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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

8:01 a.m. ET
Keystone/Getty Images

Truman Capote fans will soon have the chance to bring a piece of the writer home with them — literally. On September 24, Capote's ashes will go up for auction in Los Angeles, for a starting price of $2,000. The ashes are expected to sell for upwards of $6,000.

The author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's died 32 years ago, but the keeper of his ashes, Joanne Carson, the wife of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, died last year. The ashes are part of her estate. Joanne was a close friend of Capote's, and the writer often lived and worked at her and her husband's home in Los Angeles until he died there in 1984.

While it might seem kind of macabre to auction off a dead man's ashes, some suspect this would've been right up Capote's alley. "In this case it's absolutely fine because it really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do," Darren Julien, president of Julien's Auctions, told The Guardian. "Truman told Joanne that he didn't want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honoring his request. It is just furthering the adventures of Truman Capote." Becca Stanek

7:32 a.m. ET

The world's biggest pearl might have been discovered nearly a decade ago, but no one knew about it until now. That's because the Filipino fisherman who found the treasure hid it under his bed for 10 years as a good luck charm and didn't tell anyone about it, The Independent reports. His relatives eventually brought it to authorities.

(Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao/Facebook)

The pearl measures an incredible 12 inches by 26.4 inches in size. It weighs a mind-blowing 75 pounds; the next largest pearl in the world weighs just 14 pounds.

While the pearl is confirmed to have come from a giant clam, if verified as authentic by international gemologists, it will be worth over an estimated $100 million. Jeva Lange

7:18 a.m. ET

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake says that Donald Trump appears to be "considering his biggest flip-flop yet," pivoting on his signature issue, immigration, while Slate's Jim Newell argues that Trump's "flip-flop" — in recent remarks on Fox News, Trump says he is "softening" his immigration positions, and would mostly follow President Obama's policies, "perhaps with a lot more energy," except he will eject the "bad" immigrants "so fast your head will spin" — is nothing more than a shuffling of adjectives and adverbs with nothing underneath. But what seems clear is that Trump's pledge to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants is, at least for now, off the table.

Given that building "the wall" — still in Trump's speeches — and cracking down on illegal immigrants are so central to Trump's campaign, won't his supporters be dismayed at this Clintonian triangulation? NBC's Katy Tur asked Trump voters outside a rally if they would still support Trump if he abandoned his deportation push, didn't build the wall, or even came up with some sort of amnesty. Their answers: Yup. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:54 a.m. ET
Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Early Wednesday, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish tanks and minesweepers crossed into Syria in a campaign to push the Islamic State out of the border town Jarablus, one of ISIS's last strongholds on the Turkey-Syria border, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reports. The offensive, backed by U.S. warplanes and advised by U.S. special operations forces, is aimed at shutting off ISIS's supply route to its de facto capital, Raqqa. Turkey has been shelling ISIS positions around Jarablus for two days to prepare for the push, and its forces crossed into Syria hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lands in Ankara to meet with Turkish leaders to smooth over tensions that arose during Turkey's recent failed coup.

This is Turkey's first major offensive against ISIS, and The Wall Street Journal suggests three reasons why the country is getting involved now: Ankara wants to demonstrate that its military is still strong after the post-coup purge of officers; retaliation for the suspected ISIS suicide bombing of a wedding on Saturday; and to prevent Kurdish fighters, who have been successfully pushing ISIS back for months now, from claiming the town for themselves, thus gaining more territory along the Turkish border. Turkey reluctantly allowed Kurdish fighters to take part in the offensive, The Journal reports, with the expectation they will leave the town after ISIS is outside.

Turkish officials were quoted by Anadolu as saying the Jarablus operation "is aimed at clearing the Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria." Peter Weber

5:06 a.m. ET

Former New York City mayor and gleeful Donald Trump advocate Rudy Giuliani is pushing conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton's health, recently telling the Fox News audience to google Hillary Clinton and health for themselves, Stephen Colbert noted on Tuesday's Late Show. "Giuliani says just diagnose Hillary on the internet, because if it's on the internet, you know it's true," he said. "For instance, I put my symptoms into WebMD and found out — I have started menopause."

"I'm not surprised he was able to diagnose Hillary Clinton so accurately without, you know, examining her," Colbert said. "After all, Giuliani and Donald Trump are experts on female anatomy." He wasn't going where you think — yet — but rather bringing up an old video Trump and Giuliani made together. "Obviously, that's shocking, and you're going to want to verify that video," he said. "So just go online and put down 'Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani Drag Queen Motorboat'" — and if you don't get the motorboat part, Colbert acted it out — a few times.

"But here's the thing — I just want to say this to the Trump people out there," Colbert said. "I don't know why they keep saying things like 'frail' or 'weak' or 'low energy' — you're just tiptoeing around the medical condition that you're really upset about, one that she has that no other president in history has ever faced: Hillary Clinton has chronic no-penis."

The rest of Colbert's monologue dipped into slightly uncomfortable sex-internet stuff, but he also hit at the #HillaryHealth conspiracies in his cold open, and this really is good clean family fun. Peter Weber

4:20 a.m. ET

On Tuesday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert sighed over the news that the State Department will release 15,000 new Hillary Clinton emails before the November election. "That is ridiculous," he said. "I have thousands of unread emails on my own inbox, and now I have to read 15,000 of hers?" The new batch of Clinton emails center around her "ties to donors at what's called the Clinton Foundation," he explained, "which is a charity set up to distribute aid around the world and, just as importantly, to keep Bill Clinton busy enough that he doesn't spend all day trying to get the Secret Service to go to Hooters with him."

"But with all the questions surrounding all of these emails, it's hard to tell what's really a thing and what's nothing at all," Colbert said. To figure it out, he brought out a Late Show "Thing-O-Meter." Some emails — like Bono/NASA — were not a thing but merited a U2 joke, while the fact that Bill Clinton appears to think the Clinton Foundation ties are a thing is a real thing in itself. Colbert ended up with a quip about bald men with ponytails, and you can see if that's really a thing below. Peter Weber

3:56 a.m. ET

Washington, D.C., may be a simmering stew of political dysfunction now, but 202 years ago, President James Madison couldn't even round up enough men to fend of a few thousand British troops and save the capital from destruction. On Aug. 24, 1814, British Rear Admiral George Cockburn marched a group of some 4,500 troops on Washington; they easily defeated a larger group of U.S. militiamen and Army regulars in Bladensburg, Maryland, and entered the capital at sunset.

The British torched the White House — after first consuming President Madison's food and wine — and the Capitol, which housed both chambers of Congress, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. The next day, Cockburn's men burned down the Treasury building and State, War, and Navy Department headquarters. You can read some of the embarrassing details in Jesse Greenspan's account at The History Channel, including how Secretary of State James Monroe's reconnaissance expedition forgot a spyglass and how Madison, carrying a borrowed pistol, almost accidentally rode into British lines.

But before you get too down on Madison's Washington, though, Aug. 24 is not a terribly lucky date, as The Associated Press reminds us in the video below — Mr. Vesuvius buried Pompeii, Hurricane Andrew pummeled Florida, Pluto was demoted, and Pete Rose banned from baseball. Peter Weber

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