The Walt Disney Co. announced plans to lay off 4,000 more employees largely due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement by the company was made in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week, saying 32,000 employees at the parks, experiences and products division will be terminated in the first half of fiscal year 2021, which began last month.
In late September, the company had already announced plans to terminate 28,000 theme park workers. The company did not say how many of the additional 4,000 employees work at the California or Florida theme parks.
In the SEC document filed on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, the company said it also put 37,000 employees not scheduled for termination on furlough as a result of the pandemic.
“Due to the current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating, the company has generated efficiencies in its staffing, including limiting hiring to critical business roles, furloughs and reductions-in-force,” the document said.
The company also said they may make more cuts in spending such as reducing film and television content investments and additional furloughs and layoffs.
In Florida, the company has been limiting attendance at its parks and changing protocols to allow for social distancing by limiting characters’ meet and greets.
Disney’s parks closed in March as the pandemic started spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened in the summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen pending state and local government approvals.
Also read : Disney to axe 28,000 jobs
Countries with decreasing COVID-19 numbers still need to stay "vigilant," a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Friday.
"Even as case numbers are coming down, all countries need to remain vigilant. You've heard of this before, but we really need to emphasize it again. Do not let your guard down," Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said during a virtual briefing, reports Xinhua.
"It's good to see the measures taking effect and transmission going down. But it's not time to let up. It's time to even scale up," Van Kerkhove added.
Global COVID-19 cases have surpassed 61 million with the death toll topping 1.4 million, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
"What we don't want to see is situations where you are moving from a so-called lockdown state to bring the virus under control to moving to a so-called lockdown state," she warned.
Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surged out of control in the nation’s most populous county, banning most gatherings but stopping short of a full shutdown on retail stores and other non-essential businesses.
The three-week “safer at home” order takes effect Monday. It came as the county of 10 million residents confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The county had set a threshold for issuing the stay-home order: an average of 4,500 cases a day over a five-day period, but hadn’t expected to reach that level until next month.
However, the five-day average of new cases reported Friday was 4,751.
“We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge.”
The order advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, whether publicly or privately.
However, exceptions are made for church services and protests, “which are constitutionally protected rights,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Indoor retail businesses, which make much of their profits during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, are allowed to remain open but with just 20% of capacity, including nail salons and other personal care services.
Stores considered essential will be allowed 35% capacity. Outdoor fitness centers, museums and outdoor amusements such as mini-golf can operate at 50% of capacity.
Restaurants in the county already were recently barred from in-person dining. They can still offer pickup, delivery and takeout services.
Beaches, trails, and parks will remain open, with safety requirements.
Schools and day camps can remain open except for those that have three or more COVID-19 cases over 14 days. Those should close for 14 days, the order said.
The order, which runs through Dec. 20, is more modest than a statewide closure order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom in mid-March. That order closed schools and most businesses and severely restricted movement except for essential workers or to perform essential chores such as buying groceries or picking up medications.
The restrictions are said to have slowed the spread of COVID-19 and some restrictions were eased but the caseload picked up again in summer and in recent weeks has surged to record levels throughout most of the state — as well as throughout most states in the country.
Daily cases numbers in California have set records in recent days. Hospitalizations statewide have increased more than 80% in the last two weeks. Nearly 2,000 people in the county are now hospitalized and the new order is part of an effort to prevent the county’s health system from being overwhelmed.
Meanwhile, public health officials are bracing for a wave of cases that could follow gatherings at Thanksgiving. Officials say it usually takes two to three weeks for such serious cases to show but about 12% of those infected could wind up hospitalized.
Despite its reputation for sprawl, Los Angeles has some of the densest neighborhoods in the U.S. Many of those areas have multi-generational households where workers who don’t have the luxury to telecommute are exposed to the virus at work or on public transportation and spread it to family members.
Case numbers in those communities have been higher and the virus has disproportionately affected more Latinos and Black people.
With infections out of control, the other options for public officials to take are even more onerous and unlikely to be enacted in the U.S., said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
China, for example, tested millions of people and enforced quarantines. Italy brought in the military to enforce a shutdown.
“It’s hard to imagine how much further you can go in a society like we have,” he said. “It’s a balancing act, right? You want people to obey it but you don’t want to make it so draconian that people are trying to figure out ways around it all the time.”
President Donald Trump’s legal team suffered yet another defeat in court Friday as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia roundly rejected the campaign’s latest effort to challenge the state’s election results.
Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judges’ assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit.”
“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” 3rd Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel, all appointed by Republican presidents.
The case had been argued last week in a lower court by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who insisted during five hours of oral arguments that the 2020 presidential election had been marred by widespread fraud in Pennsylvania. However, Giuliani failed to offer any tangible proof of that in court.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, another Republican, had said the campaign’s error-filled complaint, “like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together” and denied Giuliani the right to amend it for a second time.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called any revisions “futile.” Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and Judge Michael Chagares were on the panel with Bibas, a former University of Pennsylvania law professor. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, sat on the court for 20 years, retiring in 2019.
“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” Bibas said in the opinion, which also denied the campaign’s request to stop the state from certifying its results, a demand he called “breathtaking.”
In fact, Pennsylvania officials had announced Tuesday that they had certified their vote count for President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state. Nationally, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris garnered nearly 80 million votes, a record in U.S. presidential elections.
Trump has said he hopes the Supreme Court will intervene in the race as it did in 2000, when its decision to stop the recount in Florida gave the election to Republican George W. Bush. On Nov. 5, as the vote count continued, Trump posted a tweet saying the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”
Ever since, Trump and his surrogates have attacked the election as flawed and filed a flurry of lawsuits to try to block the results in six battleground states. But they’ve found little sympathy from judges, nearly all of whom dismissed their complaints about the security of mail-in ballots, which millions of people used to vote from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump perhaps hopes a Supreme Court he helped steer toward a conservative 6-3 majority would be more open to his pleas, especially since the high court upheld Pennsylvania’s decision to accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 6 by only a 4-4 vote last month. Since then, Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett has joined the court.
“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tweeted after Friday’s ruling. “On to SCOTUS!”
In the case at hand, the Trump campaign asked to disenfranchise the state’s 6.8 million voters or at least “cherry-pick” the 1.5 million who voted by mail in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other Democratic-leaning areas, the appeals court said.
“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, wrote in his scathing ruling on Nov. 21. “That has not happened.”
A separate Republican challenge that reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week seeks to stop the state from further certifying any races on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is fighting that effort, saying it would prevent the state’s legislature and congressional delegation from being seated in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, Trump said the Nov. 3 election was still far from over. Yet he said for the first time he would leave the White House on Jan. 20 if the Electoral College formalizes Biden’s win.
“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said at the White House, taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day.
On Twitter Friday, however, he continued to baselessly attack Detroit, Atlanta and other Democratic cities with large Black populations as the source of “massive voter fraud.” And he claimed, without evidence, that a Pennsylvania poll watcher had uncovered computer memory drives that “gave Biden 50,000 votes” apiece.
All 50 states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. Biden won both the Electoral College and popular vote by wide margins.
US President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to appoint a Palestinian-American to a key White House position has sparked a storm of political controversy.
Biden had announced at the start of the week that Reema Dodin will serve as one of two deputy directors of his legislative affairs team, which helps define presidential policies. The other is Shuwanza Goff, who is an African American.
The appointment of Dodin, a veteran Washington insider, adds substance to campaign promises made by Biden in his six-page “Plan for Partnership” with the Arab American community, published in August, in which he promised to repeal the Trump administration’s so-called 'Muslim ban' and recognize Arab-American rights.
“The American people are eager for our administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” Biden said. “In a Biden administration we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”
Ron Klain, Biden’s White House chief of staff, said: “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris share a bold agenda that will build our nation back better than before. Our team will work with the president-elect and vice president-elect to implement that agenda and deliver results for American families.”
Pro-Israel groups and organizations criticized the appointment of Dodin, accusing her of attempting to justify “suicide bombings.” The allegation, which was supported by a twisting of the facts about past comments she made, is a common criticism leveled against Palestinians appointed to public office in US, based on presumed support for Palestinian rights.
The Jerusalem Post, a conservative, English-language Israeli newspaper, highlighted a comment Dodin allegedly made in 2002 in which she told an audience in Lodi, California, that “suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people.”
She also participated in a rally supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement, which opposes Israel’s policy of stealing land from Palestinians, setting up illegal settlements and harvesting the land for profit.
More than 26 US states, including Illinois, have passed legislation that makes support of BDS illegal and punishable in a number of ways.
Reacting to the appointment of Dodin, Arab News reported an article published on the website of anti-Arab extremist Sarah Geller said: “As predicted, the radical anti-Israel Left will have a prominent role in the potential Joe Biden administration. Palestinian American Reema Dodin, who has expressed support for suicide bombings against Israelis, will help negotiate legislation for Joe Biden.”
The pro-Israel Jewish Press also slammed Dodin in their coverage, citing claims that she is “acting as an agent of influence for the [Muslim] Brotherhood’s operations inside America.”
Dodin, who worked for many years as deputy chief of staff for Senator Dick Durbin, a moderate and popular Democrat from Illinois, immediately made her Twitter account private, apparently in an attempt to prevent critics from sifting through her past comments and using them to portray her as an extremist.
Durbin issued a statement in which he welcomed the appointment of Dodin to the Biden administration, and praised her service to his office. In a message posted on Twitter, he wrote: “Excited that my floor director, Reema Dodin, will be joining President-elect Biden’s (Legislative) Affairs team. She is smart, trusted, and has the respect of members on both sides of the aisle. Reema is just what our new president needs to help him in the Senate.”
Prominent Arab Americans and politicians rallied to Dodin’s defense.
Ziad Asali, founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, said that Dodin had “worked her way from law school to community activity to Senator Durbin’s office, all the way to the White House. Message to young Palestinian/Arab Americans: Yes you can. Belong and earn your way with competence and commitment. Meritocracy means success without waste.”
Warren David, the president of media organization Arab America said: “We are so excited about Reema’s appointment. It means so much to Arab Americans, who have been marginalized throughout the years, to see a senior official of Arab/Palestinian heritage in the White House. Hopefully, appointments such as this are not the ‘exception’ but the ‘rule’ regarding Arab Americans in public service.”
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also welcomed the appointment, saying: “Over my 10 years in the Senate, Reema has been an invaluable source of insight and counsel. She is invariably conscientious and caring, and the Biden admin is lucky to have her. I’ll miss her on the Senate Floor but look forward to working with her in her new role.”
Dodin was born to Palestinian immigrants whose origins can be traced to Dura in Palestine, near the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron.
She has been active in Arab American circles for many years. In May 2018 she participated in the Arab American Institute’s annual Khalil Gibran Awards ceremony, during which she presented an award to Marcelle M. Wahba, the president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington D.C. and a former US Ambassador to the UAE.
Dodin has a strong resume, having served as Durbin’s research director and an aide to his Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. She was also a volunteer voter-protection counsel on a number of political campaigns, including Obama for America.
She is a Truman National Security fellow, a New Leaders Council fellow, an Aspen Socrates alum, a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Jenkins Hill Society, a consortium of women in politics supporting female politicians.
Originally from California, Dodin is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.