The CDC on Thursday released a new report on electronic cigarette poisonings, and at first blush the topline finding is quite a shocker: Calls to poison control centers involving e-cigarette liquids skyrocketed from one per month in September 2010 to 215 this past February.
"In the Hands of Babes, E-Cigarettes Can Be Deadly," proclaimed a Time story on the report. Spooky, right?
I'm a little more skeptical about the exact scope of the danger though, and whether this truly is a budding epidemic or simply hyperbolic fearmongering. For one, the huge spike in poison control calls corresponds to a huge spike in e-cig sales. Companies sold 750,000 e-cigs in 2010, a total that ballooned to 2.5 million one year later and that has only grown since then. The industry is now projected to see sales of $2.75 billion this year. Certainly a dramatic rise in poisonings is concerning, but the magnitude of that change is a little skewed because the baseline was basically nil.
More to the point, though e-liquids can be quite poisonous to small children, so, too, can conventional cigarettes. According to the CDC, the latter still comprise almost six in ten poison control calls involving either of the two types. And as for the supposed problem of e-cigarettes luring young people to try other, more dangerous drugs, the research is spotty at best.
The CDC and others are right to raise red flags about the dangers of e-cigarettes. But the danger may not be the product itself, but rather the fact that they're relatively new and so far unregulated at the federal level. Jon Terbush
President-elect Donald Trump is expected to tap ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, with whom Trump met twice this week, for secretary of state. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will be deputy secretary of state, a source told NBC News.
Tillerson has been president of ExxonMobil for 12 years after spending his entire career at the company, during which time he developed what The Wall Street Journal calls "close ties" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson has a reputation as a strong supporter of free trade, a potential source of conflict with Trump, but less is known of his foreign policy perspective beyond his critique of sanctions as ineffective.
The pick has not been confirmed by the Trump camp. Bonnie Kristian
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday he hopes Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime will take the high road as rebel control of Aleppo, Syria, continues to crumble.
"Russia and Assad have a moment where they are in a dominant position to show a little grace," he said after meeting in Paris with officials representing the countries that back Syrian opposition forces. "I believe there could be a way forward but it depends on big, magnanimous choices from Russia." American diplomats are also meeting with Russia on Saturday in Geneva to negotiate rebel fighters' exit from Aleppo and, Kerry emphasized, safe passage for civilians.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who was in Paris with Kerry, insisted the loss of Aleppo "will not change the fundamentals of the conflict," for which there "can be no military solution." "We must keep pushing for a return to a political process with the credibility necessary for all parties to commit to an end to all the fighting," Johnson added. Bonnie Kristian
At least 50 people were killed and dozens more wounded by a suicide bomber in Yemen Saturday morning. The attack took place on a Yemeni army base in Aden where troops had lined up to collect their paychecks, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing several hours after the incident in a statement online.
Other extremist groups including al Qaeda are also active in the region and have taken responsibility for similar strikes in the past. For more on Yemen's civil war, including Saudi Arabian and American involvement, see this analysis from The Week's Michael Brendan Dougherty. Bonnie Kristian
Trump's team sent a 74-question memo asking for a list of Energy Department staff working on climate change
President-elect Donald Trump's transition team sent a 74-question memo to managers within the Department of Energy (DOE) this week requesting, among other information, a list of all department employees and contractors who attended climate change policy conferences in recent years.
Viewed by Reuters on Friday, the document has reportedly caused alarm within the agency. "This feels like the first draft of an eventual political enemies list," said one Department of Energy employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. "When Donald Trump said he wanted to drain the swamp it apparently was just to make room for witch hunts and it's starting here at the DOE." Other information the memo requested includes emails pertaining to the climate change events and all publications penned by employees at the DOE's 17 national labs over the last three years.
Previous presidential teams have asked policy questions of agencies during their transitions, The New York Times reports, but this level of detail and the demand for specific names may be unprecedented. Still, a "lot of these questions make perfect sense," said Jonathan Levy, a former Obama deputy chief of staff for the DOE. "They have to get their heads around what responsibilities they will have and don't have. The thing that's unsettling are the questions that appear to be targeting personnel for doing public service."
Swedish furniture giant Ikea took the concept of "retail therapy" literally in its new advertising campaign, which renames the company's products with the most popular relationship questions on Google.
A double bed normally called Oppland, for example, is now named "How to have a happy relationship." There's a pair of scissors for those who googled "My son plays too much computer games" — a little cord-cutting, perhaps? — as well as champagne glasses for "When children leave home;" a lantern for "My boyfriend doesn't see me;" and, more ominously, a drill set for "Hard to get teenager out of bed."
The premise, explained the marketing agency behind the campaign, is that Ikea is "designed to solve everyday dilemmas" and — though unlikely to fix your relationship — "might be able to offer you some relief." The product description for each renamed piece cheerily explains it has a new title based on "the relationship problem you just googled. All to make life at home easier for you. Because life evolves every day and everything, yes everything, can get better." Bonnie Kristian
The United States will send an additional 200 troops to Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday while speaking in Manama, Bahrain, bringing the total known number of American soldiers in the war-torn country to 500.
The new forces will head to Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital city, where they will bring "the full weight of U.S. forces around the theater of operations, like the funnel of a giant tornado," Carter said. "By combining our capabilities with those of our local partners, we've been squeezing [ISIS] by applying simultaneous pressure from all sides and across domains, through a series of deliberate actions to continue to build momentum," he continued.
Congress has yet to pass an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) in Syria, a point which has been largely ignored in Washington since a bipartisan push for an AUMF failed last year when American special forces were first sent to Syria. "The Administration's announcement that it will deploy Special Operations Forces into Syria to combat [ISIS] marks a major shift in U.S. policy," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) at the time, arguing that the Constitution's "War Powers Resolution requires Congress to debate and authorize the escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria." Bonnie Kristian
President-elect Donald Trump sent out two tweets Saturday morning strongly criticizing any suggestion — specifically from CNN — that his ongoing role as executive producer of The New Celebrity Apprentice will in any way detract from his presidency.
I have NOTHING to do with The Apprentice except for fact that I conceived it with Mark B & have a big stake in it. Will devote ZERO TIME!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2016
Reports by @CNN that I will be working on The Apprentice during my Presidency, even part time, are ridiculous & untrue - FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2016
As executive producer, Trump will be paid for each episode by MGM, the company of series creator Mark Burnett, and not by NBC, which airs the show. Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway defended Trump's decision to remain a producer on Friday by comparing the role to President Obama's golf hobby. Bonnie Kristian