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Disney World and Disneyland to require parkgoers to wear masks indoors



A guest takes a selfie at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort on July 11, 2020.

(Photo by Olga Thompson/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images)

Disney has amended the mask policy at its U.S.-based theme parks in the wake of new guidance from health and government officials.

Starting Friday, the company will require all guests, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings in indoor locations at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California. Children under the age of two are exempt from this mandate.

The policy change comes as Covid cases continue to surge in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course and recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates. These hot spots include states like California and Florida.

Disney has updated its safety policies in accordance with local health regulations both domestically and internationally since the pandemic began. Most recently, the company began requiring proof of a Covid vaccination or a negative Covid test prior to entry at its Paris-based theme park based on French guidelines.

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Prince Andrew served with suit by Jeffrey Epstein accuser Giuffre



Prince Andrew The Duke of York arrives at the Headquarters of CrossRail in Canary Wharf on March 7, 2011 in London, England.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

Prince Andrew of Britain has been served with a lawsuit filed by an American woman who accuses him of having sex with her when she was underage, and while she was being abused by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a new court filing revealed Friday.

Andrew, who is the Duke of York, was served with the civil suit filed by Virginia Giuffre on Aug. 27 in England, according to that filing in Manhattan federal court.

The document says the suit was left with a police officer on duty at the gates of the Royal Lodge in Windsor, a property occupied by Andrew.

The prince, who is the son of Queen Elizabeth, has denied Giuffre’s allegations and says he does not recall even ever meeting her.

Andrew had been a friend of Epstein’s for years.

A photo shows him with Giuffre years ago, as Epstein’s former girlfriend and accused procurer stands smiling in the background.

Epstein, who also previously had been a friend of former Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, died in August 2019 in a Manhattan federal jail cell from what has officially been ruled a suicide by hanging.

At the time, the mysterious money manager was charged in federal court with trafficking dozens of underage girls so that he could sexually abuse them.

Giuffre sued Andrew last month, claiming he had sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old.

“I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me,” she said.

“The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one’s life by speaking out and demanding justice.”

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Paint is getting costlier and harder to find, and this could just be the beginning



A customer pushes a shopping cart past paint samples inside a Home Depot Inc. store in Louisville, Kentucky.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Home improvement is getting even more aggravating as a lack of supplies and higher prices are making life more difficult for do-it-yourselfers.

Take paint, for instance – if you can find it, and afford it.

A confluence of factors, from an unusual freeze earlier this year in Texas to surging demand to ongoing supply chain issues, has created a paint shortage and a price surge.

Customers around the country are finding it tougher to get the paint they want as store owners struggle to keep product on the shelves and meet rising costs from their suppliers.

“We’ve had multiple price increases across the board from every manufacturer we deal with,” said Randy Moser, owner of Buss Paints, a specialty store in Emmaus, Pa., about 53 miles north of Philadelphia in the Lehigh Valley. “It’s been this way for a while now, and it seems like it’s not going to get any better over the next three to six months, either.”

The Covid-19 pandemic spurred a wave of new interest in projects around the house. From sprucing up the garden to adding swimming pools to throwing on a fresh coat of paint, retailers have faced a torrent of demand for goods.

That in itself has stretched supplies and boosted costs, but it’s been more than that.

The deep freeze in the South slowed production of petroleum, a critical ingredient for paint. Shortages of other goods have clogged up supply chains, all while the demand for Chantilly lace, tricorn black and green smoke – to name three of the most popular colors – has abounded.

Sherwin-Williams is the largest paint manufacturer in the U.S. with $18.4 billion in annual revenue. Company officials have been candid in investor calls that they foresee additional “pricing actions” to cope with rising input costs.

“These production disruptions, coupled with surging architectural and industrial demand, have pressured raw material supply and rapidly driven prices upward,” Julie Young, vice president of global corporate communications for Sherwin-Williams, said in a statement to CNBC.

“The pace at which capacity comes back online and supply becomes more robust remains uncertain,” Young added. “We have been highly proactive in managing the supply chain disruptions to minimize the impact on our customers.”

Prices, though, are rising and supplies are getting tougher to come by.

Businesses are trying to cope

Producer prices for painting and coating manufacturing rose 10.6% in August from a year ago, the biggest annual jump since January 2009. That was part of a broader boost in the producer price index, which rose at an 8.3% annual pace for the month, the sharpest increase in the metric’s history back to 2010.

At the same time, sales totals at paint and wallpaper stores were up 7.8% annually in June to $1.34 billion. The pace of sales increases has slowed since reaching an all-time high in April but is nevertheless robust.

Doing business from his store in Pennsylvania, Moser has felt the cost increases in multiple ways as demand remains.

“Sure, it has impacted us, in the sense that just certain products you can’t get. So you start selling certain products and then you’ve got to switch to another one,” he said. “Since the pandemic started, so many people have been painting and doing home construction along with all the other construction going on. Things were just where you couldn’t handle the amount of inventory that was being pulled out.”

Smaller stores have been feeling the pinch in a way that big-box retailers have not.

Robert Muhammad at 4 Seasons Paint Store in Brooklyn, N.Y., said some of the bigger companies prioritize larger stores and snub smaller retailers with product availability tight. Muhammad said some of the larger manufacturers are pressing stores to sell only their products or face being cut off.

“It’s really hard for small business,” he said. “What are you going to sell people? The people who we’re looking for supply from now are only supplying the big stores.”

For consumers, it could all spell trouble in the days ahead. Paint could continue to be scarce and costly for the foreseeable future.

“If you want to do some work around the house, get in the car and buy paint now,” AkzoNobel CEO Thierry Vanlancker told Bloomberg News earlier this week.

In its latest investor update, the Netherlands-based global paint manufacturer said pricing is set to increase significantly in the second half of 2021.

How long the disruptions last is a matter of debate among policymakers and economists.

The debate over ‘transitory’ inflation

The Federal Reserve insists that the current spate of higher inflation is only temporary – “transitory” is the central bank’s preferred term – and already is showing signs of abating. White House officials privately say that they’re sensitive to rising prices but see the supply chain issues subsiding while even observing some key prices, such as hardware, lumber and building materials, falling from their peaks.

However, there are some dissenters at the Fed.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Thursday that imbalances in supply and demand are “going to last longer than some people are expecting,” while companies struggling to fill job openings have to pay higher wages. Kaplan said he sees the “broadening of price pressures into next year.”

“There’s risk to the upside based on what we’re seeing right now,” he said.

Wall Street economists generally side with the transitory position, though many are now of the opinion that the current situation could indeed persist into 2022.

Morgan Stanley, for instance, expects inflation to continue higher through the first half of next year then veer into deflation for the second half. The present conditions in the paint industry represent “the peak of raw material availability issues/cost inflation, but just the early stages of price achievement against it,” Vincent Andrews, an equity analyst at the firm, said in a note to clients this week.

Andrews notes that a number of factors, such as the fallout from Hurricane Ida and the functioning of global supply chains for the chemical industry, will help determine how persistent inflation is for paint. Shortage in epoxies, acrylics and certain solvents and additives are the main problems now, he said.

“Companies seem to be most confidence in the current solid demand environment persisting through 2022, but are watching production levels like the rest of us as it relates to the raw material environment,” he said.

At his paint shop in Emmaus, Moser said customers are coping with higher prices at his store the same way they are handling inflation seemingly everywhere else.

“It’s all over the place, in every aspect, the grocery stores, everywhere you see it,” he said. “Everybody’s dealing with the same problems now.”

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Epic Games v. Apple: Judge reaches decision



Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers handed down a decision in a closely-watched trial between Apple and Epic Games on Friday.

Rogers issued an injunction that said that Apple will no longer be allowed to prohibit developers from providing links or other communications that direct users away from Apple in-app purchasing, of which it takes 15% to 30% of gross sales.

The injunction addresses a longstanding developer complaint and raises the possibility that developers could direct their users to their website to subscribe to or purchase digital content, hurting Apple’s App Store sales.

Apple stock dropped 2% in trading on Friday.

The decision concludes the first part of the battle between the two companies over Apple’s App Store policies and whether they stifle competition. Apple won on 9 of 10 counts but was found to engage in anticompetitive conduct under California law, and will be forced to change its App Store policies and loosen its grip over in-app purchases. The injunction will come into effect in December.

“The Court concludes that Apple’s anti-steering provisions hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice,” Rogers wrote. “When coupled with Apple’s incipient antitrust violations, these anti-steering provisions are anticompetitive and a nationwide remedy to eliminate those provisions is warranted.”

However, Rogers said that Apple was not a monopolist and “success is not illegal.”

“Given the trial record, the Court cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist under either federal or state antitrust laws,” Rogers wrote.

The trial took place in Oakland, California in May, and included both company CEOs testifying in open court. People familiar with the trial previously told CNBC that both sides expected the decision to be appealed regardless of what it was.

“Today the Court has affirmed what we’ve known all along: the App Store is not in violation of antitrust law. As the Court recognized ‘success is not illegal,'” Apple said in a statement. “‘Apple faces rigorous competition in every segment in which we do business, and we believe customers and developers choose us because our products and services are the best in the world.”

Since the trial ended but before the decision was handed down, Apple has made several changes to mollify critics, some as part of settlements with other app developers, including relaxing some rules about emailing customers to encourage them to make off-app purchases and allowing some links in apps.

Rogers wrote in the decision that she disagreed with both Apple and Epic Games over the framing of the market Apple allegedly dominates. Rogers found that it was “digital mobile gaming transactions,” not all iPhone apps, as Epic Games had alleged, nor was it all video games, as Apple had claimed.

Battle over Fortnite

Epic Games is among the most prominent companies to challenge Apple’s control of its iPhone App Store, which has strict rules about what is allowed and not, and requires many software developers to use in in-app payment system, which takes between 15% to 30% of each transaction.

Epic’s most popular game is Fortnite, which makes money when players buy V-bucks, or the in-game currency to buy costumes and other cosmetic changes.

Epic wasn’t seeking money from Apple— instead, it wanted to be allowed to install its own app store on iPhones, which would allow it to bypass Apple’s cut, and impose its own fees on games it distributed. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney had chafed against Apple’s in-app purchase rules as early as 2015, according to court filings and exhibits. Friday’s ruling does not allow Epic Games to offer an app store on Apple’s App Store.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is cross examined by Gary Bornstein as he testifies on the stand during a weeks-long antitrust trial at federal court in Oakland, California, U.S. May 21, 2021 in this courtroom sketch.

Vicki Behringer | Reuters

But the public clash between the two companies started in earnest in August 2020, when Epic implemented a plan to challenge Apple called “Project Liberty,” according to court filings.

Epic Games updated Fortnite on its servers to reduce the price of its in-game currency by 20% if players bought directly from the company, bypassing Apple’s take, and violating Apple’s rules on steering users away from its in-app payments.

Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, meaning that new users could not download it and that it would eventually stop working on iPhones because the app could not be updated. As it planned, Epic then filed a lawsuit that culminated in May’s trial.

Epic Games will also have to pay Apple damages because it breached its contract, Rogers ruled. Epic will pay Apple 30% of all revenue it collected from iOS Fortnite through direct payments.

At the trial, Apple CEO Tim Cook testified on one of the last days, and faced pointed questioning from Judge Rogers over its restrictions on steering users to make purchases off-app, which ended up being the topic of Friday’s injunction.

“It doesn’t seem to me that you feel any pressure or competition to actually change the manner in which you act to address the concerns of developers,” Rogers said at the time.

Epic Games also sued Google over its control of the Play Store for Android phones. That case has not yet gone to trial.

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