June 28, 2018

Five million Venezuelan bolivars is the equivalent of $1.45. It's also roughly a minimum-wage worker's entire monthly salary in the South American country.

Thanks to stunning inflation, it now takes 1 million bolivars to buy a cup of coffee in a Venezuelan cafe, Bloomberg reports. That's one-fifth of Venezuela's monthly minimum wage, and a 10,000-bill stack of Venezuela's most common bank note, the 100-bolivar bill.

To illustrate Venezuela's rampant inflation, Bloomberg has tracked the price of a cup of coffee since December 2016 on its Cafe Con Leche index. One dose of caffeine cost 450 bolivars when the index launched two years ago, but 43,378 percent inflation in the last year has led to today's astronomical price.

Additionally, if the pace of inflation over the past three months continues, Bloomberg estimates that inflation would be 482,153 percent after a year. Check out the Cafe Con Leche index at Bloomberg for a detailed — and astonishing — visual. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:05 a.m.

Rolling out a new version of Instagram for kids is a very, very bad idea, child safety advocates are telling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a non-profit organization, has coordinated a letter to Zuckerberg signed by health and child safety advocates calling for the company to cancel plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13, NBC News reports. The groups argue that such an app "would put young users at great risk."

"Instagram, in particular, exploits young people's fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers," they write. "The platform's relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents' privacy and wellbeing."

Instagram head Adam Mosseri confirmed last month that the company was "exploring" a version of the app for children under 13, who are not officially allowed on Instagram, as was first reported by BuzzFeed News. A spokesperson for Instagram told NBC that it's looking for "practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps," suggesting this could be a way to provide kids who are already online with a "safe and age-appropriate" experience.

But the advocates counter that children between 10 and 12 who lie about their age to get on Instagram are unlikely to actually use a new version for kids, which they would see as "babyish," so this plan would "likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform's manipulative and exploitative features."

The Instagram spokesperson told NBC the company will "prioritize" the safety and privacy of children in any such app and will "consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it." Brendan Morrow

10:16 a.m.

The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has just significantly declined to again reach the lowest level of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 576,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, a decline of 193,000 claims from the week prior. This was the lowest level of new weekly jobless claims since March 2020, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Last month, the number of weekly jobless claims also declined to the lowest level of the pandemic up until that point by sinking to 684,000, although the number unexpectedly rose the following week. But the most recent U.S. jobs report showed the economy added 916,000 jobs in March, easily surpassing economists expectations, while the unemployment rate declined to six percent.

The same morning these latest jobless claims were released on Thursday, the Commerce Department also said that retail sales soared 9.8 percent in March, the biggest jump since May 2020.

"Stellar jobless claims plus off the charts retail sales packs a positive one two punch and sends strong signals that the economy is full steam ahead toward recovery," eTrade managing director of investment strategy Mike Loewengart told The Washington Post. "While we haven't necessarily seen the market move on strong economic beats or misses, it's certainly a step in the right direction."

Brendan Morrow

9:22 a.m.

It's officially official: the J-Rod era has come to an end.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez confirmed to NBC's Today on Thursday they have broken up after four years together, calling off their two-year engagement.

"We have realized we are better as friends and look forward to remaining so," they told Today. "We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects. We wish the best for each other and one another's children. Out of respect for them, the only other comment we have to say is thank you to everyone who has sent kind words and support."

It was previously reported last month that the two had broken up after twice postponing their wedding amid the pandemic. But they subsequently gave fans hope by deeming these reports "inaccurate," saying they were "working through some things" but were still together — though recently, Lopez was spotted not wearing her engagement ring on Instagram.

And now, after this month-long emotional rollercoaster and conflicting information over whether love is, in fact, dead, we can now officially confirm: yes, it is. Brendan Morrow

7:55 a.m.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical star Karen Olivo is set to exit stage right — and she's putting the industry on blast on her way out.

Olivo has announced on Instagram that she won't return to Moulin Rouge! when it comes back to Broadway, calling out the industry's "unacceptable" silence about a recent exposé on allegedly abusive behavior by award-winning producer Scott Rudin.

"What I'm seeing in this space right now with our industry is that everybody's scared, and nobody is really doing a lot of the stuff that needs to be done," she said. "People aren't speaking out."

Rudin, who didn't work on Moulin Rouge! but has produced a number of successful shows including The Book of Mormon, was accused in a recent piece in The Hollywood Reporter of abusive behavior by former employees. In one instance, he allegedly became so angry he smashed a computer monitor on an assistant's hand, leaving the assistant bleeding and forced to rush to the emergency room.

Olivio further explained to The New York Times that the lack of a major response to these allegations against Rudin in the industry "cracked me open" and added to her feeling that "Broadway is not the place I want to be." Olivo is nominated at the upcoming Tony Awards for her performance as Satine in Moulin Rouge!, and she previously won a Tony for her role in West Side Story.

"Those of you who say you're scared, what are you afraid of?" Olivio said on Instagram. "Shouldn't you be more afraid of not saying something and more people getting hurt?"

Moulin Rouge! producers confirmed that Olivo won't return to the show when it resumes performances, and they expressed support for her "advocacy work to create a safe, diverse, and equitable theater industry for all." Brendan Morrow

7:54 a.m.

Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Florida's Seminole County and accused sex trafficker who is reportedly cooperating with a federal investigation of his friend Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), made at least 150 Venmo payments to young women, including a 17-year-old, The Daily Beast reports, citing several documents detailing years of online financial transactions. Greenberg is the linchpin of an alleged sex ring, and "according to three people with knowledge of the relationship, Gaetz was among the men who tapped Greenberg to access a large network of young women."

The Venmo payments, in installments of $300 to $1,000 or more, were typically labeled as being for "food" or "school," though Greenberg also wrote "ice cream," "salad," "stuff," and "ass" in some transactions, or just use emojis like the lipstick kiss, The Daily Beast reports. The documents show only one new Venmo payment from Gaetz to Greenberg, "for $300 on November 1, 2018, with the love hotel emoji in the memo field."

But the documents also show Greenberg in 2017 making at least 16 Venmo payments totaling nearly $5,000 to a woman who would go on to date Gaetz (not his current fiancée), plus another $1,500 via Cash App over two days in April 2017, The Daily Beast reports. "That woman — who came to Washington, D.C., as an intern in January 2018 — has said she dated Gaetz during and after her senior year in college. Federal investigators seized Gaetz's phone in December 2020, and they took his ex-girlfriend's device shortly after."

Gaetz has denied paying for sex or having sex with a 17-year-old, and the one payment he Venmo'd to Greenberg tied to the the underage girl was after she turned 18, The Daily Beast reports. That woman has recently changed all her identifying information on Venmo and apparently defriended Gaetz and two other women Greenberg paid, The Daily Beast says, and Gaetz has lost at least seven Venmo friends in the past week, since the news organization started reporting on the payments. Peter Weber

6:23 a.m.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to advance legislation that would set up a committee to study the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of enslaved Black people in America. The party-line 25-17 vote will send the legislation to the full House for the first time since the late Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) first introduced it in 1989. Conyers kept introducing the bill every year until his retirement in 2017, after which its current sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), took over.

The bill, HR 40 — after the broken post-Civil War promise to give former enslave people 40 acres and a mule — would create a 13-member commission to study the history of slavery and subsequent discrimination against Black Americans, then recommend possible remedies to address the lasting impact of those racial injustices.

"The goal of this historical commission and its investigation is to bring American society to the new reckoning with how our past affects the current conditions of African-Americans," said Jackson Lee. "Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future."

Republicans argued that slavery ended in 1865 and reparations are unjust because, as Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) phrased it, "paying reparations would amount to taking money from people who never owned slaves to compensate those who were never enslaved." Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah), the only Black Republican on the panel, argued that "reparation is divisive, it speaks to the fact that we are a hapless, helpless race and never did anything but wait for white people to show up and help us, and it's a falsehood."

The typical white U.S. households has 10 times the net worth of a Black household, Black Americans are less likely than other racial groups to own a home, and the Black poverty rate is twice the rate for white Americans. Much of that is due to decades of policies that hindered Black homeownership and other accumulation of generational wealth. By one estimate, the cost of compensating the descendants of enslaved Black people could be up to $12 trillion, USA Today reports.

If passed by the full House, HR 40 faces long odds overcoming a GOP filibuster in the Senate, where Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has introduced a companion bill. Peter Weber

4:52 a.m.

The war in Afghanistan was always a U.S.-led NATO operation, and on Wednesday, the 30-member alliance unanimously agreed to follow President Biden's lead and withdraw all its forces from the country by Sept. 11. As in the U.S., the European reaction to Biden's announcement was positively ambivalent.

The decision was "unanimous," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference after Wednesday's closed-door meeting. "This is not an easy decision and it entails risks," he added, but "we've said for many months we face a dilemma, because the alternative to leaving in an orderly fashion is to be prepared for a long-term, open-ended military commitment with potentially more NATO troops."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin both attended the meeting in Brussels. A European official told The Washington Post that Austin set the tone by strongly endorsing Biden's plan, referencing his military service and personal knowledge of the sacrifices NATO forces made in Afghanistan. The officials from the other member states broadly supported the plan, the official said, but there was some grumbling from the Czech Republic and Belgium.

Blinken and Austin both said publicly that the U.S. and NATO achieved their main objective in Afghanistan, neutralizing the ability of Al Qaeda to use the country as a base for terrorism.

After Al Qaeda launched an attack on the U.S. from Afghanistan, NATO invoked its Article 5 mutual-defense clause for the first time, and there are now more non-U.S. NATO troops in the country, about 7,000, than America's 2,500-strong force.

"As long as the U.S. consults, gives at least a veneer of co-decision, and withdraws responsibly enough that it doesn't leave the Europeans high and dry, then the Europeans won't be hard to deal with on this issue," ­Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign ­Relations, told the Post. "In the end, the ­Europeans went into Afghanistan for America and NATO; they'll accept to leave for the same reasons." Peter Weber

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