Newsy talked to experts in the U.K. about whether more could have been done to stop the spread of the B117 variant.
The U.S. economy created more jobs than expected in February as falling new COVID-19 infections and additional pandemic relief money from the government boosted hiring at restaurants and other services businesses, firmly putting the labor market recovery back on track. Though job growth momentum is expected to build in the months ahead amid an acceleration in the pace of vaccinations and more fiscal stimulus, it will probably take several years for the labor market to heal from the deep scars inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, which is now in its second year. The Labor Department's closely watched employment report on Friday showed at least 4.1 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, accounting for 41.5% of the unemployed population in February.
Elections for Hong Kong's legislature will likely be deferred for a second year to September 2022 as Beijing plans a major overhaul of the city's electoral system, a severe blow to remaining hopes of democracy in the global financial hub. The delay, which the South China Morning Post and other local media reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources, would be in line with a new effort by Beijing to ensure "patriots" are in charge of all public institutions in the former British colony. The National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, will pass the changes at its annual session which opened on Friday and will last a week.
- The Daily Beast
Disney+Disney does not deserve Kelly Marie Tran.In 2017, the Vietnamese American actress became the first woman of color to co-lead a Star Wars movie, playing the resourceful rebel mechanic Rose Tico in director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi. It was her first major screen credit after years spent in bit parts and on improv stages, rocketing her from obscurity to worldwide blockbuster recognition.The once-in-a-lifetime experience came with daunting responsibility; to be the “first,” one person tasked with representing many, is an important but sometimes lonely position. Still, Tran met her task with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Rather than play it cool during the press tour leading up to the film’s release, she was a beaming, excited presence. Her director told stories about her shadowing other departments on set, eager to absorb the experience from every angle. And onscreen, it was Tran’s sincerity and guileless warmth—and not just the features of her face—that marked Rose as a new kind of Star Wars character. It felt natural that she delivered the film’s thesis herself, redefining heroism for the new saga: no longer “fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”Tran was “too pure for this world,” as besotted fans often noted at the time. Still, as the actress herself recalls in a Hollywood Reporter cover story published this week, that open-heartedness also seemed to make her a target. Reactionaries took aim at her online for everything from her character’s choices to her race to her weight. Tran disappeared from social media to protect herself, but their words inflicted pain. In a New York Times op-ed, she later reflected on blaming herself for the vitriol: “I thought, ‘Oh, maybe if I was thinner’ or ‘Maybe if I grow out my hair’ and, worst of all, ‘Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.’” She wrote that the ordeal hardened her resolve to tell stories that reflect the diversity of human experiences, so that episodes like hers might become less common.Gorō Miyazaki on Studio Ghibli’s First CG-Animated Movie and Fan BacklashWhen she reemerged on her next Hollywood red carpet—for 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, in which Rose Tico barely appeared at all, inexplicably—Tran debuted a markedly different presence. Less bubbly and overwhelmed than glamorous and poised. In form-fitting blue sequins, she looked untouchable. Statuesque. Almost defiant. And then she’d burst into full-throated laughter.It’s difficult not to recall Tran’s journey through Hollywood while watching her newest film, Disney’s animated fantasy Raya and the Last Dragon. It’s her first leading role since the Star Wars films, and exactly the kind of story Tran resolved to help tell. Not only inspired by a number of Southeast Asian cultures and voiced by an all-Asian cast, it spotlights the diversity of the cultures it draws from with a range of skin tones, facial features, styles of dress, weapons, even traditional food dishes. (A warning: It’s got the most mouthwatering animated food this side of a Hayao Miyazaki film. Do not go into this movie hungry.)But more than that, the story of Tran’s heroine Raya resonates with the actress’ own in perhaps unexpected ways. It’s a cautionary tale in part about the harm of hardening oneself with anger or mistrust as a means of self-preservation—even after trauma. Over the course of the movie, Raya must learn to connect with others again, at the risk that they might abandon, hurt, or disappoint her. Tran’s return to the spotlight—to press interviews, the pressures of representation, and to Disney, no less, after the studio failed to meaningfully support her in any way amid the online attacks and allowed her groundbreaking Star Wars character to be all but written out—implies a similar sort of grace.It is also a story about emotional and spiritual rebirth. Tran has experienced one of her own. Three years after disappearing from public view, she has risen to claim the title of Disney princess. But as Raya and the Last Dragon shows, it’s really Disney that’s lucky to have her more than vice versa.Directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, Raya and the Last Dragon is an action-heist movie, starring a strong, plucky heroine cut from familiar Disney cloth. In an early prologue, a young Raya announces herself with acrobatic leaps of weapon-wielding skill (and a painfully cute animal sidekick), navigating through booby traps straight to the heart of an ancient temple. She is part Indiana Jones, part don’t-need-no-man Disney princess of the post-Frozen age. And while Disney’s animation teams have outdone themselves here—Raya is the most visually beautiful film of the studio’s CG-dominated animation era—it is Tran’s voice work that first brings the movie to life.Raya’s world is meant to evoke parallels to our own. It is deeply fractured by cultural divides that seem unbridgeable, sometimes for reasons like hurt from past betrayals and sometimes out of baseless prejudice. The hatred between these groups has allowed mindless, malevolent forces called the Druun (“a plague born from human discord”) to ravage the earth, turning it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. More frighteningly, direct contact with a Druun instantly hardens humans into statues. It’s not a difficult metaphor but arresting onscreen nonetheless: Anger and resentment literally turn people to stone.A group of dragons, we learn, once saved this world from the Druun by sacrificing themselves and concentrating their magic into an orb that repelled them. 500 years later, Raya and her father Benja (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim) are tasked with guarding the orb in their home capital, in one of the five splintered nations that once made up a land called Kumandra. Benja is a stubborn idealist, confident that the nations can set aside their differences if only they all get to know one another over a nice hot stew.Following his example, a young Raya befriends a cool-looking girl from a rival nation. Possibly bamboozled by her new friend’s asymmetrical undercut, Raya shows the girl the dragon stone’s secret hiding place—and is shocked when Namaari (Gemma Chan) betrays her and tries to steal it. The chaotic free-for-all that follows among the people of all five nations ends with the sacred stone itself now broken into five pieces, too, allowing the Druun to attack and turn thousands of people, including Raya’s father, to stone. Six years later, wracked with survivor’s remorse, a far less trusting Raya sets out to collect the stone pieces, drive away the Druun, and somehow, hopefully, summon the last surviving dragon to free her poor dad.Blessedly, the plot (as scripted by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim) is never as unwieldy as it looks on paper. That’s in part due to the ever-changing texture and feel of the movie as Raya sojourns from one nation to the next, staging shard-stealing heists. And in part it’s a credit to the movie’s cast. With each pit stop it expands, creating a found family of weirdos as inspired as Con Baby, an actual baby con artist (voiced by Thalia Tran), and the dragon Sisu, brought to life with rambling earnestness by Awkwafina. Their world of chimeric creatures like Tuk Tuk—half-hedgehog, half-armadillo, for some reason the size of a rhinoceros—is as wonderfully strange as that of Avatar: The Last Airbender. And though her role as the straight woman in a crew of loons could have rendered Raya bland by comparison, Tran ensures she is instead a beacon of emotional relatability. Kelly Marie Tran arrives for the world premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on December 16, 2019, in Hollywood, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty The characters are astonishingly expressive, miming voice actors’ micro-expressions to a sometimes stunning degree. In Raya’s case, Tran’s warmth and vulnerability are as vivid onscreen as the colorful world she inhabits. The most expressive actors can sometimes run into difficulty channeling a nuanced range of emotions through their voice alone, but Tran does it effortlessly. Her Raya is childlike and unburdened at the start of the film; swashbuckling if wary and faintly sad through her time alone; centered and wise enough to inspire a leap of faith by movie’s end.She emphasizes Raya’s struggle throughout with the assured hand of someone who can deeply relate. You hear it in her voice: The part of her that wants to believe in people again and the part that insists she knows better. Indeed, it was Tran who engineered one of the film’s most moving examples. When Raya first recites the incantation that summons Sisu, as Tran recalled to THR, it was her idea to rewrite the dialogue to underscore Raya’s reluctance to reach out and trust again.The movie unfolds its plot gently, without denying the selfish realities of human nature. When a character has the opportunity to lie, cheat, or recoil in mistrust, more often than not, they do. Does all of it get suddenly tied up in a neat, Mickey Mouse-patterned bow by movie’s end? Of course. People’s better instincts triumph over evil, we all learn to live in harmony, everyone smiles and dragons prance. Still, there is something to be said for the way it gets there.Unlike in so many modern action stories, saving the world in Raya and the Last Dragon does not mean subduing the hero’s archenemy—it is not Raya’s strength in combat or her wit that turns the tide of her lifelong battle with Namaari for control of the stones. Instead, Raya’s final act of heroism is an act of total surrender. It is sacrifice and forgiveness, defying every instinct she’s cultivated for self-preservation.The movie posits Raya as an example for our bitterly polarized world: Someone willing to open their heart to human connection again, refusing to turn to stone in the face of human cruelty. A better one might be Tran herself.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. 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- The Independent
Biden news: White House defends ‘Neanderthal’ slur of GOP states, as Trump shifts blame for Senate loss
Live updates from the White House
- The Independent
QAnon predicted Trump’s re-inauguration on 4 March. Congress braced for an assault. Neither happened
Two months after Capitol attack, embittered conspiracy cult holds out for last-ditch effort to revive former president – but law enforcement warns that the insurrection was not an isolated event
- The Week
Federico Klein, a former State Department aide who worked on former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, was arrested Thursday on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the FBI announced Thursday night. This is the first known instance of a Trump appointee facing prosecution in connection with the attack, Politico reports. An FBI Washington Field Office spokeswoman told Politico that Klein, 42, was taken into custody in Virginia, but did not release any information on the charges against him. Federal Election Commission records show Klein worked as a tech analyst for the 2016 Trump campaign, Politico says, and after the election he was hired at the State Department. A federal directory from last summer lists Klein as a special assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, making him a "Schedule C" political appointee, Politico reports. On Jan. 6, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's victory. Klein's mother, Cecilia, told Politico on Thursday night that he told her he was in Washington, D.C., on the day of the riot, and "as far as I know, he was on the Mall." She is a retired economist and trade official, and told Politico because of their different views, she rarely spoke about Trump or politics with her son. "Fred's politics burn a little hot," she said. "But I've never known him to violate the law." More stories from theweek.comRon Johnson's lazy obstruction exposes the reality of the filibuster7 spondiferously funny cartoons about the Dr. Seuss controversySenate Democrats eke out 50-49 COVID-19 relief bill victory
- LA Times
Senate Democrats reduce the weekly federal unemployment supplement from $400 to $300 in their COVID-19 relief package.
- The Independent
Obama administration greatly expanded the use of drone strikes before later imposing checks
A Missouri pastor is reportedly seeking 'professional counseling' after he told women to lose weight and strive to be like Melania Trump for their husbands
Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark of Missouri's Malden First General Baptist Church gushed over an "epic trophy wife" and warned, "don't let yourself go."
Kim Kardashian will reportedly stay in family's $60 million mansion as part of divorce from Kanye West
Kim Kardashian West will stay in the minimalist, beige-filled Hidden Hills, California, home she and Kanye West bought in 2014, TMZ reported.
- Business Insider
Her dismissal prompted fury from other Republicans like Rep. Virginia Foxx, who called it an "unprecedented firing of an honorable public official."
- The Telegraph
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex 'called all the PR shots', say royal sources despite Oprah interview claims she was gagged
The Duchess of Sussex “called all the shots” when it came to managing her own media, royal sources have said, casting doubt on her claim she could not be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey three years ago. Multiple royal sources have told The Telegraph the 39-year-old former actress “had full control” over her media interviews and had personally forged relationships not only with Ms Winfrey, but other powerful industry figures including Vogue editor Edward Enninful. In a teaser clip released from the Sussexes’s interview with the US chat show host, due to be aired in the US on Sunday, the Duchess said it felt “liberating” to be able to speak and accused the Royal family of effectively gagging her and taking away that choice. “It’s really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes, I’m ready to talk, to be able to make a choice on your own and be able to speak for yourself,” the Duchess said. In the clip, the Duchess and Ms Winfrey reference the fact that a royal aide was listening in to their first phone call in February 2018, although it is understood the pair had spoken privately before then.
President Biden said Saturday that the Senate passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package means the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans can begin going out later this month. Driving the news: The Senate voted 50-49 Saturday to approve the sweeping legislation. The House is expected to pass the Senate's version of the bill next week before it heads to Biden's desk for his signature.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeThe big picture: As part of the legislation, individuals who make less than $75,000 or heads of households who make up to $112,500 will qualify for the $1,400 payments. Couples who make less than $150,000 will get $2,800.Individuals who make between $75,000 and $80,000 and couples who earn between $150,000 and $160,000 will receive a reduced payment.Parents who qualify will get an additional $1,400 for every child claimed on their most recent tax returns.What he's saying: "Everything that is in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail," Biden said following the Saturday passage of the bill. "This plan will get checks out the door, starting this month to the American people who so desperately need the help," he added. "The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines so we can get every single American vaccinated sooner rather than later.""I promised the American people that help is on the way. Today, I can say we've taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise." The bottom line: "This plan puts us on a path to beating the virus. This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and breathing room to get through this moment. This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive," Biden said. More from Axios: Sign up to get the latest market trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free
A Texas middle school student said he was forced to drink urine by teammates at a sleepover. His mom called the bullying racially motivated.
Summer Smith, SeMarion Humphrey's mom, says she has reported multiple incidents of her son being abused by other students for months, CBS 21 reported.
- Business Insider
MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough says there's 'no doubt' that the GOP is 'unsavable'
"You know, my friends and my family members, they all voted for him, and it's been hard for me to process it," Scarborough said of support for Trump.
Former NBA star Deron Williams says he tried to recruit star players to the Jazz but no one wanted to play in Utah
Deron Williams said he knew he needed help to make the Jazz contenders, but he couldn't find other stars that wanted to join him in Utah.
- USA TODAY
'Let kids be kids': California considers bill requiring gender-neutral children's sections at large retailers
In a push for inclusivity, a proposed bill in California will ban large retail stores from dividing children's items by gender.
A Texas high school removed an assignment on chivalry where female students were directed to cater to men like in medieval times
A list of tasks showed female students were asked to "dress in a feminine manner to please the men" and lower their heads when curtsying for men.
Former President Donald Trump has clashed again with his Republican Party, demanding that three Republican groups stop using his name and likeness for fundraising, a Trump adviser said on Saturday. The adviser, confirming a report in Politico, said lawyers for Trump on Friday had sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Campaign and National Republican Senate Campaign, asking them to stop using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise.
- The Guardian
Party bodies have used former president’s name while fundraising for Republicans who voted for his impeachment Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando. Photograph: Joe Skipper/Reuters Sign up for the Guardian’s First Thing newsletter Donald Trump has told the Republican National Committee and other party bodies to stop using his name and likeness in fundraising efforts, it was reported on Saturday. “President Trump remains committed to the Republican party and electing America First conservatives,” Politico quoted an unnamed adviser to the former president as saying about the legal cease-and-desist notice, “but that doesn’t give anyone – friend or foe – permission to use his likeness without explicit approval.” The website previously reported that Trump’s ire was stoked by bodies including the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) using his name while fundraising for Republicans who voted for his impeachment. The former president felt “burned and abused”, Politico said, detailing the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s struggles to manage the former president, even after a January trip to kiss the ring in Florida. Liz Cheney, the House No 3 Republican, was the most senior of 10 Republican representatives to back Trump’s second impeachment, for inciting the Capitol riot on 6 January. She has faced protests stoked by elected officials and will be challenged for her seat from the right. Others who voted for impeachment are also facing primary fights. Seven senators voted to convict Trump at trial. That meant he was acquitted a second time, as the 57 guilty votes fell 10 short of the necessary super-majority. The verdict left Trump, 74, free to run for office again. Though he continues to baselessly claim his defeat by Joe Biden was the result of massive voter fraud, a lie repeatedly thrown out of court and now the subject of legal investigations, he has toyed with running in 2024. He remains the clear favourite in party polls. His own fundraising based on the “big lie” about electoral fraud proved lucrative, raking in at least $175m. At the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, Trump told attendees they should only donate to his own political action committee, Save America. In the CPAC straw poll, 55% backed Trump to be the next nominee. The Republican National Committee is led by Ronna McDaniel, a niece of the Utah senator Mitt Romney who dropped Romney from her name after Trump won the White House, reportedly at Trump’s request. Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee for president, is the only Republican who voted to impeach Trump twice. Politico said the RNC sent out two emails on Friday, asking donors to put their name on a “thank you card” for Trump. On Saturday morning, an email trumpeting a “March Fundraising Blitz” claimed “we’ve NEVER been the Party of Elite Billionaires and we NEVER will be” and asked “hard working everyday Americans” to “continue to DEFEND President Trump’s ‘America FIRST’ policies”. Forbes rates Trump’s net worth at $2.5bn.“Privately,” Politico reported, “GOP campaign types say it’s impossible not to use Trump’s name, as his policies are so popular with the base. If Trump really wants to help flip Congress, they argue he should be more generous. His team, however, sees this differently.” Later on Saturday, the New York Daily News reported that Trump would on Sunday return to the city he called home until 2016 for the first time since losing power. The former president planned to stay till Tuesday, the paper said, though Trump adviser Jason Miller refused to confirm or deny the plans.