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US to commemorate 9/11 as its aftermath extends and evolves

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People visit the National 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York.

Cem Ozdel | Anadolou Agency | Getty Images

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with mournful ceremonies, volunteering, appeals to “never forget” and rising attention to the terror attacks’ extended toll on responders.

A crowd of victims’ relatives is expected at ground zero Wednesday, while President Donald Trump is scheduled to join an observance at the Pentagon. Vice President Mike Pence is to speak at the third attack site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Former President George W. Bush, the commander-in-chief at the time of the 2001 attacks, is due at an afternoon wreath-laying at the Pentagon.

Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath at ground zero, in Congress and beyond. The attacks’ aftermath is visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan. A rocket exploded at the U.S. embassy as the anniversary began in Afghanistan, where a post-9/11 invasion has become America’s longest war.

“People say, ‘Why do you stand here, year after year?'” Chundera Epps, a sister of September 11 victim Christopher Epps, said at last year’s ceremony at the World Trade Center. “Because soldiers are still dying for our freedom. First responders are still dying and being ill.”

“We can’t forget. Life won’t let us forget,” she added.

The anniversary ceremonies center on remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes rammed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on September 11, 2001. All those victims’ names are read aloud at the ground zero ceremony, where moments of silence and tolling bells mark the moments when the aircraft crashed and the trade center’s twin towers fell.

But there has been growing awareness in recent years of the suffering of another group of people tied to the tragedy: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed in it.

While research continues into whether those illnesses are tied to 9/11 toxins, a victims compensation fund for people with potentially September 11-related health problems has awarded more than $5.5 billion so far. Over 51,000 people have applied.

After years of legislative gridlock, dwindling money in the fund and fervent activism by ailing first responders and their advocates, Congress this summer made sure the fund won’t run dry . Trump, a Republican and a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, signed the measure in July.

The sick gained new recognition this year at the memorial plaza at ground zero, where the new 9/11 Memorial Glade was dedicated this spring.

The tribute features six large stacks of granite inlaid with salvaged trade center steel, with a dedication “to those whose actions in our time of need led to their injury, sickness, and death.” No one is named specifically.

Some 9/11 memorials elsewhere already included sickened rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, and there is a remembrance wall entirely focused on them in Nesconset, on Long Island. But those who fell ill or were injured, and their families, say having a tribute at ground zero carries special significance.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Monday that its 9/11 memorial will close next week for electrical and lighting work. The project, expected to take until late May, includes repairs to lighting glitches in the shallow reflecting pools under the memorial benches.

September 11 is known not only as a day for remembrance and patriotism, but also as a day of service. People around the country continue to volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building projects, park cleanups and other charitable endeavors on and near the anniversary.



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Walmart will combine its store, online buying teams, company memo says

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Cashiers ring up shoppers at a Walmart Inc. store in Burbank, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Walmart is restructuring the company to combine its team of buyers for Walmart.com and its team of buyers for the company’s stores as the big-box retailer aims to turn e-commerce into a profitable business, according to a company memo sent Tuesday.

Walmart previously relied on the separate teams to choose products and prices for its website and stores. The two sides of the business have separate chief executives. Marc Lore, the founder of Jet.com, leads Walmart’s e-commerce in U.S. John Furner leads the store side of the business.

In the memo, Lore and Furner said they’re shaking up the structure of the buying teams. They’ll be broken up into six merchandising teams: apparel, consumables, entertainment, food, hardlines and home. The teams will buy all of Walmart’s items in that category, regardless of where they are sold.

Lore and Furner will stay in their roles and merchandising teams will report to both of them, according to the company memo. In the memo, they wrote that the change will better integrate the company and benefit customers. 

“Our customers only see one Walmart, and they must be No. 1, always,” they wrote in the email to employees.

Walmart has seen a surge of e-commerce growth, fueled by its online grocery business.  It reported online sales growth of 35% during the fourth quarter and 37% for the year.

But the e-commerce side of Walmart’s business has been costly and it’s not yet profitable. It’s had mixed success with e-commerce brands that it’s acquired and incubated. Some brands, such as in-house mattress brand Allswell, have grown. Digital native menswear brand Bonobos has had layoffs and Walmart sold ModCloth, another brand it had acquired. 

The restructuring of the buyer teams was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Walmart missed Wall Street’s expectations for the fourth quarter, after a holiday season with weaker sales of toys and apparel. The company expects e-commerce growth to slow to about 30% in fiscal 2021, but said it’s focused on driving up the sale of general merchandise such as apparel.



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CDC outlines what closing schools, businesses would look like in US pandemic

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Travelers wearing masks arrive on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, January 23, 2020.

David Ryder | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined Tuesday what schools and businesses will likely need to do if the COVID-19 virus becomes an epidemic outbreak in the U.S.

Schools should consider dividing students into smaller groups or close and use “internet-based tele-schooling,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call. 

“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” Messonnier said. She said local communities and cities may need to “modify, postpone or cancel mass gatherings.”

Hospitals may need to triage patients differently, add more tele-health services and delay elective surgery, she said.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad,” she said.

Last week, U.S. health officials started warning businesses, schools and parents to start preparing for the deadly new coronavirus that’s infected more than 80,000 and killed at least 2,700 to become a global pandemic.

“I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things that people need to start thinking about now,” Messionnier said. “You should think about what you would do for child care if schools or day cares closed.”

The CDC late Monday confirmed 53 cases in the U.S., a majority of which came from passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan. The data shows that 36 of the cases are attributed to the cruise ship, three patients were infected in Wuhan and later evacuated to the U.S. and the rest were largely infected while traveling overseas.

Just two cases were contracted through person-to-person contact in the U.S., the CDC said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.



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Trump calls on Supreme Court’s Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in New Delhi, India, February 25, 2020.

Al Drago | REUTERS

President Donald Trump accused Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday of anti-Trump bias and said they should stay out of cases involving him.

Trump cited Sotomayor’s scathing dissent last week in the court’s decision to allow the administration to enforce its “public charge” immigration rule in Illinois.

Ginsburg called Trump a “faker” in 2016, while he was the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and later apologized.

“I just don’t know how they cannot recuse themselves to anything having to do with Trump or Trump related,” the president told reporters during a trip to India.

His comments come just weeks before the court will hear arguments in three cases concerning whether the president can shield his personal and business financial records, including his tax returns, from state prosecutors and Congress. Trump has bucked modern precedent by refusing to make his tax returns public.

Sotomayor’s comments on Friday concerned the Trump administration’s unusual practice of skipping federal appeals courts to bring cases directly in front of the justices.

In the case in question, Wolf v. Cook County, the administration was asking the court to remove a statewide block on a rule that would allow it to add new restrictions on those applying for green cards. The rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain permanent citizenship if they have used or are likely to use public benefits like food stamps.

The top court removed a nationwide block on the rule in January by a 5-4 vote of the court’s conservatives, and the same majority voted Friday to remove the Illinois block, just five days before the matter was to be considered by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Traditionally, the Supreme Court hears cases after they have worked their way through the lower courts, except in extraordinary circumstances. The Trump administration has routinely skipped the appellate stage when its policies have been blocked from going into effect.

“It is hard to say what is more troubling: that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

Trump said in India that the statement was “inappropriate” and that Sotomayor was trying to “shame” her colleagues into voting with her.

“When you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, it’s almost what she’s trying to do is take the people that do feel a different way and get them to vote the way that she would like them to vote,” Trump said. “I just thought it was so inappropriate. Such a terrible statement for a Supreme Court justice.”

The cases involving Trump’s financial records will be argued March 31. Trump has asked the court to reverse three lower court rulings requiring his longtime accounting firm and two of his banks to turn over his financial records to investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and Democratic-led congressional committees.

Ginsburg and Sotomayor did not immediately respond to requests for comment submitted through the court.



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