Vice President Mike Pence flew from Las Vegas to Indianapolis for Sunday afternoon's game between the Colts and San Francisco 49ers, an event that was supposed to be focused on former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, whose number was being retired. Instead, Pence and his wife, second lady Karen Pence, left after the national anthem, during which Colts players linked arms and some 49ers kneeled, part of a yearlong protest against racism and police brutality that was recently amplified by President Trump. Most observers — reportedly including those inside the West Wing — viewed Pence's NFL protest as a transparent play to breathe new life into Trump's feud with NFL players.
Pence, after bizarrely posting a photo of himself and his wife at a 2014 Colts game, tweeted that he left Sunday's game "because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem." Trump tweeted that he had asked Pence "to leave stadium if any players kneeled." The pool reporters assigned to Pence were told to wait in the van because the vice president would likely leave early; also, Pence was scheduled to be at a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, the first of four during a three-day swing through the Golden State. Among those skeptical of Pence's intentions was 49ers safety Eric Reid, who said "this looks like a PR stunt to me."
— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) October 8, 2017
If so, it was an expensive stunt. The tab for flying Air Force Two to Indianapolis and back from the West Coast was at least $250,000, The Washington Post calculates, and then there are the costs of Secret Service advance work and local police and other emergency responders working Sunday shifts to ensure Pence's safety in Indianapolis. If the Pences had wanted to honor Manning, it would have been cheaper and more precious to just invite him to dinner at the Naval Observatory, their government-issued mansion. Peter Weber
Trump asks Justice Department to explore bump stock ban, even though it was already ruled out months ago
President Trump announced Tuesday that he is directing the Justice Department to propose a ban for bump stock firearm modifications, which "turn legal weapons into machine guns." Bump stocks were a hot topic of debate after the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, in which the modification was used to kill 58 people and injure hundreds of others.
Trump's order comes the week after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, where 17 people were killed by a gunman with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, did not appear to use a bump stock during his rampage, the Miami Herald reports:
Sound recordings from inside the school Wednesday indicated that the weapon in question was on a semi-automatic setting, according to [weapons expert Frank] Smyth, who heard about 12 shots in a video posted to Twitter. "He was not using a bump stock," said Smyth. "With a semi-automatic you squeeze the trigger and it automatically reloads." [Miami Herald]
97 percent of Americans want universal background checks for gun buyers. 67 percent want to ban assault weapons.
A new poll by Quinnipiac University published Tuesday found that a stunning majority of Americans are in favor of more stringent gun laws. A whopping 97 percent of all respondents said they were in favor of universal background checks on all gun purchases, while 67 percent of all respondents said they were in favor of banning sales of assault weapons.
Support for universal background checks was practically uniform across all categories, including race, gender, age group, or partisan affiliation. Among Democrats, 99 percent of respondents favored universal background checks, as did 97 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of independents. Whites with college degrees and men scored the lowest rate of support — at 96 percent.
Support for an assault weapons ban was not nearly as uniform across groups, as 91 percent of Democratic voters were in favor compared to just 63 percent of independent voters. Forty-three percent of Republicans supported the proposal, while 49 percent opposed it. Still, in every demographic category besides Republicans, a majority of voters were in favor of the hypothetical ban.
Overall, 66 percent of all respondents said they were in favor of "stricter gun laws" in the U.S. Tim Malloy, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said that the findings represented something of an ideological sea change on gun control. "If you think Americans are largely unmoved by the mass shootings, you should think again," Malloy said. "Support for stricter gun laws is up 19 points in little more than 2 years."
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted between Feb. 16-19, just days after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed by a teenager armed with a semiautomatic rifle. It surveyed 1,249 voters across the country over the phone and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. Read the full results here. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg, 18, blasted Donald Trump Jr. as "immature, rude, and inhumane" after the president's eldest son "liked" conspiracy theories on Twitter that allege Hogg had been fed talking points by his father, who is a former FBI agent. Hogg movingly called for Congress to act to stop gun violence last week, looking into CNN's cameras directly and insisting: "Without action, ideas stay ideas and children die."
A number of pro-Trump websites, including One America News and Gateway Pundit, pushed the theory that Hogg "is running cover for his dad." Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Hogg said it was "immature, rude, and inhumane for these people to destroy the people trying to prevent the death of the future of America because they won't."
"I just think it's a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to peddle conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died," Hogg said. "It just makes me sick." Jeva Lange
A report published Tuesday by UNICEF found that every year, 1 million newborn babies do not live past their first day. The report also found that 2.6 million babies die before they have lived even a month.
More often than not, newborn mortality is greatly determined by where the baby was born. Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF's executive director, said Tuesday that "babies born to the poorest families are more than 40 percent more likely to die in the newborn period than babies in the richest families."
The shame is that most of these deaths are preventable, UNICEF explains. More than 80 percent of the deaths are tied to premature births, "complications during labor and delivery," and inadequate health care to treat said complications. In other words, they are circumstantial deaths, rather than medical issues that doctors could not address.
High-income countries average just three deaths for every 1,000 births, whereas low-income countries report 27 fatalities for every 1,000 births. But economic prosperity is not the only determinant of newborn mortality: UNICEF points out that the U.S. and Kuwait, two wealthy countries, each report four newborn deaths for every 1,000 births, a rate that is comparatively outperformed by "lower-middle income" countries like Sri Lanka and Rwanda, which report five deaths per 1,000 births.
The lesson, UNICEF contends, is that "[investing] in strong health-care systems that prioritize newborns … can make a major difference, even where resources are constrained." Rwanda in particular — a poor country that has recently halved its newborn mortality rate — should "offer hope and lessons for other countries committed to keeping every child alive," the report says.
Donald Trump Jr. praises India's 'poorest of the poor' for smiles during trip promoting luxury towers
In an interview Tuesday with India's CNBC TV18, Donald Trump Jr. praised the "spirit" of people living in poverty in India. The eldest son of President Trump made the remarks during a press tour promoting luxury Trump Tower apartments being built in New Delhi.
"I don't mean to be glib about it," Trump Jr. said, "but you can see the poorest of the poor [in India], and there's still a smile on a face." He continued: "It's a different spirit that you don't see in other parts of the world, where people walk around so solemn.”
The president's son went on to say that the unbending positivity of even the poorest people in India "speaks to the future potential of what this country can do." Trump Jr. said that at first, he "couldn't understand" the resilient attitudes, but after visiting India several times he realized, "It's not a show."
Trump Jr. added that he was well aware of the "hardships" the poorest people in India face, but he insisted that "there is something that is different about the people here that I have not seen to the same level in other parts of the emerging world." Watch below. Kelly O'Meara Morales
... in which Donald Trump Jr. shares some of his views about poor people in India pic.twitter.com/XukaQSwkgB
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) February 20, 2018
A member of Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish School Board said Tuesday that he is "saddened by the misplaced reaction" to a disturbing meme he posted on Facebook. The image featured a noose and the text "if we want to make America great again, we will have to make evil people fear punishment again," The Advocate reports.
The post, which Mike Whitlow shared after the Florida school shooting, provoked a statement from local councilman Louis Joseph, who said: "I am extremely offended by his post as we all know the history and meaning of the hangman's noose, especially as it pertains to African-Americans. As a member of the school board, what message are you sending to the students, employees, and parents of our school system, let alone people that may be considering moving into our parish?"
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) February 20, 2018
The meme appears to have originated in October 2017 on a page called Weapons Vault, a pro-gun and Second Amendment Facebook group, New Orleans' WWL-TV reports. "Yesterday, I came across an article on Facebook that advocated for such stiffer sentences for violence offenses and simply shared the article on my personal Facebook page," Whitlow said. "The article had no racial or discriminatory tones whatsoever."
He deleted the noose meme, adding: "I apologize to anyone who was offended by a post I recently shared." Jeva Lange
Our eyeballs apparently contain information that could revolutionize cardiovascular medicine.
Artificial intelligence software developed by Google in conjunction with its biotech subsidiary company Verily can scan retinal images to predict heart disease at nearly the same accuracy rate as a traditional blood test, United Press International reports. The findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, explain that Google's AI makes its predictions by examining images of the back of a patient's eye in order to develop a profile of the patient, including several characteristics that could determine cardiovascular risk.
From the retinal images, Google's AI can determine within impressive degrees of accuracy a patient's age, gender, blood pressure, and smoking status, as well as even the past occurrence of major cardiovascular events, The Verge explains. The program taught itself how to analyze eyeballs after using machine learning techniques to pore over more than 284,000 retinal images; while studying, the AI used what UPI describes as a visual "heatmap" to learn which parts of the eye's anatomy contained certain predictive factors. The AI eventually learned, for example, that to analyze a patient's blood pressure, it was prudent to examine the blood vessels in the eye.
To test its capabilities, researchers sicced the AI on two patient pools, totaling more than 13,000 patients. The AI made correct predictions on the future risk of heart disease in 70 percent of cases — nearly the same accuracy rate as the blood-test method doctors traditionally use, which has a 72 percent accuracy rate.
Harlan M. Krumholz, the director of Yale's Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, predicted that the findings of Google's AI show that machine learning and artificial intelligence will "more precisely hone our understanding of disease and individuals," helping physicians "understand these processes and diagnoses in ways that we haven't been able to before." Read the full study here. Kelly O'Meara Morales