Managers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee canceled plans for a "Southern Accent Reduction" class because — shocker — staff members did not all take kindly to the "training opportunity."
The e-mailed pitch, reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel, detailed an optional six-week class that would help employees "learn to recognize the pronunciation and grammar differences that make your speech sound Southern, and learn what to do so you can neutralize it through a technique called code-switching."
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory hosts visiting scientists from around the world and houses a permanent staff that hails from around the United States. ORNL spokesman David Keim told the News Sentinel that the e-mail "probably wasn't presented in the right way and made it look like ORNL had some problem with having a Southern accent, which of course we don't." Sarah Eberspacher
President-elect Donald Trump says his plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act is nearly complete. In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump did not reveal the specifics of his replacement package, but promised, "lower numbers, much lower deductibles," and said "we're going to have insurance for everybody." He also said he plans to crack down on pharmaceutical companies, forcing them to negotiate on drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid.
Last week during a press conference, Trump said he wanted to see ObamaCare repealed and replaced at the same time. President Obama's signature health care reform law has brought health insurance to more than 20 million Americans, but Trump says it is "a complete and total disaster," and its repeal has remained a top priority for the incoming administration. When, exactly, the details of Trump's new replacement plan will be unveiled wasn't clear. Trump said he is waiting for Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be confirmed as secretary of health and human services. A confirmation hearing for Price has not yet been scheduled. As for gaining support from Democrats for his replacement plan, Trump said it won't be a problem. "I won't tell you how, but we will get approval," he said. Jessica Hullinger
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday said rumors of changes to presidential press conferences have been blown out of proportion. Esquire first reported Saturday that the "media's sense of dislocation may soon become literal" as "a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump administration."
Speaking on ABC's This Week, Priebus said that is not the case. "The press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny," he said, and only "49 people fit in that press room. The one thing that we discussed was whether or not we want to move the initial press conferences in the [Executive Office Building] — which, by the way, is the White House, so no one's moving out of the White House, that is the White House — where you can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference, allow more press, more coverage from all over the country to have those conferences." (The Executive Office Building is actually next door to the White House, directly across the street from the West Wing.)
That's all the Trump team is considering, Priebus concluded, so "some of this, I think, is getting what out of whack, and I think people should be encouraged that there are so many people in the press that want to participate." Watch his remarks in context below. Bonnie Kristian
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 15, 2017
On Sunday, diplomats from 70 nations — not including representatives of Israel, Palestine, or the incoming Donald Trump administration — met in Paris "to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The goal was to demonstrate to Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the breadth of international backing of a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu dismissed the Paris meeting as "futile" and "rigged" against Israel. "This conference is among the last twitches of the world of yesterday," he said. "Tomorrow will look different and that tomorrow is very close."
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the talks, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas initially planned to attend before his schedule changed. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the conference echoed Abbas' Saturday critique of Trump's promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue," he argued. "You have to try to create the conditions for peace."
The Israelis and Palestinians have not engaged in peace negotiations with each other since 2014. "It is not a question of dictating to the parties," French President Francois Hollande maintained on Sunday. "Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place." Bonnie Kristian
Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey showed up in hologram form to help Felicity Jones, best known for her role as Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, get through her first SNL monologue.
Dressed in the white, flowing robes of a Star Wars princess, Fey encouraged Jones not to be nervous about her hosting gig. "All you need to do is go out there and do your best," she said. "Don't worry about what the reviews say." "Does this show get reviewed?" asks a worried Jones. "Yes! Way too much," Fey replies. "Also, no matter how it goes, the president of the United States will say that it's 'sad and overrated.'" Watch the full monologue below. Bonnie Kristian
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that he finds Lewis' rejection of Trump's legitimacy as president "disappointing" despite admiring the congressman's personal history. "Donald Trump won this election fair and square," Pence said. "The American people know that, and while I have great respect for John Lewis and his contributions, particularly with the civil rights movement, I was deeply disappointed to see someone of his stature question Donald Trump's election as president and say he's not attending the inauguration."
Meanwhile, Lewis joined Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, where Todd asked whether he would consider inviting Trump to Selma, Alabama, the site of Lewis' historic civil rights march with Martin Luther King, for a conversation of reconciliation. "I would not invite him to come," Lewis said, but, if the president-elect did go to Selma, "maybe he would learn something, maybe he would get religion." Bonnie Kristian
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Saturday evening he would unveil his proposal for replacing ObamaCare the next morning, tweeting out a photo of the first page of his bill, captioned, "Coming this week: THE Obamacare replacement bill. Done drafting the bill & will be discussing on CNN Sunday AM and all week next week!" Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, Paul sketched the rough outlines of his plan.
"Replacement should be the same day," Paul said, reiterating his critique of fellow congressional Republicans' "repeal and delay" idea. "Our goal is to insure the most amount of people, give access to the most amount of people at the least amount of cost." Paul praised the good intentions of the designers of the Affordable Care Act but said it includes too many mandates and has "broken the insurance model" in the individual market. Among other changes, his plan would remove some insurance coverage mandates that drive up premium costs to "legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance."
Watch two clips of Paul's conversation with Tapper below. Bonnie Kristian
— CNN (@CNN) January 15, 2017
— CNN (@CNN) January 15, 2017
SNL's Donald Trump is a 'major whiz at jobs' who will bring a 'thick stream of jobs to this country'
Saturday Night Live opened its spring season by bringing back Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump in a parody of the president-elect's rowdy Wednesday press conference. The sketched opened with a flood of urine jokes referencing the unverified dossier about Trump's alleged ties to Russia — he's a 'major whiz at jobs' who will bring a 'thick stream of jobs to this country' — before moving on to ObamaCare, Trump's corporate holdings, and his two sons, "Beavis and Butthead."
In a weird collision of SNL worlds, Kenan Thompson also made an appearance in his longstanding role as Steve Harvey, who announced this week he'll work with Ben Carson, Trump's nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, on an inner cities initiative. Watch the full skit below. Bonnie Kristian