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    Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Friday after U.S. unemployment data gave the S&P 500 its first loss in five days. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.4% to 22,790.65 after opening lower. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged 0.1% higher, to 24,371.38. India's Sensex rose 0.8% to 34,265.86 and the Kospi in South Korea jumped 0.9% to 2,169.87. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 picked up 0.1% to 5,996.80. Shares rose in Bangkok, Taiwan and Singapore but fell back in Jakarta. Markets got some traction from hopes for more monetary and government stimulus as the European Central Bank announced a commitment to buying 600 billion euros ($680 billion) more of bonds, nearly doubling its asset purchasing program. But the ECB also warned it expects the region’s economy to shrink 8.7% this year due to the pandemic. In the U.S., hopes are rising for up to $1 trillion in fresh stimulus in coming weeks. In Asia, the Hong Kong authorities showed restraint as thousands of people defied a police ban to join a candlelight vigil Thursday marking the 31st anniversary of China’s crushing of a democracy movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. That appeared to have at least slightly alleviated worries over recent efforts by Chinese leaders to exert more control over the former British colony. Coronavirus precautions were cited as the reason for withholding permission for the annual vigil, but participants saw that as a convenient excuse for police wary after months of sometime violent anti-government protests. Japan reported Friday that household spending fell 11% in April from the year before, nearly twice the 6% decline in March. Most attention is focused on U.S. unemployment data coming later Friday, analysts said. “The good run for markets sees a pause into the end of the week, ahead of the U.S. May labor market updates, with caution cascading across the market following the disappointing jobless claims reading,' Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. Overnight, the S&P 500 lost 0.3% to 3,112.35 after being on track earlier in the day for its longest winning streak since December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose less than 0.1%, to 26,281.82, and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.7% to 9,615.81. A report showed that the number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment benefits eased for a ninth straight week, roughly in line with the market’s expectations. But economists saw pockets of disappointment after the total number of people getting benefits rose slightly after dropping the week before. That had raised hopes that some companies were rehiring workers. Share prices have climbed recently on optimism that the recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic might end quickly as economies reopen from shutdowns and travel resumes. But many professional investors contend the recent rally, a nearly 40% climb for the S&P 500 since late March, is overdone and say a pullback is likely. Rising U.S.-China tensions and the possibility of second waves of coronavirus infections are other reasons for caution, they say. Economists expect the Labor Department's monthly jobs report for May, due later Friday, to show employers slashed 8.5 million jobs last month, down from 20.5 million in April. That would push the unemployment rate to nearly 20% from about 15%. On Thursday, American Airlines surged 41% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it said it plans to fly 55% of its normal U.S. schedule next month, up from only 20% in April. The S&P 500 is now within 8.1% of its record set in February after earlier being down nearly 34%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.82% from 0.81% late Thursday after rising decisively during the day. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for inflation and the economy’s strength and was one of the first indicators warning of the coming economic devastation from the coronavirus outbreak. In other trading, a barrel of U.S. crude oil for delivery in July fell 5 cents to $37.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It has risen as major oil producers began discussing extending production cuts to reflect a collapse in demand due to the pandemic. U.S. crude rose 12 cents to settle at $37.41 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 6 cents to $40.05 per barrel. It rose 20 cents to settle at $39.99 per barrel on Thursday. The dollar was trading at 109.21 Japanese yen, up from 109.15 yen late Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1341 from $1.1336.
  • Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak was victimized by rogue bankers and should be acquitted of corruption linked to the massive looting of a state investment fund, his lawyers said Friday at the close of his first corruption trial over the scandal. The High Court set July 28 to deliver its verdict that will be closely watched as Najib’s Malay political party is reviving its fortunes. The party is part of a new government that took power in March less than two years after it was ousted in 2018 elections amid immense public anger over the 1MDB investment fund scandal. One of the few Southeast Asian leaders to be arraigned after losing office, Najib faces five criminal cases covering 42 charges of criminal breach of trust, graft, abuse of power and money laundering linked to 1MDB. Najib, 66, faces years in prison if convicted. “We are very confident of a favorable outcome... we have a good defense,” said defense lawyer Mohamad Shafee Abdullah after the hearing ended. Najib, wearing a mask, left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. The trial began in April 2019 over seven charges related to the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.8 million) from a former 1MDB unit into Najib’s bank accounts via intermediary companies between 2011 and 2015. Najib is accused of using his position to receive a bribe for approving a government guarantee for billions in loans to the 1MDB unit, SRC International, committing criminal breach of trust and accepting proceeds from unlawful activities. Evidence has shown a complex trail of money through Najib’s bank accounts paid for renovating his home, was disbursed to political parties and paid for credit card purchases including a Chanel watch bought in Hawaii as a birthday gift for his wife and luxury jewelry in Italy. In his defense, Najib has said he was unaware the money was from SRC as he was misled by rogue bankers led by Malaysian fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, who is wanted in the U.S. over his central role in the 1MDB saga. Najib testified he assumed the money was part of an Arab donation arranged by Low to be used at his discretion for political and welfare activities. His lawyers said Low had used the donation as a guise to keep Najib from being suspicious of his plundering of the 1MDB fund. Prosecutors argued Najib was the real power behind 1MDB and SRC as premier and finance minister at the time. They said it was a deliberate scheme by Najib to enrich himself with Low as his lackey and called the Arab donation “manufactured evidence” to cover up his tracks. “We have proven our case beyond reasonable doubt,' said prosecutor V. Sithambaram. He told reporters that the July 28 verdict is subject to lengthy appeals by both sides and that the final judgement will only come from the Federal Court, the country's top court. Sithambaram said the change in Malaysia's government didn't affect the prosecution's case and that there was no order for them to back off against Najib. Last month, prosecutors dropped money laundering charges against Najib’s stepson and “The Wolf of Wall Street” film producer Riza Aziz in a settlement of 1MDB-related claims that was slammed by critics as a “sweetheart deal” for him. Investigations into the massive looting of 1MDB had been quashed under Najib's government, and its spectacular ousting in the 2018 elections ushered in Malaysia's first change of power since independence from Britain in 1957. The new government soon reopened investigations that led to charges being filed against Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor and several former senior government officials. Malaysia also charged U.S. bank Goldman Sachs for allegedly misleading investors over bond sales it organized for 1MDB. Najib has slammed the prosecution as political vengeance. The ruling alliance that ousted him collapsed in March with two-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigning in protest over his alliance partner forming a Malay-centric government with Najib’s party and several others. The king subsequently appointed Muhyiddin Yassin as the new premier despite Mahathir’s insistence that he has majority support among lawmakers. Mahathir has called for a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin that has been delayed by the coronavirus. The vote could be held at the next sitting of Parliament in July.
  • Factories and stores are reopening, economies are reawakening – but many jobs just aren’t coming back. That’s the harsh truth facing workers laid off around the U.S. and the world, from restaurants in Thailand to car factories in France, whose livelihoods fell victim to a virus-driven recession that’s accelerating decline in struggling industries and upheaval across the global workforce. New U.S. jobless figures to be released Friday are expected to show millions more people's wages are disappearing, which in turn means less money spent in surviving stores, restaurants and travel businesses, with repercussions across economies rich and poor. “My boss feared that since we come from Kibera (an impoverished slum), we might infect them with COVID-19, and so he let us go,” said Margaret Awino, a cleaning worker in a Nairobi charity. “I don’t know how I can go on.” As the virus and now protests across the U.S. have shed new light on economic inequalities, some experts say it’s time to rethink work, wages and health benefits altogether, especially as automation escalates and traditional trades vanish. THAI CHEF When Wannapa Kotabin got a job as an assistant chef in the kitchen of one of Bangkok’s longest-established Italian restaurants, she thought her career was set. But five years on, she’s in line with more than 100 other jobless Thais outside an unemployment office. The government ordered all restaurants closed in March to combat the coronavirus, and 38-year-old Wannapa has been spending her savings on food and shelter. When restaurants were allowed to re-open in May, Wannapa’s restaurant told staff its closure was permanent. “I never thought this would happen,” she said. “It’s like my heart got broken twice.” Around the world, new virus safety rules mean restaurants and stores can’t hold as many people as they used to, so they can’t afford as much staff. Many can’t afford to reopen at all. Bangkok’s restaurants are firing, not hiring, she said. “I will have to go on and keep fighting,” she declared. “If there is any job that I can do, I will do it.” Wannapa’s unemployment benefit can only tide her over for so long. She said if she can’t find work, she’ll have to return to her family’s rubber plantation to start life all over again. ISRAELI PROGRAMMER When the coronavirus first broke out, Israeli software developer Itamar Lev was told to work from home. Then the online advertising company he worked for slashed his salary 20%. Finally, just as restrictions started to ease, he was fired. Lev, 44, is among hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of a job as a result of the pandemic, more than 25% of the workforce. “It was sudden. I wasn’t ready for it,” he said. Tied to the American market, Lev’s company’s advertising revenue dried up and they had to make cutbacks. Lev said he was treated respectfully, and sees himself as simply a victim of the times. He is already preparing for interviews and confident he will find a new position soon. In a country versed in disruptions from wars and security threats, he said Israelis have built up a certain resilience to upheaval. Still, he said this time feels different. His wife, a self-employed dance instructor, has also seen her income temporarily evaporate, forcing the couple to dig into their savings. “The ‘comeback’ is going to take longer,” said Lev, father of a 5-year-old girl. “It’s a difficult period. We’re just going to have to take a deep breath and get through it.” KENYAN CLEANER Perhaps hardest-hit by virus job losses are low-paid service workers like 54-year-old Awino, who lost her job after 15 years as a cleaner at one of Mother Teresa’s charities in Nairobi. Awino shares a shack with her four daughters, including one who has epilepsy and requires costly medical care, and they share a communal toilet nearby. She hasn’t seen her husband in nine years. Without her regular $150 monthly salary, she now buys raw chicken and fries it on the streets for sale. “Ever since I was fired because of COVID-19, I put all my efforts into my business,” she said. Some days she earns more than what she was making at her old job, but it’s hard work, and unpredictable. City council and health inspectors are known to raid informal street vendors, who are often arrested and have their goods confiscated. Awino has no choice but to take the risk, and she’s not alone: Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans have also lost their jobs because of the pandemic. CLOUDY SKIES On a global scale, the industry perhaps most vulnerable is aviation. Germany’s Lufthansa is losing a million euros an hour, and its CEO estimates that when the pandemic is over it will need 10,000 fewer workers than it does now. Emirates President Tim Clark signaled it could take the Dubai-based airline four years to return to its full network of routes. The ripple effect on jobs in tourism and hospitality sectors is massive. Countries like the United Arab Emirates are home to millions of foreigners who far outnumber the local population – many of whom have lost their jobs. Their families in countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines rely on their monthly remittances for survival. Egyptian hotel chef Ramadan el-Sayed is among thousands sent home in March as the pandemic began to decimate Dubai’s tourism industry. He returned to his wife and three kids in the city of Sohag, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Cairo. He has not been paid since April. “There’s no work here at all,” he said. “Even tourism here is operating at 25% so who’s going to hire here?” He sits idle, relying on his brother and father for support. He is hopeful the Marriott hotel where he worked will bring him back at the end of the summer when they plan to re-open. “We are waiting, God willing,” el-Sayed said. LONG ROAD AHEAD So why are jobs still disappearing, if economies are reopening? Some companies that came into the recession in bad shape can no longer put off tough decisions. Meanwhile, even though reopened cities are filling anew with shoppers and commuters, many consumers remain wary about returning to old habits for fear of the virus. 'Some firms that were healthy before governments imposed shutdowns will go bankrupt, and it could take a long time for them to be replaced by new businesses,” Capital Economics said in a research note. “Other firms will delay or cancel investment.” It estimates that a third of U.S. workers made jobless by the pandemic won’t find work within six months. And some European workers on generous government-subsidized furlough programs could get laid off when they expire, as companies like French carmaker Renault and plane maker Airbus face up to a bleaker future. Holger Schmieding Holger at Berenberg Economics warned: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing mega-recession may shape political debates and choices for a long time.' ___ Charlton reported from Paris. Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Khaled Kazziha in Nairobi, Aron Heller in Kfar Saba, Israel, David Biller in Rio de Janeiro and Dave McHugh in Frankfurt contributed.
  • America's workers likely suffered another devastating blow in May, with millions more jobs lost to the viral pandemic and an unemployment rate near or even above 20% for the first time since the Great Depression. Economists have forecast that the government will report Friday that employers shed 8.5 million more jobs last month on top of 21.4 million lost in March and April. A figure that large would raise the total losses since the coronavirus intensified nearly three months ago to almost 30 million — more than triple the number of jobs lost during the 2008-2009 Great Recession. The economy has sunk into what looks like a deep recession, and most economists foresee unemployment remaining above 10% — its peak during the Great Recession — through the November elections and into next year. A report Thursday on applications for unemployment benefits reinforced the picture of a bleak job market: The number of people seeking jobless aid last week was double the previous record high that prevailed before the viral outbreak occurred. Still, that report did offer a few glimmers of hope. As restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, hair salons and other retail establishments gradually reopen, job cuts are slowing and employers are recalling some of their laid-off workers. The total number of people receiving unemployment aid rose slightly, the government said, but stayed below a peak of 25 million reached two weeks earlier. And the number of laid-off workers applying for aid, while historically high, has declined for nine straight weeks. The economic shock, like the pandemic itself, has widened economic disparities that have disproportionately hurt minorities and lower-educated workers. More than 55% of African-Americans say they or someone in their household has lost income since mid-March, compared with 43% of whites, according to a weekly survey by the Census Bureau. For Hispanics, the figure is 60%. The pandemic has especially eliminated jobs, at least temporarily, at restaurants, hotels, retail chains and other lower-wage industries. The street protests over George Floyd's killing that led to some vandalism and looting in dozens of cities won't affect Friday's jobs figures, which were compiled in the middle of May. But business closures related to the unrest could cause job losses that would be reflected in the June jobs report to be issued next month. A few businesses are reporting signs of progress even in hard-hit industries. American Airlines, for example, said this week that it would fly 55% of its U.S. routes in July, up from just 20% in May. And the Cheesecake Factory said one-quarter of its nearly 300 restaurants have reopened, though with limited capacity. Sales at those restaurants are at nearly 75% of the levels reached a year ago, the company said. Both companies' share prices rose. Those limited gains may lead to more rehiring as companies slowly restart shuttered businesses. But economists say the pace of hiring will then likely lag as a severe recession and high unemployment hold back consumer spending, the main driver of the economy. Erica Groshen, a labor economist at Cornell University and a former commissioner of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, said hiring could ramp up relatively quickly in coming months and reduce unemployment to low double-digits by year's end. “Then my inclination is that it will be a long, slow slog,' she said. Overhanging the jobs picture is widespread uncertainty about how long the unemployed will remain out of work. Most of the layoffs in recent months were a direct result of the sudden shutdowns of businesses in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Though many of the unemployed have said they expect their layoffs to be temporary, many large businesses won't rehire everyone they laid off. And some small employers might not reopen at all if the recession drags on. Until most Americans are confident they can shop, travel, eat out and fully return to their other spending habits without fear of contracting the virus, the economy will likely remain sluggish. Even if just one-third of the U.S. job losses turn out to be permanent, that would leave roughly 10 million people out of work. That is still more than all the jobs lost in the Great Recession. A hole that size would take years to fill. Oxford Economics estimates that the economy will regain 17 million jobs by year’s end, a huge increase by historical standards. But that would make up for barely more than half the losses. Gwyneth Duesbery, 22, returned this week to her job as a hostess at a steakhouse where she lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as the restaurant prepares to reopen. Duesbery said she is grateful for the opportunity, given that she hasn't received unemployment benefits since the restaurant closed in March and has run through her savings. She will spend this week helping to clean the restaurant and setting tables 6 feet apart. The restaurant will be able to seat only about one-quarter of its usual capacity. The restaurant, Bowdie's Chop House, has reservations for about 20 people for its opening night Monday and said it has drawn plenty of interest from longtime customers. Still, Duesbery worries about her health. “I am concerned that it will expose me to potential diseases, and expose others, no matter the precautions that we take,' she said. “It’s kind of uncharted waters.
  • In an embarrassing about-face, The New York Times said Thursday that an opinion piece it ran by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton advocating the use of federal troops to quell nationwide protests about police mistreatment of black Americans did not meet its standards. Cotton's op-ed, titled “Send in the Troops” and first posted online late Wednesday, caused a revolt among Times journalists, with some saying it endangered black employees. Some staff members called in sick Thursday in protest. The Times said in a statement that a “rushed editorial process” led to publication of a piece that did not meet its standards. Cotton taunted the paper on Twitter Thursday night, accusing it of “surrendering to the mindless woke mob.” The Arkansas Republican’s piece remained on the Times’ website Thursday evening. The Times said it was still determining whether the column will be corrected or what to say in an editor's note attached to it. Earlier Thursday, Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and editorial page editor James Bennet defended its publication, saying they believed it was important to discuss controversial ideas in a public forum rather than keep them quiet. But, the Times reported that later, Bennet revealed that he had not read Cotton's piece prior to its publication. “As a result, we’re planning to examine both short term and long term changes” to its opinion pages including expanding its fact-checking operation and reducing the number of op-eds, which are opinion pieces written by outside contributors that it publishes, the Times said its statement. Cotton's column supported President Donald Trump's call to bring in federal troops to stop violence associated with protests against police treatment of minorities. He denounced “nihilist criminals” out for loot and “left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit (George) Floyd's death for their own anarchic purposes.” However, it was pointed out online that a Times news story on June 1 said “conservative commentators are asserting with little evidence that antifa, the far-left anti-fascism activist movement coordinates the riots and looting.” Among the Times journalists who had protested publication of Cotton's piece was Nikole Hannah-Jones, who last month won a Pulitzer Prize for her magazine piece, “The 1619 Project,” about black Americans since the first arrival of slaves. “As a black woman, as a journalist, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this,” Hannah-Jones tweeted. Cotton’s piece was posted online two days after a peaceful demonstration outside the White House was cleared with tear gas and flash bangs, clearing the way for President Donald Trump to stage a photo-op outside a nearby church. Bennet had written that he personally disagreed with Cotton and believed troops could lead to innocent people being hurt. The Times’ opinion page had published several pieces with that view, he said. “Readers who might be inclined to oppose Cotton’s positions need to be fully aware of it, and reckon with it, if they were to defeat it,” Bennet wrote in an essay. “To me, debating influential ideas openly, rather than letting them go unchallenged, is far more likely to help society reach the right answers.” Still, he said, “I know that my own view might be wrong.” Also Thursday, the Philadelphia Inquirer apologized for a “horribly wrong” decision to use the headline “Buildings Matter, Too” on an article. Some 30 members of its 210-member editorial staff had called in sick Thursday following the mistake, which black staff members angrily condemned. The twin uprisings illustrated raw feelings unleashed by the video of George Floyd dying last week after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee against his neck, along with long-time concerns about whether newspaper staffs reflect the makeup of their communities. The Inquirer headline was over a piece by architecture critic Inga Saffron, who worried that buildings damaged in violence over the past week could “leave a gaping hole in the heart of Philadelphia.” After the initial headline, considered diminishing to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Inquirer whiffed on an online replacement, writing, “Black Lives Matter. Do Buildings?” Eventually, the newspaper settled on “Damaging buildings disproportionately hurt the people protesters are trying to uplift.” Features reporter Brandon Bell wrote on Twitter that he was calling in “sick and tired” to work. He was among those who distributed an open letter of protest, saying African American journalists were tired of careless mistakes that make it harder to do their jobs and, at worst, put lives at risk. “We're tired of shouldering the burden of dragging this 200-year-old institution kicking and screaming into a more equitable age,” the letter read. “We're tired of being told to show both sides of issues there are no two sides of.” The Inquirer published an apology from top editors. Publisher and CEO Lisa Hughes said in a memo to staff that no one would be charged a sick day for taking Thursday off. She called the headline “offensive and inappropriate” and said the Inquirer needed a more diverse staff. ___ Business Writer Tali Arbel in New York contributed to this report.
  • J.C. Penney said Thursday that it will start closing 154 of its stores next week in what it is calling the first phase of its efforts to shrink its footprint. The Plano, Texas-based retailer said it could take about 10 to 16 weeks to complete the closures. A list of the stores closing was published on Penney's website. Penney filed for bankruptcy protection last month, making it the biggest retailer to do since the coronavirus pandemic forced non-essential stores to be shut down temporarily. J.Crew and Neiman Marcus sought bankruptcy protection days before J.C. Penney. All three were laden with debt and had trouble connecting with shoppers, who are increasingly skipping the mall and shopping online. As part of its bankruptcy reorganization, Penney said it planned to permanently close nearly a third of its 846 stores in the next two years. That would leave it with just over 600 locations.
  • The federal government must revoke its approval of a widely used weed killer that has damaged other crops and turned neighbor against neighbor in some farm communities, a federal appeals court in California ruled. Dicamba is used on tens of millions of acres of soybeans and cotton nationwide “but its toxicity is not limited to weeds,' the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Companies that make dicamba were licensed in 2016 and the Environmental Protection Agency renewed the license for two years in 2018. The approval involved a newer version designed to be sprayed on genetically modified soybeans and cotton. Environmental and food safety groups had sued to block approval. The EPA approval came with restrictions on when dicamba could be sprayed to avoid it being carried by wind or other conditions onto neighboring fields where crops couldn't survive it. In the appellate ruling, Judge William Fletcher wrote that the EPA overstated the protections and understated or ignored the environmental and economic risks. Indiscrimate, crop-killing use of the herbicide has “torn apart the social fabric of many farming communities,' the ruling said, noting that an Arkansas farmer was shot and killed in an argument over the weed killer in 2016. The nonprofit Center for Food Safety, one party in the lawsuit, praised the verdict. It is “a massive victory for farmers, the environment, and the rule of law. And a day of reckoning for Monsanto and the Trump administration,” said George Kimbrell, an attorney with the group. The ruling was criticized by Bayer, the German parent company of Monsanto Co., which makes the herbicide. “The EPA’s informed science-based decision reaffirms that this tool is vital for growers and does not pose any unreasonable risks of off-target movement when used according to label directions,” the company said. In February, Bayer and another dicamba manufacturer, BASF, were ordered to pay $265 million to a Missiouri peach farmer who said the herbicide drifted from nearby cotton fields and damaged thousands of his trees.
  • Google said state-backed hackers have targeted the campaigns of both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, although it saw no evidence that the phishing attempts were successful. The company confirmed the findings after the director of its Threat Analysis Group, Shane Huntley, disclosed the attempts Thursday on Twitter. Huntley said a Chinese group known as Hurricane Panda targeted Trump campaign staffers while an Iranian outfit known as Charming Kitten had attempted to breach accounts of Biden campaign workers. Such phishing attempts typically involve forged emails with links designed to harvest passwords or infect devices with malware. The effort targeted personal email accounts of staffers in both campaigns, according to the company statement. A Google spokesman added that 'the timeline is recent and that a couple of people were targeted on both campaigns.” He would not say how many. Google said it sent targeted users “our standard government-backed attack warning” and referred the incidents to federal law enforcement. Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, called the announcement “a major disclosure of potential cyber-enabled influence operations, just as we saw in 2016.” His tweet referred to the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent online release of internal emails — some doctored — that U.S. investigators determined sought to assist the Trump campaign. Neither the Biden nor the Trump campaign would not say how many staffers were targeted, when the attempts took place or whether the phishing was successful. Both campaigns have been extremely reticent about discussing cybersecurity. “The Trump campaign has been briefed that foreign actors unsuccessfully attempted to breach the technology of our staff,' the campaign said in a statement. 'We are vigilant about cybersecurity and do not discuss any of our precautions.” The Biden campaign did not even confirm the attempt. “We are aware of reports from Google that a foreign actor has made unsuccessful attempts to access the personal email accounts of campaign staff,' it said in a statement. 'We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them.” Hurricane Panda, also known by security researchers as Zirconium or APT31 — an abbreviation for “advanced persistent threat” — is known for focusing on intellectual property theft and other espionage. Charming Kitten, also known as Newscaster and APT35, is reported to have targeted U.S. and Middle Eastern government officials and businesses, also for information theft and spying. In October, Microsoft said hackers linked to Iran’s government had targeted a U.S. presidential campaign and the New York Times and Reuters identified the target as Trump’s re-election campaign. Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said at the time that there was “no indication that any of our campaign infrastructure was targeted.” A former director of the National Security Agency, Keith Alexander, said Thursday during an online seminar that he fully expects geopolitical rivals of the U.S. to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and unrest in the U.S. “This is an increased time I think for adversaries to hurt our country and I do think they will take that during elections,” he said.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric's proposal to pay $25.5 billion for a series of deadly Northern California wildfires ignited by its equipment faced a final barrage of resistance from critics Thursday, who told a federal judge that the plan will do more to enrich savvy investors than help fire victims rebuild their lives. The impassioned arguments unfolded during the closing phase of a two-week trial that will determine whether the nation's largest utility can end its nearly year-and-half bankruptcy by a June 30 deadline. PG&E needs to close the case by that date to qualify for insurance coverage for future wildfires from a $21 billion fund created by the Legislature last year. PG&E has cleared all the other key hurdles, but now needs U.S Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali to approve its complex plan for to settle more than $50 billion in claimed losses from deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires at a deep discount. PG&E critic's maintain the bankruptcy process was rigged in favor of Wall Street hedge funds and other investors who are poised to make billions of dollars off the case. By comparison, wildfire victims may not get all of the $13.5 billion promised to them while also having to continue to worry about the risks posed by a utility known for managerial neglect and a fraying electrical grid. Critics of the plan said PG&E has not proven it has changed its corporate culture emphasizing profits over the safety of the 16 million people who rely on it for power. “This plan of reorganization is not feasible because it does not restructure anything that matters for the health of Pacific Gas and Electric,' wildfire survivor Will Abrams told Montali. Jeremiah Hallisey, an attorney representing a handful of wildfire victims, blasted the plan as a “house of cards' that is “manifestly unfair' to the more than 80,000 people who lost family members, homes and other property in the fires. Some of their arguments echoed those made Wednesday by Tom Tosdal, another lawyer for a wildfire victims. “It is fundamentally unfair for there to be profit taking by Wall Street on the back of fire victims,' he told Montali. Although PG&E's plan designates $13.5 billion for the wildfire victims, recurring concerns raised during the past few months note that $6.75 billion of it will be paid in PG&E stock that has wildly fluctuated in recent months along with the rest of the market amid the pandemic-driven recession. PG&E also is imposing restrictions likely to prevent wildfire victims from selling their stock during this year’s wildfire season and possibly next year’s, too, while other investors will be free to sell their shares whenever they want. Those handcuffs have raised fears that survivors will be left with worthless PG&E stock if the utility causes more huge fires in the next two years. The San Francisco company and the bankruptcy committee representing wildfire victims are currently negotiating the date when PG&E stock can be sold. Although Montali hasn’t indicated how he may rule, all signs point to PG&E's plan being approved. Both California power regulators and Gov. Gavin Newsom have already approved it, despite being urged not to do so. In balloting completed last month, more than 80% of the roughly 50,000 wildfire victims voted supported the plan. Montali has repeatedly said he will give great weight to the victims’ opinion. In arguments Wednesday, PG&E lawyer Stephen Karotkin told Montali that there should be no doubt left about the plan’s merits and warned its rejection would mean wildfire victims might not get any money for years. “The deal is indeed a remarkable achievement,” Karokin said. To pay all the parties in the plan, PG&E will nearly double its debt load to $38 billion. That has raised fears it won't be able to make an estimated $40 million in upgrades to its outdated equipment to minimize the risks of igniting more deadly wildfires amid the increasingly hot and windy conditions during the fall in Northern California. Abrams argued that the plan will leave PG&E customers exposed to the risk of even more catastrophic wildfires during the next few years, but Montali expressed doubt whether the utility's safety issues could be fixed in bankruptcy. “To me, confirming the plan or not confirming the plan doesn't mean it's going to start raining,' the judge said. The case is expected to be submitted to Montali on Friday. The judge is expected to rule sometime ahead of the June 30 deadline.
  • Airline stocks soared Thursday after American Airlines said it will aggressively add back flights in July — a bet that the slow recovery in air travel will gain speed this summer as states re-open their economies. United Airlines also announced plans to add back flights, while taking a more cautious approach that includes resuming about 130 nonstop routes in July that were suspended when travel collapsed as the coronavirus spread rapidly. Both airlines will run much smaller operations than they did last summer, but they could exceed the market's low expectations for business during the crucial peak vacation season. American said it plans to operate 55% of the U.S. flights that it ran in July 2019, a huge increase over the 20% schedules it ran in April and May. The airline is more guarded about demand for foreign travel. It plans to operate just 20% of the international flights that it ran last July. American could still cancel many July flights right up until departure time if hoped-for bookings fall through. Shares of American Airlines Group Inc., which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, rose 41% to close at $16.72. That is the stock's biggest one-day percentage gain since the current company was formed by a 2013 merger with US Airways. The shares are still down 42% so far this year. Other airline stocks were carried along in American's slipstream, although they rose by smaller percentages. Chicago-based United's shares closed up 16% before it announced its plans to add back some flights. United will still operate only 30% of its 2019 U.S. schedule in July, but that is up from 13% in June. Both airlines are adding flights to Florida, mountain states and other vacation destinations, indicating that leisure travelers are returning faster than people flying for business. Bookings are still down everywhere, but they are down 80% in the Northeast compared with about 40% in states such as Texas and Florida that have reopened more of their economies, said Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president of network strategy. “If you're a leisure customer, you know you can go to Florida and the hotels will be open, the restaurants will be open,' he said. “You're unclear if that will be the case if you go to California.” In April, restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus caused air travel to plummet to levels not seen since the 1950s. Some days, fewer than 100,000 people passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints. The numbers have grown steadily since then, to roughly 300,000 people a day, but that is still nearly 90% below last year's figures.