May 26, 2020

Houston, we have a problem.

Netflix's highly-anticipated new comedy Space Force, which stars Steve Carell and comes from The Office creator Greg Daniels, is being hit with unexpectedly brutal reviews from critics ahead of its streaming debut.

The series, inspired by President Trump's announcement of the creation of a new branch of the military called Space Force, is "largely unfunny" with "little to warrant a recommendation," and "there is an absence of a point of view," writes The Daily Beast.

Time agrees the show is "a bust," while Entertainment Weekly describes it as "an innocuous and startlingly unfunny sitcom" that "often plays like a show that was reverse-engineered around a title" and is surprisingly apolitical despite the subject matter. Variety says it's "just okay" and sometimes "buckles under the weight of its own ambition," while The Hollywood Reporter says the show "isn't close to consistent," and Consequence of Sound deems it a show "for people either desperate for new Office content, or who still find 'covfefe' funny."

Some slightly more positive reviews for Space Force were still fairly lukewarm, as IndieWire gave it a B rating while describing the comedy as "serviceable."

This is Carell's first regular starring role in a comedy series since his departure from The Office, and it comes to Netflix as the streamer is set to lose The Office's streaming rights. Space Force is also the second Carell-starring streaming show that looked like a sure bet on paper but was met with unexpectedly mixed-to-negative reviews from critics after Apple's The Morning Show. For those interested in giving Space Force a shot, its liftoff is set for May 29. Brendan Morrow

10:12 a.m.

Robinhood should consider changing its name to the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The past two days have turned Wall Street on its head as Reddit users colluded to buy massive amounts of GameStop stock, with the explicit aim of hurting hedge funds that profit off shorting the typically falling stock. A lot of that GameStop trading happened on Robinhood, a free app that allows people to trade small amounts of stocks. But on Thursday, Robinhood decided to betray its name and halt purchases of GameStop stock, as well as stock from other nostalgic companies.

Robinhood said in a Thursday blog post that after "recent volatility," it wasn't allowing the purchase of new stock from GameStop, AMC, BlackBerry, Bed Bath and Beyond, Koss headphones, and Nokia, as well as the newly listed Naked brands that may have gotten caught up in the Reddit boom. Robinhood also raised margin requirements for some securities, meaning users have to front more of their own money to buy the securities, ostensibly benefiting those with more cash. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab also increased margin requirements for GameStop stock on Wednesday.

Robinhood has framed the decision as a way to "help our customers navigate this uncertainty" in its blog post. The Verge meanwhile noted one hedge fund suffering amid the GameStop surge was Melvin Capital Management, which another hedge fund, Citadel, has since bailed out. Citadel's founder is Ken Griffin, who also founded Citadel Securities, a big investor in Robinhood that also works with TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab.

While Robinhood's everyday users may be blocked from trading these newly booming stocks, they were able to exact revenge against the app with a wave of one-star Google app store reviews. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:12 a.m.

The U.S. economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic just had its worst year in over seven decades.

The Commerce Department on Thursday said the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, resulting in the worst year for growth since 1946, The Washington Post reports. This was also the U.S. economy's first yearly contraction since 2009 amid the Great Recession.

The report represented a "major disappointment and hit to the nascent recovery in the domestic economy," RSM economist Joseph Brusuelas said, per Axios. It also "showed the recovery from the pandemic losing steam" late in 2020, Reuters reports, with GDP increasing at only a 4.0 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter.

The numbers came on Thursday morning at about the same time the Labor Department reported that another 847,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, a decline from the week before but still a historically high number.

"The virus is in the driver's seat — there's no getting around it," Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said, per The Wall Street Journal. "Until we control the pandemic, we can't hope for a full recovery economically." Brendan Morrow

9:09 a.m.

President Biden will be reopening the Affordable Care Act's online health insurance marketplace for a special enrollment period of three months, the White House has announced.

The White House on Thursday said Biden will sign an executive order allowing Americans to sign up for health insurance via HealthCare.gov from Feb. 15 through May. 15, Reuters reports.

"This special enrollment period will give Americans that need health care coverage during this global pandemic the opportunity to sign up," the White House said.

Open enrollment on the health insurance exchange for those who aren't insured through their employer would previously only be for six weeks, and the most recent period ended in December, CNN reports. Exceptions are made for those with major life changes, The Washington Post notes.

According to The New York Times, this special enrollment period announced by the White House is "intended to help people who have lost coverage in the past year, but it will be open to those who want health insurance for any reason."

The White House additionally said Biden will be directing "federal agencies to reconsider rules and other policies that limit Americans' access to health care," as well as issuing a memorandum "to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care" and rescinding the "Mexico City policy" that "bars international non-profits that provide abortion counseling or referrals from receiving U.S. funding." Brendan Morrow

8:00 a.m.

Facebook is evidently now looking to minimize politics on its platform, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company hopes to "turn down the temperature."

Zuckerberg during an earnings call Wednesday announced Facebook will stop recommending political and civic groups to users, which he described as a "continuation of work we've been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations," Politico reports.

The social media company has long faced criticism over the amount of misinformation and polarization on its platform, with its recommendations being a frequent target of these complaints. Facebook previously said it would be putting these recommendations on pause in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Politico notes. Additionally, Zuckerberg said Wednesday the company plans to take action to reduce the amount of politics in users' news feeds, Axios reports, but he didn't offer any further information on that effort.

"There has been a trend across society that a lot of things have become politicized and politics have had a way of creeping into everything," Zuckerberg said. "A lot of the feedback we see from our community is that people don't want that in their experience."

Zuckerberg added that if users do want to discuss politics or join political groups, "they should be able to," but "we are not serving community well to be recommending that content right now."

The company by looking to "downplay politics" on the platform was "backing away from arguments it's long made that political speech is vital to free expression," Axios wrote. The decision came after various companies have taken steps to either ban political ads or limit them in certain situations, not to mention after numerous platforms suspended former President Donald Trump, leading Axios to conclude, "The social platforms that profited massively on politics and free speech suddenly want a way out — or at least a way to hide until the heat cools." Brendan Morrow

7:56 a.m.

When former President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans rushed through the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett right before November's election, then-candidate Joe Biden promised that if he won, he would create a bipartisan commission to study how to reform the Supreme Court and federal judiciary. Now that he has been sworn in as president, he's moving forward, staffing the commission and placing it under the aegis of the White House Counsel's office, Politico reports.

The commission will be co-chaired by Bob Bauer, Biden's campaign lawyer, and Cristina Rodríguez, a Yale Law School professor and alumna of the Obama Justice Department, Politico reports. Others named to the commission include Jack Goldsmith, a Bush Justice Department official who now teaches at Harvard Law School, and Caroline Fredrickson, former president of the American Constitution Society, Politico says. The panel will likely end up with nine to 15 members.

Bipartisan commissions are the "classic Washington, D.C., punt," Politico notes, and progressives who favor adding justices to the Supreme Court — an idea Fredrickson at least seems open to — and judicial term limits are not optimistic. "Commissions are often places where ideas go to die and there is no time on the clock to reform the court," said Aaron Belkin, director of the progressive group Take Back the Court. "The entire agenda of what needs to get done is in jeopardy thanks to stolen federal courts."

The White House told Politico only that Biden "remains committed to an expert study of the role and debate over reform of the court and will have more to say in the coming weeks." Peter Weber

6:57 a.m.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) flies to Florida to raise money on Thursday, and he's making a stop at Mar-a-Lago to meet with former President Donald Trump around lunchtime, Politico reports. McCarthy reportedly asked for the meeting, his first with Trump since the Jan. 6 Capitol siege by a mob of Trump supporters, and he has been effusive about the tête-à-tête. "Kevin can't shut up about it," one Trump adviser joked to Politico.

McCarthy sees the visit as a way to smooth over their absolute "soap opera" of a relationship since the insurrection, and also as a way to inquire about Trump's political plans, Politico reports. "Unlike Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who reportedly doesn't want to speak to the ex-president ever again, McCarthy believes it's in his interest to be on Trump's good side," since Trump is still widely popular with the GOP base McCarthy needs to show up in 2022.

But "Trump world is ecstatic about the visit," too, "viewing the huddle as proof of a comeback in the making," Politico adds. Trump will "give Kevin an earful" about the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, the Trump adviser said. But McCarthy's pilgrimage is "the first solid bit of evidence that Donald Trump is still in charge of the party." Read more at Politico's Playbook. Peter Weber

5:57 a.m.

"Republicans have a Marjorie Taylor Greene problem. Again," The Associated Press reports. House GOP leaders urged voters in Georgia's 14th Congressional District to pick someone else in the primary, wary of Greene's QAnon allegiance and documented history of racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim comments. After she prevailed in the primary, they pushed for her victory in the general election. She won.

Calls for Greene's ouster from the House started days after she was seated. And Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) said Wednesday he will introduce a measure to expel her, following new scrutiny of her social media history. CNN's KFILE got that ball rolling Tuesday.

Then the floodgates opened. Greene has called various deadly school shootings and the Las Vegas music festival massacre "false flag" events, questioned 9/11, and endorsed some foul QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories.

Republican leaders are, once again, appalled. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Greene's posts are "disgusting," have "no place in our party" and "should be looked into," adding that "QAnon is beyond fringe. I think it's dangerous." Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called Greene "a RINO," or Republican in Name Only. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said through a spokesman that her comments are "deeply disturbing" and he "plans to have a conversation with the congresswoman about them."

In 2019, McCarthy stripped former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of all his committee assignments after he expressed support for white supremacists, AP reports. "Greene was named this week to the House Education and Labor Committee." CNN's Erin Burnett called that assignment doubly disturbing, given Greene's dismissal of school shootings, but said McCarthy knows some of the money Greene is raising off her outrages will go to the House GOP campaign committee.

Greene issued a weak and incredible non-denial denial of her social media activity, but the "steady stream of revelations" plus "Greene's puzzling defense of herself should make Republicans wonder how long they can put up with this," Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post. "We tend to overestimate how much a politician like that can drag down their national party, but Greene's lack of remorse and candor reinforces how much of a loose cannon she could be moving forward." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads