She then worked as a staff attorney with the Community Legal Aid Society, where she represented the needy and victims of domestic violence. She moved to a corporate law role at the firm Young Conaway Stargatt and Taylor in 2007, a mainstay in the Delaware legal circuit.

In 2018, she was nominated by John Carney, the governor of Delaware, to serve as vice chancellor on the state’s high court, the Delaware Chancery Court. In 2021, Gov. Carney nominated Ms. McCormick to become the first woman to lead the court.

More than 1.8 million businesses are incorporated in Delaware, including more than two thirds of Fortune 500 companies — and they all look to the court for guidance. When Twitter filed its lawsuit against Mr. Musk in July forcing him to close his acquisition, its case went to Delaware, where the company, like many others, is incorporated.

Judge McCormick, who has first dibs on any proceeding that comes before the court, chose herself of among a court of seven judges to oversee one of the most high profile corporate court battles in years.

At a hearing in September, as lawyers for Mr. Musk argued to delay the trial to take into account new claims from a whistle-blower, she poked at the billionaire’s decision to skip due diligence in his race to sign the deal in April. When Mr. Musk’s lawyer argued it would have been impossible to find out about the whistle-blower before the deal, she interjected, “We’ll never know, will we?” She added that “there was no due diligence.”

wrote in a ruling.

“She evidently was not putting up with any nonsense,” said Lawrence Hamermesh, a professor of law at Delaware Law School.

In October, after weeks of presiding over bruising back and forth arguments between the two sides, Judge McCormick granted Mr. Musk’s requests to put the trial on hold to give him more time to complete his financing for the acquisition. Judge McCormick granted him until Oct. 28 — a three-week delay.

“She had one eye on the clock,” said Brian Quinn, a professor at Boston College Law School, noting the two sides did not seem ready for a trial just two weeks away. “Another eye,” Mr. Quinn said, was “on potential appeals. She is looking forward saying, ‘Well, what if I ruled against Musk, and he appealed, and his appeal is that I pushed him — I rushed him toward the trial when he wanted to close the deal.’”

Judge McCormick is well-versed in trials involving deals with buyers that tried to walk away. As an associate at the law firm Young Conaway Stargatt and Taylor, she worked on cases involving deals that went awry when the stock market crashed in 2008. That included representing the chemical company Huntsman in 2008 when the private equity firm Apollo Global Management scuttled the deal it had struck to combine the chemical company with another it owned.

That deal, and others like it, paved the way for the kinds of contracts Twitter signed with Mr. Musk. Sellers learned how to prevent buyers from trying similar escape hatches. Companies increasingly structure deals with “specific performance” clauses allowing them to force a deal to close.

to follow through with its acquisition of a cake supplier after it argued that the pandemic had materially damaged the business by curbing demand for party cake.

Kohlberg contended it could not complete the deal because its debt financing had fallen apart. Judge McCormick did not buy that argument.

If Mr. Musk does not come through with Twitter’s money by Friday, that could ding his credibility in court, legal experts say. That could matter in November, when Judge McCormick is set to preside over a separate trial involving Mr. Musk and his compensation.

The case, filed in 2018, had originally been assigned to another judge on the Delaware Chancery Court, Joseph R. Slights III, before he retired in January. Judge McCormick picked up the case on Jan. 12, the same month Mr. Musk began to buy up shares of Twitter stock that ultimately led to his planned purchase of the company.

“It’s not ideal for him,” said Ann Lipton, a professor of corporate governance at Tulane Law School, of Mr. Musk’s multiple run-ins with Judge McCormick. “She’s uniquely low drama, which is the opposite of Musk. ”

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Liberal U.S. lawmakers withdraw Ukraine letter after blowback

WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) – A group of liberal U.S. Democrats withdrew a letter to the White House urging a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine, the group’s chairperson, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, said on Tuesday, after blowback from within their own party.

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine,” Jayapal said in a statement. She added: “The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting.” read more

The letter signed by 30 caucus members became public on Monday, leaving some other Democrats feeling blindsided just two weeks before Nov. 8 mid-term elections that will determine which political party controls Congress. And it appeared just as Republicans face concerns that their party might cut back military and humanitarian aid that has helped Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

Several members of the Progressive Caucus issued statements expressing support for Ukraine, noting that they had joined other Democrats in voting for billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine.

Some said they had signed the letter months earlier and that things had changed. “Timing in diplomacy is everything. I signed this letter on June 30, but a lot has changed since then. I wouldn’t sign it today,” Representative Sara Jacobs said on Twitter.

Representative Jamie Raskin, who also signed, said in a statement he was glad to learn it had been withdrawn and noted “its unfortunate timing and other flaws.”

Ukraine’s troops have been waging a successful counteroffensive, with forces advancing into Russian-occupied Kherson province and threatening a major defeat for Moscow.

‘BLANK CHECK’

The letter drew immediate pushback, including from within the Progressive Caucus. “Russia doesn’t acknowledge diplomacy, only strength. If we want Ukraine to continue as a free and democratic country that it is, we must support their fight,” Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego, a caucus member, said in a written comment.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, told Punchbowl News in an interview this month that there would be no “blank check” for Ukraine if Republicans take over. That fed speculation that Republicans might stop aid to Kyiv, although many members of the party said that was not their intention.

In her statement withdrawing the letter, Jayapal said that, because of the timing, the letter was being conflated as being equivalent to McCarthy’s remark.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Every war ends with diplomacy, and this one will too after Ukrainian victory. The letter sent yesterday, although restating that basic principle, has been conflated with GOP opposition to support for the Ukrainians’ just defense of their national sovereignty. As such, it is a distraction at this time and we withdraw the letter,” Jayapal’s statement said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said both Democrats and Republicans support continued assistance for Ukraine and he did not think the letter would put U.S. support into question.

“In recent days, we’ve heard from Democrats, we’ve heard from Republicans, that they understand the need to continue to stand with Ukraine, to stand for the principles that are at play here,” he told a news briefing.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Russia Masses Troops in Belarus, but New Offensive Appears Unlikely

Credit…Emile Ducke for The New York Times

RIGA, Latvia — Russia is massing thousands of troops in its western neighbor Belarus ahead of what could be the opening of a new front aimed at disrupting the flow of Western military aid from Poland, according to defense officials in Latvia and Ukraine.

However, the assembled forces, about 10,000 troops, may still be too weak to make a successful new thrust south from Belarus, Latvia’s defense minister, Artis Pabriks, said on Friday.

“We have to be cautious, but I doubt that Russians are at this moment capable of opening another front line against Ukraine, at least not a successful front,” Mr. Pabriks said in an interview in Riga, the capital of Latvia, which borders both Russia and Belarus.

An announcement last week by Belarus that it was forming a new joint military force with Russia stirred alarm in the West that the Kremlin might be preparing a new ground assault with help from Belarusian forces. Russia massed troops in Belarus ahead of its initial attack on Ukraine in February.

On Thursday, a Ukrainian general, Oleksiy Gromov, said that the threat of a possible invasion from Belarus was growing. He said that a new attack would likely not drive toward Kyiv — which lies just 60 miles from the border with Belarus — but rather to the west of the capital, nearer to the Polish border. An offensive south from western Belarus into Ukrainian territory near the border with Poland could disrupt the flow of weapons to Ukraine from the United States and its allies, much of which passes through Poland.

Russia used the territory of Belarus, its closest military and political ally, as a staging ground for its February invasion and has since launched missiles and drones into Ukraine from there. But President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s veteran strongman leader, has resisted Russia’s pressure to get directly involved in the war.

On Friday, Mr. Lukashenko said it would be undesirable for Belarusian military equipment to be used in Ukraine and denied his country’s troops were training for war, adding “no war today. We don’t need it,” the state news agency Belta reported.

Mr. Lukashenko made a similar statement in February, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine from his territory.

On Friday, Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement that if the country were attacked again from Belarus, it would “respond as fiercely as we respond to all occupiers.”

The flurry of military activity in Belarus in recent days, Britain’s defense ministry said on Friday, is “likely an attempt to demonstrate Russian-Belarusian solidarity and to convince Ukraine to divert forces to guard the northern border.”

Noting claims by Mr. Lukashenko that 70,000 Belarusians and 15,000 Russians would be involved in their new joint force, Britain’s defense ministry said it was unlikely that Russia had actually deployed significant forces and added that Belarus “maintains minimal capability to undertake complex operations.”

Vadym Skibitsky, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, said in an interview that Ukraine also did not see an immediate threat of another attack from Belarus.

Several thousand newly mobilized Russian soldiers are deployed in Belarus at training sites, Mr. Skibitsky said, but they are not accompanied by tanks, artillery or fuel trucks and other logistical support they would need to invade and face Ukraine’s battle-hardened troops.

“We see these elements now moving into Belarus, but we do not see the movement of equipment,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, also played down the likelihood of a new Russian invasion from Belarus. “We don’t currently have any indications of a potential imminent military action on that front,” he told a briefing on Thursday.

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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How Ukraine’s Surrogate Mothers Have Survived the War

KYIV, Ukraine — After months huddled in a basement to escape shelling, a surrogate mother named Viktoria was able to get her family, and the unborn child she carried for foreign clients, away from the fighting in northeastern Ukraine.

She could do so, she said, because her employer, a surrogacy agency, had offered financial aid and an apartment in the capital, Kyiv, to ensure her safety and the baby’s. And although she had initially been reluctant to leave her home, Kharkiv, even under artillery attacks, she is now glad to live in relative security.

“I would not have left if the clinic had not persuaded me,” she said.

Viktoria is one of hundreds of surrogate mothers who have brought pregnancies to term over seven harrowing months, running for safety as air-raid sirens sounded, surviving in bomb shelters, then fleeing from ruined towns to deliver children for parents abroad.

Before Russia invaded in February, Ukraine was a major provider of surrogacy, one of the few countries that allows it for foreign clients. After a pause in the spring, surrogacy agencies are resuming their work, reviving an industry that many childless people rely on but that critics have called exploitative and that, in peacetime, was already ethically and logistically complex.

the business would unravel — especially as Russia tried and failed to seize Kyiv in the war’s early weeks — have proved overblown. Life in western and central Ukraine has largely stabilized despite fighting in southern and eastern regions and the continued risks of long-range missile strikes.

“We did not lose a single one,” said Ihor Pechenoha, the medical director at BioTexCom, Ukraine’s largest surrogacy agency and clinic. “We managed to bring all our surrogate mothers out from under occupation and shelling.”

marooned in a basement nursery in Kyiv. For weeks and months, it was difficult or impossible for biological parents to reach their children in Ukraine, but by August, all of the babies had gone home.

The war has not diminished the appeal of surrogacy for couples desperate to have children, said Albert Tochylovsky, the director of BioTexCom. “They are in a hurry,” he said. “To explain, ‘We have a war going on,’ doesn’t work.”

Before Russia launched its full-scale invasion, BioTexCom was impregnating about 50 women per month. Since the beginning of June, the company has begun at least 15 new pregnancies.

With the money that the business brings in, Mr. Tochylovsky said, surrogate mothers have been moved from frontline towns and Russia-occupied regions to safer places, like Kyiv.

criticism that it leaves poor women vulnerable to exploitation by clients and agencies. Advocates of gestational surrogacy, in which surrogate mothers undergo in vitro fertilization to deliver the babies of clients who cannot have children on their own, say the practice is invaluable to such couples and offers a potentially life-changing sum for surrogates.

“I do it for money, but why not?” said Olha, 28, who started a new surrogate pregnancy this summer. “I have good health and can help people who have money” and want children, she added.

Before the war, the business thrived in Ukraine, where surrogate mothers typically earn about $20,000 per child they deliver. The war has made financial security even more urgent.

One 30-year-old surrogate mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she had evacuated from Melitopol in Russia-occupied southern Ukraine and feared she could be targeted for reprisal, said she credited the job with getting her family out. “With the help of surrogacy,” she said, “I saved my family.”

many new quandaries for the women, clients and medical personnel. Viktoria and her family face one such dilemma: Her payment will help them survive, but it is far from clear where they should go after her recovery from a C-section. The family has remained in the apartment rented by the clinic in Kyiv; her hometown, Kharkiv, is still hit by regular shelling.

For many surrogate mothers, the question was about where to deliver. Threats included not just fighting, but how the authorities established by the Russian occupation government would handle a surrogate birth.

A surrogate named Nadia lived in a village in Russia-occupied territory that was not at risk of artillery shelling. But she decided to evacuate to Ukrainian-controlled territory to deliver the baby, lest the biological parents be deprived of custody, and she lose the fee.

She spent two days with her husband and 11-year-old daughter sleeping in a car on a roadside that is sometimes shelled, waiting to cross the front line.

Ms. Burkovska, the small-agency owner, went into the war with two stranded surrogate babies in her care. In contrast to most surrogacy agencies, she cares for newborns in her own home before biological parents pick them up. For a time, she had to shelter in a basement with the newborns, her partner and her own children.

As more babies arrived in the first months of war, she wound up with seven newborns whose biological parents could not immediately retrieve them, as travel to wartime Ukraine became difficult and as some remaining coronavirus restrictions, like China’s, caused delays.

Ms. Burkovska’s own children helped care for the infants until their parents could get them. By August, most of the parents had arrived to pick up their children.

A Chinese client with BioTexCom, Zhang Zong, was one of those who struggled to reach Kyiv through travel delays. He said the wait had been excruciating. “I was very worried because of the war,” he said.

Meeting his 6-month-old son, he said, was both thrilling and a little strange. “I was extremely excited when they let me hug him,” Mr. Zhang said. “He has been here for a long time and everyone hugs him, everyone likes him, and I am not so special.”

But he added that was only for now. “When he grows up,” Mr. Zhang said, “I can tell him this story.”

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Live Updates: Germany Rushes Air Defense System to Ukraine as Allies Discuss More Military Aid

KYIV, Ukraine — Six and a half feet down a ladder inside a small shed at the back of Oleksandr Kadet’s home is an underground room with a cement hatch that he hopes he never has to use.

For the past two weeks, Mr. Kadet, 32, said that he and his wife, who live outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, had been preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack by stocking the room — an old well that they converted into a bunker — with bottled water, canned food, radios and power banks.

“We are more anxious now, especially after yesterday’s attacks,” Mr. Kadet said on Tuesday, a day after a series of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine. “But we do think that in case of a nuclear explosion, we will be able to survive if we stay in the shelter for some time.”

Credit…Oleksandr Kadet

The fears of escalation rose on Saturday after an attack on the 12-mile Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Initially, Ukrainians celebrated, but that quickly gave way to worry that such a brazen assault on a symbol of President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule could prompt a severe retaliation.

Even before these recent events, though, concerns about the potential for a nuclear disaster had increasingly been making their way into Ukraine’s national psyche. The fear is that Russia could either use tactical nuclear arms or launch a conventional attack on one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

U.S. officials have said they think the chances of Russia’s using nuclear weapons are low, and senior American officials say they have seen no evidence that Mr. Putin is moving any of his nuclear assets.

On Sunday, Mr. Putin called the assault on the bridge a “terrorist attack aimed at destroying the critically important civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation.”

But his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, appeared to tamp down fears of a nuclear reprisal, saying that the attack on the bridge did not fall within the category under Russia’s defense doctrine that allowed for such a response.

Last month, Mr. Putin raised fears that he could resort to nuclear weapons when he warned that he would “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” if Russian-controlled territory was threatened.

“This is not a bluff,” he said.

Days later, Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian territories.

Mr. Kadet, who noted that he had begun preparing two weeks ago, said it felt better to have an action plan.

“It’s psychologically easier because you know you are at least somehow prepared for it,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee it will save you, but at least you’re ready.”

Residents of Kyiv said that they had felt wary even before the most recent missile strikes there on Monday.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Immediately after the bridge attack, many Ukrainians had shared their glee on social media. They toasted triumphantly in the capital’s bars over the weekend, and posed for selfies in front of posters of the burning bridge.

But the worry soon set in.

“I feel this real fear about how the Russians will answer this,” said Krystina Gevorkova, 30, who was shopping with her friend in Kyiv on Sunday. “Earlier it had felt safer here,” she added. “Now, I have this feeling like something is going to happen.”

Kyiv has for months been spared the worst of the Russian onslaught while Moscow focused its attention instead on southeastern Ukraine. But on Monday, a Russian missile struck just blocks away from where Ms. Gevorkova had spoken.

She said that she had been reading up on how to stay safe during a nuclear war, but that she was skeptical that it would help.

“We can’t really do anything,” she said.

The war has felt far from Kyiv in recent months, as life’s rhythms return to a semblance of normalcy after Russian forces were ousted from parts of northeastern Ukraine. Nevertheless, the city has also been slowly preparing for a potential nuclear attack.

The Kyiv City Council said on Friday that potassium iodide pills would be distributed to residents in case of a nuclear incident “based on medical recommendations,” adding that the pills were also available in city pharmacies.

Potassium iodide is used to saturate a person’s thyroid with iodine so that radioactive iodine inhaled or ingested after exposure will not be retained by the gland.

Alina Bozhedomova, 23, a pharmacist in Kyiv, said that customers were coming in daily looking for the pills, but added, “I haven’t seen people panicking about it.”

Some elementary schools have advised parents to prepare emergency packs for their children to keep with them at school.

Nadiia Stelmakh, 50, who works in a market selling home goods, said that one mother had come to her with a list from the school that included latex gloves, a poncho, boot covers, tissues, wet wipes and a flashlight.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

“People are really concerned right now,” she said. Her husband, Volodymyr Stelmakh, who has another stall nearby, agreed.

“I have an emergency bag packed,” he said, “but I think if the nuclear threat is imminent, you will have no time to run away.

After worries grew about the security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the country’s southeast in recent weeks, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health issued guidance about how to respond to a nuclear incident.

The risk of nuclear fallout can feel very real in Ukraine, a country that still bears the scars of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Chernobyl is only about 60 miles north of Kyiv.

And some who experienced the life-threatening fallout firsthand say that they, possibly more than anyone, understand the full risk of nuclear exposure. Oleksandr, 55, who asked that his last name not be used, said that he and his family had fled Chernobyl for Kyiv immediately after the meltdown, when he was just 18.

His family closely followed guidance to move south, as winds were pushing radioactive materials north, and he said that was the only reason they escaped unscathed.

“Now, people here are really not ready. People don’t know what to do,” he said. “There is not enough information.”

He owns a market stand that sells household necessities and said that more people had come in during the past two weeks preparing for a nuclear disaster, buying flashlights, batteries, knives, radios and small camp stoves.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

While some were preparing for the worst, others remained optimistic that Russia would never carry out such an extreme attack, which would draw international outrage.

Dmytro Yastrub, 31, said he felt more concerned about Mr. Putin using conventional weapons to target Kyiv.

“I presume something will happen” after the bridge attack, he said, standing outside a bar in the Kyiv city center on Sunday evening with a group of friends. But, he added, the risk of a nuclear attack was not weighing heavy on his mind.

Svetlana Zozulia, 47, and her husband, Vladyslav Zozulia, 37, were walking in central Kyiv with their daughter, Anastasiia, 11, on Sunday night. Ms. Zozulia said she tried to remain optimistic and did not believe that Mr. Putin would launch a nuclear attack on Ukraine.

But she did buy potassium iodide tablets just in case, she said.

“I think our success disturbs him,” Ms. Zozulia said. “But there is also a threat for him if he chooses a nuclear attack.”

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting

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Biden, Florida’s DeSantis stress unity in Hurricane Ian recovery

FORT MYERS, Fla., Oct 5 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden met with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday to assess the devastation from Hurricane Ian, and stressed the need for a united federal and state effort for the lengthy recovery ahead.

Biden, a Democrat, and DeSantis, his potential 2024 Republican presidential rival, have clashed over multiple issues including COVID-19 vaccines, abortion and LGBT rights.

They largely set those differences aside during the visit to hard-hit Fort Myers as Biden pledged federal support for a cleanup and rebuilding effort that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars and take years to complete.

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Biden and DeSantis greeted each other warmly and stood shoulder to shoulder as they met with victims of the hurricane.

“Mr. President, welcome to Florida. We appreciate working together across various levels of government,” DeSantis, often a blistering critic of the president, told Biden during remarks after the tour.

“We’re in this together,” said Biden, who referred to DeSantis as ‘Guv,’ and complimented the “good job” the governor had done. “We’ve worked hand-in-glove. We have very different political philosophies.”

More than 100 people died and nearly 400,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Florida on Tuesday, five days after Hurricane Ian crashed across the state.

Biden opened his remarks by saying the storm showed climate change was real and needed to be addressed, something some in DeSantis’s Republican party have denied. “I think the one thing this has finally ended is a discussion about whether or not there’s climate change and we should do something about it,” he said.

Climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and altogether more intense, experts say.

The president also stressed the amount of federal help Florida receive for storm aid and as part of Democrat-backed spending, including $13 billion over the next five years for highways and bridges.

“The key here is building back better and stronger to withstand the next storm. We can’t build back to what it was before. You got to build back better, because we know more is coming,” he said.

Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived in Fort Meyers early Wednesday afternoon, two days after visiting Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory battered by Hurricane Fiona last month.

Biden got an aerial view of the destruction during a helicopter flight and called the destruction “horrific.”

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, INSURANCE QUESTIONS

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said it would cost the federal government billions of dollars to repair the damage from the storm.

“We are still very much in the lifesaving and stabilization mode. They are just beginning the assessments of what the actual extent of damages to the infrastructure. It’s going to be in the billions,” Criswell told reporters on Air Force One.

Biden and Criswell also suggested Wednesday that Florida’s insurance industry, which faces tens of billions of dollars in losses for the storm, could come under increasing scrutiny.

“The fact of the matter is, states like Florida, where they’ve had a lot of natural disasters because of flooding and hurricanes and the like – the insurance industry is being very stretched,” Biden said. “We’re going to have to have a hard look at whether or not the insurance industry can be sustained.”

Fort Myers Mayor Ray Murphy, who also manages commercial real estate, told Reuters he and Biden were having a friendly chat and “trying to encourage each other” in a colorful exchange picked up by a microphone.

“No one fucks with a Biden,” the president told Murphy, to which the mayor replied: “You’re goddamn right … That’s exactly right.”

Murphy, elected on a nonpartisan basis, said there was no mention of DeSantis in the brief conversation.

Biden visited Florida in July after a condominium complex collapsed and killed nearly 100 people, and stressed cooperation with DeSantis at the time.

But before Hurricane Ian hit, Biden had planned a rally in the political battleground state where Democratic officials expected the president to attack the governor.

On climate change, Biden has made reducing carbon emissions a focus of his presidency, while DeSantis backed funding to harden Florida’s defenses against flooding but also opposed some previous disaster-relief aid and pushed pension funds not to consider environmental impact when they invest.

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Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Andrea Shalal; Writing by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Aurora Ellis and Lincoln Feast

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Fans Fled as Police Fired Tear Gas, Causing Deadly Rush For Exits

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The Indonesian police fired tear gas into crowds of fans that rushed onto the field after a soccer match in the city of Malang.CreditCredit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Soccer fans in Indonesia rushed the field after a professional soccer match on Saturday night, prompting the police to fire tear gas into tightly packed crowds and setting off a stampede that killed at least 125 people, local officials said.

Fans had packed the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia, to see the home team —Arema — take on Persebaya Surabaya. After Arema lost the game 3-2, fans rushed the field.

The unrest prompted the police to fire tear gas which caused panic, Inspector General Nico Afinta, the East Java Police chief, said at a news conference. As of Sunday night, 125 people were dead, according to a spokesman for the national police. There were reports that an additional 300 had been injured. The death toll had risen and fallen throughout the day, and police said earlier tolls may have counted some of the dead twice.

The toll made Saturday’s match among the deadliest episodes in the history of soccer. In 1964, at least 300 people died in Peru after an unpopular decision by a referee at a soccer game touched off a riot at the country’s national stadium.

In a televised speech to the nation, President Joko Widodo said he had asked the national police chief to conduct a thorough investigation into what happened and ordered an evaluation of security at soccer matches.

“I regret that this tragedy occurred,” Mr. Joko said. “And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country.

Credit…Yudha Prabowo/Associated Press

Human rights organizations condemned the use of tear gas, which is prohibited by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Eyewitnesses said that the gas was at times fired indiscriminately into the stands, forcing the overcapacity crowd to rush for the exits.

“The excessive use of force through the use of tear gas and inappropriate crowd control was the cause of the large number of fatalities,” Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation said in a statement.

But the East Java police chief, Mr. Afinta, defended the use of tear gas, saying it was deployed “because there was anarchy.”

“They were about to attack the officers and had damaged the cars,” he said.

Overcapacity also exacerbated the situation, according to Indonesia’s Legal Aid Foundation. The local soccer committee had printed 42,000 tickets for a stadium with 38,000 capacity, according to Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

He said the victims died “because of the stampede” — they were trampled on and suffocated to death.

“There were no victims of beatings or mistreatment of the supporters,” he said.

Credit…Yudha Prabowo/Associated Press

The soccer league, PT Liga Indonesia Baru, suspended play for at least a week and offered its condolences in a statement.

The national governing body for soccer, the P.S.S.I., also offered condolences and said an investigation was underway but appeared to cast blame on fans of the Arema club, saying it “regrets the action” of the fans.

Soccer violence has long been a problem for Indonesia, where violent, often deadly rivalries between major teams are common. Flares are often thrown on the field, and riot police are a regular presence at many matches. Since the 1990s, dozens of fans have been killed in soccer-related violence.

Sui-Lee Wee reported from Bangkok, and Muktita Suhartono from Jakarta. Dera Menra Sijabat contributed reporting from Jakarta, and Damien Cave from Sydney, Australia.

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British Ruling Pins Blame on Social Media for Teenager’s Suicide

In January 2019, Mr. Russell went public with Molly’s story. Outraged that his young daughter could view such bleak content so easily and convinced that it had played a role in her death, he sat for a TV interview with the BBC that resulted in front-page stories across British newsstands.

Mr. Russell, a television director, urged the coroner reviewing Molly’s case to go beyond what is often a formulaic process, and to explore the role of social media. Mr. Walker agreed after seeing a sample of Molly’s social media history.

That resulted in a yearslong effort to get access to Molly’s social media data. The family did not know her iPhone passcode, but the London police were able to bypass it to extract 30,000 pages of material. After a lengthy battle, Meta agreed to provide more than 16,000 pages from her Instagram, such a volume that it delayed the start of the inquest. Merry Varney, a lawyer with the Leigh Day law firm who worked on the case through a legal aid program, said it had taken more than 1,000 hours to review the content.

What they found was that Molly had lived something of a double life. While she was a regular teenager to family, friends and teachers, her existence online was much bleaker.

In the six months before Molly died, she shared, liked or saved 16,300 pieces of content on Instagram. About 2,100 of those posts, or about 12 per day, were related to suicide, self-harm and depression, according to data that Meta disclosed to her family. Many accounts she interacted with were dedicated to sharing only depressive and suicidal material, often using hashtags that linked to other explicit content.

Many posts glorified inner struggle, hiding emotional duress and telling others “I’m fine.” Molly went on binges of liking and saving graphic depictions of suicide and self-harm, once after 3 a.m., according to a timeline of her Instagram usage.

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Europe Looks at Italy’s Giorgia Meloni With Caution and Trepidation

BRUSSELS — The victory in Italian elections of the far-right and Euroskeptic leader Giorgia Meloni, who once wanted to ditch the euro currency, sent a tremor on Monday through a European establishment worried about a new right-wing shift in Europe.

European Union leaders are now watching her coalition’s comfortable victory in Italy, one of its founding members, with caution and some trepidation, despite reassurances from Ms. Meloni, who would be the first far-right nationalist to govern Italy since Mussolini, that she has moderated her views.

But it is hard for them to escape a degree of dread. Even given the bloc’s successes in recent years to agree on a groundbreaking pandemic recovery fund and to confront Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the appeal of nationalists and populists remains strong — and is spreading, a potential threat to European ideals and cohesion.

said in a Twitter message: “In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges.”

Europe’s concerns are less about policy toward Ukraine. Ms. Meloni has said she supports NATO and Ukraine and has no great warmth for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as her junior coalition partners, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, have evinced.

Still, Mr. Berlusconi said last week that Mr. Putin “was pushed by the Russian population, by his party, by his ministers to invent this special operation.” The plan, he said, was for Russian troops to enter “in a week to replace Zelensky’s government with a government of decent people.”

Italian popular opinion is traditionally sympathetic toward Moscow, with about a third of seats in the new Parliament going to parties with an ambiguous stance on Russia, sanctions, and military aid to Ukraine. As the war proceeds, with all its domestic economic costs, Ms. Meloni may take a less firm view than Mr. Draghi has.

Mr. Kupchan expects “the balance of power in Europe will tilt more toward diplomacy and a bit less toward continuing the fight.” That is a view more popular with the populist right than with parties in the mainstream, but it has prominent adherents in Germany and France, too.

“These elections are another sign that all is not well with mainstream parties,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and spell a complicated period for the European Union.

Even the victory a year ago of Olaf Scholz in Germany, a man of the center left, was ensured by the collapse of the center-right Christian Democrats, who had their worst showing in their history, while in April, France’s long-dominant center-right Republicans fell to under 5 percent of the vote.

“People in Brussels are extremely anxious about Meloni becoming an E.U. prime minister,” Mr. Leonard said. “They’ve seen how disruptive Orban can be from a small country with no systemic role in the E.U. Meloni says she won’t immediately upend the consensus on Ukraine, but she could be a force for a much more virulent form of Euroskepticism in council meetings.”

One or two troublemakers can do a lot of a damage to E.U. decision-making, he said, “but if it’s five or six,” it becomes very hard to obtain coherence or consensus.

When the leftist, populist Five Star Movement led Italy from 2018 to early 2021, before Mr. Draghi, it created major fights inside Brussels on immigration and asylum issues. Ms. Meloni is expected to concentrate on topics like immigration, identity issues (she despises what she calls “woke ideology”), and future E.U. rules covering debt and fiscal discipline, to replace the outdated growth and stability pact.

But analysts think she will pick her fights carefully, given Italy’s debt mountain — over 150 percent of gross domestic product — and the large sums that Brussels has promised Rome as part of the Covid recovery fund. For this year, the amount is 19 billion euros, or about $18.4 billion, nearly 1 percent of Italy’s G.D.P., said Mujtaba Rahman, Europe director for the Eurasia Group, with a total over the next few years of some 10.5 percent of G.D.P.

“Draghi has already implemented tough reforms to satisfy Brussels, so there is no reason for her to come in and mess it up and agitate the market,” Mr. Rahman said. But for the future, there are worries that she will push for an expansionist budget, looser fiscal rules and thereby make the more frugal countries of northern Europe less willing to compromise.

For Mr. Rahman, the bigger risk for Europe is the loss of influence Italy exercised under Mr. Draghi. He and President Emmanuel Macron of France, “were beginning to create an alternative axis to compete with the vacuum of leadership now in Germany, and all that will be lost,” Mr. Rahman said. Italy will go from a country that leads to one that Europe watches anxiously, he said.

There was a sign of that anxiety just before the election, when Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, warned that Brussels had “the tools” to deal with Italy if things went in a “difficult direction.” It was seen as a hint that the European Commission could cut funds to Italy if it were deemed to be violating the bloc’s democratic standards.

Mr. Salvini, seeing an opportunity, immediately responded: “What is this, a threat? This is shameful arrogance,” and asked Ms. von der Leyen to “respect the free, democratic and sovereign vote of the Italian people” and resist “institutional bullying.”

Instead, Mr. Stefanini, the former diplomat, urged Brussels to be patient and to engage with Ms. Meloni. “The new government should be judged on facts, on what it does when in power,” he said. “The real risk is that by exaggerated overreactions the E.U. makes legitimate concerns self-fulfilling prophecies.

“If she’s made to feel rejected, she’ll be pushed into a corner — where she’ll find Orban and other soulmates waiting for her, and she’ll team up with them,” he continued. “But if she’s greeted as a legitimate leader, democratically elected, it will be possible for the E.U. to do business with her.”

Luuk van Middelaar, a historian of the bloc, also urges caution. European leaders know two things about Italian prime ministers, he said. First, “they are not very powerful at home, and two, they tend not to last very long” — since World War II, an average of about 18 months.

“So they will wait and see and not be blown away,” Mr. van Middelaar said. If she lasts longer, however, she could energize other far-right Euroskeptics in other big countries like France, he said, “and that would make a real difference.”

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They Were Entitled to Free Care. Hospitals Hounded Them to Pay.

In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line.

The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up.

Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.

nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.

But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.

focused on investments in rich communities at the expense of poorer ones.

And, as Providence illustrates, some hospital systems have not only reduced their emphasis on providing free care to the poor but also developed elaborate systems to convert needy patients into sources of revenue. The result, in the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed, The Times found.

provide. That was below the average of 2 percent for nonprofit hospitals nationwide, according to an analysis of hospital financial records by Ge Bai, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

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