San Francisco and Other Cities Try to Give Artists Steady Income

In San Francisco, public officials have announced a pilot program that will provide a monthly stipend to artists. The mayor’s office recently unveiled the initiative, city payments that were approved by the arts commission, which will provide a guaranteed monthly income of $1,000 over six months to 130 eligible artists.

A similar experiment started in St. Paul, Minn., this week. There, a nonprofit organization is working with the city to disburse monthly $500 checks to 25 local artists for the next 18 months. Springboard for the Arts, the organization running the initiative, with funding from two foundations, said it hoped a successful program could change the national conversation.

And more programs, not limited to arts workers, are springing up in cities like Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta, whose leaders are part of a 41-member coalition, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The coalition says that providing such an income will improve racial and gender equity. (New York has no such plan in the works, a spokesman for the Department of Cultural Affairs said last week.)

Interest in guaranteed income — or universal basic income — has built over the last year as a potential solution to the lopsided economic effects of the pandemic.

initiative to invest in Black children and families.

Since opening the application portal for artists on March 25, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which is administering the guaranteed income program on behalf of San Francisco, said it has received more than 1,800 responses. (The deadline for applications is April 15.)

Deborah Cullinan, the organization’s chief executive, said that if people in the arts are unstable, “to my mind, I think it means that we are not stable. An organization is only as stable as its core community.”

Cullinan said that she hoped that data from the program could be used to inform the national agenda, and that she already had interest from the federal government.

“It’s about finding new and innovative ways to address the economic insecurity of our sector,” Cullinan added.

In St. Paul, the McKnight and Bush Foundations have helped get the guaranteed-income program off the ground. Laura Zabel, Springboard’s director overseeing the project, said that the monthly payments would help artists afford food and rent. The recipients of the stipends will be chosen from a pool of previous recipients of the organization’s coronavirus emergency grants. The director added that at least 75 percent of recipients would be people of color.

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Suez Canal Is Open, but the World is Still Full of Giant Container Ships

The growth of the shipping industry and ship size has played a central role in creating the modern economy, helping to make China a manufacturing powerhouse and facilitating the rise of everything from e-commerce to retailers like Ikea and Amazon. To the container lines, building bigger made sense: Larger ships allowed them to squeeze out savings on construction, fuel and staffing.

“Ultra Large Container Vessels (U.L.C.V.) are extremely efficient when it is about transporting large quantities of goods around the globe,” Tim Seifert, a spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd, a large shipping company, said in a statement. “We also doubt that it would make shipping safer or more environmentally friendly if there would be more or less-efficient vessels on the oceans or in the canals.”

A.P. Moller-Maersk said it was premature to blame Ever Given’s size for what happened in the Suez. Ultra-large ships “have existed for many years and have sailed through the Suez Canal without issues,” said Palle Brodsgaard Laursen, the company’s chief technical officer, said in a statement on Tuesday.

But the growth in ship size has come at a cost. It has effectively pitted port against port, canal against canal. To make way for bigger ships, for example, the Panama Canal expanded in 2016 at a cost of more than $5 billion.

That set off a race among ports along the East Coast of the United States to attract the larger ships coming through the canal. Several ports, including those in Baltimore, Miami and Norfolk, Va., began dredging projects to deepen their harbors. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spearheaded a $1.7 billion project to raise the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate mammoth ships laden with cargo from Asia and elsewhere.

The race to accommodate ever-larger ships also pushed ports and terminal operators to buy new equipment. This month, for example, the Port of Oakland erected three 1,600-ton cranes that would, in the words of one port executive, allow it to “receive the biggest ships.”

But while ports incurred costs for accommodating larger ships, they didn’t reap all of the benefits, according to Jan Tiedemann, a senior analyst at Alphaliner, a shipping data firm.

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Schools in Long Beach, Calif., Start Reopening This Week

California continued its uneven progress in reopening schools on Monday, as elementary students began to return to classrooms in Long Beach, the state’s fourth-largest district with 70,000 students.

Public schools in the state’s top three districts by enrollment — Los Angeles, San Diego and Fresno — have said they will begin to allow grade-school students back onto campus later in April, as new coronavirus cases have fallen sharply across California.

Schools in Oakland and San Francisco also are scheduled to reopen next month for elementary and special-needs students. But labor agreements in both cities have allowed substantial numbers of teachers to opt out, leaving some schools without enough teachers to reopen and prompting others to scramble for substitutes.

Although many smaller California districts have been open for months, large urban districts on the West Coast generally have lagged behind their counterparts in the rest of the nation. Surging infections in Southern California after the winter holiday were partly to blame for a slow rebound in the Los Angeles school system.

open earlier than other large California school systems because labor unions there agreed last summer to reopen as soon as health conditions permitted, and because the city was able to start vaccinating teachers earlier than other districts in the state.

Unlike most other cities in Los Angeles County, Long Beach has its own public health department, giving the city its own vaccine supplies and the power to set its own vaccine priorities, at a time when the county as a whole was making teachers wait until after other groups, like residents 65 and older, were vaccinated.

“A city with its own health department has the ability to be more nimble,” said Jill Baker, the city’s schools superintendent, who called the return to classrooms this week “exciting and momentous.”

The school district is among the city’s largest employers, and two-thirds of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, so vaccinating school employees and reopening classrooms was viewed as economically important, Ms. Baker said.

About 14,000 students in Long Beach from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade will return this week to school buildings for masked, sanitized and socially distanced instruction. They will be on a hybrid schedule, with students spending about 2½ hours at school each day, five days a week, and completing the school day with remote instruction.

In-person classes for older students are scheduled to resume April 19, with grades 6 to 8 getting the option to return on April 20 and grades 9 to 11 on April 26. The last day of school will be in mid-June.

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Why The Paint Job on Your Car is Crucial to its Resale Value

In 2017, a new Mazda MX-5 Miata RF, resplendent in Soul Red Metallic paint, listed for $35,901. By 2020 that jaunty two-seater had an average resale value of $24,112. If finished in stolid Machine Gray Metallic paint, however, that same model fetched an average of $1,046 less, thanks to the color alone.

Because many other factors influence car value, color is easy to overlook. Yet both paint and car manufacturers maintain international departments of stylists and colorists who not only monitor what consumers are buying but — drawing from the fields of art, architecture, fashion, popular culture and consumer research — predict what people will want up to five years in the future.

Decisions are exasperatingly complex. A popular color for sedans might not work for sports cars. A hit color in Florida might tank in Michigan. According to iSeeCars, a search engine catering to car buyers, the worst color for S.U.V.s was beige, which lost 46 percent of its value over three years. For pickup trucks the best color was … beige. Beige pickups lost only 18 percent in value in the same time period.

The importance of color to cars is almost singular. It’s nothing to chuck a formerly fashionable fuchsia T-shirt, and you can repaint a room in a weekend. But repainting a car costs thousands and requires skilled technicians. With the possible exception of kitchen appliances, there are few color decisions as costly that consumers live with for as long. In a routinely quoted poll from 2000, 39 percent of car buyers said color was more important than brand.

An iSeeCars analysis compared list prices for new 2017 cars with their resale prices in 2020 to see which colors hold value best in different vehicle classes. In addition, some larger paint manufacturers publish annual color popularity reports and predictions for the coming year. Combined, they help draw broad rules for picking the best values in car colors. And while color doesn’t wholly determine a car’s value, if it’s not part of a buying decision, you might get stuck with a gray Miata.

Paint is also about durability, not just aesthetics. It was intended to prevent rust. Henry Ford famously offered customers “a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Black paint was durable and inexpensive — and using a single color sped up production, said Matt Anderson, a curator at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich.

“Popular myth says black was chosen because it dried fast,” he said, “but there’s no evidence that black dried any faster than dark greens or blues,” both among the colors that Ford initially offered.

By the mid-1920s, a DuPont paint formulation helped expand the palette, and color was used as a marketing device; General Motors’ Oakland Motor Car division advertised the True Blue Six model after its bright color in 1924. Even Ford Motor caved in when it needed a marketing boost in 1925.

“Colors then returned for the T’s final two model years in an effort to stimulate slumping sales,” Mr. Anderson said.

Cars came in more than a dozen hues by the mid-50s — the better to attract the female drivers of the family’s second car, the thinking went. Those colors became more vivid in the psychedelic ’60s.

Metal and paint technology upped rust resistance in the ’70s, and then a new process from Europe gained notice, said Clifford Schoff, a paint chemist who spent 30 years at the manufacturer PPG. Clear coating was about to arrive in America.

“We started hearing about the ‘wet look,’” Mr. Schoff said. “The color plus clear meant you kept a higher gloss for a longer time.”

Over the years, those technologies that improved the longevity of cars and paint may help explain the unprecedented 10-year run for white as the most popular color. Its functional advantages also help. White is good in hot climates and hides scratches and dings well, making it popular with fleet buyers.

“Rental car companies love white,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iSeeCars.

But, as the iSeeCars data shows, there is a big gap between what is popular and what retains value.

The 2020 Color Report from the paint provider Axalta (formerly DuPont) said fewer than 1 percent of new cars on lots in America were yellow. Yet iSeeCars data shows yellow retained the most value over all. An overwhelming 30 percent of cars on dealers’ lots are white, followed by 19 percent for both black and gray and 10 percent for silver.

It’s the law of supply and demand. “It’s not that yellow is a popular color. It’s that yellow is popular in relation to how many people want it,” Mr. Brauer said.

“You can’t go wrong buying the popular colors — black, white or silver — but you can’t go right, either,” he added. The most popular colors generally fall in the middle of the value chart.

Rarity alone doesn’t guarantee value. Purple, brown and gold are about as rare as yellow yet retain the least value over all.

There are other anomalies, such as the previously mentioned beige paradox. Trucks did well in muted colors, possibly because, as work vehicles, those hues show less dirt and company names painted on the sides are easy to read.

S.U.V.s did best in flashy colors, possibly because the drivers didn’t want to feel like drudges.

“You are buying the S.U.V. to avoid the minivan,” said Jonah Berger, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with expertise in marketing psychology. A lively color, he said, “makes us feel like: ‘I am driving a fun car. I am a fun, exciting person.’”

Apparently minivan owners are focused on utility. Blue retained the most value, losing 39 percent, but that wasn’t much different from the worst, brown, at 42 percent.

This makes it difficult to assess the “best” color for a car. It might be better to consider the best color for a type of buyer.

“People buy things for different reasons,” Mr. Berger said. “Sometimes we buy them for what they do. Sometimes we buy them for what they say about us.”

People who buy cars for utility, like minivan and fleet buyers, seem to value subtle colors that are easy to care for. People who buy a car as a personal statement — sports- and muscle-car owners­ — value glitzy colors.

That still complicates the paint choice for vehicles that defy categorization. Jeeps and trucks are utility vehicles for some and showpieces for others, who bolt on lift kits, light bars and custom grilles. The Jeep Wrangler retained the most value in Xtreme Purple, a color usually at the bottom of the overall chart. Purple Wranglers kept $2,398 more value than the same model in utilitarian silver.

Color prognosticators agree that the new color to reckon with is blue. Last year it accounted for 10 percent of cars on lots, equal to silver. But which blue? Dark? Light? Metallic? People who make a livelihood from car paint see vast differences between shades of a single hue, even mundane white.

“The white we have is not the white we had 20 years ago,” said Paul Czornij, head of color design for car paint at BASF. A carmaker might ask him for “a white metallic that is a little bluish, and from this grazing angle it has this property, and from this angle is has that property,” he added. “That is very exciting.”

For consumers, those fine points appear to have little effect on value. The iSeeCars data shows that metallic paint’s value advantage over nonmetallic is insignificant.

Ultimately, many buyers may choose paint color disregarding both value and popularity to achieve a third goal, Mr. Berger said: “Maybe having a color that’s different than white makes you happy.”

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Retail Sales Fall as Americans Await New Round of Stimulus Checks: Live Updates

sales in January surged by 7.6 percent — a gain likely fueled by stimulus checks that were deposited at the end of last year. The increase in January, revised upward on Tuesday, benefited a broad array of retailers. Consumers spent more on goods, including at furniture sellers and department stores, as well as in restaurants, in a positive sign for an economy that has been battered by the pandemic.

The data suggests that the recovery in consumer spending is likely to be bumpy as the retail sector recovers from shifts in consumer spending and a new round of stimulus payments arrives in Americans’ bank accounts. Retailers saw largely uneven sales for the better part of last year, as consumers flocked to big-box chains and grocery stores and spent less at many apparel retailers and restaurants. Balancing out those categories is likely to take a combination of stimulus money, vaccinations, improvements in unemployment numbers and warm weather.

“It was obviously going to slow down a bit,” Mickey Chadha, a retail analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, said of the February sales.

“Going forward, the new stimulus checks that are going out as we speak are definitely going to be a positive for retail sales in March and through April,” he added. “All indications are, as the vaccines roll out through the country and the pandemic gets under control, this capacity to spend is only going to fuel further sales in retail.”

Economists at Morgan Stanley had forecast a 0.7 percent gain in February sales based on the outsize gains in January, and also predicted that new stimulus money arriving in late March and early April would drive a spending surge in coming months.

President Biden signed into law a nearly $1.9 trillion relief plan last week, and direct payments of $1,400 per person are already making their way to the bank accounts of low- and middle-income Americans.

“Some of that money is bound to flow into retail — it just has to,” Mr. Chadha said.

The law, known as the American Rescue Plan, also extends $300 federal jobless benefits through Sept. 6 and provides billions of dollars to distribute coronavirus vaccines and relief for schools, states, tribal governments and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Emmanuel Faber, who stepped down as the chairman and chief executive of Danone, had attracted the ire of activist investors.
Credit…Patrick Kovarik/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Emmanuel Faber, the chairman and chief executive of the French consumer group Danone, abruptly left the company on Monday under pressure from activist investors. Now, shareholders of the company, which owns Evian and several yogurt brands, are fighting among themselves about it.

CtW, an adviser to union pensions with more than $250 billion in assets, sent a sharply worded letter to Artisan Partners, the firm that led the revolt over Mr. Faber’s leadership. The twist in the letter, which was reviewed by the DealBook newsletter, is that CtW owns a “substantial” number of Artisan shares — and said that the fund needed the sort of governance shake-up it pushed for at Danone.

Artisan had criticized Danone’s performance versus competitors like Nestlé and Unilever, calling for boardroom changes, including someone other than Mr. Faber becoming chairman. Mr. Faber had been chief executive since 2014 and added the chairman role in 2017. Danone said at the beginning of the month that it would search for a new chief executive, but Mr. Faber would remain as chairman. Mr. Faber shed both of those roles on Monday.

“The appointment of new leadership and better corporate governance will strengthen the company for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Artisan said in a statement on Monday welcoming Mr. Faber’s departure.

CtW says Artisan’s own policies are inconsistent with its demands for Danone. Notably, one person, Eric Colson, serves as Artisan’s chairman and chief executive. “Artisan’s call for an independent chair at Danone while maintaining the positions of C.E.O. and chair combined on its own board is inconsistent with best governance practices,” wrote Dieter Waizenegger, CtW’s executive director. He also questioned the firm’s use of “large discretionary cash bonuses” and demanded a discussion with Artisan’s management by the end of the month.

Artisan did not respond to a request for comment.

Danone, which reported $28 billion in sales in its latest fiscal year, was the first public company to adopt the French legal framework of “Entreprise à Mission,” which allows companies to take greater consideration of social and environmental issues in their business model. Some 99 percent of shareholders, but not Artisan Partners, approved the move in June last year.

The turmoil raises the question whether business models that take all stakeholders into account can survive resistance from activist investors focused primarily on shareholder returns. Danone said in a statement announcing the management changes that it “believes in the necessity” of combining “high economic performance” with Danone’s “unique model of a purpose-driven company.”

The Foxconn chairman and chief executive, Young Liu, said the company was considering sites in Wisconsin or Mexico to produce electric cars.
Credit…Johnson Lai/Associated Press

The Taiwanese electronics behemoth Foxconn, which is aiming to become a contract manufacturer of electric cars, is considering a plant in the United States for production of its first battery-powered vehicles, the company’s chairman said on Tuesday.

Foxconn is weighing whether to use its facility in Wisconsin or one of its plants in Mexico to make its clients’ vehicles, Young Liu, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said at a news briefing in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.

Foxconn, best-known for making iPhones for Apple, has moved eagerly to expand its car business as the world shifts away from internal combustion engines. Last month, it signed an agreement with the California-based start-up Fisker to develop a new electric vehicle. The two companies said they would aim to start jointly producing cars in 2023, with a goal of eventually making more than 250,000 of them a year.

On Tuesday, Mr. Liu emphasized that Foxconn had not made a final decision about where to manufacture cars for Fisker or any other potential partners.

Foxconn has taken its time figuring out what to produce at its site in Wisconsin, a reflection of the complicated economics of manufacturing in the United States.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in 2018, President Donald J. Trump said it would be the “eighth wonder of the world,” as a manufacturer of flat-screen TVs. But those plans have stalled, and the company will announce what it decides to make in Wisconsin — whether electric cars or something else — before July, Mr. Liu said.

In October, Foxconn unveiled a kit of technology and tools aimed at helping automakers develop electric vehicles. It also said it was aiming to release a solid-state battery by 2024. Many companies are investing in the technology behind such batteries, which would allow electric cars to travel farther and be charged more quickly than current batteries.

“It’s just the beginning of this E.V. era,” Mr. Liu said. “We have to be ready for that.”

President Biden is scheduled to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden plans to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which contains an assortment of measures aimed at helping small employers and their workers endure the pandemic’s economic shocks.

The aid bill created a $29 billion grant fund for restaurants and set aside additional money for several relief programs run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses that the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.

But the Biden administration’s most sweeping small-business initiative has been hindered by problems. Last month, the administration announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that were intended to get more money to freelancers, gig workers and other self-employed people.

Women and minority owners are much more likely to run tiny businesses than larger ones, and they were disproportionately shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program under earlier rules that calculated such companies’ forgivable relief loans based on the size of their annual profit. The Biden administration’s more forgiving formula lets those businesses instead use their gross income, a switch that significantly increased the money available to many applicants.

But the change was not retroactive, which has set off a backlash from the hundreds of thousands of borrowers who got much smaller loans than they would now qualify for. Many have used social media or written to government officials to vent their anger.

JagMohan Dilawri, a self-employed chauffeur in Queens, got a loan in February for $1,900. Under the new rules, he calculates that he would have been eligible for around $15,000. That wide gulf frustrated Mr. Dilawri, who has struggled to keep up on his mortgage, car loan and auto insurance payments since the pandemic took hold.

“When the Biden administration came, they said, ‘We will be fair with everyone,’” he said. “But this is unfair.”

Small Business Administration officials have said that only Congress can fix that disparity. Some key Democratic lawmakers say they are willing.

“I am aware of the situation facing these sole proprietors and am working to ensure they get the funds they are entitled to under the Biden administration’s rule changes retroactively,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House Small Business Committee. “My staff and I are working with the S.B.A. and congressional Republicans to find a path forward, whether that be through agency action or additional legislation.”

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Signal, the encrypted chat app, had stopped functioning in China as of Tuesday, in what appeared to be a block of one of the last major foreign messaging services still available in the country, where the internet is closely controlled.

Users in China on Tuesday morning reported widely that the app had stopped working. A New York Times test of the app in Shanghai and Beijing confirmed the reports. Signal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The outage appeared likely to be a government-led block. The app continued to work when users in the mainland logged on to the service via a virtual private network, software that routes their connections outside the country.

Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” which blocks anyone but the sender and receiver from reading the contents. The app has soared in popularity globally in recent months a fears have grown over data harvesting from large internet companies.

The likely block further limits communication options on China’s internet, where the government has built a sophisticated system of censorship and surveillance to control speech. Over the past 15 years, Beijing has steadily winnowed down the major foreign communication tools available to regular Chinese users. Services like Google’s Gmail, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter are all blocked.

In recent years, Signal had grown a modest following in China among activists, journalists, lawyers and others as China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.

For years, it had been a parlor game among its users in China to guess why Signal, long a well-known tool for secret communications, remained unblocked. One theory was that it helped the authorities find who was trying to hide from government spies because, when first downloaded, the app sends the new user a text message that they could possibly track. Still, China’s government often waits for apps to reach larger scale before banning them. Last month, the social media site Clubhouse fell afoul of the blocks after it soared in popularity.

Wall Street followed European and Asian markets higher on Tuesday, adding slightly to gains that on Monday lifted the S&P 500 to a record.

The S&P 500 rose about 0.1 percent in early trading while the Nasdaq composite gained more than half a percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 and FTSE 100 rose about 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Nikkei in Japan had climbed more than half a percent earlier.

The gains came despite recent turmoil about the vaccine rollout in Europe, and growing expectations of a new round of pandemic-related restrictions there.

Several European countries, including Germany, France, Denmark and Norway, have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports that some people had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots after receiving the vaccine. AstraZeneca has said there is “no evidence” of a link, and the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have warned that countries suspending use of the vaccine would disrupt the rollout.

But investors are in wait-and-see mode ahead of central bank meetings this week.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will announce its policy stance and publish new economic forecasts. Analysts at BNP Paribas said the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, faces a tricky balancing act: acknowledging the improved economic outlook and increase in bond yields, while defending the central bank’s easy-money policies.

Investors have been focused on interest rates and inflation expectations for the past several weeks, concerned that resurgent growth in the United States might prompt the Fed to start to wind down efforts to keep rates low sooner than they’d expected. Fed officials have repeatedly said that they’re not concerned about lasting inflation, and that they have no intention of ending their efforts to keep the financial system functioning smoothly.

On Thursday, the Bank of England will announce a rate decision. Economists are not forecasting a change in policy.

A survey of investor confidence in Germany’s economic outlook rose in March, for the fourth consecutive month. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.5 percent and the DAX index of Germany’s 30 largest companies by market value gained 0.6 percent.

  • Shares in NatWest, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland, fell 1.8 percent after Britain’s financial regulator said it has begun criminal proceedings against the bank for failing to properly follow money laundering rules.

  • Oil prices fell. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, dropped 1.5 percent to about $64.50 a barrel.

  • Volkswagen shares spiked as much as 29 percent after the German carmaker said on Monday that it was going all in on electric cars, with plans to build battery factories in Europe and work out how to drastically cut charing times.

  • Commerzbank, one of Germany’s largest banks, said on Monday that Hans-Jörg Vetter would step down as chairman of the supervisory board for health reasons after barely six months in the position. Mr. Vetter, 68, was appointed chairman in August over the objections of shareholders led by Cerberus, the private equity firm, which owns a 5 percent stake in Commerzbank and wanted someone it thought would be more likely to force changes. The German government is the bank’s biggest shareholder with 15 percent.

  • Viewership for the Grammy Awards on CBS on Sunday fell to 8.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen, the television research firm. That’s a new low for the show and a 53 percent drop compared with last year’s show, which drew 18.7 million viewers. The previous low was 17 million viewers in 2006, when Green Day won record of the year.

  • The future for the travel industry is looking a little brighter as more Americans get vaccinated, states open up and resorts sell out, the nation’s largest airlines said Monday. Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Industrial Conference on Monday, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, said he was starting to see “real glimmers of hope” as ticket sales accelerated. At the same conference, the United Airlines chief executive, Scott Kirby, said his company would end the month having taken in more cash from operations than it spent.

The Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, and owner, Louwenda Kachingwe, in their new flower shop next door.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Hatch is alive, albeit as a different place.

Louwenda Kachingwe used ingenuity and a bit of good fortune to take advantage of federal money and discounted leases to not only hold on but expand his Oakland, Calif., bar, Jack Nicas reports for The New York Times.

He lobbied city officials to close down a lane of traffic and then twice built a patio in its place. (Days of rain ruined the first patio.) He and staff built the takeout window, rewrote the menu, moved a projector and screen outside, and bought an outdoor sound system off Craigslist.

He said the Hatch was now better suited for a post-pandemic world, with more outdoor space and a takeout operation. It also suddenly has a few sister businesses.

Last month, he and the Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, opened Pothead, a flower and wine shop, next door to the Hatch. They also took on a third lease in the empty space next to Pothead as a place to build larger floral arrangements for events, to stage a new operation making bottled cocktails and sauces, and to sublease the storefront to some friends’ apparel business.

Such a bet in the midst of a pandemic was bold, but Mr. Kachingwe saw opportunity. He had just received his second $72,500 forgivable loan from the federal government, and his landlord was desperate. So Mr. Kachingwe negotiated a deal that gave him access to the three adjacent storefronts for $7,500 a month, or 20 percent more than what he was paying for only the Hatch before the pandemic. The landlord said they would assess the arrangement at the end of April.

Amazon’s warehouse in Chester, Va., where a union effort tried to organize about 30 facilities technicians in 2014 and 2015.
Credit…Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Over two decades, as Amazon mushroomed from a virtual bookstore into a $1.5 trillion behemoth, it forcefully — and successfully — resisted employee efforts to organize. Some workers in recent years agitated for change in Staten Island, Chicago, Sacramento and Minnesota, but the impact was negligible.

The arrival of the coronavirus last year changed that, reports David Streitfeld for The New York Times. It turned Amazon into an essential resource for millions stuck at home and redefined the company’s relationship with its warehouse workers. Like many service industry employees, they were vulnerable to the virus. As society locked down, they were also less able to simply move on if they had issues with the job.

Now Amazon faces a union vote at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. — the largest and most viable U.S. labor challenge in its history. Nearly 6,000 workers have until March 29 to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. A labor victory could energize workers in other U.S. communities, where Amazon has more than 800 warehouses employing more than 500,000 people.

“This is happening in the toughest state, with the toughest company, at the toughest moment,” said Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University. “If the union can prevail given those three facts, it will send a message that Amazon is organizable everywhere.”

But a unionization effort in Chester, V.a., which The Times reconstructed with documents from regulators and the machinists’ union, as well as interviews with former facilities technicians at the warehouse and union officials, offers one of the fullest pictures of what encourages Amazon workers to open the door to a union — and what techniques the company uses to slam the door and nail it shut.

The tactics that Amazon used in Chester are surfacing elsewhere:

  • The retail workers union said Amazon was trying to surveil employees in Bessemer and even changed a traffic signal to prevent organizers from approaching warehouse workers as they left the site.

  • Last month, the New York attorney general said in a lawsuit that Amazon had retaliated against employees who tried to protest its pandemic safety measures as inadequate.

It wouldn’t have been a Carl Hiaasen column if it didn’t go on the attack. In his Miami Herald farewell on Friday, Mr. Hiaasen took aim at the sorry state of local news coverage.

“Retail corruption is now a breeze,” he wrote, “since newspapers and other media can no longer afford enough reporters to cover all the key government meetings.”

Mr. Hiaasen, 68, joined The Miami Herald as a reporter in 1976 and started his column in 1985. Along the way he became a best-selling author, writing about Florida’s underbelly and environmental devastation in comic novels like “Tourist Season,” “Sick Puppy” and “Strip Tease.” Now he will no longer have a weekly venue for skewering government officials, business leaders and the various absurdities of life in the Sunshine State.

“Nobody becomes a journalist because they yearn for mass adoration,” he wrote in his final column. “Donald Trump didn’t turn the public against the mainstream media; the news business has never been popular.”

Mr. Hiaasen also used his goodbye to pay tribute to his brother, Rob, a journalist who was killed in a gunman’s rampage at The Capital Gazette in Maryland in 2018. He also thanked The Herald’s “talented, tenacious” editors and reporters.

The paper was owned by the newspaper publisher Knight Ridder when he started working there. In 2006, the McClatchy Company, a family-run newspaper chain, bought Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion. Last year Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey hedge fund, bought McClatchy, and The Herald along with it, in a bankruptcy auction.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Hiaasen said he had lasted 45 years at The Herald because it was “a good fit.”

“I always felt privileged to be able to write for a paper that I read as a kid growing up here in Florida and to be writing in a place that I care about,” he said. “I was lucky to be at this paper as a reporter in the ’70s and ’80s, when Miami was catching fire. It was a hell of a newspaper, hell of a news town and I was lucky to be there.”

He said he planned to do more fishing but will continue writing books. “Nobody really retires as a writer,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “You keel face forward into the keyboard one day and that’s it.”

He added that the hardest thing to watch during his career was the shrinking of the local news industry, saying, “There are fewer and fewer boots on the ground to do the grunt work required to keep democracy informed.”

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Beer Here, Bouquets Next Door: How a Bar Defied the Pandemic

Ms. Easterbrook, the Hatch’s manager, had been planning to open a sister bar called Good for Nothing, but she quickly ditched the plan when the pandemic arrived. Then, in a late-night conversation while waiting for takeout orders at the Hatch, Ms. Easterbrook, a trained florist, and Mr. Kachingwe came up with the idea for Pothead. To them, the concept made sense: There was still demand for flowers and plants, the Hatch’s new outdoor space could attract customers, and they could use the bar’s liquor license to sell wine.

Ms. Easterbrook said the first weeks had been a success, though Mr. Kachingwe still had plenty to learn. “In the beginning he asked me things like, ‘Should I get more sand for the flowers?’” she said.

Mr. Kachingwe teamed up with the Hatch’s cook, Leonardo Garcia, to make and bottle sauces, including Hatch Fire Ketchup and Hatch Fuego. And he worked with Giacchino Breen, a 23-year-old bartender, on bottling cocktails under a new brand, Wolfmoon. As part of Mr. Kachingwe’s effort to empower his employees, Mr. Garcia and Mr. Breen have stakes in the sales.

Now, after a year in which he worried the Hatch would never fully open again, Mr. Kachingwe said his biggest anxiety was welcoming customers back inside. He is trying to figure out how to make the sound system cover both the indoor and outdoor spaces and whether to have indoor customers order food at the outdoor window. Until they receive a vaccine, some on the staff are also uncomfortable with customers returning inside the compact bar.

In fact, Mr. Kachingwe said, he prefers the new Hatch to what it was before the pandemic. With the outdoor seating, “it’s more lively,” he said. “I don’t see things going back to the way they were.”

Kirla Oyola-Seal contributed reporting.

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Oakland warehouse fire: man sentenced to 12 years for blaze that killed 36 people

The master tenant of the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse, where a fire killed 36 people in 2016, received a 12-year sentence – but he is not likely to see the inside of a state prison.

Already on house arrest after being released from jail last year because of coronavirus concerns, Derick Almena, 50, on Monday was ordered to serve the rest of his term under electronic monitoring, followed by three years of probation.

“I know that no family member will find this in any way acceptable, and I accept that responsibility,” Trina Thompson, a judge on the Alameda county superior court, said.

She added: “I wish I could in the stroke of a pen take away your deep loss and your sadness.”

The sentence marked an end to an emotionally charged case that devastated the local underground arts and music community. The 2 December 2016 Ghost Ship inferno, one of the deadliest structure fires in US history, brought into focus the harsh reality of the Bay Area’s housing crisis, and the hazardous conditions it was forcing local artists to accept in order to continue living and working.

Almena, who lived in the warehouse with his family, was accused of ignoring fire codes and warnings that the space was hazardous when he illegally converted it into commune-style living quarters. He filled the building with Balinese statues, antiques, discarded material and wooden pallets, racking up a history of violations and complaints. Almena often hosted for-profit concerts at the commune, even though it was not licensed for entertainment.

The night of the blaze, prosecutors alleged Almena knowingly packed dozens of people into a “fire trap” for an electronic music party, trapping victims on an illegally constructed second floor. Prosecutors said the victims got no warning and had little chance to escape down the narrow, ramshackle staircase.

Many of the those who died that night came from the local community, including musicians, artists, students, teachers and photographers.

In 2019, a jury acquitted Max Harris, Almena’s purported right-hand man, of involuntary manslaughter, but could not reach a verdict on charges against Almena. Almena pleaded guilty in January to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence, a plea deal he struck with prosecutors to avoid a second trial.

Many of the relatives of the 36 killed had urged the judge to reject the plea deal. Because he received credit for time already spent behind bars while awaiting trial and for good behavior, he will spend the next year and a half at home with an ankle monitor.

“This lenient, slap-on-the-wrist sentence is vastly inappropriate for the crimes Derick Almena committed,” the family of Sarah Hoda, a victim of the fire, said in a statement read to the court via teleconference. “Upholding the DA’s irresponsible plea recommendation would shortchange 36 victims and their families.”

Emilie Grandchamps, the mother of Alex Ghassan, another victim, said Almena along with the warehouse’s owners and city agencies that are supposed to enforce regulations should be held accountable.

“I often ask, ‘Why was my son given a death sentence for being in the wrong place and at the wrong time and those responsible for his and 35 others’ death are given a second chance at life?’ I want my son’s death not to go in vain,” she said.

The judge and prosecutors said they took into consideration the difficulties of trying the case again, given the challenges of selecting jurors and calling witnesses who could face traveling during a pandemic, and because Almena had admitted his guilt. Almena apologized to the victims and said he was “sick with shame”.

“My shame cannot stand as any defense against what I am responsible for. It is my fault, my terrible accumulation of error, that shaped and built a place so dangerous,” he said in a statement read to the court through his attorney, Tony Serra.

Almena became the object of ire in the wake of the fire after after he posted on Facebook, just hours after the flames broke out: “Everything I worked so hard for is gone. It’s as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope … to be standing now in poverty of self worth.”

The post was later deleted. Past residents and artists later came forward to describe not only dangerous living conditions at the warehouse, but what they called Almena’s erratic, manipulative behavior.

The Oakland city council agreed last year to pay just over $33m to settle civil lawsuits filed on behalf of the victims. The settlements included $23.5m to families of 32 victims and $9.3m to a survivor who suffers from “severe, lifelong injuries.”.

Almena was also ordered to pay about $181,000 in restitution for funeral expenses and counseling. A restitution hearing will be held on 30 April.

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