BOSTON (AP) — A panel of appeals court judges on Wednesday repeatedly challenged the legal claims of a group that accuses Harvard University of intentional discrimination against Asian American students who apply to the Ivy League school.
The three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston appeared skeptical of arguments made by Students for Fair Admissions, which says Harvard imposes a “racial penalty” on Asian Americans. When a lawyer for the group accused the school of racial stereotyping against Asian American applicants, a judge interrupted and questioned the basis of the claim.
“Where is the evidence of racial profiling here?” Judge Juan Torruella asked.
The panel is expected to make a decision on the case in coming weeks. Either way, legal experts believe the case will probably end up before the Supreme Court.
Students for Fair Admissions is asking the appeals court to overturn a trial-level judge’s 2019 decision finding that Harvard does not intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans. U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs issued the decision in October after a three-week trial.
In her ruling, Burroughs said Harvard’s admissions process is “not perfect” but concluded that there was “no evidence of any racial animus whatsoever.” She ruled that other factors beyond bias could explain why Harvard accepts Asian American students at lower rates than students of other races.
The group’s lawsuit alleges that Harvard admissions officers use a subjective “personal rating” assigned to each student to discriminate against Asian Americans. Using six years of admissions data, the group found that Asian American applicants averaged the highest scores in an academic rating but received the lowest personal ratings, and that they were admitted at lower rates.
Harvard denies any bias and defends its use of race in the application process. The school says race is one of many factors considered and that at most it provides a “tip” in favor of underrepresented students. It says the university has a “compelling interest” in attracting a diverse student body to its campus.
Presenting the case to judges, a lawyer for the group said Harvard’s practices go beyond the limited consideration of race that has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Attorney William Consovoy said the school’s efforts to keep a similar racial makeup among students from year to year amounts to illegal racial balancing.
“The statistical evidence in this case showed that the personal rating discriminates against Asian Americans in a statistically significant way,” Consovoy said.
But Judge Sandra L. Lynch challenged that allegation, saying that, presented with competing statistical models from both sides, the trial court judge sided with Harvard’s.
“The district court actually found that Harvard’s statistical model was the more reliable one,” Lynch said. “So, again, I’m just trying to get your argument.” Consovoy argued that both models were deemed credible.
A representative for the U.S. Justice Department spoke in support of Students for Fair Admissions on Wednesday, arguing that race “pervades every aspect” of Harvard’s admissions process. Eric S. Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said the school’s admissions process “unduly burdens” Asian American applicants compared to white applicants.
The Trump administration has opposed the use of race at Harvard and other colleges across the U.S. Last month, the Justice Department found that Yale University discriminates against Asian American and white applicants. The finding, which resulted from a two-year inquiry, was rejected by Yale as “meritless” and “hasty.”
As evidence, the group points to a U.S. Education Department investigation into Harvard’s admissions practices in the 1990s. In that case, the agency also explored whether Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans. The school was ultimately cleared.
Speaking on behalf of the university Wednesday, attorney Seth Waxman said the school’s personal rating, which was also examined during the federal inquiry, has “assumed a Frankenstein-like significance.” But he argued that the 1990s investigation only helps Harvard’s case.
“It reached the exact same conclusion, based on its review of all the evidence, that Judge Burroughs did,” he said.
Senate to vote on a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown with just hours to spare
WASHINGTON – The Senate is preparing Wednesday to vote on a spending measure to keep federal agencies running just hours before the government is set to shut down.
The legislation, which is expected to pass in a largely bipartisan vote, wouldthen go to President Donald Trump, who is expected to give final approval to the bill. The federal annual spending bill expires at midnight, meaning Congress has to act Wednesday in order keep the government open.
A government shutdown in the midst of a global pandemic could be devastating as many Americans struggling financially because of COVID-19 are more reliant on the federal government.
The bill will extend current government funding levels until Dec. 11 – a month after the election.
Lawmakers added last-minute pandemic relief funding before the bill was approved in the House Sept. 22, which gave it bipartisan support. The bill includes billions for a farm bailout program pushed by Republicans as farmers continue to be affected by Trump’s trade policies and the pandemic’s impact on agriculture. Democrats were able to get more money – $8 billion – for pandemic food assistance programs for families.
More: House OKs spending bill, sending legislation to Senate just days before government set to shutdown
More: White House and Congress reach informal deal to avert government shutdown at end of month
More: The battle in Congress to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dashing hopes for a COVID-19 stimulus package
The two additions marked the only pandemic-related relief in the bill. While pressure has mounted for Congress to pass more COVID-19 relief, lawmakers have been at an impasse for months over the size and scope of a stimulus bill. Negotiations appeared all but dead earlier this month, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have restarted talks.
House Democrats introduced another coronavirus stimulus bill proposal on Monday with a $2 trillion price tag. It is not expected to be considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The last government shutdown from Dec. 2018 to Jan. 2019 was the longest on record, at 35 days long. Stemming from a standoff between Congress and the White House over funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border, it forced about 800,000 federal government workers to take furloughs or go without pay.
But a shutdown this year would have come as the nation wrestles with a deadly pandemic, which has already taken 200,000 American lives.
Sarah Binder, professor of political science at George Washington University and a Brookings Institution senior fellow, said it would be a “catastrophic blow” to have a shutdown in the middle of the pandemic, especially if workers at agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health were furloughed.
But “nobody really wants to be blamed for the government shutdown,” especially so close to an election, she said.
Contributing: Nicholas Wu
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate set to approve bill just hours before government will shut down
How the stock is trading on its first day
Goldman Sachs Predicts Over 40% Rally for These 3 Stocks
A new wave of optimism is splashing onto the Street. Investment firm Goldman Sachs just gave its three-month stock forecast a boost, lifting it from Neutral to Overweight, with it also projecting “high single-digital returns” for global stocks over the next year.What’s behind this updated approach? Goldman Sachs strategist Christian Mueller-Glissmann cites the impressive rebound in global earnings growth and reduced equity costs as the drivers of the estimate revision. On top of this, a “broader procyclical shift” in stocks and other assets could take place during the remainder of this year.“We have shifted more cyclical on sectors and themes tactically but still prefer growth vs. value on a strategic horizon… In the near-term, elevated uncertainty on U.S. elections and a better global growth outlook might benefit non-U.S. equities more, but in the medium term a large weight in structural growth stocks is likely to support the S&P 500,” Mueller-Glissmann noted.As for the “most important catalyst” that could spur growth optimism in the next year, the strategist points to additional clarity on when and how a COVID-19 vaccine will be available.Turning Mueller-Glissmann’s outlook into concrete recommendations, Goldman Sachs’ analysts are pounding the table on three stocks that look especially compelling. According to these analysts, each name is poised to surge in the 12 months ahead.Raytheon Technologies (RTX)First up we have Raytheon Technologies, which is an aerospace and defense company that provides advanced systems and services for commercial, military and government customers. While shares have stumbled in 2020, Goldman Sachs thinks the weakness presents a buying opportunity.Representing the firm, analyst Noah Poponak points out that RTX is “too high quality and well positioned of a company to trade at an 11% free cash flow yield on the fully aerospace-recovered and fully synergized 2023E free cash.”The analyst’s bullish outlook is largely driven by the company’s aerospace aftermarket (the secondary market that deals with the installation of equipment, spare parts, accessories and components after the sale of the aircraft by the original equipment manufacturer) business, which Poponak argues is “the best sub-market within Aerospace over the long-term.” This segment makes up roughly 45% of RTX’s aerospace revenue.Even though COVID-19 flight disruptions have weighed on this part of the business, Poponak points out total aircraft in service is down only 25% year-over-year, and flights have dipped less than 50%. He added, “China domestic traffic is now up year on year, and while international remains depressed, we believe the recovery in global air travel could be quicker from here than broad expectations for a recovery by 2023-2024.”Poponak highlights that in previous downturns, the aftermarket had to confront headwinds that arose from the increased use of parting out, inventory pooling and delayed aftermarket spending. “Even then, aftermarket grew at or faster than ASMs, and we believe there was pent-up demand heading into this downturn that support aftermarket tracking the recovery in global air travel. Long-term, we expect air traffic to grow 2X global GDP, as it has historically,” the analyst commented.Adding to the good news, the Geared Turbo Fan, which is a type of turbofan aircraft engine, product cycle could generate substantial revenue and EBIT growth at Pratt & Whitney, in Poponak’s opinion.“Given the high OE exposure to the A320neo, which has the strongest backlog of any aircraft in the market, we see Pratt OE revenue holding up better and recovering faster than peers. New GTF deliveries will drive expansion in the installed base for Pratt, which was declining for most of the 2000s. Despite the end of V2500 OE deliveries, that program is just moving into the sweet-spot for shop visits on the aftermarket side,” Poponak opined.What’s more, Poponak sees merger synergies as capable of fueling margin expansion and cash generation, with the historical synergy capture in the space implying that upside to guidance isn’t out of the question.In line with his optimistic approach, Poponak stays with the bulls. To this end, he keeps a Buy rating and $86 price target on the stock. Investors could be pocketing a gain of 49%, should this target be met in the twelve months ahead. (To watch Poponak’s track record, click here)In general, other analysts echo Poponak’s sentiment. 7 Buys and 2 Holds add up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. With an average price target of $78.63, the upside potential comes in at 36.5%. (See RTX stock analysis on TipRanks)Boeing (BA)Moving on to another player in the aerospace space, Boeing has also struggled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, with it failing to match the pace of the broader market. That being said, Goldman Sachs has high hopes for this name going forward.Firm analyst Noah Poponak, who also covers RTX, points out that BA has already trimmed production rate plans by half, compared to the peak plan from before the COVID crisis and MAX grounding. A slower-than-anticipated air travel rebound could result in more reductions, but the analyst argues these would be much smaller than the reductions that have already been witnessed. He added, “Historically, the best buying opportunities in BA shares are right after it has capitulated to production rate cuts.”According to Poponak, compared to previous economic declines, the peak to trough in the current downturn is larger and faster, although this is partly related to the grounding of the 737 MAX in 2019. “We believe this will result in a less severe dislocation of supply and demand balance, and see deliveries recovering to 2018 levels by 2024 as global air travel recovers and airlines replace accelerated retirements,” he explained.As for how the company can fulfill its new production rate plan “given the mix of its backlog is so much more weighted to growth than replacement,” Poponak believes “the answer is that airlines during this downturn are revising that mix.” Since the pandemic’s onset, airlines have revealed higher aircraft retirement plans, and braced for less growth. “That means for a given revision in an airline’s order book, there is also a substantial mix shift toward replacement from growth within the new delivery numbers. Therefore, the backlog will not necessarily lose all of its growth orders,” the analyst stated.Additionally, following an uptick in aircraft order cancellations in March and April, the pace has slowed. “Even assuming another 200-plus unit cancellations this year, we estimate the 737 MAX would have nearly 6X years of production by the middle of the decade at our revised production rate estimates,” Poponak mentioned.When it comes to free cash flow, the analyst is also optimistic, with Poponak forecasting that BA will see positive free cash flow in 2021. “We think the market is underestimating the mid-cycle achievable aircraft unit cash margins across the major programs, extrapolating temporarily negative items into the future, and underestimating the degree of inventory unwind likely to occur in 2021,” he said.If that wasn’t enough, the MAX recertification could be a major possible catalyst. The company is working towards recertification and return to service, with Poponak expecting both to come before year-end.Taking all of the above into consideration, Poponak maintains a Buy rating and $225 price target. This target conveys his confidence in BA’s ability to climb 35% higher in the next year.Turning to the rest of the analyst community, opinions are mixed. With 8 Buys, 8 Holds and 1 Sell assigned in the last three months, the word on the Street is that BA is a Moderate Buy. At $192.40, the average price target implies 16% upside potential. (See Boeing stock analysis on TipRanks)Immatics (IMTX)Combining the discovery of true targets for cancer immunotherapies (therapies that utilize the power of the immune system) with the development of the right T cell receptors, Immatics hopes to ultimately enable a robust and specific T cell response against these targets. Based on its cutting-edge approach, Goldman Sachs counts itself as a fan.Writing for the firm, analyst Graig Suvannavejh notes that unlike CAR-T approaches, a T cell receptor (TCR)-based approach can go after targets inside the cell, and fight the 90% of cancers which are solid tumor in nature. The company is advancing two technologies: ACTengine, designed for personalized TCR-based cell therapies, and TCER, which targets TCR-based bispecific antibodies.ACTengine is the more advanced technology, with its four assets IMA201, a genetically engineered T cell product candidate that targets melanoma-associated antigen 4 or 8, IMA202, which targets melanoma-associated antigen 1, IMA203, which targets preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME) and IMA204 that targets COL6A3 (found in a tumor’s stroma and is highly prevalent in the tumor microenvironment/TME in a broad range of cancers) expected to enter the clinic soon.Using the TCER platform, IMTX is developing IMA401 and IMA402, or “off-the-shelf” biologics consisting of a portion of the TCR which directly recognizes cancer cells and a T cell recruiter domain which recruits and activates the patient’s T cells.Speaking to the market opportunity, Suvannavejh mentioned, “Cancer immunotherapies have made great strides over the past decade, and in particular, advances seen with CAR-T have paved the way for cell therapy-based approaches… CAR-T, however, has to date only shown limited effect in treating cancers that are solid tumor in nature. With more than 90% of all cancers being solid tumors — with lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers accounting for c.60% of the total — this is the opportunity for IMTX.” To this end, he believes cumulative 2035 sales could land at $15.5 billion for the ACTengine-based assets.Reflecting another positive, since 2017, IMTX has inked at least one significant partnership per year with top global biopharma companies. According to Suvannavejh, each provided non-dilutive funding opportunities.The analyst added, “…the ARYA Sciences Acquisition Corporation, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), merger that enabled IMTX to become a publicly traded entity brought in a deep roster of well-known, experienced healthcare-dedicated institutional investors. Taken together, we find these to be validating of IMTX’s longer-term prospects.”Looking ahead, the initial clinical data readouts for IMA201, IMA202 and IMA203, which are slated for Q1 2021, and investigational new drug (IND) application submissions for IMA204 and IMA401 in 2021 and YE2021, respectively, reflect key potential catalysts, in Suvannavejh’s opinion.Everything that IMTX has going for it convinced Suvannavejh to reiterate his Buy rating. Along with the call, he attached a $17 price target, suggesting 73% upside potential. (To watch Suvannavejh’s track record, click here)Are other analysts in agreement? They are. Only Buy ratings, 4, in fact, have been issued in the last three months. Therefore, the message is clear: IMTX is a Strong Buy. Given the $19 average price target, shares could soar 93% in the next year. (See Immatics stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
Chromecast with Google TV attempts to revive Android TV for the streaming wars
At its Launch Night In event today, Google officially unveiled Chromecast with Google TV. The new HDMI dongle is available starting today in the U.S. for $50 (it’s coming to more countries by the end of this year). That’s quite cheap given that it comes with its own remote control and dedicated user interface. The latter is so important to Google that the company put in the product name. “Think of Google TV as your personal entertainment content curator,” Google TV general manager Shalini Govil-Pai said. “We will be bringing the Google TV experience to many more streaming devices in the Android TV ecosystem. Today, Google TV is making its debut on the all new Chromecast.”
Like all the Google products announced today, Chromecast with Google TV has been leaking for months. The real news here is the confirmation that Google is giving Android TV another go by bringing back Google TV. (Android TV launched in June 2014, succeeding an even earlier smart TV effort from October 2010 called Google TV. Yes, Google rebrands as often and as poorly as Microsoft.) It appears that Android TV will continue to exist, and Google TV is an additional interface that runs on top.
The smart TV space is largely dominated by Tizen and webOS globally, with Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV winning over U.S. consumers. While Google saw plenty of success with its cheap Chromecast TV dongle early on (55 million sold in three years, consumers did not convert to Android TV as they upgraded their TV experience. Google is hoping it can use the successful Chromecast to revive its smart TV ambitions.
With the streaming wars heating up, the game streaming battle igniting, and the pandemic dumping fuel on both, this is Google’s latest attempt to claim the biggest screen in your home. Its Google Home smart speakers (slowly being rebranded under the Google Nest Home) are already in millions of homes, but we are visual creatures and screens are still the golden goose.
Software and hardware
Again, Google is highlighting the software for this Chromecast because it actually has an operating system and a user interface. Previous Chromecasts simply let you cast whatever you were already streaming on your phone or PC — a simplicity that was key to its success but also ultimately led to users looking for a replacement.
Welcome to Google TV. The entertainment you love, with a little help from Google. 📺 Available today. pic.twitter.com/qJYSbWWUeM
— Google (@Google) September 30, 2020
Still, Govil-Pai highlighted today what exactly Google TV lets you do. Google TV’s main home page shows titles pulled from all your streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. (It also shows options from other channels that you don’t have, to show you what you’re missing). A big chunk of the user interface is dedicated to showing you suggestions of movies and TV shows that it thinks you might want to watch.
The hardware is also keeping up with this paradigm shift. If users are going to be doing more than casting, Google is making sure Chromecast with Google TV ships with its own remote control, unlike its predecessors. The remote features a directional pad and dedicated buttons for Google Assistant, YouTube, and Netflix.
Chromecast with Google TV supports 4K and HDR. It works with multiple Google accounts, as well as Bluetooth devices and USB-to-Ethernet adapters.
Finally, the price tag further confirms Google is aggressively pursuing the space again. At $50, Chromecast with Google TV costs $20 less than the Chromecast Ultra.
2020 has seen plenty of game streaming services debut in some form, including Microsoft xCloud, Nvidia GeForce Now, and as of last week Amazon Luna. Google launched Stadia in November 2019, but the response has been lukewarm at best.
It’s thus surprising that Google didn’t mention Stadia when discussing Chromecast with Google TV. The company reserved that for the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G section. Presumably Google will talk up Stadia for the new Chromecast when the company deems it ready for your TV. Maybe a “Chromecast with Stadia” bundle (that includes the Stadia Controller) is in the works.
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