If you have a mortgage and can’t afford to pay it because of fallout from the coronavirus, you may be able to push off your payments for several months, or even into next year. But if you’re struggling to pay your rent, your options are probably much more limited.
Local, state and federal governments have laid out a patchwork of programs to pause certain eviction proceedings, but some of those have already expired — and one eviction protection component set out in the CARES Act is scheduled to expire by July 25.
Without continued regional action or new help from Congress, a spike in evictions may soon be upon us. The Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project in Denver estimates that between 19 million and 23 million — one in five of the 110 million Americans who live in rental housing — are at risk of eviction by the end of September.
But as harrowing as eviction is, it’s a process that plays out over weeks, at a minimum. And at nearly every point along the way, it may be possible to stop it.
Most people who have never experienced eviction aren’t aware of their local rules, which can be complex and differ widely from place to place. And then there’s the tangle of stopgap federal efforts that may be extended or resurrected over the course of the crisis.
If you’re having trouble paying your rent, your situation might feel hopeless. It may not be — and experts have these suggestions for what to know and what to do.
If you’ve lost your job or part of your income, your instinct may be to avoid your landlord. But it’s probably better to make contact and explain what’s going on.
“In a couple of groups I’ve been part of where landlords have been present, they’ve complained that they’ve reached out to tenants and aren’t getting responses,” said Abigail Staudt, managing attorney of the housing practice at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “Many of them — not all — are compassionate and are ready and willing to work with tenants.”
If you’re going to pay late, not pay in full or pay nothing, landlords will find that out soon enough anyway, she added. Being upfront might pay off later.
Don’t Just Leave
Often, tenants receive that first notice from a landlord, assume that there is no fixing the problem, and decide that they should pack up and move. “People often confuse the first step in the process with the last step,” said Zach Neumann, founder of the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project.
In fact, in most areas, you don’t have to move until there has been some sort of legal finding against you and an officer of the law arrives to carry out any order of eviction. That means there may be time for you to figure out a solution that doesn’t require you to move at all.
Get Legal Help
You probably do not have the right to a lawyer if a landlord brings an eviction action against you (although there are a few notable exceptions, like in San Francisco and for some families in Cleveland). But you can retain one anyway, and possibly for little cost.
Contacting your local Legal Aid office is a good start. An organization called Just Shelter also has a nationwide map on its website with links to other local organizations that may be able to help.
Merely retaining a lawyer may make landlords more likely to negotiate. That’s because it could signal that their own legal fees are about to go up. A number of reports have pointed to improved (or at least non-worst-case-scenario) outcomes for tenants who have counsel.
Even if you’re not able to fend off eviction, Ms. Staudt said, a lawyer may be able to negotiate more time for you to find a new place.
Consider the Landlord
The company or person tacking notices to your door does not inspire much sympathy. Still, landlords have to pay utilities, taxes, maintenance and insurance, too.
And this is one of the few areas of consumer life where you alone may be the source of a significant percentage of someone else’s income.
It might help in any communication to acknowledge this. Small-scale landlords own more than half the housing stock that rents for less than $750 per month, noted Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. If they go into foreclosure or have to sell, even less sympathetic owners might replace them.
“If we lose them, we risk losing a big source of affordable housing,” she said. Perhaps if you acknowledge your own landlord’s contribution in this way (and your desire to keep landlords solvent, if your own seems to be in jeopardy), you could get a more sympathetic ear.
Make an Offer
You do not get what you do not ask for. So talk to your landlord. There are different ways to reduce your costs: waiving rent, reducing rent or using a security deposit in lieu of your payment.
A survey by Apartment List, the real estate listing site, found a bit of decent news. As of June, 39 percent of people not paying rent in full reported that their landlord had made some kind of concession. That figure had fallen from 45 percent in April, but it’s still worth asking for new terms.
Review the Rules
Depending where you live and the details of the mortgage for the property you occupy, you might be protected from eviction, at least for now. Some landlords who have themselves put their mortgages into forbearance cannot evict tenants while they’re also skipping payments.
A database of addresses that the National Low Income Housing Coalition created may help some renters figure out if their landlord must comply with the various federal rules. This is another area where a lawyer can help, since the rules can be complicated and some landlords don’t know them — or ignore them.
Some state and local officials have put their own eviction restrictions into place. These efforts are listed on the websites for Eviction Lab and Regional Housing Legal Services.
Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest School of Law, has also assembled a large amount of helpful information on local actions, with the help of many law and public health students. It’s collected in a publicly available Google spreadsheet.
Seek Outside Help
Rental assistance programs exist, although high demand has depleted some of them.
Still, it’s worth seeking the help out if you need it. The National Low Income Housing Coalition maintains a list of programs on its website.
Also, keep checking back. Any new federal relief bill could provide additional money.
Don’t Just Leave, Part 2
Things may not go your way. The Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, a founder of both Just Shelter and Eviction Lab, saw it happen while researching his book “Evicted.”
He suggested a couple of tactics. First, make a plan for where you might go if you lose your housing. Ask family and friends for help well ahead of time.
Then stay in your current home as long as you legally can. “You might as well wait for the sheriff to come and force you out,” he said.
Watch for Changes
Nobody knows what will happen in Washington. Many lawmakers agree that another relief package is necessary, but what it will look like and when it will arrive are anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, tenants should pay as much as they can for as long as they can — and cross their fingers that more help arrives, said Norrinda Brown Hayat, associate clinical professor of law at the Newark campus of Rutgers School of Law.
“Everything is ‘If, then, but,’” she said. “People want to have certainty, but there is none. We just don’t have it yet.”
Watch Out for One Another
Jaffe S. Pickett, executive director of Florida Rural Legal Services, said collecting yourself and responding quickly to the threat of eviction isn’t easy, given everything that renters may be up against right now.
“People are coming home from one job, trying to get the kids to Grandma’s,” she said. “With schools and summer programs closed, it all becomes more of a burden.”
This pandemic compounds poverty or causes it outright. If you know someone is in trouble, try to help that person head it off as quickly as possible.
PARIS — Mohamed Amghar was a 40-year-old software salesman in the final stages of interviewing for a new job in November 1996 when, in his telling, his future boss made a request that left him speechless.
You’ll have to change your name to “Antoine,” the man said, even specifying, according to Mr. Amghar, not to use ‘‘Philippe’’ because there were already two in the office.
Mr. Amghar felt he had no choice. Still, he was ashamed — and angry.
“It’s a betrayal,” said Mr. Amghar, born in Paris to Algerian parents who arrived there in 1946, when Algeria was still part of France. “You are made to understand, at 40 years old, that ‘No, Mohamed, you aren’t truly French like everyone else.’”
And so, Mohamed became Antoine — on his email address, on his business card, on train and plane tickets, on name tags used at industry conferences, even on performance awards he collected over two decades at the company, Intergraph, an American software firm with French offices in Rungis, south of Paris.
Mr. Amghar, now 63 and retired, sued the company last year in a labor court in Créteil, south of Paris, accusing it of discrimination and moral harassment and asking for more than 440,000 euros, or nearly $500,000, in damages. The court held a hearing in March but won’t rule until next year.
The case has stood out because few racial discrimination suits reach French courts. And it resonates powerfully as France reckons with its colonial past, racism in the police and attitudes toward racial discrimination more generally in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis..
ImageCredit…Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA, via Shutterstock
Jacques Toubon, France’s human rights ombudsman, noted this month in a landmark report that studies and official statistics were unequivocal on the extent and “systemic nature” of discrimination in France.
“People of a foreign origin or who are perceived as such are more exposed to unemployment, social insecurity, bad housing conditions and poorer health,” he wrote.
At the time Mr. Amghar says his boss requested that he use a different name, he had been assured of the position but had not yet signed a contract, and he had already quit his old job. He was divorced with three children — the oldest was 13 at the time.
“And I was not stupid,” Mr. Amghar said in an interview at his lawyer’s office in Paris. “I knew that being called Mohamed wasn’t the best passport, not only to get interviews but also a job.”
Mr. Amghar says that, relatively speaking, he was fortunate even to get the job given France’s record of discrimination. The sales manager position involved selling engineering software to energy or chemical companies like Total or Arkema and was well-paid.
He also acknowledges that he never filed an official complaint over his time at Intergraph, from 1997 to 2017.
“I thought to myself: ‘You didn’t say anything in the beginning, what are you going to say now?’” he said.
Intergraph, based in Alabama and bought in 2010 by Hexagon AB, a Swedish firm, did not deny that Mr. Amghar used a different name at the office, but said it had found no proof that management had requested the change.
Hexagon’s PPM division, which includes Intergraph, said in an email that after receiving Mr. Amghar’s complaint in 2018, it had conducted an “internal investigation” that involved reviewing documents and speaking with current or former employees.
But the company said it had “found no evidence of discrimination or that Intergraph France management required Mr. Amghar to change his name, or otherwise required Mr. Amghar to use the name of ‘Antoine’ when representing the company.”
“Intergraph has always adhered to a strict standard of ethics and professional conduct in order to prevent all types of discrimination, racism and harassment, which are subjects it takes very seriously,” the company said.
Hiring discrimination against Arab or Black minorities in France is widely documented. One recent study where fake applications were submitted to more than 100 blue-chip companies found that candidates with Arab-sounding names were nearly 20 percent less likely to get an answer than those with traditional French ones.
“In all the studies that have been done in France, you find significant discriminations based on origin, whether Arab or Black,” said Yannick L’Horty, an economist who led the study with a team of researchers who specialize in assessing labor discriminations and the impact of public policies in the job market.
Mr. Amghar’s case is unusual because he was, in fact, hired — which Intergraph is eager to point out.
A lawyer representing the company in France declined to comment. But in 2018, responding to a letter from Mr. Amghar’s lawyer that threatened to file a suit barring “amicable reparation,” the firm called the accusations of discrimination “surprising” because Mr. Amghar had been “recruited by Intergraph and stayed there for 20 years.”
In the letter, a copy of which was seen by The New York Times, the company said that Mr. Amghar’s former boss — who no longer works at Intergraph — did not remember asking him to change names, adding that “one cannot exclude the possibility” that Mr. Amghar himself had chosen ‘‘Antoine.’’
Mr. Amghar, who is meticulously organized, has kept business cards, pay stubs, emails, contracts, security clearance documents, awards, and more, all featuring the name “Antoine.”
And while there is no record of the November 1996 interview, Mr. Amghar bristles at the suggestion that he would have intentionally put himself in the awkward position of using two different names.
He was once stopped at an airport because his passport didn’t match tickets booked by the company. In meetings or emails, senior managers sometimes used Antoine while colleagues used Mohamed. On pay slips, he was ‘‘Mohamed Antoine.’’ One award from 2010 even used ‘‘Antoine (Mohamed) Amghar.’’
ImageCredit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
Mr. Amghar’s closest colleagues quickly learned the truth. But others said they were stunned to discover, months or even years after first meeting him, that Antoine was, in fact, Mohamed.
Raoul Tardy, a retiree who worked for Intergraph in Norway from 1991 to 2015, said that Mr. Amghar was introduced to him as Antoine. For several years, that was the name he used on the phone or at meetings.
“In the phone directory, it was Antoine. On the business card, it was Antoine. On the organizational chart, it was Antoine. It was Antoine everywhere,” Mr. Tardy said.
Then, in the early 2000s on a bus ride during a company gathering in Austria, he overheard colleagues call Mr. Amghar ‘‘Momo,’’ a nickname for Mohamed. Mr. Amghar told him the truth.
“I didn’t fall from my seat, but almost,” said Mr. Tardy, one of several former Intergraph employees who submitted written testimonies supporting Mr. Amghar in his suit. “What really shocked me is that none of the French managers tried to fix the problem.”
Mr. Amghar is cheerful and quick to joke, but some of his sarcasm hints at deep resentment. For his managers, a man of Arab origin in his position was “inconceivable,” he said.
“Mohamed can’t sign a 12 million euro contract and chat with the C.E.O. of a company,” Mr. Amghar said in mock outrage. “It’s not possible!”
Frédéric Blas, a former colleague who was an in-house lawyer at Intergraph France from 2011 to 2016, said Mr. Amghar “felt humiliated. There was a real bitterness, a frustration.”
There were no explicit instructions from senior managers to use the name Antoine, Mr. Blas said, but that was the name heard and used by those who didn’t work very closely with Mr. Amghar. It was “unsettling,” Mr. Blas added, and sometimes difficult for him not to use Antoine by force of habit.
Galina Elbaz, Mr. Amghar’s lawyer, who also works for the International League Against Racism and anti-Semitism — a French civil rights group that has taken interest in his case — said that criminal discrimination cases are rarely prosecuted.
“It’s five to six cases a year, barely,” Ms. Elbaz said, adding that often the victims are poor, working, and reluctant to spend months or years, and thousands of euros in lawyer fees, on an uncertain outcome.
Mr. Toubon, the human rights ombudsman, noted in his report that among those who had reported personal cases of job discrimination to his office, only 12 percent had taken legal action.
Victims do not always have hard proof of the mistreatment, the report noted, and many of them are reluctant to disrupt their professional lives by taking their employer to court.
In labor courts — like the one handling Mr. Amghar’s case — there are precedents in his favor. But cases often drag on, Ms. Elbaz said, as the judges are not professional magistrates and aren’t always well versed in anti-discrimination law.
Still, Mr. Amghar said it was important for him to file the suit. He recalled his father’s account of racism suffered in Algeria and then in France as a carpentry worker, and he remembered his parents’ faith that French meritocracy would give their children a different experience.
“If people like me, who did what was necessary to get good jobs, to get training, to live as citizens, are besmirched and denied our rights, where are we going?” Mr. Amghar said animatedly.
“I only have one name, I only have one nationality,” he added. “My name is Mohamed, and I am French.”
When Lina Baez-Rosario moved to the United States as a young girl, she missed her home in the Dominican Republic. Her parents made sure to cook with familiar flavors, to keep memories alive.
As an adult, the 42-year-old special education kindergarten teacher, who lives in the Inwood area of Manhattan, found those same tastes through the same Goya Foods products.
“Goya is the one product that I know that my family used, that my mom still uses,” Ms. Baez-Rosario said, “because it’s the one that resembles home to them.”
On Thursday, though, she decided she would not be buying Goya products again after the company’s president, Robert Unanue, praised President Trump during a visit to the White House.
Mr. Unanue compared the president to his grandfather, an immigrant from Spain who founded the food company in 1936. “We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump,” Mr. Unanue said.
After Mr. Unanue’s comments, consumers have been dumping out ingredients and calling for a boycott on social media with the hashtags #BoycottGoya, #GoyaFoods and #Goyaway. Prominent Latino politicians like Julián Castro, the former presidential candidate and secretary of housing and urban development, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in as well.
“If we are the main source of income, if you are targeting us and you are marketing toward us, then your responsibility is to every Latino person, at least in the United States,” Ms. Baez-Rosario said.
In an era of activist shopping, when consumers are ever more vocal about tying their purchasing power to their politics, Mr. Unanue’s comments run the risk of alienating his company’s core market.
“There are people out there that say they support the immigrant community, but at the end, money is stronger,” said Gonzalo Guzmán, 38, the head chef and a partner at Nopalito, a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco. “At the end, it’s always that. It’s always money.”
A Goya representative did not reply to specific questions about the controversy. But in a news release, the company pointed out that it has donated 1 million cans of chickpeas and 1 million pounds of other products to food banks across the nation. “We are committed to our country and the need to give back because it is the right thing to do,” said Mr. Unanue in the release.
Goya is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, and millions of Latinos have grown up with Goya beans and spice blends, tasting their childhoods in the adobo and sazón.
But even so, the multibillion-dollar company, headquartered in New Jersey, can seem as corporate and faceless as any multinational food outfit.
“It’s really not a for-us by-us product,” said Yadira Garcia, 36, a founder and the executive chef of Happy Healthy Latina, which uses culturally relevant cooking and gardening to help underserved communities eat healthier. “It’s just marketed to us like it is.”
“You can’t just tell a part of our story and exalt a part of our story, and also profit off our pain and our joys, but not really truly be inclusive in our community,” Ms. Garcia continued, before criticizing the company’s leadership for a lack of diversity. “You can take our money, but we don’t have a seat at their table.”
Mr. Unanue visited the White House on Thursday to celebrate the president’s signing of an executive order intending to improve Hispanic Americans’ access to educational and economic opportunities. And on Friday, Mr. Unanue stood by his words during an appearance on the television program “Fox & Friends.”
“I’m not apologizing for saying — and especially when you’re called by the president of the United States — you’re going to say, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m busy. No thank you’?” he said. “I didn’t say that to the Obamas, and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”
On Friday evening, President Trump tweeted his support of Goya, after a day of #BuyGoya tweets from his supporters fighting back against the boycott.
The prominent chef José Andrés said that Mr. Unanue could have met with the president and taken a more moderate tone, instead of sparking the all-out social media war that has raged since Thursday afternoon.
“You can go and say: ‘Thank you for supporting the Latino community,’” Mr. Andres said in an interview. “But then to go and say you are a great leader? A great leader for whom?”
Mr. Andrés said he respects the Unanue family, and has worked with them in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but called the praise of President Trump “over the top.”
“Really? Four months before elections? When he wants to send 1 million DACA children back to their countries?” said Mr. Andrés, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “When he is caging children? When he is allowing militias to patrol the border?”
Latinos are projected to make up the largest nonwhite ethnic voting bloc in the 2020 election. In the 2018 midterm elections, Latinos voted Democratic by a more than two-to-one ratio, according to the Pew Research Center.
To Gustavo Arellano, the author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America” and a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Unanue’s comments were consistent with those of a business owner looking for tax breaks, rather than a leader supporting his community.
“It’s a betrayal for these consumers,” he said. “They see Trump as the antithesis of Latinos, in fact, as the enemy.”
Mr. Unanue’s statement comes during the middle of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected Latino communities, while benefiting companies like Goya, whose pantry products, like canned beans, flew off grocery shelves.
For Mr. Arellano, 41, the fact that Goya is a food brand makes it even more painful for Latino cooks.
“To see something that represents nurture and community and family and most importantly the kitchen?” he said. “That’s where it’s a stab in the heart. Or the stomach.”
Adán Medrano, 71, is a chef and the author of “Don’t Count the Tortillas: The Art of Texas Mexican Cooking,” a cookbook about the Mexican food of Texas. He said Goya’s food donations are not enough.
“Goya has shown that by thinking and saying that Trump is a great man, it has become disconnected from the heartbeat of the Latinx community, and particularly with our food, which has been so important to our resistance,” he said.
In standardizing a product line, Goya has overlooked the nuances of different Hispanic cultures, said Eric Rivera, 38, the chef and owner of Addo in Seattle, a restaurant and food company that sells Latin American food and ingredients that it ships nationwide.
“What people do is put a blanket statement over what Latin American cooking is, and they call it Caribbean food and they expect it all to be the same,” said Mr. Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican descent. “My problem, always, with Goya was that they basically homogenized all the flavors.”
Mr. Rivera and other chefs have lines of spice blends, alternatives to the Goya brand. Ms. Garcia, of Happy Healthy Latina, is developing new products with Loisa, a New York-based Latin American food company in which she is a partner.
“They just colonized our culture to benefit themselves,” Mr. Rivera said, referencing the Unanue family heritage. “They literally just like, Christopher Columbus-ed us.”
Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.
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Edward Kleinbard, a prominent tax lawyer who helped global corporations find creative ways to cut their taxes before he moved to academia and shined a light on the practices of the types of companies he had once advised, died on June 28 in Los Angeles. He was 68.
He had been treated for cancer for several years, a brother-in-law, Kris Heinzelman, said in confirming the death, at Keck Hospital of USC.
Mr. Kleinbard’s career cut an unusual arc. He spent more than 30 years as a corporate tax lawyer, helping companies and financial institutions on Wall Street and elsewhere cut their tax bills. He then devoted the last decade to the cause of raising taxes, as a means of combating inequality and poverty. As a member of the law school faculty at the University of Southern California, he used his insider’s expertise to show in particular how multinational companies avoid taxes.
Mr. Kleinbard began to publish a series of articles on the inequities in the tax system, especially how multinational corporations like Google, using techniques nicknamed “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich,” dodged billions of dollars in taxes by pushing profits into tax havens offshore.
He coined the term “Stateless Income” and titled an article on Starbucks’s tax avoidance “Through a Latte Darkly.”
In 2013, after a Senate investigation into Apple’s offshore tax strategy, Mr. Kleinbard summarized the company’s aggressive moves this way: “There is a technical term economists like to use for behavior like this. Unbelievable chutzpah.”
He became a regular contributor to The New York Times in its Op-ed online feature “Room for Debate,” and in 2014 he published his first book, “We are Better Than This,” which explored how tax policy could be used to solve the country’s surging inequality.
Most tax policy discussions were “backward,” he contended. Policymakers should identify their spending priorities — ideally to invest in the country’s citizens — and then discuss the proper tax policies to pay for them.
“The starting point in every case,” he wrote, “should not be determined by establishing an arbitrarily small amount of tax to collect, and then treating government like an institutional Procrustes, whose only responsibility it is to amputate the welfare of our fellow citizens to suit that amount.”
Michael Schler, tax counsel at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, who had known Mr. Kleinbard since the 1970s, said of him in an interview: “He was one of the smartest tax lawyers around. Having been in private practice as a lawyer, he understood how big corporations are getting around and taking advantage of various tax rules. And by being in academia and by being a good writer, he was able to bring all that to the public’s attention.”
Mr. Kleinbard was known as a demanding boss and a perfectionist who required much of his colleagues — and of himself. He was sometimes described as a curmudgeon, but with a biting sense of humor, often delivered deadpan.
In one 2016 email exchange with this reporter, he asked for help in publicizing a Tedx Talk he had given on poverty and inequality.
“Kendall Jenner’s latest YouTube contribution has 4.5 million hits,” he wrote, “and I am trying to catch up.”
Edward David Kleinbard was born on Nov. 6, 1951, in Manhattan and grew up in Rye, N.Y. His father, Martin Kleinbard, was a litigator with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. His mother, Joan Kleinbard, is an author who writes under the name Joan Gould.
Mr. Kleinbard graduated from Rye Country Day School in 1969 and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Brown University in 1973, writing his master’s thesis on Renaissance Venice.
He received his law degree from Yale University in 1976 and spent a year at Cravath before moving to the international firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, where he practiced tax law for 30 years and became an expert on structuring complex tax-reducing financial instruments for Wall Street. He was an adviser to some of the country’s biggest investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
ImageCredit…via University of Southern California
In 2007, in an unusual move for a senior corporate lawyer, he left Cleary Gottlieb and became the chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan joint congressional committee that helps lawmakers on prospective tax policies.
But he grew frustrated with the slow pace of the legislative process and left the committee in 2009 to join the law school faculty at U.S.C., where he taught tax law. He also pursued his love for photography, hiking and long-distance bicycling, which took him across the United States, Canada and Europe.
In addition to his mother, Mr. Kleinbard is survived by his wife, Norma Cirincione, with whom he no longer lived; his son, Martin; his sister, Kathy Heinzelman; his brother, David; his partner, Suzanne Greenberg; and a granddaughter.
Mr. Kleinbard submitted to his publisher the manuscript for a book the day before he went into the hospital for surgery in March, said Leslie Samuels, a senior counsel at Cleary Gottlieb who had worked with Mr. Kleinbard there. The book, titled “What’s Luck Got to Do With It?,” explores the role luck plays — whether through inherited wealth, geography or racial heritage — in worsening inequality.
Mr. Samuels recalled how Mr. Kleinbard would roll his eyes at how many of his wealthy clients were oblivious to their good fortune. He recalled Mr. Kleinbard saying: “They’re not so smart — they are just lucky. I was lucky.”
The legal battle over the true ownership of an exquisite pink diamond valued at $40 million is headed to trial after an appellate court in New York delivered a ruling in favor of the descendants of an Italian politician who are trying to prove that the stone is rightfully theirs.
The diamond, named the Princie, is 34.65 carats — about the size of a Cerignola olive. It was sold to a member of the Qatari royal family in 2013 at a jewelry auction at Christie’s, the auction house. A lawsuit filed by an Italian family claims that Christie’s sold the diamond despite accusations that it had been stolen.
At issue is whether the widow of the Italian politician had a legitimate claim of ownership over the diamond and that her son then had the right to sell it.
The trial over the Princie was supposed to begin last fall — but the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division agreed to put the case on hold while it heard an appeal filed by the defendants, which include Christie’s.
Part of the appeal asked the court to reverse a lower court’s finding that the diamond was purchased by Senator Renato Angiolillo, a once-powerful politician in Rome whose son and grandchildren are the plaintiffs in the case. In a ruling on Thursday, the appeals court refused to do so, rejecting the defendants’ argument that there was lack of proof of Mr. Angiolillo’s purchase.
Scott Balber, a lawyer representing the Angiolillos, said that they look forward to proceeding with the trial in the New York State Supreme Court “as soon as practicable.” The coronavirus pandemic has been a significant roadblock for jury trials over the past few months.
Mr. Angiolillo’s descendants said that he bought the Princie at Van Cleef & Arpels in 1960, the same year that he married his second wife, Maria Girani Angiolillo. Mr. Angiolillo, a wealthy man who owned one of Italy’s largest newspapers, Il Tempo, died in 1973; the plaintiffs assert that under Italian law at the time, all of his possessions should have gone to his children, not his spouse, unless they were explicitly left to her. (Mr. Angiolillo’s will gave his wife their home in Rome, as well as its lavish furnishings, but it did not mention anything else.)
But the auction house and its co-defendants counter that the diamond, set in a ring, was a gift to Ms. Angiolillo and was owned by her, not her husband, when he died.
Mr. Angiolillo’s descendants say that their stepbrother absconded with the diamond after his mother died in 2009, but the stepbrother, Marco Milella, has insisted that he inherited the stone from his mother and that it was his to sell, according to court records.
Mr. Milella sold the diamond for nearly $20 million to a gems dealer in Switzerland named David Gol, who is a defendant in the case. Mr. Gol has said that he believes Mr. Milella had a clear title to the Princie and worked to sell it as part of the 2013 auction.
In establishing the deceased Italian senator’s purchase of the diamond, the appeals court relies on documents associated with Christie’s own investigation into the provenance of the diamond. The court’s order said that documents generated in the course of the investigation include “unequivocal statements by Christie’s outside counsel” that the senator had indeed purchased the diamond.
In allowing the case to continue, the appeals court also resolved another legal dispute over which law should be applied: New York’s or Switzerland’s. The auction house has argued that its client purchased the gem in Switzerland, where property can be acquired legally, despite accusations of theft, if a good faith purchaser pays the full value of the item. The plaintiffs countered that the sale had been administered in New York by a New York auction house, and so Christie’s could not pick and choose which law to apply.
In another victory for the plaintiffs, the appeals court sided with the lower court in ruling that New York law should be applied. In its decision, the court cited the “strong New York contacts” in the case and the state’s “overwhelming interest in protecting the integrity of its market.”
A spokeswoman for the auction house said, “While Christie’s is disappointed by the appellate court’s decision, we continue to believe that the evidence at trial will demonstrate that Christie’s consignor had the right to sells the diamond at issue” — Mr. Gol was the consignor — “and that Christie’s acted in complete good faith in doing so in April 2013.”
The spokeswoman said that key pieces of evidence at trial will include the “actions of the Senator’s widow in asserting her own ownership of the diamond and plaintiffs’ repeated denial to Italian tax authorities that they inherited the diamond.” (A judge in the trial court pointed out that no evidence has been presented to show that Ms. Angiolillo, the wife, or Mr. Milella, her son, paid taxes on it, either.)
A lawyer for Mr. Gol, Emily Reisbaum, said in a statement that there is “no dispute” that Mr. Gol’s company bought the diamond ring in “good faith and for full value” and that they look forward to winning at trial.
Mr. Balber, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said that he saw the appeals court’s decision as a recognition that “it is not permissible for someone to purchase stolen goods in a regime where it’s permitted and then to try to take advantage of the New York markets by selling it here.”
LONDON — As Britain says goodbye to the European Union, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is making a sudden swerve into space. On Friday, a federal bankruptcy judge in New York approved an arrangement under which Britain will become an owner of a company that wants to use satellites to connect customers in remote parts of the world to the internet.
Britain has agreed to pay $500 million for a 45 percent stake in OneWeb, a London company that has launched dozens of satellites orbiting Earth but filed for bankruptcy this year. Bharti Airtel, a telecom company based in India with more than 400 million subscribers, is also taking a 45 percent stake, and other investors may be brought in.
Britain wants to get into a new satellite network because its decision to leave the European Union meant it severed its connection to the European navigation satellite system, called Galileo. Britain, which had invested 1.4 billion pounds in Galileo, is unlikely to be able to use those satellites for strategic purposes, from guiding missiles to steering warships at sea.
With OneWeb, Britain could eventually have access to satellites for military purposes but also take advantage of the company’s technology to beam high-speed internet service to remote parts of the country. Being part-owner of a satellite company would also give Britain a larger piece of the space business, which the government says is growing 60 percent a year and supports £300 billion in economic activity in Britain.
Last week, when Britain’s bid for the company was initially accepted, the government hailed the possibilities of having its own “sovereign global satellite system.”
“The move signals the government’s ambition for the U.K. to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing and exploitation of novel satellite technologies,” the government’s statement said.
The government pointed to “strategic opportunities” with international allies, without providing specifics. It also underscored the economic stimulus that would allow the country to “further develop its advanced manufacturing base, making the most of its highly skilled work force.”
Britain’s business community desperately needs such opportunities. Not only is the country’s economy being hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but companies are threatened with increased tariffs and other obstacles in future business with European partners like France and Germany.
As Britain continues to negotiate its departure from the European Union, the OneWeb deal provides the country leverage in talks on security matters, said Franck Thomas, an adviser on telecommunications and space at Global Counsel, a consulting firm.
Beyond the initial investments, fully developing OneWeb is expected to require at least $1 billion more, possibly from new investors. Britain, though, according to a government release, will have “a final say” over any future sale of the company and over access to OneWeb’s technology.
Founded in 2012 by Greg Wyler, an American entrepreneur, OneWeb aims to use a vast network of satellites (called a constellation) to provide “high-speed services capable of connecting everywhere, to everyone,” its website says. This goal would be accomplished by blanketing lower orbital paths about 750 miles above the Earth with satellites. In May, OneWeb asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to launch as many as 48,000 satellites.
OneWeb is one of the companies offering smaller, refrigerator-size alternatives to huge communications satellites that can require more than a year to make and cost more than $100 million. Instead, OneWeb says it can churn out two satellites a day at a cost of around $1 million at a factory it operates in Florida in a joint venture with Airbus, the European aerospace giant.
The hope is that some of the satellite building and launching might be transferred to Britain, which already has satellite design and manufacturing facilities belonging to Airbus and other companies.
“If the government is clever about this, it could bring some of that to the U.K.,” said Will Whitehorn, president of UKspace, an industry group, and a former president of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s space tourism company.
Several spaceports are at various stages of development in Britain, including one at Sutherland in northern Scotland and another in Cornwall in southwest England, where Virgin Orbit, another Branson company, may eventually launch small satellites from a converted jumbo jet.
Still, Britain is definitely taking a gamble. Space has proved an enormously costly and risky area to do business. When it filed for bankruptcy in March, OneWeb had already burned through $3.4 billion from a group of investors including Airbus, SoftBank Group and the government of Rwanda. Only 74 of a planned 650 satellites in an initial phase have been launched, and it is still not clear that the company has found a viable way to earn a profit.
OneWeb also has competition. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is orbiting satellites with a similar worldwide internet concept, and other large tech companies like Amazon are eyeing space, creating concerns that a blizzard of orbiting vehicles may make both visual and radio astronomy more difficult.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday said it would impose new tariffs on $1.3 billion worth of French goods, including cosmetics, soap and handbags, in retaliation for a French tax that largely hits American technology companies, escalating a trade dispute that threatens to further damage the global economy.
Notably absent from the tariff list, published by the United States Trade Representative, are French cheese, sparkling wine and cookware, which the administration had threatened to tax in December. Wine retailers and other U.S. importers of French goods had voiced opposition to those potential tariffs, saying they would hurt American companies and their workers.
The 25 percent tariffs will be delayed 180 days and take effect in January 2021, a hiatus meant to give both countries time to resolve their differences over a digital tax that will hit American tech companies.
France has adopted a 3 percent tax on the revenues some companies earn from providing goods and services to French users over the internet, even if they do not have large physical presences in France, a measure that will target Facebook, Google, Amazon and others whose businesses focus on digital advertising and e-commerce.
The Trump administration launched a trade investigation into the tax a year ago. The report found in December that the French tax “discriminates against U.S. companies, is inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy and is unusually burdensome for affected U.S. companies.” The report recommended tariffs as high as 100 percent on certain French imports valued at $2.4 billion, including cheese, wine and handbags. The final recommendation was significantly less punitive, with tariffs at 25 percent, and wine and cheese were dropped from the list entirely.
American and French officials called a temporary truce on the issue in January, with the French pledging to suspend collection of the tax and Americans pledging to hold off on tariffs, while international negotiators sought a multilateral agreement on where and how to tax internet commerce that crosses borders.
But that détente has collapsed in recent months, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suspending international tax negotiations and warning of retaliation against any country that imposes new taxes on American technology companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.
While the United States initially agreed to work with global counterparts to come up with a unified tax system, other countries have balked at the Trump administration’s push for a provision that would effectively allow some American companies to choose whether to be governed by any new system created by a global agreement.
And a growing list of governments have looked to digital taxes of their own as tax revenues plunge during the pandemic recession. Several European countries, led by France, have been rolling out digital services taxes, which would fall heavily on American internet companies. Italy, Spain, Austria and Britain have all announced plans to levy digital services taxes, which impose duties on the online activity that takes place in those countries, regardless of whether the company has a physical presence.
In June, the administration launched trade investigations, similar to the one against France’s tax, against tax proposals in nine countries and the European Union.
The decision to go ahead with the tariffs on France could revive a trade war between the United States and Europe. President Trump has already imposed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, prompting the European Union to retaliate with its own taxes on American goods. The two governments are also at odds over domestic aircraft subsidies, with the Trump administration taxing as much as $7.5 billion of European exports annually as punishment for unfair subsidies given to Airbus.
Inside the British government’s 30 billion pound ($37.8 billion) plan to “protect, support and create jobs” in the wake of the pandemic, there are signs the leadership has already conceded that sweeping layoffs are inevitable.
Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the Exchequer, said this week that nearly a billion pounds would be spent hiring a small army of “work coaches” to help the newly unemployed, while he announced new measures to coax people back to work and revive spending in some of the economy’s hardest-hit industries.
Within 24 hours of the announcement, two of the nation’s largest retailers, the pharmacy chain Boots and the department store John Lewis, said they would be cutting more than 5,000 jobs. Over the course of the week, employers announced that as many as 8,450 jobs were slated for redundancy.
The swiftness and scale of the layoffs illustrate the challenge the British government faces as it changes its approach to tackling the economic fallout of the pandemic. Four months ago, the chancellor said he would do “whatever it takes” to see the British economy through the worst of the crisis. The cost of those programs announced in March is expected to reach £160 billion.
Other countries are in a similar bind. In the United States, additional money for workers laid off during the pandemic ends this month, and the extension of forgivable loans to small business will end in the fall. But the White House and Congress are at odds over how much more support is needed and how soon. In New Zealand, two-thirds of workers have benefited from a wage subsidy program, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would end in September ahead of an election. In France, where more than eight million people have benefited from a furlough program, the government is planning to extend the payments for another year or two, the labor minister said.
ImageCredit…Jessica Taylor/Parliament, via Reuters
The British government’s focus is on shifting the spending back to the private sector by reopening business and encouraging the people who saved money while shops, restaurants and other face-to-face services were closed to spend again and drive the economic recovery.
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Mr. Sunak, Britain’s chief finance minister, has already started the process of winding down the emergency levels of stimulus from earlier in the year and warned that the scale of job losses ahead would be “significant.” Since March, the Treasury has paid a substantial portion of the wages of 9.4 million workers, but Mr. Sunak was adamant that the program would end in October.
“If you’re asking me can I protect every single job, of course the answer is no,” Mr. Sunak told the BBC on Thursday. “Is unemployment going to rise, are people going to lose their jobs? Yes, and the scale of this is significant. We are entering one of the most severe recessions this country has ever seen.”
By the time the furlough program ends in October, the government plans to have an additional 4,500 work coaches stationed around the country to give unemployed people receiving government benefits one-on-one support to find local jobs. Eventually 13,500 coaches will be hired at an estimated cost of £895 million, doubling the current total. This is even more hiring than in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when the unemployment rate peaked at 8.5 percent in 2011. Then, job center staff was increased by 10,000.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Tuesday that even without a second pandemic wave, Britain’s unemployment rate could rise to 11.7 percent by the end of the year, from 3.9 percent.
ImageCredit…Mary Turner for The New York Times
The government has managed to hold back a surge in the unemployment rate, such as the kind seen in the United States and Canada, because more than one million employers have taken part in the furlough program and kept staff on the payroll. But there are concerns the dam could break when the measure is replaced with a one-off £1,000 bonus to employers for each furloughed staff member brought back to work through January.
That proposal is already being questioned, inside and outside of government. Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said in a presentation on Thursday that the majority of these bonuses would probably go to companies that would have brought back workers regardless, rather than encouraging employers to bring back even more workers.
And Mr. Sunak had to go through the formal process of issuing a ministerial direction to order the British tax authorities to go ahead with the bonuses after their top civil servant questioned “the value for money” and efficiency of the proposal. The chancellor has acknowledged his coronavirus response has been focused on blunt tools to reach as many people as fast as possible.
For several large employers, deep cuts were already underway. On Monday, Pret a Manger, a big chain of coffee and sandwich shops, announced that it would permanently close 30 locations, a move that the BBC reported would result in the loss of 1,000 jobs. Reach, the publisher of The Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers, said on Tuesday that it was laying off 550 people, amounting to 12 percent of its work force.
After Mr. Sunak’s statement in Parliament on Wednesday, the chief executive of Burger King UK said 5 to 10 percent of its restaurants would most likely not survive, leading to between 800 and 1,600 job losses. The next day, Boots said it planned to lay off more than 4,000 people, about 7 percent of its work force, and John Lewis said it would permanently close eight department stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 7, 2020
Is the coronavirus airborne?
The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
What’s the best material for a mask?
Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.
Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?
A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research said the ending of the furlough program, confirmed by the new bonus plan, was badly timed and likely to have the unintended effect of prompting more layoffs.
“It doesn’t motivate employers to wait and see over the next couple of months,” Rory MacQueen, an economist at the institute, said. “This motivates them to make a snap decision early.” Instead, the government should have kept the furlough program open and waited for its costs to go down as people returned to work, he added.
Alongside the thousands of work coaches hired in job centers, Mr. Sunak said £40 million would be provided to finance a new job search support service by the private sector. It will focus on helping people who have been unemployed for less than three months find work.
ImageCredit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times
In response to those who have been underwhelmed by the Treasury’s plans, Mr. Sunak said this was just the second of three phases of economic stimulus, after the spring’s furlough relief. The third part is expected to be introduced in the fall, alongside a comprehensive spending review, another budget and independent forecasts on the economy by the Office for Budget Responsibility. Until then, the government will be watching the pace of the recovery as restrictions on travel and social distancing are relaxed.
Activity is tentatively resuming. The Office for National Statistics said data showed a moderate increase in foot traffic on British high streets, although it remains about half of last year’s level. On Thursday, the government announced more plans to reopen businesses in the coming weeks, including indoor gyms and beauty salons. Travelers from more than 50 countries can now arrive in Britain without entering a two-week quarantine, though those restrictions are still in place for American visitors.
But the leader of one of Britain’s largest unions said businesses and workers would face a cliff’s edge in October.
“Our fear is that the summer jobs loss tsunami we have been pleading with the government to avoid will now surely only gather pace,” Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, said. “This was a statement by a chancellor preparing for mass unemployment.”
Herman Benson, a former machinist who crusaded against corrupt labor leaders and introduced democratic reforms to entrenched trade unions, sometimes overcoming the resistance of fellow unionists, died on July 2 at his home in Brooklyn, a week shy of his 105th birthday.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Dr. Ellen Benson.
Mr. Benson put an early stamp on organized labor in the 1950s, when he helped draft landmark federal legislation with Clyde W. Summers, a Yale University law professor and a leading authority on organized labor.
The legislation, passed in 1959 as the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act but better known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, granted rank-and-file workers guarantees of free speech, assembly, fair hiring and other civil liberties. (Its sponsors were Representative Phil Landrum, Democrat of Georgia, and Senator Robert P. Griffin, Republican of Michigan. Professor Summers had also worked with a young Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in drafting the legislation.)
“That Bill of Rights for union members, and all the work it takes to realize its democratic intent, is Herman’s enduring legacy,” said William Kornblum, an emeritus sociology professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
In 1969, Mr. Benson helped form the Association for Union Democracy, a nonprofit in Brooklyn to advocate for fair union elections, and edited its newsletter, Union Democracy Review.
“He was a one-man army in the union democracy movement for over 50 years,” said Ken Paff, founder of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which helped elect Ron Carey, a United Parcel Service driver from Queens, as the Teamster’s president in 1991.
Mr. Benson’s reach was wide: He helped empower the rank and file in unions representing painters, mineworkers, machinists, steelworkers, ironworkers, laborers, electrical workers and nurses.
His left-wing credentials dated to when he was 15, when he joined the Young People’s Socialist League, earning him a place on a federal government list of radicals who could be peremptorily interned during a national emergency. Still, he was scorned by some liberals, who argued that his democratic reforms could undermine organized labor’s solidarity.
Mr. Benson disagreed, saying that only a truly democratic union would best serve workers and the working class, and that unions that were undemocratic in their procedures would appear hypocritical when preaching democratic values in the United States and abroad.
“Unions organize first where workers are best situated to win their battle,” he wrote in 2010 in the socialist journal New Politics. “As they raise the standards of those who are victorious, they tend to lift the standards of the class, even those not organized.”
Herman William Benson was born on July 9, 1915, in the Bronx to Samuel and Lillian (Edelman) Benson. His father owned a Studebaker dealership in Washington Heights in Manhattan.
Mr. Benson graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and attended City College, but was expelled in 1933 for participating in a demonstration against the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program on campus. (He later received a draft deferment because of a hearing impairment, his daughter said.)
His affinity for labor drew him to factory jobs; his first was making Shirley Temple dolls. He went on to work as a machinist in New York and Detroit. In 1939, he and other breakaway socialists, including Max Shachtman and Hal Draper, formed the Workers Party, positioning it as an alternative to American capitalism and Stalinism. He ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor of Detroit in 1947 as the Workers Party candidate.
Mr. Benson then returned to New York and, over the next two decades, wrote for a weekly Workers Party newspaper and consulted with a Jewish vocational organization.
But his primary focus was the Association for Union Democracy, particularly after the assassinations of Joseph Yablonski, a labor leader with the United Mine Workers, and two activists in California, who had challenged the painters union establishment there. (Mr. Yablonski was murdered along with his wife and 25-year-old daughter in their southwestern Pennsylvania farmhouse, an incident that shocked the nation.)
“My dad, Jock Yablonski, relied on the pathbreaking work Herman had performed before he, my mother and sister were murdered,” Joseph A. Yablonski Jr. said in an email.
ImageCredit…The Association for Union Democracy
In 1996, Mr. Benson’s wife, Revella (Sholiton) Benson, who worked for the United Federation of Teachers, was murdered at the doorstep of their home in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn in a robbery. The culprit was never caught. Mr. Benson installed a granite and marble marker in the front garden that read, “May her killer rot in hell.”
“We were married 50 years,” he told The New York Times in 2000. “Her life for a time revolved around the house. Me?” he added in a self-mocking way, “I was trying to liberate humanity.”
In addition to their daughter Ellen, an emergency room doctor, Mr. Benson is survived by a son, Larry, who was a deputy chief of the New York City Fire Department. After his wife died, Mr. Benson lived with his partner, Lucy Dames, who died in 2014. He is also survived by her children, Tamar and Lisa Dames.
In 2015, Mr. Benson married Cherril Neckles-Benson. She, too, survives him, along with her children, Avellena McLean, Lerone Neckles-Bleasdille and Leonie Neckles-Shaw; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
In 2014, as he approached 100, Mr. Benson prepared his own obituary, writing in the third person: “At the age of 60, after learning that those with a college degree had higher lifetime earnings, he got a B.A. in labor relations from the Empire State College; it didn’t help.”
In the obituary he viewed even his mortality through the prism of activism.
“Herman Benson waged a long, courageous, effective campaign against Old Age,” he wrote. “He seemed on the verge of success; but at the age of ??, just before the final battle, he died.”
The coronavirus pandemic has barely changed everyday life for Gemma Correll, a cartoonist, pug lover, introvert and self-described “anti-socialite” based in Orange, Calif.
“I’ve always worked from home, had my morning coffee date with my dogs and never really gone anywhere,” she said.
But she has noticed one difference: People are slightly angrier than normal on social media, where, between Instagram and Facebook, she has more than a million followers. She tries to juggle promoting her work, connecting with followers — particularly on the topic of mental health — and dealing with, well, the trolls. “At the moment,” she said, “there’s a lot of unpleasantness.”
There have also been silver linings during the lockdown. Some work with advertisers and publishers has slowed down, leaving Ms. Correll, 35, more time to dedicate to other projects like the graphic novel she has been planning for years but has been too busy to focus on. When she started as a cartoonist 10 years ago, she took on just about any job, she said, but as her profile has grown, she has gravitated toward more personal projects.
Ms. Correll has also been cultivating mediocre hobbies that cannot be monetized. For independent artists on the treadmill of securing, creating and promoting their work, spending time on anything that is not directly furthering their ambitions can feel selfish — which is precisely the point.
6 a.m. Wake up to my dogs — Zander, a 3-year-old Chihuahua-pug mix, and Mr. Pickles, a 10-year-old pug — screaming for kibble. I drink some tea and try to read the news on my phone, but the Wi-Fi is out, so I give up and go back to sleep.
8 a.m. Haul myself out of bed for a second time, groggy and grumpy, and walk Zander. We grab coffee at Portola Coffee Roasters and then walk around the Chapman University campus, which has been delightfully quiet since quarantine began. I avail myself of their free public Wi-Fi to check the news and emails and play Words With Friends.
I’m trying to stay away from social media as much as possible. I recently started using a mood tracker and figured out that my worst days were the ones with high screen time.
2:50 p.m. Some of my commercial work has dried up because of the virus, so I have time to actually work on a book proposal I’ve been planning for about five years. It’s a graphic novel based on my experiences with anxiety. I want to create a book that I wish I had had when I was a teenager struggling and not really knowing what was wrong with me. I have notebooks and sketchbooks full of ideas, but they’re completely disorganized, so I gather those together and send the new written proposal to my literary agent. I had a lot of grand plans at the beginning of quarantine, which haven’t necessarily come to fruition, but I ticked one off the list.
Then I work on roughs — the initial sketches I do before drawing the final version — for the cover of a new middle school book I’m illustrating called “The Day the Screens Went Blank,” by the comedian Danny Wallace.
4 p.m. I go for a run. I am objectively bad at running and hate it because I feel like everybody is staring and/or laughing at me, so I try to make it bearable by listening to the “John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch” cast recording. I stretch after while my pugs lick the sweat off my legs. (Gross.)
8 a.m. Coffee date with Zander, then I spend the morning working on my biweekly comic for The Nib, an online comics site I’ve been contributing to since 2014. I’ve made quite a few Middle Ages-themed comics for them, and this one is about “Black Death Truthers,” playing on the coronavirus conspiracy theories I’ve seen floating around social media and the Facebook pages of certain older relatives.
I go down an internet rabbit hole of ridiculous Covid-19 conspiracy theories, then I go through my old sketchbooks to find notes about medieval lives from books and articles. I often have several disparate ideas on one page, like a design for a cat-themed enamel pin, a list of “pug yoga poses,” a drawing of a T. rex for some reason, and a rough script for a comic about phone anxiety. Once I have the comic planned out in my sketchbook, I draw up a rough using my graphic tablet.
12.30 p.m. My friend Evie, also known as the tattoo artist Show Pigeon, brings Lebanese food from Byblos, and we walk around the Circle, the central shopping district of Orange, to look in the antique malls. Evie finds an awesome vintage “Alice in Wonderland” paint-by-numbers for her tattoo studio wall.
9 a.m. Our Wi-Fi is back, so I answer emails but make the mistake of checking Facebook and immediately regret it. My comics aren’t particularly political or controversial, but I still manage to upset people. Some commenters on my recent comic, “8 Ways Not to Wear Your Face Mask” (examples: The Jaunty Chapeau, The Snacktime), have chosen to lecture me on the uselessness of face masks. I try not to engage too much. Maybe becoming a cartoonist wasn’t the best choice for someone as conflict averse as I am.
11 a.m. I drive 30 minutes to Carson to see the new Los Angeles pug rescue facility, where I’m painting a mural. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the pug rescues through events like the Vegas Pug Party, where I usually have a booth. (The Vegas Pug Party is exactly what you’d imagine, including a party bus full of pugs that goes down the Strip.)
For this mural, I want to do a big crowd scene with lots of different pugs and pug mixes. I’ve started using a projector for these large-scale projects because stuff was coming out a little wonky when I would do them freehand. I take some pictures of the space and measure the walls.
2 p.m. The original idea for “The Day the Screens Went Blank” was to make the cover look like a horror movie poster with just the main character, a 10-year-old girl. But the editor and designer ask to add in the entire family and relay a sense of chaos instead. There’s always a lot of back and forth at the beginning stages of books while we work out the tone and look.
5 p.m. I play on my digital piano. I believe every freelancer should have a hobby at which they are mediocre and therefore cannot monetize. When I make things like papier-mâché crafts and embroidery for fun, I’ll start thinking, “Maybe I should make more of these and sell them.” I am not great at playing the piano. I never had lessons, so I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong. Nobody is going to pay me for my clumsy attempts to play “Little Shop of Horrors” and jazz standards of the 1930s.
9 a.m. I sit in the closet for about an hour surrounded by pillows, using my friend’s professional microphone to record an interview about mental health and memes for a PopBuzz podcast. I don’t do a lot of spoken interviews or podcasts, and I was pretty nervous, especially since it was early and I am not a morning person. I felt pretty foggy headed even after chugging a coffee. I’m worried that I didn’t say anything useful and that I said “um” way too often.
10.30 a.m. Speak to my friends Mel and Siofra in England. I also pop into my husband Anthony’s call with his parents in Cyprus. I’ve spoken more in one morning than I usually do in a week. I feel pretty tired.
1 p.m. I get stuck working on the last panel for the rough draft of my comic for The Nib. Simplicity and straightforwardness is a lot harder than it looks. I eliminate some unnecessary text but need some kind of punchline that would point out the fact that people in the Middle Ages didn’t know what the plague was caused by, so they had a little more of an excuse being ridiculous about it than we do about the coronavirus now.
I get frustrated overthinking it and take a walk to clear my head. Walking or something meditative like playing the piano or doodling aimlessly usually helps when I’m suffering from a creative block.
4 p.m. I talk to Anthony, who is a collage art illustrator, about the comic. He suggests the obvious solution I couldn’t see. Often he’ll be able to look at something as it’s nearly finished and he’ll be like, “Why don’t you just do this?” We have separate studios in our home, which works well because I listen to a lot of musical theater, murder podcasts and John Mulaney stand-up — stuff I know by heart already, so I’m not too distracted by it. He listens to hipster bands.
5 p.m. Pug walk with my friend Maritè Vargas around a lagoon, where we see some little tiny bioluminescent fish. I met Maritè through my pug artwork; she co-organized an event where I drew pet portraits to raise money for a local rescue. Her senior pug, Bayly, and Mr. Pickles are just like grumpy old men together.
11 a.m. After my usual coffee date with the pugs, I spend a few hours drawing the final artwork for my comic on The Nib on my tablet. Friday is usually a day for finishing things — inking and coloring, rather than generating ideas — so it’s more relaxed. I listen to the “My Favorite Murder” podcast.
2 p.m. I work on some pages for my next mini-comic book, which I hope to publish next month. I created the first issue last year as an outlet for ideas I didn’t have another place for. The theme for this one is “bad at sports,” and the comic will be called “Bad at Sports Illustrated.” It’s about how terrible I am at sports and my childhood experiences of trauma and P.E. lessons. These are not big sellers or hugely popular — there’s plenty of my work available online for free — but making this kind of work is fun and reminds me why I wanted to be an artist in the first place.
5 p.m. I tidy my studio, which gets pretty messy with books in piles everywhere. Then I do an online Zumba class and watch my current addiction, the Japanese reality show “Terrace House.” Nothing really happens, so it’s quite calming. It’s just people cooking nice food and going for dates in coffee shops. There’s not a lot of yelling. People are just nice to each other. It’s kind of like a salve for the craziness that’s happening outside.