Advanced automobile safety used to involve a buckled seatbelt, a hopeful glance at the St. Christopher medal on your rearview mirror and faith in your car’s crumple zones. Today, there’s a blizzard of technologies protecting people inside and outside the vehicle. So many, in fact, you may not even know all of the systems packed into your own car.
Autos built over the last 12 years (the average vehicle age these days) are stuffed with safety features we’ve forgotten about. Chances are electronic stability control has saved your bacon by pulsing the brakes on individual wheels to improve handling and prevent rollovers. Traction control helps to eliminate uncontrolled wheel spin on slick surfaces. Antilock brakes shorten stopping distances and add control. Rearview-camera monitors reveal small children hidden behind your car. All are mandatory in modern cars.
And then there is the more advanced tech. For example, an acquaintance who was frustrated with intermittent seat vibrations in his new Cadillac felt sheepish to find they were the lane departure system discreetly buzzing his cushion.
Keep in mind, features mentioned here on specific models might be available on a number of other vehicles. Some homework may be necessary, especially as the 2021 model year switch-over arrives.
First, a sobering figure. The Governors Highway Safety Association said this year that pedestrian deaths from automobiles had risen to 6,283 in 2018, from 4,109 in 2009. Part of the rise was due to popular pickups, S.U.V.s and crossovers.
“These vehicles have much higher hoods than sedans,” said David Zuby, the chief research officer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “U.S. bumper height regulations are for vehicle-to-vehicle protection, not pedestrian safety. With S.U.V.s or pickups it’s far more likely you’ll end up under the vehicle. Chances are better of landing on the hood when hit by a sedan.”
The Volkswagen Arteon has one nifty safety feature: a pyrotechnic device near the base of the windshield that instantly lifts the hood from the rear, adding space between it and the engine for a softer landing spot.
More of these “active electronic safety technologies,” using sensors, radar and cameras, are coming. Among them: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection (a violent experience and not a license to multitask); automatic high-beam headlights (more likely to reveal pedestrians early); lane-departure warning (signaling when the car drifts over a road stripe); lane-keeping assist (actively helping to center the vehicle between the road stripes); blind-spot warning; and rear cross-path detection that senses traffic coming up from behind you and pedestrians before you back up (some systems even brake to avoid contact).
“Even where the auto braking doesn’t prevent a collision,” Mr. Zuby said, “slowing the speed helps pedestrians survive and reduces injuries in car-to-car impacts.”
Automakers are bundling these safety features and making them standard on even affordable cars, trucks and crossovers. The names and features vary: Ford Co-Pilot360, Honda Sensing, Nissan ProPilot Assist, Subaru EyeSight and Toyota Safety Sense. In a Honda it’s a Blind Spot Information System, while General Motors calls it Lane Change Alert (both are blind spot warning systems).
James McQueen at Consumer Reports points out that the organization teamed up with AAA, J.D. Power and the National Safety Council to create standardized names to give shoppers some clarity. “The Department of Transportation has endorsed the standardized names, but automakers don’t have to use them,” he said.
Then there’s the tech we in the United States can’t use. Europeans get adaptive headlights that are inexplicably banned from U.S. roads. Rather than simple high and low beams, sensors detect oncoming traffic and shade those vehicles from the incredibly bright LED units while illuminating the road ahead at full power.
Let’s move inside the car since National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics suggest that the growing amount of safety tech is starting to pay off. They show traffic fatalities dropping to an estimated 36,120 in 2019 from 37,461 in 2016 despite a rise in average miles traveled.
Automakers trying to ace the government’s small offset crash test (simulating a tree or pole impact with the outside edge of the car) have significantly raised your survival odds. Crumple zones have become more sophisticated. Ultra-high-strength steel in key areas protects far better than St. Chris (patron saint of travelers) on your mirror.
Most people I ask believe their car has two airbags (I’m a riot at parties), one each for the driver and front passenger. Generally, six are common (add two side torso bags and two curtain units covering the side glass). Some vehicles get knee and seat cushion airbags that position occupants properly during impact. The total easily climbs to 10 with torso units for rear passengers. Some GM vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse have a unique curtain bag between the front seats to keep driver and passenger from his-and-hers concussions during side impacts. The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will have airbags for rear passengers that are much like those in front.
Many rural single-car fatalities happen when cars veer off the pavement during distracted or drowsy driving. Driver attention systems work by monitoring steering wheel movements or employing cameras that watch the pilot. Lane-keep assist is a help, too.
Volvo (which invented the three-point seatbelt and gave away the patent) has Run Off Road protection. When sensors detect a wheel unweighting (signaling the car is heading into a ditch) seatbelts are cinched up until the car stops moving. If the impact is severe, airbags deploy and the brake pedal retracts. The seat frame is designed to collapse downward to reduce spinal injury.
Sophisticated features continue to trickle down from luxury cars to affordable vehicles. They include tech that avoids T-bone collisions. During left turns, sensors on the newest properly equipped Hyundai Sonata and Elantra sedans detect oncoming cars and then automatically brake to avoid impact. (The system relies on the use of turn signals, another good reason to use them.) Those cars can use the blind-spot monitoring sensors to warn passengers not to open the doors on a parked car if traffic is approaching from behind.
GM and Nissan vehicles provide warnings if you’ve left something in the back seat (like a sleeping child on a hot day). These rely on detecting that the back door was opened as a trip started. Hyundai and Kia go a step further, adding an ultrasonic motion sensor. Detecting movement when the car is locked, it honks the horn. It can even send a text message.
Kia’s K5 sedan is available with an adaptive cruise control that not only paces traffic ahead but uses GPS data to slow the car down if it’s traveling too fast for sharp curves ahead. At stoplights, the K5 can signal distracted drivers that the car in front has moved forward, even before the impatient driver behind has the chance to honk. Kia’s new Sorento will brake if it detects a rearward moving vehicle while pulling out of a parallel-parking spot.
Finally, a reminder to put the phone away. A fully present driver is the single most effective safety feature available. Plus, it’s free and available on all makes, models and years.
Australia Says Female Passengers on Qatar Flight Got Invasive Medical Exams
DARWIN, Australia — The Australian government on Monday demanded answers from Qatar Airways after female passengers on a flight to Sydney from Doha reported that they had been removed from the plane, strip-searched and given invasive medical exams to see if they had recently given birth.
The incident occurred earlier this month after a premature newborn was found abandoned in a terminal bathroom at Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital, according to accounts provided to the Australian authorities.
“The Australian government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” the Australian authorities said in a statement released on Monday.
It called the women’s treatment “offensive, grossly inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.”
The government said it had registered its concerns with the Qatari authorities. Neither Qatar Airways nor officials at Hamad Airport could be immediately reached for comment. Much remains unclear, such as if any of the passengers had given permission for the exams, and the identity of the newborn’s parents. The BBC reported that the baby was being cared for.
Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, said on Monday at a news conference in Canberra, the capital, that government officials had been made aware of the incident by passengers on the flight from Doha. None of the women involved have been publicly identified.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” Ms. Payne said. “It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life in any context.”
Ms. Payne added that Qatari officials had indicated they would provide a report on the incident, and that once she had reviewed the details, the government would determine its next steps.
“It has been taken up directly with the ambassador here and, of course, directly with authorities in Doha,” she said.
Flight QR908 was waiting on the tarmac when the crew asked all the women on board to disembark, Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger, said in an interview. He said he saw more than a dozen Australian women, as well as women of other nationalities, being removed from the plane.
“About three hours in, there was an announcement that the women should disembark. I personally found this disturbing,” said Dr. Babeck, a law professor who was returning to Australia after visiting his sick father in Germany.
He said he later learned from the women that they had been escorted back to the terminal, where they had been given invasive exams by a female doctor. At least 13 women from Australia were medically examined, according to reports from the women given to the Australian government and accounts from other passengers. Some news reports indicated they had been examined in an ambulance on the tarmac.
When the women returned to the plane, Dr. Babeck said, many appeared “shellshocked,” and others were crying. “Everybody was, of course, desperate to get home,” he added.
Australia has among the strictest travel regulations in the world in response to the pandemic, and anyone coming into or leaving the country must get permission from the authorities, even Australian citizens. The country recently set up a one-way travel bubble with New Zealand, under which travelers to Sydney or Darwin, Australia, from Auckland, New Zealand, will not be required to quarantine in Australia after a negative test.
The director of Amnesty International Australia, Samantha Klintworth, noting that news outlets reported that the incident occurred on Oct. 2, said in a statement: “The women subjected to this terrible ordeal appear to have come forward straight away and told authorities what occurred at the airport. Why then has it taken until now, following a report in the media, for the department to approach the Qatari authorities for an explanation?”
“There must be an independent investigation into the events that took place if we are to ever get a truly transparent account of what occurred and to establish unequivocally who is responsible and hold them to account for this gross breach of these women’s rights,” she said.
Livia Albeck-Ripka reported from Darwin, Australia, and Yan Zhuang from Melbourne, Australia.
Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn’t Buy It.
By early October, even people inside the White House believed President Trump’s re-election campaign needed a desperate rescue mission. So three men allied with the president gathered at a house in McLean, Va., to launch one.
The host was Arthur Schwartz, a New York public relations man close to President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr. The guests were a White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, and a former deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, according to two people familiar with the meeting.
Mr. Herschmann knew the subject matter they were there to discuss. He had represented Mr. Trump during the impeachment trial early this year, and he tried to deflect allegations against the president in part by pointing to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. More recently, he has been working on the White House payroll with a hazy portfolio, listed as “a senior adviser to the president,” and remains close to Jared Kushner.
The three had pinned their hopes for re-electing the president on a fourth guest, a straight-shooting Wall Street Journal White House reporter named Michael Bender. They delivered the goods to him there: a cache of emails detailing Hunter Biden’s business activities, and, on speaker phone, a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s named Tony Bobulinski. Mr. Bobulinski was willing to go on the record in The Journal with an explosive claim: that Joe Biden, the former vice president, had been aware of, and profited from, his son’s activities. The Trump team left believing that The Journal would blow the thing open and their excitement was conveyed to the president.
The Journal had seemed to be the perfect outlet for a story the Trump advisers believed could sink Mr. Biden’s candidacy. Its small-c conservatism in reporting means the work of its news pages carries credibility across the industry. And its readership leans further right than other big news outlets. Its Washington bureau chief, Paul Beckett, recently remarked at a virtual gathering of Journal reporters and editors that while he knows that the paper often delivers unwelcome news to the many Trump supporters who read it, The Journal should protect its unique position of being trusted across the political spectrum, two people familiar with the remarks said.
As the Trump team waited with excited anticipation for a Journal exposé, the newspaper did its due diligence: Mr. Bender and Mr. Beckett handed the story off to a well-regarded China correspondent, James Areddy, and a Capitol Hill reporter who had followed the Hunter Biden story, Andrew Duehren. Mr. Areddy interviewed Mr. Bobulinski. They began drafting an article.
Then things got messy. Without warning his notional allies, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and now a lawyer for President Trump, burst onto the scene with the tabloid version of the McLean crew’s carefully laid plot. Mr. Giuliani delivered a cache of documents of questionable provenance — but containing some of the same emails — to The New York Post, a sister publication to The Journal in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Mr. Giuliani had been working with the former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who also began leaking some of the emails to favored right-wing outlets. Mr. Giuliani’s complicated claim that the emails came from a laptop Hunter Biden had abandoned, and his refusal to let some reporters examine the laptop, cast a pall over the story — as did The Post’s reporting, which alleged but could not prove that Joe Biden had been involved in his son’s activities.
While the Trump team was clearly jumpy, editors in The Journal’s Washington bureau were wrestling with a central question: Could the documents, or Mr. Bobulinski, prove that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s lobbying? Or was this yet another story of the younger Mr. Biden trading on his family’s name — a perfectly good theme, but not a new one or one that needed urgently to be revealed before the election.
Mr. Trump and his allies expected the Journal story to appear Monday, Oct. 19, according to Mr. Bannon. That would be late in the campaign, but not too late — and could shape that week’s news cycle heading into the crucial final debate last Thursday. An “important piece” in The Journal would be coming soon, Mr. Trump told aides on a conference call that day.
His comment was not appreciated inside The Journal.
“The editors didn’t like Trump’s insinuation that we were being teed up to do this hit job,” a Journal reporter who wasn’t directly involved in the story told me. But the reporters continued to work on the draft as the Thursday debate approached, indifferent to the White House’s frantic timeline.
Keep up with Election 2020
Finally, Mr. Bobulinski got tired of waiting.
“He got spooked about whether they were going to do it or not,” Mr. Bannon said.
At 7:35 Wednesday evening, Mr. Bobulinski emailed an on-the-record, 684-word statement making his case to a range of news outlets. Breitbart News published it in full. He appeared the next day in Nashville to attend the debate as Mr. Trump’s surprise guest, and less than two hours before the debate was to begin, he read a six-minute statement to the press, detailing his allegations that the former vice president had involvement in his son’s business dealings.
When Mr. Trump stepped on stage, the president acted as though the details of the emails and the allegations were common knowledge. “You’re the big man, I think. I don’t know, maybe you’re not,” he told Mr. Biden at some point, a reference to an ambiguous sentence from the documents.
As the debate ended, The Wall Street Journal published a brief item, just the stub of Mr. Areddy and Mr. Duehren’s reporting. The core of it was that Mr. Bobulinski had failed to prove the central claim. “Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden,” The Journal reported.
Asked about The Journal’s handling of the story, the editor in chief, Matt Murray, said the paper did not discuss its newsgathering. “Our rigorous and trusted journalism speaks for itself,” Mr. Murray said in an emailed statement.
And if you’d been watching the debate, but hadn’t been obsessively watching Fox News or reading Breitbart, you would have had no idea what Mr. Trump was talking about. The story the Trump team hoped would upend the campaign was fading fast.
The gatekeepers return
The McLean group’s failed attempt to sway the election is partly just another story revealing the chaotic, threadbare quality of the Trump operation — a far cry from the coordinated “disinformation” machinery feared by liberals.
But it’s also about a larger shift in the American media, one in which the gatekeepers appear to have returned after a long absence.
It has been a disorienting couple of decades, after all. It all began when The Drudge Report, Gawker and the blogs started telling you what stodgy old newspapers and television networks wouldn’t. Then social media brought floods of content pouring over the old barricades.
By 2015, the old gatekeepers had entered a kind of crisis of confidence, believing they couldn’t control the online news cycle any better than King Canute could control the tides. Television networks all but let Donald Trump take over as executive producer that summer and fall. In October 2016, Julian Assange and James Comey seemed to drive the news cycle more than the major news organizations. Many figures in old media and new bought into the idea that in the new world, readers would find the information they wanted to read — and therefore, decisions by editors and producers, about whether to cover something and how much attention to give it, didn’t mean much.
But the last two weeks have proved the opposite: that the old gatekeepers, like The Journal, can still control the agenda. It turns out there is a big difference between WikiLeaks and establishment media coverage of WikiLeaks, a difference between a Trump tweet and an article about it, even between an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal suggesting Joe Biden had done bad things, and a news article that didn’t reach that conclusion.
Perhaps the most influential media document of the last four years is a chart by a co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, Yochai Benkler. The study showed that a dense new right-wing media sphere had emerged — and that the mainstream news “revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set.”
Mr. Bannon had known this, too. He described his strategy as “anchor left, pivot right,” and even as he ran Breitbart News, he worked to place attacks on Hillary Clinton in mainstream outlets. The validating power of those outlets was clear when The New York Times and Washington Post were given early access in the spring of 2014 to the book “Clinton Cash,” an investigation of the Clinton family’s blurring of business, philanthropic and political interests by the writer Peter Schweizer.
Mr. Schweizer is still around this cycle. But you won’t find his work in mainstream outlets. He’s over on Breitbart, with a couple of Hunter Biden stories this month.
And fact that Mr. Bobulinski emerged not in the pages of the widely respected Journal but in a statement to Breitbart was essentially Mr. Bannon’s nightmare, and Mr. Benkler’s fondest wish. And a broad array of mainstream outlets, unpersuaded that Hunter Biden’s doings tie directly to the former vice president, have largely kept the story off their front pages, and confined to skeptical explanations of what Mr. Trump and his allies are claiming about his opponent.
“SO USA TODAY DIDN’T WANT TO RUN MY HUNTER BIDEN COLUMN THIS WEEK,” the conservative writer Glenn Reynolds complained Oct. 20, posting the article instead to his blog. President Trump himself hit a wall when he tried to push the Hunter Biden narrative onto CBS News.
“This is ‘60 Minutes,’ and we can’t put on things we can’t verify,” Lesley Stahl told him. Mr. Trump then did more or less the same thing as Mr. Reynolds, posting a video of his side of the interview to his own blog, Facebook.
The media’s control over information, of course, is not as total as it used to be. The people who own printing presses and broadcast towers can’t actually stop you from reading leaked emails or unproven theories about Joe Biden’s knowledge of his son’s business. But what Mr. Benkler’s research showed was that the elite outlets’ ability to set the agenda endured in spite of social media.
We should have known it, of course. Many of our readers, screaming about headlines on Twitter, did. And Mr. Trump knew it all along — one way to read his endless attacks on the establishment media is as an expression of obsession, a form of love. This week, you can hear howls of betrayal from people who have for years said the legacy media was both utterly biased and totally irrelevant.
“For years, we’ve respected and even revered the sanctified position of the free press,” wrote Dana Loesch, a right-wing commentator not particularly known for her reverence of legacy media, expressing frustration that the Biden story was not getting attention. “Now that free press points its digital pen at your throat when you question their preferences.”
On the other side of the gate
There’s something amusing — even a bit flattering — in such earnest protestations from a right-wing movement rooted in efforts to discredit the independent media. And this reassertion of control over information is what you’ve seen many journalists call for in recent years. At its best, it can also close the political landscape to a trendy new form of dirty tricks, as in France in 2017, where the media largely ignored a last-minute dump of hacked emails from President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign just before a legally mandated blackout period.
But I admit that I feel deep ambivalence about this revenge of the gatekeepers. I spent my career, before arriving at The Times in March, on the other side of the gate, lobbing information past it to a very online audience who I presumed had already seen the leak or the rumor, and seeing my job as helping to guide that audience through the thicket, not to close their eyes to it. “The media’s new and unfamiliar job is to provide a framework for understanding the wild, unvetted, and incredibly intoxicating information that its audience will inevitably see — not to ignore it,” my colleague John Herrman (also now at The Times) and I wrote in 2013. In 2017, I made the decision to publish the unverified “Steele dossier,” in part on the grounds that gatekeepers were looking at it and influenced by it, but keeping it from their audience.
This fall, top media and tech executives were bracing to refight the last war — a foreign-backed hack-and-leak operation like WikiLeaks seeking to influence the election’s outcome. It was that hyper-vigilance that led Twitter to block links to The New York Post’s article about Hunter Biden — a frighteningly disproportionate response to a story that other news organizations were handling with care. The schemes of Mr. Herschmann, Mr. Passantino and Mr. Schwartz weren’t exactly WikiLeaks. But the special nervousness that many outlets, including this one, feel about the provenance of the Hunter Biden emails is, in many ways, the legacy of the WikiLeaks experience.
I’d prefer to put my faith in Mr. Murray and careful, professional journalists like him than in the social platforms’ product managers and executives. And I hope Americans relieved that the gatekeepers are reasserting themselves will also pay attention to who gets that power, and how centralized it is, and root for new voices to correct and challenge them.
Kodak Loan Debacle Puts a New Agency in the Hot Seat
WASHINGTON — At a virtual conference in September, Adam Boehler, chief executive of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, described his nascent agency as a bulwark against China’s “economic colonialism” — with $60 billion in annual lending authority to counter Beijing’s strategy of spreading its global influence with low-interest infrastructure loans.
But in recent months, Mr. Boehler, a former health care executive, has repurposed the international agency into something far from its intended role: a financing arm for projects inside the United States.
Working closely with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Mr. Boehler helped draft an executive order over the summer that, for the first time, gave the agency authority to issue loans to U.S. companies for projects on American soil. The move was billed as a way to boost President Trump’s “Buy America” ambitions during a time of economic crisis.
Now, Mr. Boehler’s agency is embroiled in controversy over its first domestic loan — $765 million for Kodak, which was intended to help the once-iconic photography company transform into a pharmaceutical firm that could lessen America’s reliance on foreign countries for generic drugs and coronavirus treatments.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing allegations of insider trading by Kodak executives ahead of the deal’s announcement, and the Development Finance Corporation’s inspector general is looking into how Kodak got the loan. The funding has been put on hold and Mr. Trump, who hailed the loan as “momentous,” has distanced himself from the decision.
The questions about the Kodak project highlight the risks inherent in the Trump administration’s strategy to build American manufacturing by embracing the type of industrial policy that other nations have long employed — one that the United States has traditionally avoided in favor of free markets.
Mr. Trump has taken aggressive measures to prop up flagging sectors and companies, including supporting steel and aluminum by imposing global metal tariffs. He has funneled nearly $30 billion in subsidies to prop up struggling farmers who were hurt by his trade war with China. And this summer, Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department gave a $700 million stimulus loan to a struggling trucking company, YRC Worldwide, under the questionable rationale that it was critical to national security.
In May, the Trump administration found a new way to support domestic companies: The Development Finance Corporation. The agency had been created by Congress in 2018 to replace the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which had encouraged American companies to invest in developing countries. Congress gave the new agency $60 billion to bankroll international infrastructure projects and a mandate to coordinate more closely with the State Department on loans that, ideally, would help to curb Chinese influence and support American foreign policy.
The agency has funded 80 overseas projects totaling $4.8 billion in places like Mozambique, Kenya, Colombia and Costa Rica this year. But top Trump officials had long been eyeing the agency’s pot of money as a potential source of cash for domestic projects. In 2019, as Mr. Trump was seeking more funding for his wall along the Southern border with Mexico, Mr. Kushner approached Ray Washburne, who was then leading the agency as it began transitioning from the O.P.I.C. to the International Development Finance Corporation, to see if financing might be available.
“Can you give me a billion for the wall?” Mr. Kushner asked Mr. Washburne, who left the agency early last year, according to a person with knowledge of the exchange who was not authorized to reveal a private conversation.
Mr. Washburne spurned the request, citing the agency’s international mandate. A spokesperson for Mr. Kushner said he had no recollection of the request.
As the coronavirus pandemic swept through the United States, Mr. Trump signed an executive order on May 14 that allowed the Development Finance Corporation to shift its focus from international to domestic investment.
The move was part of an effort by the White House to use American companies to make supplies like ventilators and hand sanitizer and to transport testing swabs. In many cases, it used the threat of the Defense Production Act to compel companies to ramp up production of personal protective equipment.
Some critics in Congress and development experts panned the move, arguing that the agency lacked the resources to accomplish its original mission overseas, much less rebuild American industry.
But Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and had spent years trying to reinvent itself as its core photography business weakened, spied an opportunity. Kodak made the case to administration officials that the company could help with producing generic pharmaceuticals to reduce American reliance on foreign drugmakers and potentially help produce treatments for Covid-19, according to a review of the deal the law firm Akin Gump carried out at Kodak’s request.
The company had been producing some pharmaceutical ingredients for several years and had begun making hand sanitizer and face shields since the pandemic took hold. Kodak officials told the administration that the loan would be part of a larger corporate reinvention that entailed converting vast chemical facilities once dedicated to their print business to produce raw ingredients used in pharmaceuticals.
By July, after a byzantine application process, Kodak had won a “letter of intent” to receive government support.
Administration officials saw the loan to Kodak as dual victory — a way to both help restore America’s factory capacity and lessen its reliance on China and India for critical drugs.
In a White House briefing on July 28, Mr. Trump said the administration had taken “a momentous step toward achieving American pharmaceutical independence” and called it “one of the most important deals in the history of U.S. pharmaceutical industries.”
But critics immediately questioned why Kodak could not secure financing through the capital markets and were dubious the effort would help address the immediate health crisis.
“The Kodak loan didn’t seem directly relevant to the crisis that we’re in,” said Clemence Landers, policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. “This feels like part of the administration’s broader onshoring agenda.”
Scott Lincicome, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Cato Institute, noted that the effort to prop up Kodak “appears to be taking a page out of China’s playbook,” which the administration has criticized for helping “zombie” companies and politically connected firms, causing economic distortions.
A spokesman for the International Development Finance Corporation declined to comment.
Almost immediately after announcing the loan, the project unraveled amid accusations of insider trading.
Kodak had issued its chief executive, Jim Continenza, 1.75 million stock options on July 27, the day before Mr. Trump publicly announced the project. The company’s stock rose from $2.62 per share on July 27 to more than $60 on Wednesday, before closing at $33.20. Within days, Mr. Continenza’s new options were worth about $50 million.
Public filings also showed that Mr. Continenza purchased 46,737 additional shares on June 23, while Philippe D. Katz, a board member, purchased 5,000 shares on June 11 and again on June 23.
In a statement, Kodak said Mr. Continenza has purchased shares with his own money at nearly every available window since joining the company in 2013. He has not sold a single share during his time at Kodak, the company said.
The damage was done. The loan was put on hold and, in the following weeks, Mr. Trump and Peter Navarro, a trade adviser who helped coordinate the agreement, distanced themselves from the deal.
“I wasn’t involved in the deal,” Mr. Trump said on Aug. 4. “Kodak has been a great name, but obviously pretty much in a different business.”
Democrats, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have been scrutinizing Mr. Kushner’s medical supply chain projects and his close ties to Mr. Boehler. They have raised suspicion that personal ties, rather than economic considerations, were the main factor in granting the International Development Finance Corporation a prominent new domestic mission. At Ms. Warren’s request, the agency’s inspector general is reviewing the loan process.
Mr. Navarro, in an emailed comment, said that “a key mission of the Trump administration is to bring home our medical supply chains.” He said the White House was “pursuing numerous projects to advance this mission, with Kodak now far in the rearview mirror.”
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