The Justice Department has joined U.S. securities regulators in examining allegations that electric-truck startup Nikola Corp. misled investors by making exaggerated claims about its technology, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department’s inquiry is being handled by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, working in concert with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has initiated its own examination of the claims about Nikola, the people said.
Barr said the department would take the argument for the death penalty to the Supreme Court for the man convicted in the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
“We will do whatever’s necessary,” Barr said, according to the AP. “We will take it up to the Supreme Court and we will continue to pursue the death penalty.”
Barr’s comments come after an appeals court ruled the U.S. district court did not adequately vet jurors for bias in what they had read or seen about the case. The court had convicted Tsarnaev of all 30 charges, and the appeals court upheld most of the convictions.
Tsarnaev’s legal team acknowledged he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, initiated the bombings but argued that their client was radicalized by his brother. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after being run over by his brother while he was trying to escape and a gun fight with police.
But prosecutors have argued that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also wanted revenge on the U.S. for its wars in predominantly Muslim countries and wrote in the boat he was caught in to “stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”
An attorney for Tsarnaev, David Patton, declined to comment on the matter when contacted by The Hill.
After the decision by the appeals court, Patton said, “it is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release,” according to the AP.
The Justice Department resumed federal executions in recent weeks after a 17-year suspension, leading three men to be executed last month. Three others have executions scheduled next week or in September.
A Justice Department investigation has found Yale University is illegally discriminating against Asian American and White applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law, officials said Thursday. Yale denied the allegation, calling it “meritless” and “hasty.”
The findings, detailed in a letter to the college’s attorneys Thursday, mark the latest action by the Trump administration aimed at rooting out discrimination in the college application process, following complaints from students about the process at some Ivy League colleges. The Justice Department had previously filed court papers siding with Asian American groups who had levied similar allegations against Harvard University.
The two-year investigation concluded that Yale “rejects scores of Asian American and White applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit,” the Justice Department said. The investigation stemmed from a 2016 complaint against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.
“Yale’s race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote in a letter to the college’s attorneys.
Prosecutors found that Yale has been discriminating against applicants to its undergraduate program based on their race and national origin and “that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year.” The investigation concluded that Asian American and White students have “only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials,” the Justice Department said.
“Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness, and division,” Dreiband said in a statement. “It is past time for American institutions to recognize that all people should be treated with decency and respect and without unlawful regard to the color of their skin.”
The investigation also found that Yale uses race as a factor in multiple steps of the admissions process and that Yale “racially balances its classes.”
The Supreme Court has ruled colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions but has said that it must be done in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity and should be limited in time. Schools also bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.
In a statement, Yale said it “categorically denies this allegation,” has cooperated fully with the investigation and has been continually turning over “a substantial amount of information and data.”
“Given our commitment to complying with federal law, we are dismayed that the DOJ has made its determination before allowing Yale to provide all the information the Department has requested thus far,” the university said in a statement. “Had the Department fully received and fairly weighed this information, it would have concluded that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent.”
The university said it considers a multitude of factors and looks at “the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants.”
“We are proud of Yale’s admissions practices, and we will not change them on the basis of such a meritless, hasty accusation,” the statement said.
The Justice Department has demanded that Yale immediately stop and agree not to use race or national origin for upcoming admissions. The government also says that if Yale proposes that it will continue to use race or national origin as a factor in future admission cycles, the college must first submit a plan to the Justice Department “demonstrating its proposal is narrowly tailored as required by law, including by identifying a date for the end of race discrimination.”
The Justice Department has also previously raised similar concerns about Harvard University, which prosecutors accused of “engaging in outright racial balancing,” siding with Asian American students in a lawsuit who alleged the Ivy League school discriminated against them.
A federal judge in 2019 cleared Harvard of discriminating against Asian American applicants in a ruling that was seen as a major victory for supporters of affirmative action in college admissions across the U.S. That ruling has been appealed and arguments are scheduled for next month.
In the Harvard case, the Justice Department had argued that the university went too far in its use of race, but the judge disagreed. Though the Supreme Court has ruled that colleges’ use of race in admissions must be “narrowly tailored” and can be only a “plus factor,” past rulings still give colleges latitude in considering a wide range of factors, including race, as they build their classes.
“Yale rejects scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race,” disfavoring applicants from those races compared to African American applicants with similar academic credentials, the Justice Department alleged in a statement Thursday.
The announcement, the culmination of a two-year civil rights investigation spurred by a complaint by Asian-American groups, represents the latest move by the Trump administration to undermine affirmative action policies that have bolstered diversity within higher education for decades.
The school’s admissions process, the Justice Department said, is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Yale must stop the use of race or national origin in its upcoming admissions cycle or get sign-off on a plan that continues to use it from the department, officials told the school.
In a statement, a Yale spokeswoman said the school “categorically denies this allegation” and called it a “meritless” and “hasty” determination.
Yale said that they have provided the Justice Department with “a substantial amount of information and data” so far but had been unable to provide all of the information that the department had requested ahead of Thursday’s conclusion, which was shared with the university in a letter earlier in the day.
“Had the Department fully received and fairly weighed this information, it would have concluded that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent,” said Karen Peart, the school’s director of university media relations, adding that the school would not change its policy.
The Supreme Court has long upheld campus affirmative action, permitting universities to consider the race of an applicant among many factors, toward the goal of greater campus diversity, and forbidding racial quotas in admissions.
A federal judge in Boston last year upheld a similar challenge brought by an Asian American student group against Harvard, determining that while Harvard’s admissions process is “not perfect,” she would not “dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster, solely because it could do better.” The student group has appealed that decision.
The Trump administration submitted a “statement of interest” in the Harvard case, siding with the student challengers and noting that the administration was investigating Harvard’s screening processes after complaints to the Department of Education from more than 60 Asian-American groups. The Obama administration had fielded and rejected similar complaints.
“The Vienna Convention states diplomats must ‘respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state’ and ‘have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state,’” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. “The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, called the American order to close the consulate an “outrageous and unjustified move that will sabotage relations between the two countries.”
“The unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China,” Wang said in remarks that were reported by The Associated Press. Reciprocal actions by the Chinese could include closing U.S. consulates within its borders, but the ruling Communist Party has not yet announced any response.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington echoed Wang‘s statements and urged the U.S. to revoke the move, saying it would “only backfire on itself.”
“Otherwise, China will have to respond with legitimate and necessary actions,“ the embassy said in a statement on Wednesday.
The embassy also denied that it had violated any diplomatic conventions, calling the State Department‘s claims “groundless fabrications.“
“For the US side, if it is bent on attacking China, it will never be short of excuses,“ the statement said.
The further breakdown in relations between the world’s two largest economies is a significant shift from just six months ago, when the countries signed a “phase one” trade deal and Trump boasted that the U.S.-China relationship “might be the best it’s been in a long, long time.”
Now, in addition to closing the consulate, the U.S. is also considering a ban on Chinese-owned mobile apps such as Tik Tok, removing Chinese technology from the electrical grid, and sanctioning Communist Party officials over the internment of Muslims and a security law that effectively ends Hong Kong’s independent legal status.
Trump has also cut off additional trade talks and threatened to penalize China because he said “they could have stopped” the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he “hopes” to travel to China before the end of the year to help quell tensions and establish crisis communication networks. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a tougher line Wednesday, saying in Denmark that the U.S. was “setting out clear expectations” for how China should behave.
“And when they don’t, we’re going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs,” he said. “That’s the actions that you’re seeing taken by President Trump. We’ll continue to engage in this.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has frequently criticized Trump’s posture toward China, and Trump is eager to appear tough on Beijing prior to November’s general election. Virtually all public polling shows him trailing Biden badly in the race for the White House.
In Houston, Chinese consulate staff were already preparing for their eviction Tuesday afternoon, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Firefighters also responded to a call at the consulate, though they were not permitted to enter. Local police told news station FOX 26 that consulate staff were burning “classified documents” ahead of their eviction, though it is not clear how they identified the fuel for the fire.
Nahal Toosi and Matthew Choi contributed to this report.
Brick-and-mortar retail was in the midst of seismic changes even before the pandemic. Analysts say as much as a quarter of America’s malls may close in the next five years.
The directory map for the Northfield Square Mall in Bourbonnais, Ill., has three glaring spaces where large department stores once stood. Soon there will be a fourth vacancy, now that J.C. Penney is liquidating stores after filing for bankruptcy.
With so much empty space and brick-and-mortar retail in the midst of seismic changes even before the pandemic hit, the mall’s owners have been talking with local officials about identifying a “higher and better use for the site,” though they have declined to elaborate on what that could be.
“Filling in one anchor space, generally, is doable,” said Elliot Nassim, president of Mason Asset Management, which co-owns the Northfield Square Mall and dozens of other enclosed shopping centers. “But once you get hit by two others and you’re dealing with three anchor closures, that’s usually where we become a little more likely to put it into the bucket of a redevelopment.”
The standard American mall — with its vast parking lots, escalators and air conditioning, and an atmosphere heavy on perfume samples and the scent of Mrs. Fields cookies — was built around department stores. But the pandemic has been devastating for the retail industry and many of those stores are disappearing at a rapid clip. Some chains are unable to pay rent and prominent department store chains including Neiman Marcus, as well as J.C. Penney, have filed for bankruptcy protection. As they close stores, it could cause other tenants to abandon malls at the same time as large specialty chains like Victoria’s Secret are shrinking.
Malls were already facing pressure from online shopping, but analysts now say that hundreds are at risk of closing in the next five years. That has the potential to reshape the suburbs, with many communities already debating whether abandoned malls can be turned into local markets or office space, even affordable housing.
“More companies have gone bankrupt than any of us have ever expected, and I do believe that will accelerate as we move through 2020, unfortunately,” said Deborah Weinswig, founder of Coresight Research, an advisory and research firm that specializes in retail and technology. “And then those who haven’t gone bankrupt are using this as an opportunity to clean up their real estate.”
Ms. Weinswig said the malls that are able to withstand the current turmoil will be healthier — better tenants, more inviting and occupied — but she anticipated that about 25 percent of the country’s nearly 1,200 malls were in danger.
Most retailers that have filed for bankruptcy are closing stores but plan to continue operating.
Department stores account for about 30 percent of the mall square footage in the United States, with 10 percent of that coming from Sears (which filed for bankruptcy in 2018) and J.C. Penney, according to Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm. J.C. Penney, which declined to comment, has said store closings will start this summer and could eventually number as many as 250. Green Street forecast in April that more than half of all mall-based department stores would close by the end of 2021.
That will have significant effects beyond reduced customer foot traffic. Many small mall retailers have clauses in their leases — so-called co-tenancy clauses — that allow them to pay reduced rent or even break the lease if two or more anchor stores leave a location.
“At a lot of lower-quality malls, where maybe there already is a vacant anchor, where you’ve got the Sears box that closed two years ago and not yet filled it, and now your J.C. Penney box is closed — that is going to cause that mall to likely lose a lot of tenants and possibly even lose its competitive positioning very quickly,” said Vince Tibone, a retail analyst at Green Street.
Mr. Tibone said he was pessimistic about the ability of most malls to fill vacant spaces, especially during the pandemic. Entertainment options like Dave & Buster’s are off the table, for instance.
“The reality is there are going to be dark boxes for some time,” he said.
And then there are customers, who already shop online in huge numbers and may not be all that eager to return to enclosed emporiums where they will be surrounded by other people.
“If there’s a perception out there that people are safer outside and less safe inside, that’s not great,” said Matthew W. Lazenby, chief executive of Whitman Family Development, which manages the luxury open-air Bal Harbour Shops outside Miami.
Even before the pandemic, American shopping malls were seeing their fortunes diverge. While malls in affluent areas with high-end stores and restaurants generally thrived, lower-tier malls, particularly those with competitors nearby, suffered over the years as retailers winnowed their physical stores and filed for bankruptcy. Macy’s, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, said in February that it would close 125 stores in “lower-tier malls” during the next three years, and Nordstrom just recently said it would close 16 of its 116 full-line department stores. While Neiman Marcus, which filed for bankruptcy in May, said it plans to reopen all its stores, landlords are watching warily.
Mr. Lazenby said that his mall was in a good position, but it, too, has been dealing with the decline of department stores. Barneys New York, which finished liquidating this year, was meant to anchor an expansion, and the mall also has a Neiman Marcus.
Brad Schlossman, chief executive of West Acres Development, where he oversees the popular West Acres mall in Fargo, N.D., which was founded by his father, said Sears was the mall’s first tenant and it had a lease that, including renewal options, had a 45-year-term that ran out in 2017.
Since Sears exited, the mall has been trying to redevelop the space, installing a Best Buy and trying to attract restaurants, though those plans may be put on hold depending on which tenants are able to pay rent in the near future.
Mr. Schlossman is optimistic about West Acres, partly because it is the only major mall in an area where the weather favors enclosed spaces. But he anticipates greater struggles in places where there are clusters of malls. “We are it in our community, so we don’t have that same either cannibalization or struggle to attract tenants because we’re competing against another mall,” he said.
As of June, 84 percent of the country’s 1,174 malls were considered healthy, reporting vacancy rates of 10 percent or less, according to the CoStar Group, a data provider for the real estate industry.
But that compares with 94 percent in 2006. And the percentage of healthy malls is expected to drop further as retailers carry out store closings announced this year, accounting for more than 83 million square feet of retail space. A significant percentage of that comes from apparel stores, which represent about 60 percent of occupied mall space.
Major mall operators have started to signal concern. The Simon Property Group, the biggest mall operator in the United States, is trying to terminate its $3.6 billion deal to acquire Taubman Centers, which owns and operates about two dozen high-end shopping centers..
A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
In court filings last month, Simon Property said that Taubman’s malls were mostly enclosed, and that indoor malls “are the last types of retail real estate properties that most consumers will want to visit on a long-term basis after Covid-19.” (Simon Property also owns many enclosed malls.) While Taubman has promoted its wealthy, educated shoppers as an asset, Simon Property said that those consumers, in particular, are now “far more able and likely to use online shopping.” The sides have been ordered to enter mediation but if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the month, they will go to trial.
CBL & Associates Properties, which owns and operates roughly 60 malls, outlet stores and open-air shopping centers in the United States, said in filings last month that it was skipping about $30 million in interest payments due in June “to advance discussions with its lenders and explore alternative strategies,” and that there was “substantial doubt” it would continue to operate as a going concern.
Jim Hull, the owner and managing principal of the Hull Property Group in Augusta, Ga., which oversees 30 enclosed malls, expressed frustration about the exit of big national chains from “smaller or tertiary markets.” The result, he said, is that “the majority of people living in the smaller markets will either have to buy from the internet or have to drive 45 miles,” he said.
Already this year, Victoria’s Secret said it would close 250 stores in North America, while the Gap brand is closing at least 170 stores globally. Financial troubles are plaguing mall chain companies like Ascena Retail, which owns Ann Taylor and Loft, and the owner of New York & Company. And bankruptcies since early 2019 have included mall staples like Forever 21, Things Remembered, Payless ShoeSource and GNC. Lucky Brand Dungarees filed for bankruptcy on Friday.
Mr. Hull said that he anticipated making malls more “community-based” in smaller markets, with local and regional businesses. “It’s going to be cooking classes, boutiques, internet businesses that want a physical presence, health care, food choices,” he said.
In Cupertino, Calif., where Apple has its headquarters, the fate of the shuttered Vallco Shopping Mall has become a contentious issue, with impassioned public debates around replacing it with affordable housing, new entertainment and retail options or office space.
In the meantime, it is a partially demolished eyesore, according to Rod Sinks, a member of the Cupertino City Council. “We have a chain-link fence around the whole thing,” he said.
In Los Angeles, the former Westside Pavilion mall, once featured in the movie “Clueless” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” music video, is turning into office space for Google. Terri Tippit, the 74-year-old chairwoman of the local Westside neighborhood council, lamented the loss of the space and said it “reflected the way our society is changing and going.”
Still, some investors have bought midtier malls in recent years and have already been working on how to repurpose and change spaces — even “de-malling” malls, by flipping store entrances so that they face the street.
“We didn’t buy malls since 2014 thinking that J.C. Penney or Sears or Bon-Ton were going to be in business forever and operate department stores, and if you were, then shame on you,” said Ami Ziff, director of national retail at Time Equities, a real estate firm whose investments include eight enclosed malls. “Is there going to be more distress, vacancy and bankruptcy? Yes. Hopefully, you know what you’re doing so you can pick up the pieces to refill that space.”