News briefs for July 1

Carl Reiner, comedy’s rare untortured genius, dies at 98

NEW YORK — No one in the world of comedy was more admired, and loved, than Carl Reiner.

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Reiner was the rare untortured genius of comedy, his career a story of laughter and camaraderie, of innovation and triumph and affection. His persona was so warm and approachable — everyone’s friend or favorite uncle — that you could forget that he was an architect of modern comedy, a “North Star,” in the words of Billy Crystal.

As a writer and director, he mastered a genial, but sophisticated brand of humor that Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld and others emulated. As an actor, he was the ideal straight man for such manic performers as Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar and dependably funny on his own. As an all-around talent, he helped perfect two standard television formats — sketch and situation comedy.

Reiner’s death Monday at 98 from natural causes prompted an outpouring from t hose he inspired, a group that included Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, George Clooney and Billy Eichner and millions more.

Tall and agile, equally striking whether bald or toupeed, he entertained in every medium available to him, from movies and vinyl records to Broadway and Twitter. But he will be remembered best for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” the landmark series which aired from 1961-66 and was a master class of wit, ensemble playing, physical comedy and the overriding good nature of Reiner himself.

Republicans, with exception of Trump, now push mask-wearing

WASHINGTON — In Republican circles — with the notable exception of the man who leads the party — the debate about masks is over: It’s time to put one on.

As a surge of infections hammers the South and West, GOP officials are pushing back against the notion that masks are about politics, as President Donald Trump suggests, and telling Americans they can help save lives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, on Tuesday bluntly called on Trump to start wearing a mask, at least some of the time, to set a good example.

“Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Alexander said.

It’s a rare break for Republicans from Trump, who earlier this month told the Wall Street Journal that some people wear masks simply to show that they disapprove of him. And the Republican nudges for the public — and the president — to embrace mask-wearing are coming from all corners of Trump’s party and even from friendly conservative media.

Stocks close out best quarter since 1998 with more gains

Wall Street capped its best quarter since 1998 Tuesday with more gains, a fitting end to a stunning three months for investors as the market screamed back toward its record heights after a torrid plunge.

The S&P 500 climbed 1.5%, bringing its gain for the quarter to nearly 20%. That rebound followed a 20% drop in the first three months of the year, the market’s worst quarter since the 2008 financial crisis. The plunge came as the coronavirus pandemic ground the economy to a halt and millions of people lost their jobs.

“It’s the first time you’ve had back-to-back (quarters) like this since the 1930s,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “It’s pretty unprecedented.”

The whiplash that ripped through markets in the second quarter came as investors looked beyond dire unemployment numbers and became increasingly hopeful that the economy can pull out of its severe, sudden recession relatively quickly. The hopes looked prescient after reports during the quarter showed that employers resumed hiring again and retail sales rebounded as governments relaxed lockdown orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The quarter’s gains were ignited by promises of massive amounts of aid from the Federal Reserve and Congress. Low interest rates generally push investors toward stocks and away from the low payments made by bonds, and the Federal Reserve has pinned short-term interest rates at their record low of nearly zero.

With a pen stroke, Mississippi drops Confederate-themed flag

JACKSON, Miss. — With a stroke of the governor’s pen, Mississippi is retiring the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem — a symbol that’s widely condemned as racist.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed the historic bill Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion, immediately removing official status for the 126-year-old banner that has been a source of division for generations.

“This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and to move on,” Reeves said on live TV just before the signing. “We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith. Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good.”

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Mississippi has faced increasing pressure to change its flag since protests against racial injustice have focused attention on Confederate symbols in recent weeks.

A broad coalition of legislators on Sunday passed the landmark legislation to change the flag, capping a weekend of emotional debate and decades of effort by Black lawmakers and others who see the rebel emblem as a symbol of hatred.

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