February 13, 2019

Emails from American Media Inc. officials apparently threatening Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with extortion and blackmail have put AMI and its chief executive, David Pecker, in potential hot water with federal prosecutors as well as the AMI board. Threatening the richest man in the world — in writing — may not have been the smartest move, but AMI was already in dire straits, Bloomberg reported Tuesday: Years of "steep financial losses" have left "the once-loyal keeper of Donald Trump's secrets with more than $1 billion in debt and a negative net worth."

Over the past few years, a "borrowing binge" by AMI has "swelled its debt load to more than $1.3 billion," Bloomberg said. Investment firm Chatham Asset Management owns an 80 percent stake in AMI, thanks to a financial lifeline thrown to Pecker in 2014, and despite efforts to butter up Saudi Arabia's leaders, "there is no direct investment in the company's debt or equity by the Saudis," AMI Chief Financial Officer Chris Polimeni said, adding that AMI's financial picture is improving.

In some ways, the National Enquirer simply ran into the same market forces that have buffeted all print media, Joe Pompeo says at Vanity Fair. "Circulation was on the decline — it is now reportedly south of 300,000, down from a peak of around 6 million a week in the late 1970s — and AMI was running into financing troubles that it continues to grapple with today." But the whole Bezos affair "has stunned battle-hardened tabloid veterans who thought they'd seen it all," Pompeo adds, making them wonder why AMI was so desperate to get Bezos to publicly state hacking his texts wasn't tied to politics.

"The history of tabloid journalism is rife with all sorts of behind-the-scenes deals," George Rush, former Daily News gossip columnist, told Pompeo. "But to put that offer so bluntly and brazenly, to a man who has the intelligence and power to impale you on your own sword, was stupid." Peter Weber

6:05 p.m.

Numerous TV networks owned by ViacomCBS just went dark for more than eight minutes to pay tribute to George Floyd one week after his death.

MTV and Comedy Central were among the ViacomCBS stations that on Monday starting at 5:00 p.m. ET aired the words "I can't breathe" for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, alongside the sound of breathing, reports CNBC. A Minneapolis police officer who has since been fired and charged with murder last week kneeled on Floyd's neck for that length of time while Floyd said that he couldn't breathe, and his death has sparked nationwide outrage and protests.

A message at the bottom of the screen during the ViacomCBS blackout urged viewers to text "DEMANDS" to 55156, promoting the civil rights organization Color of Change.

ViacomCBS President of Entertainment and Youth Brands Chris McCarthy previously announced that "we will go dark across our brands and platforms to mark the time in which George Floyd was brutally killed as a tribute to Mr. Floyd and other victims of racism" in a employee memo, in which he also pledged to "use our platforms to shine a light on the realities of racial injustice and call for equality." Brendan Morrow

5:59 p.m.

An intelligence memo sent by the Department of Homeland Security to law enforcement officials around the country on May 29 warned that extremists groups may try to exploit protests in the wake of George Floyd's death, Politico reports.

The memo, citing the FBI, revealed that on May 27, two days after Floyd died in police custody, "a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the 'boogaloo' — a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War — by shooting in a crowd." One of the messages reportedly encouraged potential shooters to "frame the crowd around you," the document said.

That wasn't the only warning found in the memo. It also said the FBI had information that "suspected anarchist extremists and militia extremists allegedly planned to storm and burn the Minnesota State Capitol." The definition of those groups was somewhat vague, with Politico noting the memo didn't specifically distinguish between left- or right-wing in this instance, despite the Trump administration's fixation on Antifa. Politico did suggest the description of the "anarchists extremists" seemed to hint at an association with the far left, while the "militia extremists" appeared to represent the far right. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

5:56 p.m.

David McAtee, a black man and owner of a Louisville barbecue restaurant, was killed early Monday when law enforcement opened fire on a large crowd in a grocery store parking lot.

After George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor was shot by police in Louisville, nationwide protests against police brutality, particularly against black people, have erupted. Many cities have instituted curfews to break up protests at night, and law enforcement was apparently enforcing Louisville's when McAtee was killed just after midnight Monday morning, CBS News affiliate WLKY reports.

The Louisville Metro Police Department and the National Guard were reporting to a large crowd in a grocery store parking lot around 12:15 a.m. when someone fired a shot at law enforcement, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said shortly after the incident. Law enforcement "returned fire," and McAtee was shot and killed, Conrad said. His body remained in the parking lot for at least 12 hours as police investigated, and protesters showed up, WLKY reported.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) quickly called on body camera footage of the incident to be released — body cameras were made mandatory three days ago — but NBC News reports body cameras on those law enforcement officers were not active. Conrad was set to retire at the end of June, but Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Conrad was fired Monday as McAtee's killing undergoes a local and state police investigation.

McAtee owned YaYa's BBQ, which is next to the grocery store where he was killed. His family says he was known to feed police for free. Read more about him at the Louisville Courier Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:14 p.m.

Researchers warn that more than 500 species of land animals — including the Sumatran rhino and the Española tortoise — are on the brink of extinction and will likely be lost within two decades, The Guardian reports. Land vertebrates with fewer than 1,000 individuals left were considered at risk of dying out in the near future in the new analysis published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Scientists.

The researchers also said because 84 percent of those species lived in the same regions their demise could create a domino effect. For example, per The Guardian, overhunting of sea otters led to the extinction of of the Steller's sea cow in the 1700s because otters were the main predator of kelp-eating sea urchings. When left unchecked, the sea urchins devastated the kelp forests upon which the sea cows grazed. "Extinctions breed extinctions," the researchers said.

Of course, a decline in biodiversity will have adverse effects for humans, as well. "When humanity exterminates other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system," said Stanford University's Paul Ehrlich, one of the researchers. "The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to the climate disruption to which it is linked."

University College London's Georgina Mace said she wasn't convinced that simply having fewer than 1,000 individuals was the best way to measure a species' extinction risk — a declining trend for the population is crucial, too — but, nevertheless, she believes the study "re-emphasizes some startling facts" and that "action is important for many reasons." Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

4:54 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is adopting the language of war to address nationwide protests against police brutality.

President Trump held a call with U.S. governors on Monday after a weekend of protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Trump used alarmingly violent language during the call as he told governors to "dominate" protesters, and Esper repeated that tone as he instructed governors to call on the National Guard to "dominate the battlespace."

So far, 23 states have called in the National Guard to add to the police presence as protesters fill city streets. But "most of the guard has not been called up," Esper told the leaders, reminding them "you have deep resources in the guard." "The sooner you ... dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal," Esper continued.

During the call, Trump told the leaders he would deploy more "federal assets" to help respond to violent protesters. He has since hinted that he may invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to combat protesters which would be the first time the act was used since the Los Angeles riots that followed the Rodney King trial. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:41 p.m.

An independent autopsy has determined that George Floyd's death was "homicide caused by asphyxia."

The early findings of Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson's autopsy, which was ordered by Floyd's family, were announced on Monday, ABC News reports. They found that Floyd died from asphyxia "due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain."

Video emerged last week showing Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck while he said he couldn't breathe. The footage sparked nationwide outrage and protests across the country, and Chauvin has since been fired and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Contradicting the independent autopsy's findings, charging documents last week said that the Hennepin County medical examiner's preliminary findings found "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation," Axios reports, although The New York Times notes the full report is still pending.

Additionally, "weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability of Mr. Floyd’s diaphragm to function," a statement from attorney Ben Crump said on Monday.

While the previously-released criminal complaint had cited "underlying health conditions" that "likely contributed to his death," Baden said in a press conference that Floyd had "no underlying medical problem that caused or contributed to his death." Brendan Morrow

3:42 p.m.

In response to a request from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Phillip Swagel, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, outlined Monday what the next decade could look like for the United States if current economic trends continue.

In his letter, Swagel said the coronavirus pandemic prompted the CBO to significantly alter their economic projections in the span of a few months. Their estimate for the level of nominal GDP in the second quarter of 2020 is now 14.2 percent lower than it was in January. Things improve slightly after that — the difference in the January and May estimates is 9.4 percent for the end of 2020 and 2.2 percent by the end of 2030 — but, all told, that means the cumulative nominal economic output over the next decade is nearly $15.7 trillion less than the agency had pegged in January. Adjusted for inflation, that figure comes in at 7.9 trillion.

Schumer, in a joint statement with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointed to those numbers as a reason why "the Senate must act with a fierce sense of urgency to make sure that everyone in America has the income they need to feed their families and put a roof over their heads," rather than waiting to pass more legislation. Tim O'Donnell

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