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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

1:34 p.m. ET
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Even if Donald Trump were to improve by a margin of five points in every single state, he would still lose a general election against Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports. If the votes were cast today, as polling stands right now, Clinton would win all the same states as President Obama did in 2012 plus North Carolina.

But if Trump were to improve his margin by five points, Clinton would lose Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida — and still beat Trump with 285 electoral college votes to 253. Only by improving his polling margin by 10 points in each state — and thereby also winning Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire — would Trump manage to clinch the presidency.

Coming back from a 10 point defect is extremely hard, but not impossible: The Times reports that in 1980, Jimmy Carter was ahead of Ronald Reagan in many polls by 10 points at this same time of year.

See for yourself what the different electoral college maps would look like over at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

12:42 p.m. ET
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Donald Trump expects to have a vice presidential pick ready to reveal in July, before the Republican National Convention, and he announced Wednesday that Dr. Ben Carson will be helping him to reach a decision on that running mate, The New York Times reports.

Trump also said he is leaning toward picking "a political person" for his VP since "I have business very much covered." Trump plans to use a committee to decide on his vice presidential pick, and that's where Ben Carson comes in: "I think on the committee I'll have Dr. Ben Carson and some other folks," Trump said. The other folks have yet to be announced.

Carson, who ended his presidential bid in March, has struggled to promote Trump in any convincing way despite having endorsed him. Jeva Lange

12:17 p.m. ET
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Ohio Gov. John Kasich will announce at a Wednesday evening press conference in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, that he is suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, The Associated Press reports. Kasich was initially scheduled to do a press conference at the Dulles airport in Virginia, but announced Wednesday morning that he would not be leaving Ohio after all. If the governor does drop out, that would leave Donald Trump as the only remaining Republican presidential candidate. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped out of the race Tuesday night after Trump's win in Indiana all but ensured the mogul would win the nomination. Becca Stanek

11:18 a.m. ET

In a video about as nerdy as the "May the 4th be with you" joke, John Kasich celebrated Star Wars Day on Tuesday by depicting himself as "the only hope" for the Empire…er, America.

Written in the classic scrolling yellow font of the Star Wars films, the trailer describes a dystopian future in which Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump in "the largest landslide since Reagan" and is busy preparing to name her Supreme Court nominee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"Only one candidate can defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall," the trailer warns at the end (you'll never guess who). Watch below. Jeva Lange

11:07 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee, doesn't seem to know exactly how long he'd be in office if he's elected president. In an interview Wednesday morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, he told all the Trump haters in the GOP that they're going to have to wait "16 years" — exactly eight years over a U.S. president's term limit — before they rejoin the party.

"I don't think it's imperative that the entire party come together," Trump said, brushing off Republicans who refuse to embrace him as their nominee. "I don't want everybody. I don't even want certain people who were extraordinarily nasty. Let them wait eight years. Or let them wait 16 years or whatever."

We're still waiting on Trump's explanation for why those "certain people" would have to wait not the maximum two terms, but four. Becca Stanek

10:59 a.m. ET
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Beyoncé's recently released "visual" album Lemonade dished on her marital drama with husband Jay Z — and now the "Empire State of Mind" rapper has decided to tell his side of the story, sources told US Weekly.

Beyoncé and Jay Z have been married for eight years and allegedly went through a rough patch in 2014, which publicly culminated in leaked video footage showing Beyoncé's sister attacking Jay Z in an elevator while Beyoncé stood by. But on Lemonade, Beyoncé tellingly describes the pain of being cheated on and watching her husband slip away to be with "Becky with the good hair."

"Jay is working on an album telling his side of things," the source told US Weekly.

However, Beyoncé's father and former manager has said that Lemonade is not autobiographical. "People want to make it about her," Matthew Knowles said. "Maybe she dug deep and made it about something we all could relate to." Jeva Lange

10:24 a.m. ET

Recreational marijuana sales have been legal in Washington State for about two years now, and during that time, the price of weed has plummeted. Down from a post-legalization high of about $25 per gram on the retail market, the same amount of pot now costs less than $10.


(Washington Post)

The economic explanation for this price drop is simple and predictable: The drug war makes the marijuana business dangerous and expensive because, as The Washington Post summarizes, black market drug sellers "must operate covertly, forgo advertising, pay higher wages to compensate for the risk of arrest, and lack recourse to civil courts for resolving contract disputes."

Once marijuana is legalized, these added costs of doing business disappear, making for a cheaper product and safer industry. Similarly, the Prohibition era of the 1920s and '30s caused the price of liquor to roughly triple before the Twenty-First Amendment, ending Prohibition, was passed in 1933. Bonnie Kristian

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