A yearslong dispute between a pioneering hedge fund and the Internal Revenue Service ended Thursday with an enormous bill for taxes and penalties: as much as $7 billion.
James Simons, a mathematician whose algorithmic approach has been adopted by many other investment funds, and some of his former colleagues at Renaissance Technologies have settled a decade-long dispute with the government over the tax treatment of some of their investments, the firm said in letter to investors.
The settlement, which involves 10 years’ worth of trades made by the hedge fund, could be worth as much as $7 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. It is one of the largest federal tax disputes in history.
The deal ends a standoff that led to a congressional investigation and involved two politically connected financiers: Mr. Simons, a longtime patron of Democratic candidates with an estimated net worth of $25 billion, and Robert Mercer, a former Renaissance executive whose advocacy for conservative causes included helping to found Cambridge Analytica. After Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the now-defunct political consulting firm became embroiled in a scandal for harvesting Facebook data without users’ consent to assist his campaign.
$10 million in Breitbart News, and was a key supporter of Stephen K. Bannon, who was Breitbart’s chairman before becoming Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.
The billions in payments to the I.R.S. will be made by current and former investors in a small group of Renaissance funds, but principally its Medallion fund. Those investors include seven people who were members of the firm’s board between 2005 and 2015, as well as their spouses. Mr. Simons will make a payment of $670 million on top of his obligation as part of that group, according to the letter.
“Renaissance’s board ultimately concluded that the interests of our investors from the relevant period would be best served by agreeing to this resolution with the I.R.S., rather than risking a worse outcome, including harsher terms and penalties, that could result from litigation,” Peter Brown, the firm’s chief executive, wrote.
Renaissance is best known for pioneering a data-intensive form of stock trading called quantitative strategy, which has been adopted by many other hedge funds and trading platforms on Wall Street. The settlement centers on the firm’s Medallion fund, which manages about $15 billion, mostly for employees and former employees of the firm and their family members.
Mr. Simons founded the firm in 1982. Once the head of the math department at Stony Brook University on Long Island, he was a code-breaker for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. He stepped down from the firm’s day-to-day operations in 2010, handing the reins to Mr. Mercer and Mr. Brown as co-chief executives.
reported that contractors and employees of Cambridge Analytica, eager to sell psychological profiles of American voters to political campaigns, acquired the private Facebook data of tens of millions of users — the largest known leak in the company’s history. Facebook eventually said as many as 87 million users — mostly in the United States — had their data harvested by the firm.
Mr. Mercer’s decision to resign as co-chief of Renaissance shortly after Mr. Trump won the presidency came about in part because of his involvement in bankrolling Cambridge Analytica. Some of the hedge fund’s investors had voiced concerns about Mr. Mercer’s political activities.
The firm’s letter on Thursday said that aside from the board members and their spouses, other investors will be required to pay additional tax and interest owed, but no penalties. Renaissance’s outside clients, who include wealthy individuals, pensions and other investors, are not expected to be affected by the settlement.
The tax dispute involved Medallion’s fast-paced options trading and how those transactions should be taxed — a major consideration given that the firm’s rapid-fire trading had a history of generating big profits.
At the time of the transactions the federal tax rate on long-term capital gains was about half what it was for short-term capital gains. The hedge fund argued that many of its trades were eligible to be taxed at the lower rate because it had converted those options trades into longer-term holdings through the use of complex financial instruments.
These instruments involved baskets of stocks put together by a bank. But Medallion didn’t buy the actual basket of stocks; it instead bought an option on that basket and sometimes gave the banks instructions on how to trade those stocks. Basket options have been criticized for having allowed hedge funds to borrow money more easily and allowing them to make bigger and potentially riskier trades.
The I.R.S. argued that the basket option trades should have been taxed at the higher rate because they were mainly the result of short-term trading.
The disagreement drew the attention of Congress, and led to rule changes. Following a report from the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, the I.R.S. issued new guidance in 2015 that sought to clamp down on this type of trading by making it more difficult and costly for hedge funds to buy basket options. Such investment vehicles had to be declared on the tax returns of any investor who used them, the agency said.
The I.R.S. had said its guidance on basket options would be retroactive, and applied to all transactions as far back as Jan. 1, 2011.
Still, some senators were critical of the I.R.S. for taking so long to change its rules and start investigating the trading practice, including at Renaissance.
Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who headed the Senate committee in 2014 and died in July, said the I.R.S. guidance would stop banks and hedge funds from using “dubious structured financial products” that had cost taxpayers billions.
Elise Bean, a former aide to Mr. Levin, said she wished her former boss had lived to see the settlement. “It’s good to see that, despite a yearslong, knock-down, bare-knuckles battle, the I.R.S. prevailed in compelling at least one set of billionaires to pay the taxes they owe,” she said.
LONDON — Of all the unsavory ethical questions swirling around Prime Minister Boris Johnson these days, the one that has stuck is how he paid for the costly makeover of his apartment in Downing Street. And it has put his 33-year-old fiancée, Carrie Symonds, under a particularly scorching spotlight.
Mr. Johnson has been accused in news reports of secretly using funds from a Conservative Party donor to supplement his public budget for redecorating the apartment — a charge that, although Mr. Johnson says he has repaid the money, has prompted an investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission. But it is Ms. Symonds and her purportedly expensive taste in wallpaper and designer furniture that has become a running theme on social media and in British tabloids.
“#CarrieAntoinette” is trending as a Twitter hashtag, while the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, had himself photographed studying wallpaper at the British department store John Lewis — a labored stunt meant to make light of reports that Ms. Symonds derided the Downing Street décor left by Mr. Johnson’s no-nonsense predecessor, Theresa May, as a “John Lewis nightmare.”
Never mind that Ms. Symonds has not actually been quoted saying anything about John Lewis. The reference, in a profile of her in Tatler magazine, is attributed to an unnamed person who once visited her in the apartment. Tatler did report that Ms. Symonds oversaw the renovation project, and her involvement means she, too, may have to turn over evidence to the Electoral Commission.
For Ms. Symonds, a former Conservative Party communications chief who now works for an animal-rights group, it is the latest trial in a year overstuffed with dramatics: the near-fatal illness of Mr. Johnson after he contracted the coronavirus; the birth of their son, Wilfred; and the bitter purging of Mr. Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, in which she is reported to have played a behind-the-scenes role.
It all has put Ms. Symonds at the heart of a familiar narrative, one replete with sexism and double standards: the grasping, manipulative politician’s partner. She joins a parade of women, from Hillary Clinton to Cherie Blair, the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose murmurings to their men were the subject of fevered suspicion.
The fact that her relationship with Mr. Johnson coincided with the breakup of his 25-year marriage, and that she became the first unmarried partner to move into Downing Street, only adds to Ms. Symonds’ tabloid portrayal as a libertine Lady Macbeth or an upwardly mobile Marie Antoinette — choose your cliché.
“The outsized fascination with Carrie Symonds’ role in the prime minister’s circle reflects outdated sexist tropes that regard women in positions of influence as inherently devious,” said Sophia Gaston, director of the British Foreign Policy Group and a research fellow at the London School of Economics.
Her defenders say that as an accomplished political player in her own right, Ms. Symonds has no less right to offer advice to the prime minister than any other unpaid adviser — and he would be wise to take it.
And yet, others say, there are legitimate questions to ask about Ms. Symonds’ influence, which goes beyond the news media’s obsessive focus on home improvements at Downing Street. Her ardent defense of animal rights was reported to have contributed to the government’s decision to halt a cull of badgers in Derbyshire, which contradicted the advice of scientists and veterinarians.
Friends of Ms. Symonds have been installed in key positions in Downing Street and, in the telling of Mr. Cummings, protected by her even after evidence of wrongdoing. On his blog, he claimed that Mr. Johnson wanted to shut down a leak investigation after it became clear that the culprit was Henry Newman, a close adviser to Ms. Symonds.
Mr. Cummings quoted Mr. Johnson as saying to him, “If Newman is confirmed as the leaker, then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie, as they’re best friends.”
Downing Street has denied that Mr. Johnson tried to shut down theinvestigation, but it did not comment about Ms. Symonds’ role.
Her defenders say she has a savvy political sense and could well have aspired to a seat in Parliament if she hadn’t begun a relationship with Mr. Johnson. To the extent that she is giving him advice, some say, it is helpful: cutting loose Mr. Cummings and other hard-core Brexiteers softened the prime minister’s image and improved his popularity before the recent ethics issues pulled him back to his more familiar role as a political scalawag.
“She was fantastic — she is very loyal and was hugely supportive,” said John Whittingdale, a former culture secretary for whom Ms. Symonds served as a special adviser. He described her as “a strongly committed Conservative” and a “very strong Brexit supporter” at a time when that was a less popular position.
“The people who are attacking Carrie clearly see a route to damage the prime minister by attacking her,” he said.
Ms. Symonds labors under a few handicaps, one of which is the lack of a job description for a prime minister’s partner.The role has no constitutional status, and unlike that of first lady in the United States, little administrative support. Successful spouses have usually had strong identities outside Downing Street.
Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis, was a businessman, as is Mrs. May’s husband, Philip. David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, ran a fashion company, while Ms. Blair, who once had her own political ambitions, worked as a high-level barrister during her husband’s decade in office. Though Ms. Blair’s influence came under criticism early on, the scrutiny subsided as she built a flourishing legal career.
“She always knew she could go back to her job at the bar, which made it less demeaning to be the appendage,” said Fiona Millar, a journalist and onetime aide to Ms. Blair. Ms. Symonds, she said, “doesn’t seem to have that life outside politics, which the people who’ve been successful at it did have.”
The daughter of Matthew Symonds, a co-founder of The Independent newspaper, and a lawyer for the paper, Josephine McAfee, Ms. Symonds was raised by her mother (both parents were married to other people at the time).
Her young adulthood was deeply affected by an incident in 2007 when she was targeted by a taxi driver who served her spiked drinks while driving her home. Ms. Symonds testified against the man, John Worboys, who was jailed as a serial sexual predator.
Well connected and social, Ms. Symonds became a public relations aide for the Conservative Party, eventually rising tochief communications officer, where she encountered Mr. Johnson. The couple had hoped to get married last summer, after his divorce from Marina Wheeler became final, but delayed the date because of coronavirus restrictions.
Life in Downing Street is less glamorous than it might appear, Ms. Millar said. While the job comes with a spacious Westminster apartment, a baronial weekend home, Chequers, and an annual decorating budget of £30,000 ($41,600), the government does not pay for food or household staff. Outside of public occasions, the couple are expected to cook for themselves or get takeout.
Living above the office, as Mr. Johnson struggled with the pandemic and his own illness, was challenging, people who know Ms. Symonds said. She contracted Covid herself, while pregnant, and then cared for their baby while Mr. Johnson, 56, was still shaking off his illness.
“There were times last week that were very dark indeed,” Ms. Symonds tweeted after he was released from an intensive care unit. Despite that, she retained her interest in environmental protection.
“Since having Wilf & not being able to get to the shops during lockdown,” she posted four months later, “I’ve relied on Amazon for lots of baby essentials, but I’ve been dismayed at the amount of plastic packaging. Please sign this petition to ask Amazon to give us plastic-free options too.”
Political commentators say they see Ms. Symonds’ fingerprints in Mr. Johnson’s embrace of green policies. They say she has played to his pragmatic instincts by nudging him toward a more conciliatory politics.
Few prime ministerial partners have been so deeply immersed in politics. Not only does she know the Conservative Party well, she also has strong contacts among its lawmakers, political journalists and the special advisers who play a powerful role in Downing Street and elsewhere in the government.
Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, said people have questioned Ms. Symonds’ influence “because of her specific insights and connections and background as a political operative and because of Boris Johnson’s malleability, and the fact that no one is sure what in his head.”
Some of the uneasiness about Ms. Symonds is as much about Mr. Johnson as her. With few fixed positions and a lack of ideological moorings, he leaves the impression that his decisions can be swayed by those with greatest access to him. During a year of lockdowns, that circle sometimes shrank to Ms. Symonds.
“The reason we’re fussing over this is that we think we have an inadequate figure as prime minister,” said Jill Rutter, a former civil servant who is a senior research fellow at the U.K. in a Changing Europe, a London think tank. “If we thought we had a really good prime minister, would we really care who his spouse is, beyond hoping he has a happy personal life?”
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration revealed on Thursday that a business associate of Trump campaign officials in 2016 provided campaign polling data to Russian intelligence services, the strongest evidence to date that Russian spies had penetrated the inner workings of the Trump campaign.
The revelation, made public in a Treasury Department document announcing new sanctions against Russia, established for the first time that private meetings and communications between the campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and their business associate were a direct pipeline from the campaign to Russian spies at a time when the Kremlin was engaged in a covert effort to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.
Previous government investigations have identified the Trump aides’ associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, as a Russian intelligence operative, and Mr. Manafort’s decision to provide him with internal polling data was one of the mysteries that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, sought to unravel during his two-year investigation into Russia’s election meddling.
“During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” the Treasury Department said in a news release. “Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
new sanctions against Russia are in response to the Kremlin’s election interference, efforts to hack American government agencies and companies, and other acts of aggression against the United States.
The sanctions now make it extremely difficult for Mr. Kilimnik, who was indicted by the Justice Department in 2018 on charges of obstruction of justice, to engage in financial transactions that may involve the United States.
It is unclear how long American spy agencies have held the conclusion about Mr. Kilimnik. Senior Trump administration officials, fearing Mr. Trump’s wrath, repeatedly tried keep from the public any information that seemed to show Mr. Trump’s affinity for Russia or its president, Vladimir V. Putin.
that scrutinized the links between the Trump campaign and Russia — calling Mr. Kilimnik a “Russian intelligence officer.”
The report contained several significant redactions that appeared related to Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik but said that Mr. Manafort’s willingness to share the information with him “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”
The report called the relationship between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik “the single most direct tie between senior Trump campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”
The Senate report portrayed a Trump campaign stacked with businessmen and other advisers who had little government experience and “presented attractive targets for foreign influence, creating notable counterintelligence vulnerabilities.”
A New York Times article in 2017 said that there had been numerous interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence during the year before the election. F.B.I. officials had disputed the report, but both the Senate report and the Treasury Department document confirm the article’s findings.
The assertion that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that sought to disrupt the 2016 election has long been both a Kremlin talking point and a claim by Mr. Trump that foreign actors tried to help his opponent, Hillary Clinton, rather than him.
is offering $250,000 for information that could lead to his arrest.
LONDON — Until last month, David Cameron was known for one big thing: calling the referendum in June 2016 that produced Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union and triggered a political earthquake that toppled him as prime minister.
Now, Mr. Cameron is in the headlines for something else: the spectacular collapse of a high-flying Anglo-Australian finance firm. His lobbying on behalf of the firm, Greensill Capital, does not appear to have violated any laws, but it has added another blot to an already checkered legacy.
Greensill’s access to senior British officials — aided by Mr. Cameron, who worked for the firm — has set off a noisy debate about the rules on lobbying by former leaders; critics say they are woefully inadequate. It has also turned a fresh spotlight on a recurring theme in Britain: the challenging after-lives of British prime ministers.
From Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair, occupants of 10 Downing Street have often struggled after leaving office, an abrupt transition to private life that leaves them without the trappings of power, no clear public role, and little financial support. For politicians used to privilege and influence, analysts said, it can lead to trouble.
miscalculation on Brexit — he does not arouse the hostility that many in Britain still feel toward Mr. Blair over his backing of the Iraq war. Much of the media coverage has portrayed Mr. Cameron as a decent man guilty of poor judgment.
Ms. Maddox said his case underscored that “Britain should do more to help prime ministers forge a useful life afterward.”
Unlike American ex-presidents, who get taxpayer funded offices and can busy themselves building their presidential libraries, prime ministers have little in the way of a soft landing after they leave office. The rough-and-tumble nature of British politics means that many are defenestrated — one moment, at the helm of a nuclear state; the next, exiled to the parliamentary backbenches.
Mr. Cameron announced his resignation hours after Britons voted narrowly to leave the European Union, an outcome he campaigned against. At his last appearance in Parliament, he declared, “I was the future once,” a rueful play on a jibe he once aimed at Mr. Blair, when Mr. Cameron was the rising leader of the Conservatives and Mr. Blair a Labour prime minister in the twilight of his career.
“When you’re in politics, every day is a thrill or a spill,” said Simon Jenkins, a columnist at the Guardian. “Then you’re out, almost invariably because of a great mistake. You’ve got nothing to do, and nothing you can do.”
Only 49 years old when he left office, Mr. Cameron wrote a memoir, for which he was paid a reported advance of 800,000 pounds ($1.1 million). He joined several boards and became the president of an Alzheimer’s charity. He plays tennis regularly at a club near his house in West London. In 2017, Mr. Cameron’s wife, Samantha, started her own women’s fashion business.
A well-pedigreed graduate of Eton and Oxford, whose father was a stockbroker, Mr. Cameron is wealthy by conventional yardsticks. But his fortune is less than that of Mr. Blair, who amassed real estate and established a lucrative consulting business. Mr. Blair’s money-raising activities drew criticism as well, especially his work on behalf of the repressive government of Kazakhstan.
Mr. Cameron’s friends have described him as thriving on the speaking circuit and not hung up about his financial circumstances. In “Diary of an MP’s Wife,” a gossipy account of Conservative Party social circles by Sasha Swire, the wife of a former Conservative lawmaker, Hugo Swire, Ms. Swire wrote that in 2017, Samantha’s business was “taking off and Dave is making loads of money.”
“He says every time he looks for a loophole to stash it away, he realizes that George and he closed it, and laughs,” Ms. Swire added, referring to George Osborne, who was Mr. Cameron’s chancellor of the Exchequer.
Ex-prime ministers, however, have far less earning power than ex-presidents. Barack and Michelle Obama signed a $65 million multi-book deal with Penguin Random House and earned millions more in a production deal with Netflix. Bill and Hillary Clinton earned $139 million from 2007 to 2014, mostly from speeches and books. George W. Bush has also earned tens of millions from speeches.
Like presidents, prime ministers become accustomed to mingling with extremely wealthy people, Mr. Jenkins said, leading them to question “why they’re an ex-prime minister when they could have been a wealthy tycoon.”
Not everyone who vacates Downing Street has struggled. John Major, Ms. Maddox said, has arguably been more successful as an elder-statesman commentator than he was in office. Theresa May, who succeeded Mr. Cameron and resigned in 2019 after her efforts to strike a Brexit deal failed, stayed on in Parliament as a Conservative backbencher and has weighed in on debates at key moments.
“It’s a rightly informal system here,” said Charles Moore, the author of a biography of Mrs. Thatcher. “If you cannot command a majority in the Commons, you’re out. That is democratic, and you should then, with a little help over the immediate transition, make your own way in the world.”
As millions of more Americans become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, fashion-minded folks are giving extra consideration to what they will wear for their coveted appointments, and the emerging vaccine-ready top seems to be the cold-shoulder top, thanks to Dolly Parton.
On March 2, the 75-year-old country music star posted a four-minute video across her social media channels, getting her first shot of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt Health in Tennessee.
“Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine,” she wrote on Instagram, a reference to the $1 million she donated last year for coronavirus vaccine research to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which worked with Moderna.
For the occasion, she wore a sparkly navy blue knit top with cold-shoulder cutouts that was custom designed by her creative director, Steve Summers. “I even have a little cutout in my shirt — I matched it over here,” she told the doctor who administered the shot, pointing to her other shoulder.
Donna Karan sent Linda Evangelista down a fall 1991 runway wearing a white one under a matching jacket. Women’s Wear Daily called it “silly,” but when Liza Minnelli wore a black version to the 1992 Oscars, followed by Candice Bergen to the Emmys (and then Hillary Clinton, in one of her early looks as the first lady), it struck a glamorously accessible chord. During the early 2000s, it was a staple of the so-called going-out-top trend, when night life held sway over fashion.
These days, the cold-shoulder has less to do with “going out” than the ease with which it allows wearers to be vaccinated. Lyst, the fashion search and shopping platform, has seen searches for cold-shoulder tops increase 21 percent since the start of March, according to a company spokeswoman.
When Wendy Brande, 53, a jewelry designer and activist in New York City, went to get vaccinated at the Javits Convention Center in New York City on March 5, she wore a black cold-shoulder sweater that she bought on eBay around 2005. “I just about fell over when I saw Dolly wearing one,” she said. “I knew I kept it for this moment.”
Apparently, she was not the only one. As she was receiving her Pfizer shot, the nurse told her: “Everyone’s wearing these tops.”
The structure of the Senate has not always favored Republicans. But in recent decades, heavily white and rural communities have moved to the political right. Because these communities dominate many small states, and because small states enjoy a lot of power in the Senate, it now has a large pro-Republican bias.
So how have Democrats nonetheless won control of the Senate, allowing them to pass an ambitious bill last week that will reduce poverty, lift middle-class incomes, cut the cost of health insurance and more? There are two main answers.
First, the Democratic Party has been the more popular political party nationwide for most of the past three decades, and this national edge sometimes allows it to overcome the Senate’s built-in bias. Last year, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 4.4 percentage points. That was enough for him to win exactly half of the country’s 50 states and for Democratic Senate candidates to flip seats in Arizona and Georgia.
The second answer is more succinct: Joe Manchin and Jon Tester.
Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Tester, a Democratic senator from Montana, have managed a remarkable feat in today’s polarized political atmosphere. They have won elections in states that usually vote by wide margins for the other party. The only other current politician with a similar track record is Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine.
defeated and how successful the president would be at putting federal judges on the bench.
Manchin, who is 73, is a frequent subject of criticism from the political left. A recent example involved his insistence that the relief bill increase unemployment benefits by less than most Democrats favored — a stance that will hurt some of Manchin’s own constituents, as critics noted. Another example, as Bloomberg’s Joshua Green recently recalled: “His 2010 Senate victory was powered by a memorable television ad in which the NRA-endorsed Manchin pulled out a rifle and shot Barack Obama’s climate bill, vowing, ‘I’ll always defend West Virginia.’”
occasional, high-profile breaks with the Democratic Party allow him to overcome the party’s terrible image there and win elections. He often does not even demand large policy changes: The final virus relief bill was nearly identical in size to Biden’s initial proposal.
addressing progressives: “If you don’t want your governing agenda perpetually held hostage to Joe Manchin (or for a majority to be out of reach if Manchin retires in 2024), then you need to win Senate races in right-of-center states like Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Florida that just aren’t as right-wing as West Virginia.”
How Democrats might do so — or how Republicans might replicate Collins — is a complex subject. But it’s one of the most fascinating, consequential questions in politics, and it will be an occasional theme in this newsletter over coming months.
What’s next? Climate, in part. Slate’s Nitish Pahwa argues that the decline of coal may make Manchin more open to climate legislation than he used to be. And Manchin told Mike Allen of Axios that he would push for tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to help pay for Biden’s clean-energy and infrastructure initiatives.
Related: Democrats hope that the popularity of the virus relief bill will help them avoid the losses that a president’s party usually suffers in midterm elections, The Times’s Jonathan Martin writes.
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save a main road from rising seas.
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Law enforcement agencies dismissed violence linked to the Proud Boys as street brawling without a strategy — until the attack on the Capitol.
Voting-rights advocates are waging the most consequential political struggle over access to the ballot in decades. Can it succeed?
Women in Britain are demanding safety from male violence after the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard, 33, in London. A social movement has sprung up, which “feels different this time,” The Times’s Amanda Taub writes.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah is urging American spectators, companies and diplomats to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, to punish China for its human rights abuses. He favors that approach over an athlete boycott.
Elite private schools masquerade as hubs of social change but actually deepen inequality, and they have become indefensible, Caitlin Flanagan writes in The Atlantic.
“Most local papers are gasping for life, and if they die it will be their readers who lose the most,” the Florida novelist Carl Hiaasen writes in his last column for The Miami Herald.
A Morning read: How the sale of a Fifth Avenue townhouse became an international debacle.
Lives Lived: Marvelous Marvin Hagler was one of boxing’s great middleweight champions. His awesome punching power helped him win 62 bouts — 52 by knockouts. He died at 66.
Here are more tips from Victor.)
Ed Feng at FiveThirtyEight has found that preseason polls, which gauge a team’s raw potential, predict a team’s success in the tournament better than some end-of-season rankings.
Josh Katz and Kevin Quealy of The Times suggest looking for games on which the public and the experts disagree. “If you think the nerds know something the public doesn’t, those kinds of outcomes represent good opportunities,” Kevin told us.
Here’s a link to a printable version of the bracket. The N.C.A.A. will release the bracket for the women’s tournament tonight (we’ll have a link in tomorrow’s newsletter).
For more: Alan looks at the tournament changes that the N.C.A.A. has made to cope with the pandemic.
A New York State court on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the re-election campaign of Donald J. Trump against The New York Times Company, ruling that an opinion essay that argued there had been a “quid pro quo” between the candidate and Russian officials before the 2016 presidential election was protected speech.
The Times published the Op-Ed, written by Max Frankel, a former executive editor of The Times who was not named as a defendant in the suit, in March 2019 under the headline “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.” Mr. Frankel made the case that in “an overarching deal” before the 2016 election, Russian officials would help Mr. Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in exchange for his taking U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Russia direction.
Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, Donald J. Trump for President Inc., filed the suit in New York State Supreme Court in February 2020, alleging defamation and accusing The Times of “extreme bias against and animosity toward” the campaign.
In his decision on Tuesday, Judge James E. d’Auguste noted three reasons for dismissal. He wrote that Mr. Frankel’s commentary was “nonactionable opinion,” meaning it was constitutionally protected speech; that the Trump campaign did not have standing to sue for defamation; and that the campaign had failed to show that The Times had published the essay with “actual malice.”
sued Gawker Media in 2012 over the publication of a sex video. That suit, secretly funded by the conservative tech investor Peter Thiel, resulted in a $140 million decision that prompted Gawker Media’s bankruptcy and sale.
The Drunken Canal is one of a handful of downtown media projects that have been sprouting in reaction to the dominance of giant online media, the homogenization of big social media platforms that make community feel global, not local (though they’d like it if you’d follow them on Instagram), and the overwhelming sense that nobody in media was having fun in the grim year of 2020. The Dimes Square local media include a pirate radio station, Montez Press Radio, that won’t let you listen on demand, and a “natural style” fashion email newsletter, Opulent Tips, written by a GQ staff writer, with no fancy formatting. Many of the most interesting new products are in print “because digital spaces are becoming increasingly more policed,” said Richard Turley, 44, the former creative director of Bloomberg Businessweek who founded another downtown newspaper, Civilization, in 2018.
The Dimes Square scene caught my eye because its privileged denizens embody a broader shift toward spaces safe from social media. The new Silicon Valley social audio app Clubhouse shares some of those values. And the choice of print has a political edge. The Canal’s first issue featured a “Sorry to hear you’ve been canceled” column composed of a list of names, with no explanation, “to keep you from looking foolish at a woke gathering.” (The second issue included an apology to the actor Terry Crews, whose name had been spelled wrong in the first issue and who had, in fact, not been canceled, in the publishers’ view.) A third recent newsprint project called The New Now, created by a co-founder of the magazine Paper, announces atop its front page that it is “Free of Charge” “Free of Advertising” and “Free of the internet.”
The downtown media rebellion often looks back to the 1990s, when the model and actress Chloë Sevigny embodied an edgy new scene in a New Yorker profile, just before her star turn in the explicit 1995 movie “Kids.” Ms. Sevigny, now 46, is a running preoccupation — The Drunken Canal has featured her stylist, Haley Wollens. Ms. Sevigny told me she’s “flattered and hoping the kids rally for all of us.”But the more recent seeds of the current scene are in the podcasts that helped put a strain of left-wing populist politics that’s as hostile to Hillary Clinton as it is to Donald Trump on the political map — in particular, one called Red Scare, whose co-host, Dasha Nekrasova, lives near Dimes Square. Ms. Nekrasova, 30, said she admired the spirit of The Drunken Canal although, like many of its admirers, she hasn’t actually been able to get her hands on a copy. She plays a crisis P.R. person in the upcoming season of “Succession” and has directed a new feature film rooted in theories about Jeffrey Epstein’s death. The new Drunken Canal includes the prediction that “DASHA will become the new and better Chloë Sevigny.”
The unsafe sex of “Kids” scandalized 1990s New York, but the best way to get a reaction from the 2020 New York media was by bragging about having indoor parties. The writer and publicist Kaitlin Phillips, 30, who occupies a spot close to the center of a map of downtown personalities, became mildly notorious on Twitter for advertising a blasé attitude through the worst of the pandemic last spring.