FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
January 28, 2016
Mathias Kniepeiss/Getty Images For 2nd CGDC Annual Meeting 2012

There seems to come a time every election season when candidates deploy their "secret weapon" (spoiler: it's their spouse). Hillary Clinton has pulled out the big guns, taking her husband, former president Bill Clinton, on the campaign trail for her in recent weeks. But it turns out that at some rallies for his wife, the well-liked former president, now 69, appears to have lost some of the energy that stirred the nation two decades ago.

Mr. Clinton... looked smaller and his voice seemed weaker than in past campaigns, and people had to strain to hear him at times. He was at his best as he finessed the intricacies of politics and policy, but he occasionally meandered, leaving the audience, including some who had lined up for hours to see him, seeming more politely attentive than inspired. [The New York Times]

Some of Bill Clinton's friends have an idea of what might be slowing him down.

"His age, his heart surgery, his veganism — I think it's all brought a calmness into his life," said George Bruno, a former Democratic Party chairman in New Hampshire and longtime ally of Mr. Clinton, referring to the former president's quadruple bypass operation in 2004 and his strict plant-based diet. While some friends say Mr. Clinton would look zippier if he ate the occasional cheeseburger — an old favorite — others say he has never been healthier, with his weight down and his heart in excellent condition.

"He's not as fiery as he once was, but he has an air of real self-confidence," Mr. Bruno said. [The New York Times]

Read more in The New York Times. Jeva Lange

12:18 p.m. ET

The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial Thursday, having spent its first 100 years dedicated to preserving "unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values" of America's national parks. The first National Park was actually designated in 1871, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed the corresponding legislation in 1872 to preserve Yellowstone National Park. But the current iteration of the NPS was established by President Woodrow Wilson "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and ... wildlife therein" on Aug. 25, 1916:

Last year, more than 300 million people visited National Parks, and in honor of its 100th anniversary the NPS is offering free admission to all 412 parks from Aug. 25-28. Can't make it to a park this weekend? Read up on why National Parks are known as "America's best idea" here, or check out this animated tour of some of the sights and sounds from the nation's best parks, courtesy of Google, below. Kimberly Alters

12:06 p.m. ET

For a second there, long-shot independent candidate Evan McMullin seemed to have a better chance of winning Minnesota than Republican nominee Donald Trump. That's because while McMullin, a former CIA agent positioning himself as a Trump alternative for conservatives this fall, only launched his independent presidential run earlier this month, he had at least secured a spot on the ballot in Minnesota. As of Thursday morning, however, Trump had not:

A Minnesota state official has already said the issue is being sorted out, and Trump's name will in fact appear on the ballot. "We just received the last item [of Trump's paperwork]," said Ryan Furlong, communications director for the Minnesota Secretary of State. "We were waiting for a pledge from one of the alternate electors. The filing is complete and the Republican ticket should be listed on our site shortly."

Minnesota's filing deadline is Monday, Aug. 29. Election Day is Nov. 8. Becca Stanek

11:33 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton will attempt to turn attention away from her email troubles this week, by using a speech in Reno, Nevada, to remind center-right voters that Donald Trump is nowhere near as moderate as he is claiming to be. Rather, Clinton will point out, Trump is moving further toward the "alt-right," as evidenced by his recent hiring of Breitbart News' Steve Bannon as campaign CEO and his decision to retain Roger Ailes and Roger Stone as consultants.

"We intend to call out this 'alt-right' shift and the divisive and dystopian vision of America they put forth, because it tells voters everything they need to know about Donald Trump himself," Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told Politico. "Republicans up and down the ticket are going to have to choose whether they want to be complicit in this lurch toward extremism or stand with the voters who can't stomach it."

Clinton's speech courting center-right voters comes as Trump angles to poach the Democratic nominee's support from African-American voters. Clinton has had a particularly contentious week, following the release of more of her emails in addition to Trump's calls for a special prosecutor to investigate improper conduct at the Clinton Foundation. Becca Stanek

10:39 a.m. ET

Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson put a truly remarkable spin on claims Donald Trump has changed his stance on immigration. While Trump's recent remark that he would "work with" undocumented immigrants and consider letting some stay in the U.S., instead of deporting all 11 million as he previously pledged to do, may sound like a major shift in policy, Pierson insisted that wasn't the case. "He hasn't changed his immigration position," Pierson said on CNN's Correct the Record. "He has changed the words he is saying."

That's certainly one way to look at it! Take a listen, below. Becca Stanek

10:24 a.m. ET
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Survivors of the June 12 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, won't be billed for treatment, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday. Instead, Orlando Regional Medical Center and Florida Hospital, the two hospitals responsible for treating the majority of survivors, will be finding an alternative way to pay those bills.

Orlando Regional Medical Center said it plans to turn to a victims' fund and patients' insurance plans to cover out-of-pocket costs and that it would assume costs for patients without insurance. Florida Hospital said it would not even bill victims' insurance companies for its services. In total, the two hospitals are estimated to be absorbing more than $5.5 million worth of care.

The shooting left 53 people injured, in addition to the 49 people killed. Gunman Omar Mateen, who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed in a shootout with police. Becca Stanek

10:07 a.m. ET
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

It's 10 a.m. Do you know where your coffee is?

If you're one of the many people who start their day with a cup of joe steaming by their side, you might be able to blame genetics for your addiction. According to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a gene known as PDSS2 "has been shown to negatively regulate the expression of the caffeine metabolism genes and can thus be linked to coffee consumption."

In layman's terms? Certain genes play a part in breaking down caffeine in the body, and a certain variant of the PDSS2 gene was found to apparently slow the metabolism of caffeine. That means that for those people, the caffeine "lingers in the blood for longer and gives people a more enduring 'hit' for every cup," The Guardian explains.

The study was conducted across two Italian populations — but when its conclusions were cross-checked with results from a study conducted among individuals from the Netherlands, the effect of the PDSS2 gene appeared to be weaker. Researchers theorize the discrepancy could be due to different preferences for coffee between Italy and the Netherlands, The Guardian notes. And this isn't the first time scientists have tried to link genetics to the mad-dash for coffee: Way back in 2014, CNN reported on a purported coffee gene.

The moral of the story? Drink up — no one will blame you for a lack of willpower if it's just your genetic fate. Kimberly Alters

9:29 a.m. ET

The pasta dish that put one Italian city on the map could be integral to its earthquake recovery efforts. Just a day after the central Italian town of Amatrice was devastated by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake Wednesday morning, more than 600 restaurants in Italy are planning to put the town's famous spaghetti all'amatriciana, which The Guardian describes as "a pasta dish with a tomato-based sauce flavored with guanciale, or cured pork cheek," on their menus. For every order sold, the restaurants have reportedly pledged to donate 2 euros to the Italian Red Cross.

House Made Spaghetti All'Amatriciana (Taster: @shelbylenetsky)

A photo posted by TasteToronto™ (@tastetoronto) on

The dish was invented in Amatrice in the 1700s, and the city had planned to have its 50th annual spaghetti all'amatriciana festival this weekend before the earthquake hit. Amatrice was one of the cities most devastated by the quake, which is estimated to have killed at least 247 and injured more than 300. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads