Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Funding for the public-awareness campaign came out of the CDC's budget.
BETH MOLE - 9/30/2
Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers on May 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images
The Trump administration's more-than-$300-million "public advertising and awareness campaign" on the COVID-19 pandemic is floundering as A-list celebrities back away and staff at the Department of Health and Human Services express opposition, according to reporting by Politico.
The campaign—organized by former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo—was intended to "defeat despair" and bolster confidence in the Trump administration's response to the pandemic. A central feature of the campaign would be video interviews between celebrities and administration officials, who would discuss the pandemic and the federal response.
To pull it off, Caputo and his team requisitioned $300 million that Congress had previously budgeted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also made a list of more than 30 big-name celebrities that they hoped to appear in the Health Department's videos, including Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi, and Madonna.
But the project has been plagued by missteps from an inexperienced team, disorganization, and tepid celebrity interest. So far, it has only managed to recruit Dennis Quaid, CeCe Winans, and Hasidic singer Shulem Lemmer. Quaid dropped out of the campaign this week.
The campaign was further thrown into question earlier this month when Caputo—whom Trump appointed as spokesperson for the HHS—announced a leave of absence.
Meanwhile, many current and former staff at the HHS are against the campaign, which many see as a public-relations bid to help Trump's reelection.
FURTHER READINGAfter ranting about armed uprising, top Health Dept. spokesperson takes leaveJosh Peck, a former HHS official who oversaw the Obama administration's advertising campaign for HealthCare.gov, noted to Politico earlier that: "CDC hasn't yet done an awareness campaign about Covid guidelines—but they are going to pay for a campaign about how to get rid of our despair? Run by political appointees in the press shop? Right before an election?"
"It's like every red flag I could dream of," he added.
Others expressed frustration that the campaign was not relying on expertise within the HHS. Instead, the campaign contracted with a video firm run by a former business partner of Caputo. The firm has struggled to meet deadlines and retain staff, people involved with the campaign told Politico.
Still others at the HHS were upset that funds were being spent on a video campaign about the pandemic response rather than the pandemic response itself.
"This is a boondoggle," an HHS official who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive department project, told Politico. "We're in the middle of a pandemic... we could use that quarter of a billion dollars on buying PPE [personal protective equipment], not promoting PSAs with C-list celebrities."
By Tracy Rucinski, David Shepardson
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American Airlines and United Airlines, two of the largest U.S. carriers, said they were beginning furloughs of over 32,000 workers on Thursday as hopes faded for a last-minute bailout from Washington.
Both airlines told employees, however, in memos seen by Reuters on Wednesday that they stood ready to reverse the furloughs, which affect about 13% of their workforces before the pandemic, if a deal was reached.
Tens of thousands of other employees at those airlines and others including Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines have accepted buyouts or leaves of absence aimed at reducing headcount as carriers battle a health crisis that has upended the global travel industry.
U.S. airlines have been pleading for another $25 billion in payroll support to protect jobs for a further six months once the current package, which banned furloughs, expires at midnight EDT.
Earlier, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said talks with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had made progress on a bipartisan aid plan, although no deal was reached and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief proposal “outlandish.”
In a memo to employees, American Chief Executive Doug Parker said Mnuchin told him that he and Pelosi were continuing to negotiate on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that would include an extension of aid for airlines and could reach an agreement in coming days.
“Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any of these efforts will come to fruition,” Parker said.
American will furlough 19,000 employees, including some 1,600 pilots. More than 13,000 United employees will be on furlough, but not any pilots following an agreement reached this week.
“Tomorrow, tens of thousands of essential aviation workers will wake up without a job or healthcare and tens of thousands more will be without a paycheck,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson said in a statement that urged lawmakers to reach a deal.
Nick Calio, who heads the airline trade group Airlines for America, said earlier that the industry was still pursuing all potential avenues for new assistance as time runs short.
“People keep talking, but we need results,” Calio told Reuters. “We are hopeful but not confident about them reaching a deal on a larger bill.”
U.S. airline shares ended flat on Wednesday.
Weeks of intense airline lobbying has won over many but not all Washington lawmakers, while drawing attention to the plight of other pandemic-hit industries as the crisis persists.
U.S. airlines are operating about half their 2019 flying schedules and suffering a 68% decline in passenger volumes.
The impact of the coronavirus on travel may cost as many as 46 million jobs globally, according to projections published on Wednesday by the Air Transport Action Group.
Airlines have argued they need trained employees to help drive an economic recovery as the pandemic subsides. American Airlines’ Parker told CNN he believed one more round of aid would be sufficient.
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Henderson and Peter Cooney
Up to 50,000 airline workers could lose their job tonight if Congress doesn't approve more aid
“I feel like I’m being left behind and there’s nothing we can do. It’s extremely out of our hands, and we’re just sitting around terrified,” said Amanda Steinbrunn, a flight attendant who has been with United Airlines for five years.
She herself contracted Covid-19, recovered — and went on to help transport nurses and doctors. Last month the airline told her that she would "absolutely" be losing her job Oct. 1 if there was no extension passed to the payroll support program, she said. “I don’t have a backup plan. I’m going to be on the unemployment line like so many other people."
In May, Congress passed HEROES Act legislation that bailed out nearly 75 percent of the airline’s payroll expenses with $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, with another $10 billion for cargo airlines, with the stipulation that airlines not let any workers go until Oct. 1. At stake are close to 50,000 jobs for pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, counter agents and other airline and airport personnel.
It was expected that, by October, the U.S. would have had enough time to get the coronavirus under control and return to more typical travel and expenditure levels. However, garbled national guidance and inconsistent adherence to safety precautions squandered the bought time for travel and other industries.
Inconsistent adherence to safety precautions across the country has led to a spike in infections — squandering the bought time for travel and other industries waiting for an economic recovery.
Now, airline workers are hanging on for hopes of assistance from Congress to save their livelihoods.
“Without aid from the federal government, I will be laid off on October 1 and will lose my paycheck and my health insurance,” said Toni Valentine, who works for United Airlines Reservations in Detroit. “Hundreds of thousands of airline workers are facing financial ruin through no fault of our own. How will we take care of our families without a paycheck and health insurance?” she said.
After hitting rock bottom during coronavirus lockdowns, airline travel began to slowly rise again, but has plateaued well below previous year-over-year average levels. Despite new cleaning procedures from the airlines, passengers so far are largely unwilling to fly unless they have to, absent a safe and widely available vaccine.
Airlines have been feverishly negotiating with their labor unions and offering deals to employees to try to pursue all available options to reduce or delay costs and cuts, such as early retirement and long-term sabbaticals. Hard-hit commercial legacy carriers in particular have been under pressure.
United Airlines negotiated a deal with its pilot union to avoid furloughs until at least June 2021, but the rest of their workforce still faces furloughs, the company announced Monday. Last week, Delta announced it would delay furloughs until Nov. 1, allowing the airline more time to assess its financial situation. American Airlines is still on track to begin furloughs on Oct. 1 across its workforce.
“The airline industry and many of its employees are like Thelma and Louise, racing toward the abyss,” independent aviation analyst Bob Mann told NBC News in an email. “We've seen the movie. So, absent a rescue, we know the ending.”
But he said that reaching deeper into the government pockets to keep the industry afloat was well within the country’s interest.
“Does the nation want an airline industry ready to drive the economy when vaccines have been widely administered? If so, pay up, now, to keep the industry vital until then,” he said.
The critical national infrastructure that the airline industry provides — and that will be key to the nation's economic recovery — could be severely affected by the sweeping industry cuts, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told NBC News earlier this month. "We want to make sure that when the economy recovers, we are here."
Many airline hubs are located in swing states, so the proposed cuts are in areas President Donald Trump needs to win, come Nov. 3. That could put pressure on his Republican allies in Congress to make a deal with Democrats.
As Democrats and Republicans zero in on the terms for a potential new coronavirus relief package, this week the Treasury department closed major loans with seven of the country’s top airlines.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Tuesday that the administration does support further assistance for the airlines. “That's something that's critical to keep our airline workers,” he said. “Hopefully the airlines will postpone their actions.”
But he did not expect there would be a special carveout provision just for airlines. “There's a lot of support we've already delivered for that industry,” Mnuchin said.
Labor unions strongly urged Congress to step up.
“The Machinists Union stands shoulder to shoulder with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in their effort to get a coronavirus relief package passed for all Americans,” said Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
“It is an outrage that working families have already waited more than four months since the House passed the HEROES Act,” Martinez said. “The Machinists Union will do anything to support our membership and the tens of thousands of our airline members who will be laid off on Oct. 1.”
A major U.S. carrier could even be forced out of business, one industry leader cautioned earlier in the pandemic.
"I don't want to get too predictive on that subject. But yes, most likely," Boeing CEO David Calhoun said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "TODAY" show in May, when asked if he thought a major U.S. carrier would have to go out of business.
"Something will happen when September comes around [and the aid expires]. Traffic levels will not be back to 100 percent. They won't even be back to 25 percent. So there will definitely be adjustments that have to be made on the part of the airlines," Calhoun said.
Canadians in £3bn hostile bid for 'deeply troubled G4S': Private equity-backed rival claims UK security giant needs new management
G4S has come under fire from a Canadian rival mounting a £3billion hostile takeover bid.
In its latest salvo, Garda World described the British security services group as a 'deeply troubled company' which needs fresh management to deal with 'scandals, crises and lawsuits'.
The private equity-backed firm stuck with its offer of 190p per share, despite the approach being unanimously rejected by the G4S board just over two weeks ago.
G4S yesterday urged investors to 'take absolutely no action in relation to the unattractive and opportunistic offer' and described its timing during the pandemic as 'highly opportunistic'.Share
But investors piled in, sending shares in the FTSE 250 firm surging above £2 for the first time since February, before the Covid-19 crisis triggered a rout on global stockmarkets.
They are now up 37 per cent since news of the £3billion takeover bid emerged just over a fortnight ago.
In the coming days Garda World will start contacting G4S shareholders, which include fund manager Schroders and New York investment firm Sachem Head Capital Management.
A key part of its pitch will include accusations that G4S bosses have 'destroyed nearly £1billion of shareholder value' over the last seven years, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on restructuring programmes without managing to improve its margins.
But it will also warn that G4S 'remains dogged by scandals, crises and lawsuits' which could lead to 'further claims, provisions and contingent liabilities'.
And G4S is hampered by a £276million funding shortfall in its pension fund, Garda World said.
The firm's boss Stephan Cretier said: 'G4S is a deeply troubled business which needs a committed owner-operator team that understands the sector and has a definitive and comprehensive plan.
'Stakeholders can take no confidence in the promises of a senior management team that has been in place for seven years and has not delivered.'
He added that the 'G4S board has behaved in a cavalier way by rejecting our potential offer out of hand'.
The 190p a share offer amounts to a 31 per cent premium on the 145p that shares had been trading at just before the offer was initially made last month.
David Buik, a veteran city commentator and consultant at Aquis Exchange, said: 'From a management perspective heading all the way back to the London Olympics in 2012, G4S has been a shambles.
Garda World are prepared to pay a reasonable premium for it. I'd be very surprised if shareholders don't go for it.'
The Montreal-based firm – which is 51 per cent backed by London-based private equity giant BC Partners – said the deal would be funded with equity from BC Partners and loans from three banks. It has made several attempts to engage with the G4S board over the past three months.
The firm also made an approach last year but walked away without making an offer.
G4S employs around 533,000 people in more than 80 countries, including 25,000 in the UK.
It runs security and cash handling services, while also managing Covid test centres around the UK, and four prisons.
But it has been mired in scandal in recent years, such as failing to provide enough staff for the London 2012 Olympics.
G4S also landed itself in hot water after it emerged it had been overcharging taxpayers for tagging criminals, some of whom were dead or back in prison.
Over the summer it announced plans to cut 1,150 jobs, mainly in its cash handling business amid a move to online banking and digital payments.
Garda World employs more than 102,000 globally. It guards British embassies in places such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia.