August 5, 2014

Hurricane Bertha, the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, weakened to tropical storm status overnight, with its top sustained winds dropping to 65 miles per hour. Bertha is expected to continue weakening as it passes between the East Coast and Bermuda on Tuesday. The storm poses no direct threat to the U.S., but it could cause potentially dangerous rip currents on the Jersey shore. Read more at The Associated Press. Harold Maass

6:50 a.m. ET

Monday's Morning Joe on MSNBC started off with video of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) talking about the impossibility of negotiating with President Trump on immigration and the government shutdown, then Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blaming the partial shutdown on 32-year-old Trump aide Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner.

In case it wasn't clear which party Morning Joe's anchors blames for the shutdown, Mika Brzezinski quoted The Washington Post: "Yet another period of Trump-fueled tumult .... pinging from one upheaval to the next — while clearly not understanding the policy nuances of the negotiation." Joe Scarborough, who counseled Democrats to stay resolute in the face of Republican intransigence, exclaimed, "A 32-year-old aide has shut down the government!"

While the Morning Joe crew has the blame game figured out, The Washington Post also noted Monday that it's still "unclear whether the public would blame the Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, or Democrats taking a stand on immigration while shuttering government agencies." Peter Weber

6:10 a.m. ET

On Monday, residents of Seattle will have the chance to shop at Amazon Go, the online retail giant's bricks-and-mortar grocery store, becoming the first people outside Amazon to try out the cashier-free shopping. Amazon employees started using the convenience store in December 2016, and mastering the technology of using cameras and sensors to charge people the correct amount for their purchase proved harder than expected. Issues included differentiating shoppers with similar body types and dealing with children eating items in-store or rearranging them on shelves, Reuters reports.

Shoppers pass through a turnstile to get into the store, scanning a smartphone app that links them to a credit card on file. Cameras and weight sensors on shelves determine what customers buys, and they are charged for whatever they still have with them when they walk out through the turnstiles again. Reuters correspondent Jeffrey Dastin tried out the store, and he got in an out with a bottle of water in under 30 seconds.

Since customers like speed, Amazon's checkout-free technology could upend retail stores more than its online store already has. But the company says it has no plans to introduce this technology to Whole Foods Market stores, which are bigger and more complicated than Amazon Go shops; Amazon purchased Whole Foods last year for $13.7 billion. Peter Weber

5:15 a.m. ET

On Sunday, during his shutdown-exempted trip to the Middle East, Vice President Mike Pence criticized Democrats for the partial government shutdown, telling U.S. service members they "shouldn't have to worry about getting paid" — which would happen if the shutdown lasts past Feb. 1 and Congress doesn't act. "Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay," Pence said, explicitly telling NBC News that "it was the Democrat leadership and vast majority of Democrats in the Senate that decided to say no to government funding."

On CBS Face the Nation on Sunday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney noted that "traditionally every single time there's a shutdown, Congress has voted to go and pay [troops] retroactively, and we support that." On Saturday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of five Senate Democrats who voted for the stopgap spending bill (five Republicans voted against it), proposed paying the troops now, as Congress did in 2013; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked the measure.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Army veteran who lost both legs in Iraq in 2004, reminded Republicans later on Saturday that they had shot down the military pay measure, asked them to reconsider, and noted that President Trump was attacking Democrats on Twitter as "holding our Military hostage." "I spent my entire adult life looking out for the well-being, the training, the equipping of the troops for whom I was responsible," Duckworth said. "Sadly, this is something the current occupant of the Oval Office does not seem to care to do — and I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger."

Duckworth even coined a nickname for Trump, "Cadet Bone Spurs," that sounds almost, well, Trumpean. Peter Weber

3:26 a.m. ET

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in Park City, Utah, on Sunday for the debut of a documentary about her at the Sundance Film Festival. Ginsburg, 84, talked about her life, career, family, friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and "Notorious RBG" nickname, and promised her health "is very good" and she'll stay on the court "as long as I can do the job full steam." At one point, moderator Nina Totenberg noted that the film crew on the documentary, RGB, had shown Ginsburg a clip of Kate McKinnon portraying her on SNL.

"So what did you think of your portrayal on Saturday Night Live?" Totenberg asked. "I like the actress who portrayed me," Ginsburg said. "And I would like to say 'Ginsburned' sometimes to my colleagues."

If you're not familiar with McKinnon's Ginsburg impersonation, here's an example:

Ginsburg also weighed in on some films winning big awards this year and said she was heartened by the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment, Deadline reports. "For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could about it," she said. "But now the law is on the side of women or men who encounter harassment, and that's big thing." Totenberg asked about a #MeToo backlash, and Ginsburg didn't seem too concerned. "So far it's been great," she said. "When I see women appearing everywhere in numbers I am less worried about that." Peter Weber

2:19 a.m. ET

President Trump has no permanent "drug czar" — the Office of National Drug Control Policy is being led by Acting Director Richard Baum, who has worked in the ONDCP since 1997. In a Jan. 3 memo, The Washington Post reports, Baum said his office "recognizes that we have lost a few talented staff members" and "the functions of the chief of staff will be picked up by me and the deputy chief of staff." The deputy chief of staff, the Post notes, is a 24-year-old named Taylor Weyeneth whose only other post-college experience was as a paid member of Trump's presidential campaign and volunteer during his presidential transition.

Weyeneth rose quickly through the ranks, in part because of the aforementioned vacancies, and aside from the questions of whether a recent college graduate with no real experience should be helping to make drug policy during a devastating opioid epidemic, the Post now reports that Weyeneth fudged his résumé. For example, he said that he had worked as a legal assistant at the New York law firm O'Dwyer & Bernstien during college for eight months longer than he really had — a discrepancy the FBI picked up, leading to a second, then a third résumé. And that job apparently did not end well.

Weyeneth was "discharged" in August 2015, partner Brian O'Dwyer told the Post. "We were very disappointed in what happened," he said, adding that he had hired Weyeneth in part because both men belonged to the same fraternity. O'Dwyer & Bernstien had trained Weyeneth in expectation that he would work there for a long while, O'Dwyer said, but Weyeneth "just didn't show."

After the Post's first report, the White House said Weyeneth would return to being White House liaison to the ONDCP, but as of this weekend, he has remained deputy chief of staff, the Post said. You can read more about his exaggerated résumé at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

2:10 a.m. ET

With the exception of a quick trip back home to celebrate Christmas, Army veteran Jason Maddy has spent the last four months helping distribute much-needed supplies to people in remote parts of Puerto Rico hardest hit by Hurricane Maria.

"They are Americans," he told NBC News. "They deserve help, they deserve support, and they deserve not to be forgotten." Maddy, who served in the Army from 2000 to 2015, came to Puerto Rico not long after Hurricane Maria hit last September, wanting to help in any way possible. He began by getting supplies to people in rural areas of western Puerto Rico, and not long after arriving he launched the nonprofit Veteran Disaster Relief. "They say in the Army that you never leave a soldier behind and we can't leave these Americans behind," he said.

Maddy has since been joined by several other volunteers, including an Air Force veteran from San Antonio and a Cleveland police officer using her vacation time to participate. They are bringing food, water filters, and medical supplies to people who still don't have electricity and are living in structures not considered habitable; recently, Maddy installed a generator for a 70-year-old bedridden man who clapped when he finally felt his fan kick back on. "You just feel a joy in your heart that you potentially save their life, or at least improved it," he told NBC News. "And to be a part of that is incredible. It's something that I'll never forget." Catherine Garcia

1:44 a.m. ET

They came from different backgrounds — one was a UCLA student, another the organizer of blood drives at her office — and it was their selflessness that brought them together.

Recently, a celebration was held at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital for 2-year-old Skye Savren-McCormick and 24 of the 71 strangers who helped save her life. When Savren-McCormick was four months old, she had to undergo her first blood and platelet transfusion, and when she turned 1, doctors discovered she had a rare form of cancer called juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia. Without blood transfusions "she wouldn't have made it," her mother, Talia Savren-McCormick, told Today. "We used to call it life in a bag."

Over the course of her treatment, Savren-McCormick needed 77 units of blood, which were donated by 71 different people, as well as three bone marrow transplants. At one point, she was getting blood platelets daily and blood transfusions two to three times a week, which is why Talia Savren-McCormick was so grateful to the 24 donors she was able to meet. "Thank you doesn't begin to describe the gratitude we feel," she said. "They were a part of saving her life." Skye Savren-McCormick is cancer-free now, and once her immune system recovers, she'll head to preschool. Catherine Garcia

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