet the writing of The Summer of Lost and Found was, like the year 2020 it was written in, an experience like no other.For the past twenty years I have written books in a process that I had designed to help me create themes I developed from the species or environmental issues I chose as the novels’ backdrop. It started in 2000, when I became a member of the Island Turtle Team in South Carolina. I still am! Working daily with the loggerhead sea turtles and the public on the beaches, I saw clearly that critical issues faced the survival of the turtles that most of the public was not aware of yet. I asked myself, what could I do to help? How could I use my books as a force for good?I write fiction. I am a storyteller. I didn’t want to write nonfiction. Rather, I hoped to bring readers into my world, to make them aware and inspire them through the power of story. Emotion is a powerful tool. So, instead of my usual process of creating a novel around archetypal themes, I created themes based on what I’d learned from the animals to let the education come from themes, setting, plot, dialogue, and even characters. What were the parallels between nature and human nature?That first book was The Beach House, published in 2002. It was unlike any book I’d read before or written. I set the mother-daughter reconciliation novel against the backdrop of the summer nesting season of the loggerhead sea turtles. And readers responded. Back in the day before the internet, The Beach House shot to The New York Times bestseller list solely because of good old-fashioned word of mouth. I was jubilant because the success greenlit my course to continue this path to write novels set against a species. And it confirmed my belief, my observation, that readers do care and want to learn, even while reading for pleasure and/or escape. Whenever I had something I wanted to share about the sea turtles or animals on my beach, I wrote another book in what has become Mary Alice Monroe’s The Beach House series. The Beach House has also been made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film, starring Andie MacDowell.For the past twenty years, I’ve continued this process. I don’t choose a topic for the novel. I choose a species. This involves intuition, which I fully trust. Joseph Campbell called artists of today the equivalent of shamans of past societies. I’ve learned to be like the turtle and trust my instincts.After I chose the species, I began an academic research, extensive interviews with experts in the field, and finally, the work that teaches me the most: hands-on work experience with the animals. From all the research and experience, I derived my story. Or, as I like to say, the animals tell me the story. By the time I write the first word, I know my themes, plot, characters, setting, and often, the end.It’s been a marvelous journey. In addition to the sea turtles, pelicans, and shorebirds in The Beach House series, I wrote a series set against the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in The Lowcountry series. I traveled across the United States to Mexico following the monarch butterflies for The Butterfly’s Daughter. I rescued and rehabilitated eagles, hawks, owls, and other raptors for Skyward. I’ve written books set against catch and release of trout in Time is a River, horses in The Summer Guests, and the vanishing shrimping industry in Last Light Over Carolina. I’ve even tried my hand at making sweetgrass baskets for Sweetgrass.Everything changed for my new novel, The Summer of Lost and Found. Like everything else in my life, the pandemic brought my world to a halt. I had a few species in mind to begin working with at the dawn of 2020, but what I’d thought would be a delay in my ability to fly out to do field research became a shut down.Like many of you, I sheltered in place in my house in the mountains. Looking around, I became aware that the pandemic was hitting some in my family hard. Two of my sisters were trapped in apartments in Los Angeles and Chicago, unable to work. My niece who worked in the service industry was out of a job. I invited these women to my mountain house for the summer. We created our own pod. Over the summer, it dawned on me that what I’d thought was an obstacle could be an opportunity.My novels are centered around the relationships in a woman’s life—mother-daughter/son, husband and wife, sisters, friends. I write family sagas. What could be more intriguing than to write about the changes and challenges families were facing with forced isolation, togetherness, and economic strain? I sought to write about this phenomenon we were living in—not about the COVID-19 illness, but family dynamics. And how better to explore this than with a family I knew so well—the Rutledge family of The Beach House series.I wrote this novel in real time—and what a roller coaster journey it has been! I let go of a process that had worked for me for two decades and went boldly into the story. I write from structure and yes, I did begin with an outline. The challenge came, however, when living through the weeks and months of the pandemic year, my perspective kept changing and I threw out my outline. I was introducing the next generation in the series and recognized that the problems of 2020 were different for the older generation than the younger.After the original shock and fear of a global shutdown, we went through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Our defense strategies shifted to coping strategies. What I wanted to say in April was different in July and changed again in November… Rewrite followed rewrite. I pulled my hair out, cursed the characters, the story, swore I would never do this again. It was a long, arduous process.By the year’s end, I read my novel for the last time, tweaked the final words, and smiled with satisfaction and relief. My story was told. And I did it. I’d sharpened and shared my perspective of 2020 through the voices of my characters, especially the two Rutledge women of two generations: Cara and Linnea. And isn’t that the power of story?I learned in this year of change that despite the frustrations, delays, cancellations, and angst, there were also discovered opportunities for togetherness, solitude, reflection, and appreciation of the here and now. For in truth, we can’t make plans. Hindsight is 20/20, except in 2020! The key word for the year was—and continues to be for a while longer—pivot. As my character says in The Summer of Lost and Found, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” As frustrating as that may be at times, it is also freeing. This is part of the stage of acceptance. Let’s enjoy what we do have. We have today. We have our health. We can find ways to be creative, to connect with loved ones, to be compassionate to others and to ourselves, to laugh. To live each day to the fullest.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
President Vladimir Putin reviewed Russia's traditional World War Two victory parade on Sunday, a patriotic display of raw military power that this year coincides with soaring tensions with the West. The parade on Moscow's Red Square commemorating the 76th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two featured over 12,000 troops and more than 190 pieces of military hardware, including intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, and a fly-past by nearly 80 military aircraft under cloudy skies.
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Roman Cieslewicz/David Pollack/Corbis via GettyThe conclusion of World War II brought with it unprecedented economic power for America. It was in this respect a golden age for the United States—a time that still fascinates us when we think of our diminished international role today. By the end of the 1940s, the United States, with just 7 percent of the world’s population, commanded 42 percent of the world’s income. As most of the industrialized world struggled to recover from World War II, America, which had gone through the war with its mainland free from bombing and invasion, was producing 57 percent of the world’s steel, 43 percent of its electricity, and 82 percent of its cars.Accompanying America’s newfound economic and military power was the rise of a culture in which American art, music, and literature gained outsized importance. This cultural flourishing, along with its relationship to Western European culture in the years from 1945 to 1965, is the focus of Louis Menand’s far-reaching new book, The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War. At a time when so much of America’s intellectual and artistic life seems dominated by the bitter cultural warfare that divides us politically, the period Menand writes about is easy to envy.It is also a period that is easy to sentimentalize because of its outward simplicity. Mass culture was contained within the boundaries of radio, movies, and the still-young television and music industries. People wrote letters and sent Christmas cards, and decades away was the digital revolution that would give Donald Trump unparalleled demagogic powers as president.Menand’s focus, as he makes clear from the start, is not Cold War culture as propaganda or an instrument of foreign policy. It is Cold War culture as “the product of the Free World.” Menand is the author of The Metaphysical Club, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the American pragmatists who came to prominence after the Civil War, and in The Free World he has taken on an even broader subject, turning out a book that in his words is “a little like a novel with a hundred characters.”How the Daring Marshall Plan Revived and United Post-WWII EuropeMenand has taken on such a wealth of trends and ideas that it is not always clear what his guiding line for inclusion and exclusion was. Why include the innovative modern dance of Merce Cunningham, for example, but not the innovative modern ballet of George Balanchine? Why include the attack on middle-class conformity in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road but not the attack on middle-class conformity in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye?The size of Menand’s book has not, however, dulled his writing. Menand is not only an engaging critic. He is a superb thumbnail biographer. His book is bound to be required reading for anyone who wants to understand mid-20th-century America. The men and women he writes about come surrounded by their life stories, whether they are grim stories, as in the case of literary scholar Paul de Man, who in his youth wrote for a Nazi newspaper, or engaging stories, as in the case of James Baldwin, whose high school friendship with fashion photographer Richard Avedon led to a joint book project.The Free World tells a tale of loss and gain. In 1945 there was, Menand argues, widespread skepticism about the value of American art and ideas, but the motives and intentions of the American government were respected. After 1965, those attitudes were reversed, Menand believes. “The United States had lost political credibility,” he writes, “but it had moved from the periphery to the center of an increasingly international artistic and intellectual life.”In writing about this cultural transformation, Menand makes use of the contrast philosopher Isaiah Berlin first drew in a 1958 Oxford lecture between negative and positive freedom. For Berlin, negative freedom was “freedom from” the external forces of coercion while positive freedom was “freedom to” reach for particular ends. For Menand both these freedoms are crucial to the culture he describes in The Free World. He sees these two versions of freedom constantly complementing each other—for example, in how the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock challenged the conventions of realist painting to offer a new aesthetic.The book’s first chapter focuses on diplomat and scholar George Kennan, who in his 1947 Foreign Affairs essay “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” put forward a strategy for containing the Soviet Union that called for a series of selected—but limited—diplomatic and economic confrontations with the Soviet Union. But after his opening chapter, Menand does not build his book around a year-by-year chronology of the period he covers. Instead, he explores a series of cultural turning points by zigzagging among them.A case in point, Menand’s chapter “Outside the Law” pairs Hannah Arendt’s 1951 study The Origins of Totalitarianism with David Riesman’s 1950 bestseller The Lonely Crowd. Arendt’s concern with Hitler and Stalin and Riesman’s concern with conformity, particularly in the America of his time, seem miles apart. Yet, Riesman was fascinated with Arendt’s writing and reviewed The Origins of Totalitarianism for Commentary. In The Free World, Menand notes the criticisms Riesman had of Arendt, but he sees as far more compelling the preoccupation each had with the individual’s loss of autonomy and the political danger that lost autonomy posed even for a stable country like America.A few chapters after his discussion of Arendt and Riesman, Menand brings a similar freshness to his analysis of curator Edward Steichen’s blockbuster 1955 Museum of Modern Art photography exhibition, The Family of Man. The exhibition contained 503 photographs by 273 photographers from 68 countries. The aim of the exhibit, as its catalog declared, was to illustrate “the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world.” For the exhibit’s critics, The Family of Man was journalism and an assault on fine-arts norms. Menand takes careful note of this criticism, but what shapes his insightful analysis is his linkage of The Family of Man to anti-colonialist and egalitarian impulses underlying the postwar writing of French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.Menand’s analysis of rock ’n’ roll takes an unexpected turn as well, beginning with his observation that in the middle 1950s the United States with 84 percent of its high school-age students in school, compared to 17 percent in the United Kingdom and 16 percent in Western Europe, was perfectly positioned for rock to flourish among its teenaged population. From Little Richard to Elvis Presley to the Beatles, the rock stars of the era have a place in The Free World. But as Menand details how rock ‘n’ roll evolved from rhythm and blues, with its identification with Black musicians and Black audiences, to a style of music embraced by white audiences, he makes sure to give the business side of rock ‘n’ roll its due. In his narrative Sam Phillips, who in his small Sun Studio in Memphis gave Elvis Presley a chance to make a record and have it distributed, acquires new importance, as does Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey who began promoting rhythm and blue music for white audiences. For Menand the promotion of rock is inseparable from its success.By the end of The Free World, the pleasure that Menand has taken from assembling such a wide range of material is unmistakable. We see why he wrote in his preface of the era he describes, “People cared. Ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered.”In his final chapter Menand returns to George Kennan and the criticism Kennan offered in 1966 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of America’s conduct of the Vietnam War. But this chapter of The Free World is primarily a mournful account of the damage the Vietnam War inflicted on America. The influence of the artists and writers Menand admires was not enough to stop America’s entry into Vietnam, where by 1966 American troop strength was nearly 400,000. “Much as the First World War did for European modernism, the War in Vietnam disrupted the artistic and critical avant-garde of its time,” Menand concludes. “Vietnam not only shattered the image of American invincibility. It meant that a whole generation grew up looking on the United States as an imperialist, militarist and racist power.”Nicolaus Mills is professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College and author of Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America’s Coming of Age as a Superpower.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Barbara Nitke/ShowtimeZiwe Fumudoh always lets her interview subjects know when they’ve messed up. She might bulge her eyes, or she might tilt her chin ever so slightly, offering an encouraging grin that belies the predatory gleam in her stare—but either way, those with any hint of self-awareness usually realize they’re either in trouble or about to be.The 29-year-old comedian, known professionally by the mononym Ziwe, has spent years perfecting the art of putting people on the spot about race with her web series, Baited with Ziwe. The show became a must-watch last year, when COVID-19 forced its creator to shift her production to Instagram Live. Ziwe grilled guests including Alison Roman, Caroline Calloway, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and Jeremy O. Harris. Often, Ziwe’s guests booked their appearances during or soon after a controversy—so the show evolved from a platform for Ziwe’s fellow comedians into a pulpit, of sorts, for celebrities to plead for forgiveness via public roast.On Sunday, Ziwe will debut her new self-titled late-night series on Showtime. Those who’ve followed her work will recognize the Baited DNA; in this series, like the old one, the comedian greets her guests with an exaggerated clap and a beaming smile before taunting them with pointed (and at times pointedly absurd) questions about race. Her favorite weapons? An interested smile and the occasional humorous, loudly articulated edit. Her favorite targets? Traditionally, at least, white people with something to prove.“What bothers you more,” Ziwe asks her first guest, Fran Lebowitz, during her season premiere. “Slow walkers or racism?”But Ziwe also expands beyond the Baited formula with both pre-recorded comedic sketches and music videos, the latter of which the comedian performs herself. Each episode hones in on a topic like white women or wealth hoarding, addressed in each interview through a combination of awkward questions and deliciously wicked games. (Come for the episode in which Ziwe challenges her friends Bowen Yang and Patti Harrison to determine who among them is the richest, and stay for the one where she tricks Real Housewife Eboni K. Williams into choosing the most beautiful of two sets of facial features, one of which is her own.)Any late-night show launching in 2021 faces an uphill battle. The mid-2010s cluttered the landscape, as every cable network and streamer suddenly seemed bent on launching their own franchise to compete with the long-running giants, and every year the audience grows more segmented than ever. Many new series struggle to establish a cohesive, appealing brand before the impatient network axe falls. This shouldn’t be an issue for Ziwe, which molds every aspect of its production around its namesake—who, like her Showtime contemporaries and former bosses Desus and Mero, comes to the table with a strong brand identity and, presumably, a sizable built-in audience of the extremely online. The question instead will likely be whether Ziwe will allow Ziwe to fully capitalize on her viral moment and expand it into something more.Almost everything on the set of Ziwe is some shade of pink. Baby blue accents and an Art Deco flair give the space a vibe that reads like something between a Polly Pocket play set and Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar. Serious tomes including autobiographies from Malcolm X and Assata Shakur nestle in stacks with those by Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel and WWE stars Brie and Nikki Bella, and there are also statues of giant books on the floor. And our host reliably arrives dressed to kill in thigh-high platform boots, luscious, hot pink fur coats, and tweed sets straight from Elle Woods’ closet. Each production choice seems to emerge straight from the confident, mischievous, and unabashedly self-promotional character Ziwe has created—reminding viewers at every turn why this series is nothing like those of the late-night Jimmies and Johns.Ziwe interned for Stephen Colbert, and one can see traces of The Colbert Report’s approach here. Like the blowhard pundit “Stephen Colbert,” Ziwe’s “Ziwe” is a satirical tool whose identity largely defines the show. (Compare that to, say, The Tonight Show or The Daily Show, institutions that maintain their own identity apart from whoever happens to host.) While Colbert used his character to skewer the right-wing media during the Bush era, Ziwe’s target feels more systemic and, therefore, diffuse.But at every level, this series belongs entirely to its creator. If the aesthetic and approach don’t make that clear, you can tell by the opening credits—which list Ziwe as the creator, executive producer, musical performer, and consultant (on behalf of herself). As with any new series, Ziwe has its uneven spots. Some of the musical performances can drag for just a moment too long, and some of the sketches can feel redundant. But overall, these premiere episodes are a formidable start that seem to indicate Ziwe and her show have real staying power. Comedic interviewing has long been Ziwe’s specialty, and her conversations with guests including Lebowitz, comedians Bowen Yang and Patti Harrison, and Real Housewife Eboni K. Williams are a consistent delight. Each unfolds with a distinct tone—Lebowitz’s feels a bit more like an artful troll; Yang and Harrison are a little more in on the joke; Williams is just having a great time—that imparts a refreshing unpredictability. Going forward, Ziwe’s challenge will be to establish an identity and mission beyond its namesake: What subjects is this series interested in tackling, why is it interested in those subjects, and what makes the show’s approach to them unique? But with this confident debut it’s already, to borrow one of its creator’s favorite phrases, off to a truly iconic start.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
GettyIf you’re reading this after the midterm elections, it’s either because Democrats were right that they could buck the historical trends and keep their House majority—or it’s because they were spectacularly wrong.The man in charge of defending House Democrats is confident it will be the former, thanks to strong economic growth and a competent COVID response. And what’s more, he thinks Republicans are betting everything on a historical trend that isn’t going to play out.“I got it,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Daily Beast this week during a phone interview. “There’s a precedent that says you lose a couple of seats. But what is clear to me is that the Republicans think there’s nothing about their brand they need to change in swing districts, and I just think they’re wrong about that.”But the precedent is much worse than “a couple of seats.” On average, the president’s party has lost 30 House seats in modern midterm elections. The trend is even worse during the president’s first midterm election. In 2018, Republicans lost 41 seats under President Donald Trump. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats in what President Barack Obama termed “a shellacking.”Democrats might also be starting the 2022 cycle from a place of subtraction. While redistricting might not cost Democrats as many seats as they once feared, they still probably begin the midterms by losing two to five seats, depending on how aggressively some states—particularly Texas and New York—choose to gerrymander.The Capitol Riot Pissed Off These People So Much They’re Running for OfficeAdditionally, some of the Democrats’ strongest House incumbents in vulnerable seats—Conor Lamb (PA), Tim Ryan (OH), Charlie Crist (FL), Cheri Bustos (IL), and Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)—are either retiring or running for a higher office, potentially opening the door for a Republican to claim their seat.But Democrats think a booming economy, a popular president, and a competent government response to coronavirus could blunt all of those potential losses, perhaps even cause Democrats to gain seats. And Maloney sees Republicans making some major tactical mistakes.“Doubling down on Trump without Trump, which is an even more toxic and malignant form of conspiracy theories and white supremacy, is just a dumb strategy in swing districts,” Maloney said. “But I think they’re so confident in the precedent that they forgot to bring a plan and they forgot to bring any policies that might justify winning back the majority.”In contrast, Maloney and other Democratic strategists say Democrats have a winning message on the economy, which they believe will be humming come the midterm elections. (Maloney theorized that it’d be growing at 7 percent.) And Democratic strategists noted that Republicans may have made a misstep on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, allowing it to pass without a single GOP vote.“While we focus on delivering, they are going to focus on dividing,” Maloney said. “And that’s why you see them trying to exploit issues that support mass racial justice for short-term political gain, or issues as silly as children’s books or Mr. Potato Head, because they are a party without ideas in search of pockets of frustration to exploit.”Maloney added that the GOP’s game plan seemed to be to vote ‘no’ on everything Democrats put forward on the economy, on infrastructure, and on the coronavirus pandemic, sprinkle in a host of culture war items that seem to be motivating Republicans more than ever, “literally root for the president to fail,” and then somehow win.For the record, the National Republican Congressional Committee sees it going very differently. They think Democrats are putting forth an agenda that Americans will enthusiastically reject. And they suggested that Democrats weren’t taking the historical trends nearly seriously enough, noting that Republicans still lost seats with a relatively strong economy in 2018.“If the clowns at the DCCC don't see how much trouble they are in, they are just as delusional now as they were last cycle,” NRCC communications director Michael McAdams said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Sean Patrick Maloney's tenure as DCCC Chairman has been an unmitigated disaster and House Democrats have embraced a toxic socialist agenda that wants to raise taxes, defund the police and open our borders.”Maloney’s limited tenure has been, to this point, mixed.Democrats just had their best off-year fundraising for the first quarter ever. The DCCC raised $15.6 million in March alone, and Democratic frontliners—the most vulnerable members—have already raised more than $20 million, ending the first quarter with more than $48 million cash on hand.And the 54-year-old Maloney said recruiting candidates had been going well, due in part to the frustration some Democrats felt watching the Capitol be sacked by insurrectionists.But there’s also been missed opportunities.Their decision not to play in a Texas special election seat last month appeared short-sighted after the top vote-getting Democrat missed second place by 355 votes—resulting in a Republican v. Republican runoff election later this year.A Democratic strategist who asked to remain anonymous to be more candid about that outcome noted to The Daily Beast that if Democrats knew it would only have taken a little bit of money or help on the ground to turn out the vote, they would of course made a small investment—if only to make sure Republicans had to spend in the runoff itself. And this strategist also said there could be a “chilling effect” for candidate recruitment, as the DCCC looks to entice the best possible candidates to upend their lives and run for Congress.The NRCC was also more than happy to point to the Texas special election as a failure for Maloney—as well as the legal challenges Democrats funded to the tune of $1.4 million trying to litigate a seat in Iowa that was decided by six votes.“Democrats have fallen on their face at every turn this cycle,” McAdams, the NRCC spokesman, said.Maloney, however, vigorously defended the DCCC’s decision not to spend in the Texas special election.“The point is not to come in second or third; the point is to win,” Maloney said. “So if I thought there was an argument to winning that seat, we would’ve invested in it. Simple as that.”For one, he said, the DCCC wasn’t prepared to pick a favorite among the Democratic candidates running. But for another, unlike the Republicans, Democrats decided not to spend on a seat that is already tilting in the GOP’s favor—and would likely only get redder as Texas goes through its partisan redistricting process.“That may disappoint people or cause certain second-guessing,” Maloney said. “But I think that one of the big takeaways from the last cycle was that the battlefield was too big and that we need to be more focused.”Democratic strategist Jesse Lee told The Daily Beast that focusing on the Texas special election—while a favorite activity among Beltway reporters and strategists—would really have little impact on the 2022 election. And if Democrats had spent there and gotten a Democrat into the runoff, “then everyone would’ve been lamenting that they chose one candidate over another.”Just as Maloney did, Lee mentioned that the midterms where the party in charge gained seats seemed to come in reaction to major crises—like 9/11 and the Great Depression.And Lee noted that there was a clear narrative developing, on the economy and on COVID, where Republicans were positioning themselves as “part of the problem” and “against the solution.”“It’s the combination of Trump and the Trump era, the insurrection, and the opposition to the rescue plan that has left them underwater by nearly 20 points,” Lee said of the GOP approval rating. “In elections that are more and more nationalized, especially in the House, a lot of voters will be making a choice between two parties as much as they’re making a choice between two candidates.”Other Democratic strategists noted that they’ve had success tying Republicans to the most extreme factions of the party, such as QAnon, insurrectionists, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). And they didn’t see much risk in overplaying their hand by, say, trying to tie those elements of the party to more moderate and vulnerable members like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).As one Democratic strategist noted, even the most moderate Republicans won’t speak out against whatever controversy Taylor Greene is kicking up day-to-day.And then, of course, there is the latest GOP controversy surrounding No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney. Strategists said this would further cement the Republican brand and make it easier to show in those suburban, affluent, and educated districts that Democrats turned blue in 2018 that this isn’t your father’s GOP.“House Republicans are entrenched in their own infighting, choosing to shamelessly oust Liz Cheney for telling the truth about the results of the presidential election while ushering in political opportunist Elise Stefanik, who peddles dangerous conspiracies about the results of the election for her own political gain,” Maloney said.DCCC spokesperson Helen Kalla further went after Stefanik and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for showing what Republicans really stand for.“Elise Stefanik’s evolution from refusing to even say Trump’s name to becoming one of his staunchest defenders shows that pushing the Big Lie is a prerequisite for membership in today’s GOP,” Kalla said. “McCarthy and House Republicans are making their message clear—lie to the American people or get out of the way for someone who will.”Still, Republicans point to their strong reputation on the economy. And they believe that the potent culture issues, combined with the strong historical trends, will propel Republicans to the majority. Not a single GOP incumbent, after all, lost their House seat in 2020, despite Democrats winning the White House and believing they’d pick up an additional dozen districts.And yet Maloney has an answer for that, too. He said the smaller battlefield to defend, combined with the historical trend already being bucked in 2020 with Democratic losses, could lead to pickups for his party. But he acknowledges that the game plan does ride on a strong economy.“If the economy succeeds and people feel it, then just think about it,” Maloney said. “Their argument depends on either deceiving people about the president and the Democrats’ success, or trying to talk it down in a way, and I just think that’s a mistake.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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Courtesy VRBOYuyum Uno Villa, Tulum, Mexico (Vrbo): You’ve been cooped up at home for over a year, making your own meals, doing endless piles of dishes… and saving your money. What have you been putting aside your piles of pennies for, you may be wondering? Vacation, of course! But not just any old holiday jaunt. What you deserve is a $19,000-a-night stay in a gorgeous estate located on a private beach in Tulum. Courtesy VRBO Now, this is a secret garden we would be happy to hide away in, even after a year of seclusion. With your own private azure swimming pool artfully shaded by palms, it’s like the Tulum of years ago before the hordes of tourists began to arrive. Courtesy VRBO The villa has a distinctly Spanish colonial vibe, which means lots of arched doorways and interior courtyards that add yet another dimension to the indoor-outdoor lifestyle that comes with beachside living. Courtesy VRBO The only question to ask when it’s time for dinner overlooking the Caribbean is: “What’s the fresh catch of the day?” Courtesy VRBO Like all pricey palaces, Yuyum Uno Villa features some of the best local craftsmanship: handcrafted dark wood furniture to rest in after a long day of relaxing, handwoven rugs to warm up the living spaces, and handmade tiles that add a little color to kitchens and bathrooms. Courtesy VRBO Inside, the living room is all opulent chandeliers and 20-foot ceilings. Outside, the living areas are all opulent foliage and towering trees. Courtesy VRBO This master bedroom is giving us all the Frida Kahlo vibes. While you dream your dreams under a canopy of lace, remember that a sudden increase in artistic talent is not included in your $19,000-a-day stay. Courtesy VRBO With nine bedrooms and nine bathrooms, you and your 17 closest friends can spend a week remembering how to socialize. If things get too awkward, you can always escape to your backyard for some time alone in the Caribbean waves. Courtesy VRBO When you want to take a little break from the outdoors (as if that would ever happen on a beach vacation), Yuyum Uno Villa offers a media room, a library, and all the equipment you might need to break a little intentional sweat. Courtesy VRBO Feel free to take a break in this cozy sitting area to enjoy the view, but we’re confident your respite will be brief after you discover that your stay on this slice of the coast also gives you access to a private—yes, private—beach. Courtesy VRBO A fish fry on the beach, anyone? What is a private beach without an an outdoor grill and fire pit to enjoy. Here, you have both. Courtesy VRBO Exercise is important, even on vacation. But there’s no need to force it when you can easily get your steps in going from private pool to private beach, and repeat. Courtesy VRBO Yuyum Uno Villa sits in the middle of the Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve, which explains why gorgeous greenery shows off from every view of the house. But you don’t have to restrict your pleasures to the all-natural here. The estate is also close to the restaurants and nightlife of Tulum as well as the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Courtesy VRBO You better not include this image in your OOO response, or you’ll return to an inbox full of hate mail. Courtesy VRBO As if the copious courtyards, private pool, and solo beach access weren’t enough, Yuyum Uno Villa also has a rooftop terrace which is the perfect location for tequila cocktails while you watch the sunset… or sunrise. There’s no judgement on vacation.Book Your Stay: Yuyum Uno Villa in Tulum, Mexico: $19,000/night via VrboRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Partner Communications Company Ltd. ("Partner" or "the Company") (NASDAQ and TASE: PTNR), a leading Israeli communications operator, announced today that the Company's financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2021 will be released on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Marisa Bardach Ramel is co-author of "The Goodbye Diaries: A Mother-Daughter Memoir," written with her mother Sally Bardach. For me, that gift is my daughter's birthday: May 10. The best gift that year was being released from the hospital on Mother's Day so that I could spend it in bed, my baby girl sleeping on my chest.
ViceIn I, Sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo speaks at length about the 2002 reign of terror he and partner John Allen Muhammad carried out in the Washington, D.C., area, resulting in ten deaths. Yet despite using audio clips from his phone calls as narration, Vice’s eight-part docuseries (premiering May 10) is most notable for putting its prime emphasis on the pair’s innocent victims, and the countless friends, family members and loved ones left to cope with unthinkable tragedy. To its admirable credit, it’s a true-crime affair that seeks to understand its “monsters” while simultaneously recognizing—and highlighting—the fact that such comprehension doesn’t necessitate empathy, especially when the atrocities in question are as inexcusably heinous as these.Spearheaded by director Ursula Macfarlane, I, Sniper’s calling card is those phone conversations with Malvo from Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, where he’s currently serving multiple life sentences. In them, the killer recounts, in exacting and chilling detail, both the sniper attacks he perpetrated as a 17-year-old, and the troubled upbringing in Jamaica that led him into the welcoming arms of Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran with a surplus of rage and a desire to unleash it on his homeland. Abandoned by his dad, abused by his mom, and eventually left to fend for himself, Malvo found in Muhammad a father figure who promised to love him as he did his own biological offspring. From the outset, though, theirs was a bond built on exploitation, with Muhammad becoming not only Malvo’s surrogate parent, but also his lover—as well as his mentor, pouring all of his long-simmering hate and resentment into the impressionable, desperate-for-acceptance teen.The Tragic End to Wrestling’s First Great ‘Madman’Muhammad’s gripes were many—he despised the military, white people, and just about every American institutional structure. However, he reserved his greatest enmity for second ex-wife Mildred, who dared to take back her kids after Muhammad had kidnapped them. The loss of his (abducted) brood seems to have been the proverbial match that lit Muhammad’s homicidal spark, and he soon began molding Malvo into his instrument of destruction. Friends and relatives suspected that something was up with their relationship, but no one foresaw what was to come: the cold-blooded murder of Keenya Cook, the niece of Mildred’s friend in Tacoma, Washington, followed by violent robberies, shootings and slayings in Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. All of those initial acts were merely a test run for Malvo and Muhammad’s grand scheme in Washington, D.C., the epicenter of American power, and thus Muhammad’s venue of choice to strike fear into the heart of the republic by proving that everyone was vulnerable—even children.What transpired was a 22-day nightmare in which 13 individuals (white and Black, young and old, well-off and working-class) were shot, 10 of them fatally, in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Because Malvo and Muhammad’s intention was to terrorize in increasingly escalating fashion, each victim was chosen at random at gas stations, on street corners, and in parking lots that afforded the killers ideal vantage points and easy escape routes. They committed these crimes in a customized 1990 blue Chevy Caprice, with Malvo lying in the trunk and firing through the rear keyhole. It was a stealthy plot, and the two benefited from the fact that an early eyewitness said they’d seen a white box truck near the scene—thereby sending police, for the better part of the next three weeks, on a wild goose chase for the wrong vehicle. With no other ballistics-related leads, law enforcement was stymied, which proved to Malvo that Muhammad was right: no one could stop them from exacting their revenge.The question, of course, is revenge against what? I, Sniper connects the dots of Malvo and Muhammad’s troubled pasts and despicable 2002 presents, but no convincing argument is made that Muhammad—the mastermind behind this madness—had suffered losses that weren’t of his own making. Be it his unhinged military tenure, his marital craziness, or his transformation of Malvo into an assassin, Muhammad comes across as a man righteously angry over things that were his own fault. As for Malvo, his cold, clinical recitation of his murderous conduct (and claims of remorse) neuters any sorrow one might feel for his adolescent travails. His present-day compunction is far too little, too late, just as the case he makes for his own victimhood vis-à-vis Muhammad sounds like an accurate and yet insufficient explanation. He knew that gunning down men, women and children was dreadfully wrong, and yet in order to maintain Muhammad’s affection, he actively, and enthusiastically, chose to do it—and even got a thrilling kick from it, as he explains that post-shooting sex with Muhammad was exceptionally exciting.Malvo and Muhammad’s rampage of “retribution and punishment” was unforgivable; as Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose says, “There’s just no excuse for their behavior. None whatsoever.” To hammer home that point, I, Sniper consistently juxtaposes Malvo’s recollections with prolonged, heartrending interviews with the wives, brothers, aunts and friends of the duo’s victims, as well as some of those who survived their encounters. Those accounts turn out to be vital, providing an up-close-and-personal view of the anguish and trauma that Malvo and Muhammad brought about, and the lingering scars left by this ordeal. They’re the human face of this awful tale, stricken with grief, regret, guilt and fury over senseless crimes that robbed them of loved ones who were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.Comprised of news reports, crime scene footage, 911 calls, Malvo-penned illustrations, maps and chats with patrolmen, detectives, reporters and doctors, I, Sniper is comprehensive enough to earn the description “definitive.” Yet more than its insight into the mind of its young subject—and, by extension, Muhammad, who was executed in 2009 by lethal injection—what separates it from much of the true-crime pack is its dogged refusal to forget the real, incalculable horror at the center of its story. Malvo is frequently heard but never seen, while the countenances of his and Muhammad’s victims (and those close to them) remain front-and-center throughout. That directorial decision is critical and commendable, allowing the series to pay fitting tribute to the individuals who deserve to be remembered, while keeping its central villain largely faceless, in the dark and out of sight, where he chose to live and kill with his murderous mentor, and where he’ll now remain for the remainder of his days.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Elon Musk kicked off his "Saturday Night Live" debut by declaring himself to be the first person with Asperger's syndrome to host the US comedy sketch show. "Or at least, the first person to admit it," he said. In his opening monologue, the eccentric tech entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX offered an explanation for some of his past eyebrow-raising behaviour. "Look, I know I say or post strange things but that's just how my brain works. To anyone I've offended I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I'm sending people to Mars in a rocket ship," he said. "Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?" Musk has previously drawn criticism for moves like publicly mocking the US Securities and Exchange Commission and calling a cave diver who rescued boys trapped in Thailand a "pedo guy". Some cast members were reportedly unhappy at Musk being invited onto the show - they were told they did not have to appear with him if they preferred not to. But on SNL, the billionaire took swipes at his own expense. He joked about his tweets, his son's unusual name - X Æ A-12 - and that time he smoked weed on Joe Rogan's podcast. And of course, as a big booster of cryptocurrencies, he once again enumerated the benefits of dogecoin. Pressed on what exactly dogecoin is, Musk called the cryptocurrency - which now has a market value of around $72 billion - "an unstoppable vehicle that's going to take over the world". But then he agreed that actually "it's a hustle". For the second time in a week, the world's second-richest person seemed to drive the value of the digital asset. Not long after its recent surge after Musk's Twitter endorsement, it was sent on a brief tailspin during his SNL performance. It dropped to as low as 49 cents during the broadcast after a pre-show high of about 74 cents, according to CoinDesk. During the show, cast members wondered aloud why exactly the tech billionaire would want to join their set. With a segment of a Chinese rocket re-entering Earth's atmosphere around the time of the live broadcast, they concluded that the spaceman "needed an alibi."
Business owners in Nepal's Solukhumbu region, which draws mountaineers from all over, are buried in debt, with almost no income and no relief in sight.
GettyA private company led by a conspiracy-minded CEO and concerned about security threats from antifa is using UV lights and assessing the “feel” of paper ballots to determine—using unclear and contradictory methodology —which votes in Maricopa County, Arizona, were supposedly fraudulently cast in November.Never before has an election audit been conducted this way. That is why the results of the audit—ordered by the Republican majority of the state Senate, partially funded by undisclosed sources, and being conducted by an unqualified Florida firm—won’t reveal anything trustworthy about the accuracy or integrity of Arizona’s 2020 election. Rather, the partisan audit can only cause more damage to the public’s confidence in the vote.We are not simply watching the final heaves of Donald Trump’s “stop the steal” movement. Instead, this represents a new low in the extremes American politicians will go to in order to retain power, and is a glimpse at a new way the losing party could react to its electoral defeats.The Last Scheme to Discredit the 2020 Election Is On, and It’s Even Crazier Than You ThinkThe efforts of the auditors—led by a company actually called Cyber Ninjas —would be hilarious if their hiring by Republican state senators wasn’t such a deep insult to basic democratic standards. Their typo-riddled audit procedures were kept secret until a court required them to be made public and were developed by a man the Georgia secretary of state once called a “failed inventor.”“The purpose of this process it (sic) to collect information about the ballot paper, ballot ink and selection marks on the physical ballot during the hand recount process,” it reads, then explains that fraud can be detected by examining the folds made by voters on the ballot itself. Early absentee ballots are folded, while in-person ballots cast on election day aren’t, they claim, concluding that if a ballot cast on Election Day is folded, bang boom, it must be a fraud. But in reality, creases on a ballot don’t prove anything about their validity. Provisional ballots cast on election day, for example, are folded. And early absentee ballots may not be folded at all, especially if a voter presented at a polling location and asked for a new ballot—many voters do this after making mistakes—and cast their ballot then. That “mailed” ballot submitted in person would not be folded at all.So Cyber Ninjas will determine hundreds of legally cast ballots are fraudulent based on creases, many of which could have happened after the vote was officially audited by hand in November by the county’s actual auditors. We don’t know how or if this group is taking these entirely reasonable creases into consideration, or distinguishing them from more maleficent folds—their extremely limited explanation of their procedures omitted such details. All this, and those UV lights they are using to find these creases degrade the paper, making it thin and yellow.Contrast Cyber Ninjas with auditors employed by the counties and the secretary of state, who must follow legally mandated procedures for forensic examinations of ballots and are held criminally responsible if they do not. Because the Senate hastily demanded the audit through subpoena without the cooperation of the county or state, there is essentially no regulatory framework for performing such an examination. So, no such restrictions apply to these cosplaying auditors, who have been given a free pass to do what they wish. Firms hired to do audits of election hardware and ballots are generally accredited by the Election Assistance Commission or are Certified Public Accounting firms well-versed in technical specifications and audit organization. No such credentials are held by Cyber Ninjas.Last-Ditch Plot to Undermine Biden’s Election Goes Full QAnonFor example, state law demands that only red pen—which cannot be read by tabulation machines—be used by auditors to make necessary marks on ballots or other election materials. But auditors, a local reporter named Jen Fifield found, were using blue pen, thereby contaminating the very ballots they seek to determine were cast fraudulently using folds and errant markings as incriminating evidence. When Fifield raised this violation with Cyber Ninjas’ CEO, it was clear he had no understanding of the rule. And while the auditors have routinely pledged to keep the ballots organized, clean and in the same condition they were given to them, the documentation the court has forced them to produce (after they initially refused to release anything) details scant organizational procedures and no understanding of the county’s methods.There are also far more bizarre physical security problems. The fairgrounds outside the arena where the audit is happening also hosts—I kid you not— “Crazy Times Carnival,” which is expecting hundreds of visitors for the fried food offerings, rides and carnival games. As mentioned in a particularly detailed letter sent by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, to the auditors, the ballots are frequently left accessible on the floor, and the protected ballots are surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence with no roof, leaving them accessible to essentially anyone with the gumption to get to them. The live feed also shows that there are birds flying around the arena. Use your imagination, but those ballots aren’t returning in the same condition.All the while, a self-styled “audit committee” has maintained a stream-of-consciousness Twitter account, which declared the audit to be “the most comprehensive forensic election audit in the history of our galaxy!”This is the most comprehensive forensic election audit in the history of our galaxy! Everything from voter history and voting machines to paper ballot counts.— Maricopa Arizona Audit (@ArizonaAudit) May 3, 2021 Even the Senate Republicans’ own liaison to the audit admitted he cannot control the account nor the information it shares. “We are defining the standards of what gets tweeted out, and how do we keep that more factual based,” he said. That Twitter account is among the only windows into the shrouded way Cyber Ninjas have performed the audit, as they refused to permit access to reporters or even observers from the secretary of state’s office until a court ordered that they must be allowed. There is no set end date for this audit, which will have to pause later this month so that the event space can be used for graduations for several Phoenix high schools. Where will the 2.1 million ballots be stored to prevent them from being tampered with by any of the thousands of visitors expected in the arena? The Cyber Ninjas haven’t explained.Last-Ditch Plot to Undermine Biden’s Election Goes Full QAnonThe only reason we know about these extraordinary details and problematic procedures is because of local reporters, who have doggedly tracked this process and forced transparency onto a process that should have been inherently transparent from the beginning. This is the core function of local journalism, and these reporters are filling that role admirably at a crucial time that is still being underplayed by national politicians. And while the audit has received consistent coverage in national outlets, local journalists know the local regulations better and simply have better access than journalists at national media do. Among the highlights of these journalists and their work:Jeremy Duda is providing coverage for the AZ Mirror, a nonprofit newsroom that has provided free content on this issue (and everything else!) for dozens of other news organizations. He discovered first that the head of the team hired to do the audit, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, wrote a document of false talking points for Republican members of Congress who planned to dispute the results of the election ahead of the insurrection. It was shared by Sidney Powell. Tammy Patrick, once an elections official in Maricopa County and currently an elections expert with the Democracy Fund, called him the “canary in the coal mine, the first on the scene.” We know all that we know about this, in part, because of Jeremy’s determined work.Brahm Resnik, who is covering this circus for KPNX TV, has become a recognized face on TV programming across the country, keeping us updated and breaking crucial news by making this a central focus of his program “Sunday Square Off.” He, like Jeremy, has been covering this well from the beginning.Jen Fifield is reporting for the Arizona Republic, and her discovery of the use of blue pens spurred the hashtag #BluePenJen. Her reporting was central to initially determining how out of whack this audit was with normal standards, and her work fighting for transparency radically increased public awareness.Nicole Valdes and Garrett Archer at ABC 15 broke the story on Tuesday that volunteer auditors were being forced to sign nondisclosure agreements as a condition of their work. They have been tenaciously covering all of the ins and outs of the lawsuits and controversies over this nuanced issue, which is often hard to do in TV format.It is unprecedented state issues such as this that prove the value of local journalism. Not only in covering ongoing events, but by actively uncovering malfeasance and wrongdoing and forcing light into rooms that were intentionally darkened. These journalists, and a dozen others, are a necessary part of an informed electorate and a functioning democracy.Their coverage points to an alarming future: that partisan audits may become the norm in elections, a new tool in the toolkit alongside overly strict voter ID laws, shrinking numbers of polling places, insidious gerrymandering and objectively racist voting laws used to keep power even when the electorate chooses to take it away.Washington Secretary of State Kym Wyman, a Republican, expressed grave concern about the future of her own party at a panel hosted by the National Taskforce on Election Crises this week. “Trump suppressed his own voters” in 2020 with his rhetoric around mailed ballots and his distrust of the system, she said. This audit only furthers that skepticism.“I don’t know how the Republican Party realigns if it continues down this path.” said Matt Masterson, a Republican who is the former head of election security for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. While Russia, China and Iran pursued intense misinformation campaigns aimed at undermining Americans’ confidence in the election, Masterson said they are all sitting back and “watching us do it to ourselves."Fox News Stars Keep Undermining the Network’s Arizona Call for BidenTrump, in media appearances from Mar-a-Lago this week, has praised the audit and hinted he may call for more, portraying it to a crowd there as his roadmap back to Pennsylvania Avenue. “I think it’s going to be incredible. I think it’s going to be eye-opening,” Trump said last week on Dan Bongino’s podcast. “Because I have no question we won Arizona. We had rallies, we had such enthusiasm like nobody’s ever seen anything like it. And then all of a sudden, we lose. People couldn’t believe it.”Rallies, of course, don't confirm whose ballots were validly cast and accurately counted. Official, nonpartisan auditors do. But Trump’s anti-election allies have found a way to try to subvert the authority of the election audit system, by replacing it with an extralegal process where an unqualified company run by a conspiracy theorist is handling and making determinations about the legitimacy of ballots. If the partisan audit ends up delegitimizing Arizona’s election results, the strategy could catch on, unless Americans—informed by vigilant local reporting—see through these undemocratic maneuvers.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
The proposed legislation expands freelancers’ right to unionize but the current wording could have repercussions for the use of independent contractors The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, speaks during a news conference about the Protecting the Right to Organize (Pro) Act in February. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP Hidden inside President Biden’s $2.5tn infrastructure proposal is another piece of legislation that could have a significant impact on many small businesses, including mine. Or not. It’s called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – or Pro Act – and if it passes one thing’s for sure: the use of independent contractors and freelancers in businesses of all sizes will be challenged. The Pro Act, which passed the House of Representatives in March, has two big components. The first is that it makes it easier for workers and independent contractors to organize unions. That’s certainly a concern for some employers. But the other, and bigger headache for small businesses, is that it potentially changes the way we define and classify employees. Under the Pro Act, which is fashioned closely after California’s 2019 Assembly Bill 5 legislation: “… an individual performing any service shall be considered an employee (except as provided in the previous sentence) and not an independent contractor, unless: (A) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact; (B) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and (C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.” For most small businesses, complying with requirements (A) and (C) is generally not a problem – these are consistent with the rules we used in the past when determining whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee. But requirement (B) presents an issue. Here, the contractor’s services must be “outside the usual course of business of the employer”. Why is that a concern? Because countless small businesses outsource certain revenue-generating services to independent contractors from time to time. My company, for example, uses outside contractors to do special programming projects for our software installations and then we bill out their time to our clients. Other businesses lean on specialists to do construction, repairs, writing, editing, consulting, deliveries and other services that are marked up and invoiced. Under the Pro Act’s wording, these services may force business owners to classify these people as employees and incur the additional costs of payroll taxes and benefits. “This legislation is filled with destructive labor proposals that will be damaging to the recovery and create an additional burden for small business owners,” says Kevin Kuhlman of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “Small business owners can’t afford more labor costs and regulations at a time when they are struggling to stay open.” The organization opposes the bill and says that 95%t of their members believe that small businesses should be able to hire independent contractors to perform tasks essential to their business. Many freelancers – the ones the Pro Act is designed to protect – are also opposed. According to a recent study of more than 11,000 businesses by the online networking site Alignable, 61% of the independent contractors surveyed said they would anticipate losing more than 76% of their business due to the act with nearly half of them (45%) saying they would be forced to shut down. Mary Kearl, a professional freelance writer and marketing consultant, is concerned that she could lose all the benefits of freelancing as a result of the Act. “If enough of my clients can no longer work with me as a freelancer as a result of this new law, I’ll most likely have to get a full-time job, take a pay cut, work longer hours than my current 25 hours a week, lose my flexible schedule and autonomy, and miss out on being a primary caregiver to my child,” she writes on Business Insider. “For me and my husband, who is also a freelancer, the pros (of freelancing) include earning more per hour than when we worked full time, setting our own schedules, sharing in being the primary caregivers to our toddler, deciding the companies we work with and projects we take on, and the flexibility to work from and live anywhere.” So should small business owners and freelancers be worried? Maybe. Maybe not. The Freelancers Union, a trade group that’s in favor of the Pro Act, says that concerns about the employee/contractor classification issue are overblown. “Not only does the law itself specify that it is limited to amending the National Labor Relations Act,” the group writes on its blog. “An important amendment was also passed on the floor of the House explicitly spelling out that the ABC test applies to unionization alone and cannot change anyone’s employment status.” The problem really comes down to this: the legislation is still not clear Brandon Magner, a labor lawyer agrees. “The ABC test, if passed as part of the Pro Act, would only affect the analysis of employee v independent contractor status for the purposes of the NLRA,” he writes. “It would not change a worker’s employment status for the purposes of state laws, such as those involving minimum wage, overtime, unemployment compensation, or various benefit schemes. Thus, a worker could feasibly be classified as an employee with unionization rights under the NLRA while still qualifying as an independent contractor under said state laws.” Magner states, as an example, the many freelancers in California’s entertainment industry who have have no consistent employer but can now collectively bargain for superior wages and benefits compared with non-union counterparts. The problem really comes down to this: the legislation is still not clear. Does it apply only to the National Labor Relations Act and unionization? Do state laws supersede? Can small employers still use independent contractors for their services that are not “outside the usual course” of their business? Will freelancers like Mary Kearl be able to continue the flexibility and freedom she enjoys? Because so much is still being debated, that in itself means that more clarification is needed from Congress. But unfortunately I’m not sure that clarification is going to happen if the legislation passes as written in the president’s infrastructure proposal. Which means that the issue of employee v contractor classification will continue to be a risk for small business owners, until it’s ultimately decided someday in the courts.
Despite defeat in Alabama, workers are fighting to form and run unions at the tech giant on several fronts Chris Smalls worked at Amazon for nearly five years before he was terminated in March last year. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters In the wake of a defeated attempt to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, workers are continuing to fight to form and run unions at the tech giant on several fronts. In another Amazon warehouse, in Staten Island, New York, workers have started a fresh union organizing drive, while airline pilots working for Amazon are still in the midst of a five-year battle for a new union contract. Chris Smalls worked at Amazon for nearly five years before he was terminated in March last year, after organizing a work stoppage and protests at the Staten Island facility against the company’s lack of safety protection for workers during the pandemic. At the end of April, Smalls and other former and current Amazon employees at JFK8 warehouse began a union organizing drive. With a tent posted at a bus stop outside the warehouse, Smalls and other organizers are seeking to obtain union authorization cards from at least 30% of the warehouse workers to merit an election under the National Labor Relations Board to form an independent union, the Amazon Labor Union. “When I do talk to workers, I tell them I was fired wrongfully because I tried to protect workers’ health and safety, and that can happen to you,” said Smalls. “You can complain or submit a grievance, and they could just terminate you or target you to be terminated, or retaliate against you. And there’s no protection, so the only way we’re going to be protected is by forming that union.” Amazon has already responded to the union organizing drive, as workers there and at nearby delivery and sorting centers have reported receiving texts and emails encouraging workers not to sign the authorization cards, claiming doing so will limit choices for workers. Televisions in the warehouse and posters in bathrooms have displayed similar messages. Smalls said workers have already started to be brought into meetings with management to be lectured on the union organizing drive. The only way we’re going to be protected is by forming that union Chris Smalls “We’ve been getting signatures, and workers in New York have a different energy. So we’re optimistic that we can not only get to the election vote, but be successful this time around,” added Smalls. As Amazon has aggressively opposed unionization efforts at its US warehouses, pilots who work for Amazon contractors are currently the only employees within the company’s network with union representation. But these workers are in the midst of fighting for a new union contract against what they characterize as anti-union opposition from Amazon and their airline contractor. About 2,000 pilots for Amazon at contractor Atlas Air have been struggling since 2016 to negotiate a new union contract with their employer. The pilots say they have faced low pay, poor working conditions, and high attrition rates. The pilots’ union, Teamsters Local 2750, claim the contractor has repeatedly bought out other airlines to force arbitration over the new union contract agreement. Atlas Air’s primary clients are Amazon and DHL, though the union has noted many DHL shipments transported by the pilots are also Amazon fulfillment orders. The airline operates out of a hub in Cincinnati and often transports Amazon freight to warehouses around the US. Amazon is also an investor in Atlas Air. Bob Kirchner, a Teamsters trustee and a retired Atlas Air pilot, said the airline announced the acquisition as soon as contract negotiations began in 2016, and declined different proposals from the union to negotiate the contract outside of arbitration. Most recently, Kirchner noted the airline has used reply briefs to continue delaying a contract arbitration ruling with the National Mediation Board. “They just keep pushing this down the road,” said Kirchner. “The very day we started negotiating they announced the purchase of Southern Air, and they said we are going to amalgamate this and so basically, arbitration was at the end of it. There was no chance for any kind of meaningful negotiation if the company didn’t want it.” He criticized how Atlas Air had approached negotiations with the union, as profits for the company have soared during the pandemic from an operating loss in 2019 to a profit of over $360m in 2020. The airline received $407m in Cares Act funds and declined requests from the South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn to return the funds. Atlas Air insists it has acted in good faith. A pilot for Atlas Air who requested to remain anonymous said the airline has suffered high attrition rates of pilots before the pandemic, but due to coronavirus shutting down passenger airlines and the surge in demand of Amazon’s business, Atlas Air experienced a surge in hiring demand and profits. But the pilot said Atlas Air had yet to negotiate a contract with the union. “Our struggle is about getting a fair deal: having the company come to the table negotiating, running the company in a responsible manner, updating our work rules so we know what’s expected of us and we don’t have to worry about being antagonized or disciplined under a punitive environment,” he said. Amazon did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In May 2019, an Amazon spokesperson blamed both sides for contract negotiation issues. Atlas Air blamed the union for the contract negotiation delays, as the union has argued they attempted to push back against forced arbitration. “We have been clear and consistent about wanting a new joint collective bargaining agreement for our pilots and have worked to expedite the process,” said a spokesperson for Atlas Air. “As we work towards a new contract that increases pay for our pilots, there has been much misinformation spread by union leaders in an attempt to gain leverage in contract negotiations.”
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