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April 14, 2014

For many years now, the internet has been giving celebrity vaccine deniers like Jenny McCarthy a lot of grief, on account of all the, you know, children killed due to vaccine refusals. Apparently some of that finally got through, because over the weekend McCarthy published an aggrieved op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times claiming she's been misrepresented:

I am not "anti-vaccine." This is not a change in my stance nor is it a new position that I have recently adopted. For years, I have repeatedly stated that I am, in fact, "pro-vaccine" and for years I have been wrongly branded as "anti-vaccine." [Chicago Sun-Times]

Nope! As detailed here and here, McCarthy has, for years, loudly and angrily asserted scientifically false things about vaccines: most prominently, that they're filled with toxins, and that they cause autism. No, this is a tactical retreat to a less outrageous anti-vaccine position, motivated by the total scientific and ethical collapse of the purported vaccine-autism link. Because despite her attempted whitewash of history, McCarthy is still effectively scaremongering about vaccines:

I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit. I've never told anyone to not vaccinate. Should a child with the flu receive six vaccines in one doctor visit? Should a child with a compromised immune system be treated the same way as a robust, healthy child? Shouldn't a child with a family history of vaccine reactions have a different plan? Or at least the right to ask questions? [Chicago Sun-Times]

As Aaron Carroll points out, these less alarming "questions" about vaccines are either strawmen or scientifically bogus:

She asks that we consider the "gray zone." But in many areas, there is no gray zone. Do vaccines cause autism? No... Do they overwhelm the immune system? No... She's conflating totally different things here... She asks if a sick kid should get vaccines. If they're not more than mildly ill, yes. Maybe if they'd gotten the flu vaccine they wouldn't have the flu. She brings up immunocompromised kids, but they absolutely do get considered differently already. No decent physician would not consider a child's individual medical history. Same with those kids with a history of adverse reactions. We consent people for vaccines, and ask if they've had bad reactions before.

And no one, absolutely no physician I know, refuses to answer the questions of parents. [The Incidental Economist]

Yet again, she's been sowing scientific controversy where there is none. Sorry we hurt your feelings, Jenny, but lives are literally at stake here. Ryan Cooper

1:27 a.m. ET

Martha Leach is turning 103 on July 6, but the celebration is already underway in Holly Springs, North Carolina.

On Wednesday, friends drove Leach to the town fire station, where she was given a tour and a helmet. She hopped aboard Fire Engine #1, and was driven around town. People lined the streets, holding up signs and balloons, while Leach activated the siren. "It's the good Lord's plan for me to be here," she told WNCN.

Firefighter Adam Godfrey drove Leach around, and asked her for some advice during the ride. "She said live a stress-free life, and enjoy your home and family," he said. "Always be loved by someone." Born in 1915 in Wagram, North Carolina, Leach moved to Holly Springs in 1948, and said she enjoys spending time relaxing on her front porch, just "sitting and looking." Catherine Garcia

1:22 a.m. ET

President Trump's policy of separating families at the border "has rightfully outraged almost every decent human being, and Ted Cruz," Trevor Noah joked on Wednesday Daily Show, "and now it looks like even the man who made the policy is tired of the backlash." Noah wasn't completely impressed with Trump's executive band-aid, nor was he completely surprised Trump caved, giving the increasingly bad headlines. "Sweet Lord, 'tender age' shelters?" he asked. "That's a helluva fancy way to pronounce 'baby jail.'" The widespread only grew after Corey Lewandowski "headed south of the decency border" about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome separated from her mother and caged, Noah said. "Yeah, he did just say 'womp womp,' which is funny because that's what he's going to hear in the afterlife. 'Wait, I'm in hell?' 'Yes, you are. Womp womp.'"

It is kind of a relief that Trump has raised hopes this will stop, but we're still left with the horror that "people were trying to defend this practice," Noah said. Still, Trump's defenders were "just dusting off xenophobia" from earlier eras. "Look, today's situation isn't the same but the excuses sure sound familiar," he explained. "In fact, they're as old as America itself — which, unfortunately, makes them too old to be locked up in a tender-age shelter."

At The Opposition, Jordan Klepper said Trump was being "too humble" in giving credit to Congress for his policy of "caging children as a bargaining tool for passing anti-immigrant laws," and argued that Lewandowski "wasn't being dismissive" when he said "womp womp" about the caged girl with Down syndrome, "those are just two of the 10 words he knows." Kobi Libii took it a step further, saying Lewandowski set "a new high" for political discourse: "Debaters have long known it's very hard to win an argument when you are on the pro-children in cages side. And the Trump administration has been in this position a lot lately. But this new mocking-noises tactic changes the game." You can watch him and Klepper demonstrate below. Peter Weber

12:45 a.m. ET

Rodney Smith Jr. is making a difference, one lawn at a time.

Smith, a 28-year-old native of Bermuda, had just earned his master's degree in social work when he spotted an elderly man in Huntsville, Alabama, having a hard time mowing his lawn. Smith stopped to help, and "that night, I decided to mow lawns for the elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans," he told CNN. His first goal was to mow 40 lawns for free, then bumped it up to 100. He soon started the Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a foundation that finds people who need their lawns mowed and also inspires kids to give back. "This is what I believe my purpose is in life," he said.

Last summer, he set off on a journey across the U.S. and mowed lawns in all 50 states. He's doing it again this year, and has challenged kids to join him by mowing 50 lawns, free of charge, in their hometowns. So far, 12 kids have hit that goal. Smith, who wants to go to every continent next year, also teaches kids about lawn mower safety as he encourages them to engage in community service. "It's about letting them know that no matter how young they are, how old they are, they can make a difference, and it doesn't have to be with a lawnmower," he said. Catherine Garcia

June 20, 2018

On Wednesday, President Trump signed a temporary stopgap measure to keep migrant families detained together — indefinitely, if the courts or Congress do as he requests — but the Health and Human Services Department says it has no plans to reunite the 2,300 children already being detained apart from their parents. The New York Daily News had a message for Trump on Thursday's front page:

Sadly, that may be harder than it sounds. Peter Weber

June 20, 2018
Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images

Under District of Columbia law, only people of "good character" can hold a liquor license, and a group of religious leaders and former judges argue that the license issued to the Trump International Hotel should be revoked because President Trump "is not a person of good character."

The District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board received a complaint about the hotel from several rabbis, pastors, and retired judges who live in D.C. "The board owes it to the public to investigate the owner's lack of good character now," the complaint said, noting that "good character investigations typically occur at the time of license application or renewal," but Trump has engaged in "egregious conduct."

The complaint asks the alcohol licensing board to focus on Trump's "long history of lies," as well as "his involvement in relevant fraudulent and other activity demonstrating his lack of integrity, and his refusal to abide by the law or to stop associating with known criminals." He's been accused of sexual assault by several women, and fleeced people out of money through Trump University, the complaint continues, and the hotel should be ordered to "show cause why its license should not be revoked." Read the entire complaint here. Catherine Garcia

June 20, 2018

President Trump held yet another campaign rally Wednesday night, this time in Duluth, Minnesota, and most cable news executives apparently found it not newsworthy enough to broadcast live more than two years before Trump can seek re-election. Fox News broadcast the rally, however, and don't you forget it.

In his speech, Trump focused a lot on immigration, only briefly mentioning that he reversed course on separating families at the border, but also attacked the media and FBI, accused Hillary Clinton of committing "numerous" "crimes," and reminisced fondly about the "great meeting" he had with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, saying they "had great chemistry" and predicting Kim "will turn that country into a great successful country."

Trump also touched on the 2020 race. "You know, I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota," he said. "And in 2 1/2 years, it's going to be really easy, I think." And he pooh-poohed the political and media "elites," kind of. "The elite! Why are they elite?" Trump mused. "I have a much better apartment than they do. I'm smarter than they are. I'm richer than they are. I became president and they didn't." Which, the last part at least, is indisputably true. Peter Weber

June 20, 2018
Steffen Kugler/BPA via Getty Images

While he's in Europe next month, President Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, two people with knowledge of the plan told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

The meeting could take place before the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 or after Trump visits Britain on July 13, one person said. The pair met twice during last summer's G20 summit. Earlier this month at the G7 summit in Canada, Trump appealed to the other members to let Russia back in the group; the country was expelled after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Catherine Garcia

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