April 8, 2021

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday evening that state child welfare officials have received three reports of neglect and abuse at a San Antonio coliseum being used by the federal government to house more than 1,300 migrant teens who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. "This facility should shut down immediately," Abbott said at a hastily arranged news conference outside San Antonio's Freeman Expo Center. "The children should be moved to better staffed and better secured locations."

Abbott said he did not have many details about the alleged abuse, reported early Wednesday, but he believes the reports came from somebody who had been inside the facility. One of the allegations included sexual abuse, he said, and he also heard reports of children not eating and not being separated after testing positive for COVID-19. Abbott, a frequent critic of President Biden's border policies, acknowledged he had not yet been inside the coliseum.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the temporary migrant facility, said it can't comment on any specific cases but "has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behavior."

Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores (D), who has been inside the facility as both an elected official and volunteer, disputed Abbott's characterization. "What I saw when I went in there on several occasions, it was well-staffed, the children are very happy and very excited to be here," she said after Abbott left. "This is not a political issue. This is about children who deserve protection from adults." She and Abbott toured the facility after he spoke to reporters, Clay-Flores said, and "I wish the governor had done his tour before the press conference when he politicized children."

The Biden administration has opened at least eight temporary facilities in Texas to house the unusually large number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the seasonal flow of migrants to the border. "To staff its emergency sites, HHS waived regulations that normally apply to its permanent facilities, including bypassing FBI fingerprint background checks for all caregivers," The Associated Press reports. "There is no information to suggest any staff member is accused of assaulting a child."

"Vulnerable children are often victims of sexual assault," The Texas Tribune reports. "In Texas, children kept in foster care and state-run juvenile lockups often report sexual assault, as well, without the governor's immediate intervention." Peter Weber

8:11 a.m.

China's antitrust regulator doled out a record 18.2 billion yuan fine to e-commerce giant Alibaba on Saturday for abusing its market dominance. The figure is equivalent to $2.8 billion and 4 percent of the company's domestic annual sales. Additionally, Alibaba will have to revamp its operations and submit a "self-examination compliance report" within three years, per The Wall Street Journal.

Considering the penalty far surpasses Qualcomm's previous record $975 million fine in terms of raw money (relatively that was a bigger hit) it seems like a real blow to Alibaba, especially since its founder Jack Ma remains under heavy government scrutiny after criticizing Beijing's regulatory restrictions. But it may actually be a weight off the company's shoulders, at least for now.

"China's record fine on Alibaba may lift the regulatory uncertainty that has weighed on the company since the start of an anti-monopoly probe in late December," Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Vey Sern-Ling and Tiffany Tam said. They described the fine as a small price to pay for some clarity.

The fine alone shouldn't be too much to worry about for Alibaba, suggested Jeffrey Towson, a former professor at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management. "That is serious money, but it's not going to hinder their development," he told the Journal.

In a statement, Alibaba said it "accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination."

That said, Bloomberg called the Alibaba investigation "one of the opening salvos in a campaign seemingly designed to curb the power of China's internet leaders and their billionaire founders" like Ma, so there may be more to come. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

April 9, 2021

Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who performed George Floyd's autopsy, testified in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Friday, telling jurors that the primary cause of Floyd's death was the restraint of his body and pressure on his neck.

Chauvin's defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that Floyd's underlying health issues and drug use were to blame for his death while Chauvin was arresting him in May 2020, reports The New York Times. Baker testified that while Floyd's heart disease and drug use were "contributing conditions," compression of his neck was the primary cause of death.

Baker said medical examiners are allowed to classify the manner of death as "undetermined" if circumstances are unclear, but in this case, he classified Floyd's death as "homicide." Read more at The New York Times. The Week Staff

April 9, 2021

Taylor Swift didn't re-record 27 tracks for Fearless (Taylor's Version) just for fans to listen to the one owned by her former label/sworn enemy, Big Machine.

Following Friday's midnight release of Fearless (Taylor's Version) — for which Swift re-recorded her music after failing to acquire the rights to her early albums two years ago — Swifties launched a campaign to bury the Big Machine version on Spotify.

The instructions — which involve looking up Fearless (Platinum Edition), clicking the three dots to "hide this song," and then repeating the process "for all the songs" — are intended to make it so the "old versions don't play during shuffle," a fan account said. "[For] Swifties who want to heed Taylor's call to stop supporting her old albums ... it's pretty much mandatory," TMZ wrote. Jeva Lange

April 9, 2021

Being an 11-time Grammy Award nominee is maybe not as glamorous as you might think.

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who shares two daughters with her wife, Catherine Shepherd, published her memoir, Broken Horses, this week, and in it details the complexities of being both a music star and a parent.

Describing the morning that she learned that she and her bandmates had received six Grammy nominations for their album By the Way, I Forgive You, Carlile writes that "both my kids woke up vomiting. That's what I love about the juxtaposition of my jobs. You'd think that it would be a total downer to spend a day like that getting life-affirming news and simultaneously being thrown up on and stuck in front of Dora the Explorer all day, but it was PERFECT."

Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

April 9, 2021

Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes ... Travis sucking Kourtney's fingers in public. Then comes Travis with a Kourtney tattoo.

Even though Kourtney and Travis have been friends and neighbors for years, things are moving pretty quickly for the new couple, who've only been public with their relationship since January 2021. Travis has seemingly already devoted himself to Kourtney with the permanence of a tattoo, having apparently gotten her name inked over his heart — at least judging by shirtless photos of him on the set of his new music video, reports Cosmopolitan.

Kourtney's ex, Scott Disick, recently was rumored to not be "threatened" by Kourtney and Travis' blossoming relationship, although that might quickly be changing… Read more at Cosmopolitan. Jeva Lange

April 9, 2021

After recently unveiling positive trial results, Pfizer and BioNTech are looking to get their COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in adolescents between 12 and 15 before the next school year.

Pfizer announced Friday that it has submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15.

The request came after the companies last week said a phase 3 study showed the vaccine, which has already been approved for those 16 and older, to be 100 percent effective in this age group. The study consisted of 2,260 adolescents between 12 and 15, and there were no COVID-19 cases reported among the group that was vaccinated, with the vaccine demonstrating "robust antibody responses, exceeding those recorded earlier in vaccinated participants aged 16 to 25 years old," the companies said.

Pfizer's goal, it says, is to make the vaccine available to adolescents between 12 and 15 before the start of the 2021 school year. Meanwhile, according to NBC News, the company is also studying the vaccine in children between 6 months and 11 years old, and the first participants in that trial were dosed last month. Brendan Morrow

April 9, 2021

Employees at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a union. The final tally, announced Friday, was 1,798 "no" votes and 738 "yes" votes.

The labor drive was the most significant in Amazon's history, and would have had a far-reaching ripple effect if it had succeeded, likely encouraging other Amazon workers to organize, as well as employees of other major competitors, like Walmart. Even though Amazon managed to squash this particular drive, The Hill reports the visible organizing effort alone was enough for the RWDSU union to pick up momentum. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union says it has heard from hundreds of Amazon workers across the country since the Alabama warehouse drive began, writes The Hill.

As separate unionizing efforts begin, The New York Times reports Bessemer's outcome will likely "lead to a rethinking of strategy inside the labor movement." The Times predicts future organizers will pivot away from emphasizing location-specific concerns and "focus more on backing national policies, such as a higher federal minimum wage, than unionizing individual workplaces."

The spotlight on Bessemer may also reach the national level in another way — writes The Hill, Amazon's victory over the union may bring more attention to the Democratic-backed PRO Act, which offers protections for employees trying to unionize. The bill passed the House and remains in the Senate.

This particular union battle will likely continue to set new precedents for organizers as the RWDSU challenges the results. Union leaders accused Amazon of "blatantly illegal conduct," which Amazon denies, arguing the company engaged in illegal union-busting tactics like intimidating employees and harvesting ballots, reports The Washington Examiner. The union vowed to "demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election." Summer Meza

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