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October 24, 2017
Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

The Environmental Protection Agency is hiring 12 new security agents to add to Administrator Scott Pruitt's already unprecedented around-the-clock security detail, CNN reported Monday night, citing "sources with knowledge of the situation" and help-wanted ads. The new agents will cost the agency at least $2 million a year in salaries, plus training, equipment, vehicles, travel, and other expenses. CNN said it has withheld details about the size of Pruitt's security detail, but Talking Points Memo says the dozen additional agents will bring his guard count to 30 agents.

No previous EPA chief has requested or received 24/7 protection, EPA assistant inspector general Patrick Sullivan told CNN, but "the EPA is a lightning rod," and Pruitt has received "four to five times the number of threats" as his predecessor, Gina McCarthy. "We get threats from both sides of the spectrum," he added. McCarthy had a total of five guards, mostly for travel outside Washington.

Pruitt is also much more secretive than former EPA chiefs, installing a soundproof phone booth ($25,000) in his office and security access card systems in and around his office ($15,780), and keeping cleaning crews out of his office during non-working hours. "It's unclear if Pruitt and his staff are guarding against outside threats, internal leakers, or both," CNN says. "EPA sources have described Pruitt as distrustful of career staffers at the agency."

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) have asked the EPA inspector general if "taxpayer funds are being misused," noting that Pruitt's security bill "during his first quarter as EPA administrator is nearly double what the two previous administrators spent on security over that same timeframe," and that's before the new agents. Pruitt has also notched at least $58,000 in chartered and government flights, all while planning to cut the agency budget by 30 percent. Peter Weber

7:48 p.m. ET
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Inspired by the survivors of last week's deadly school shooting in Florida, who are channeling their anger into action and organizing the March for Our Lives protest against gun violence, Oprah Winfrey announced Tuesday she is donating $500,000 to the rally.

Winfrey is matching a donation made earlier by George and Amal Clooney. On Twitter, Winfrey called the students "inspiring young people" who remind her of "the Freedom Riders of the '60s, who also said we've had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard." In a statement to People, Clooney said he'll be at the March 24 rally in Washington, D.C., with his family, and he made his donation in the name of his 8-month-old twins, Ella and Alexander. The "groundbreaking event" needs to happen, he added, because "our children's lives depend on it." 


Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw also matched the donation made by George and Amal Clooney, Deadline reports. In a statement, Spielberg said the students "are already demonstrating their leadership with a confidence and maturity that belies their ages," and he applauds their "efforts to take a stand for the benefit of this and future generations." Catherine Garcia

6:51 p.m. ET
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The Department of the Army has recognized three of the teenagers killed last week in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, giving each one a Medal of Heroism, the highest honor for JROTC students.

Peter Wang, Alaina Petty, and Martin Duque were all cadets in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and their families have either been given or will soon receive keepsake medals. During the attack last week, Wang helped his classmates to safety, and was wearing his uniform when he was shot. It was his dream to attend the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, and the USMA announced Tuesday it granted Wang posthumous admission. In a statement, West Point called Wang "a brave young man" whose actions "exemplified the tenets of duty, honor, and country." Wang was buried on Tuesday, wearing his uniform. Catherine Garcia

5:24 p.m. ET
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Florida lawmakers denied a motion to bring an assault weapons ban to a vote Tuesday, less than a week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a teenager armed with a semiautomatic rifle. The effort failed to pass Florida's House by a 71-36 margin, The Associated Press reports.

The proposed assault weapons ban had previously been stalled in committee, but Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee pushed the state legislature to consider allowing the bill to be considered anyway. Florida's Spectrum News 13 said McGhee's motion was thwarted by "almost every Republican voting no."

Florida's state Senate, however, was able to make progress Tuesday on some legislation to address the safety of students. The Associated Press reported that the state's Senate Education Committee was able to attach an amendment "to put law enforcement officers in every school in the state" to an education reform bill that is now in consideration. Kelly O'Meara Morales

5:04 p.m. ET

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held her first press briefing in over a week. There was a lot to address: In the last week, 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, by a teenager armed with a semiautomatic rifle; Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced the indictment of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 election; and President Trump tweeted nearly 50 times.

In one notable tweet, the president claimed the FBI missed a tip about the Parkland shooter because the bureau was too focused on investigating Russian interference. The FBI admitted Friday that information about the confessed shooter it received in January failed to reach its Miami field office.

"The president doesn't really think that the FBI failed to stop the Parkland shooter because it was too involved with the Russia investigation, does he?" ABC News' Jonathan Karl asked Sanders. "I think he was speaking, not necessarily that [the Russia investigation] is the cause," Sanders said. "I think we all have to be aware that the cause of this is that of a deranged individual." She added: "That is the responsibility of the shooter, certainly not the responsibility of anybody else."

Karl immediately countered, "Did [the president] mistweet when he said that? Because he's pretty direct, he says, 'This is not acceptable, they're spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion.'" Sanders said Trump was simply "making the point that we would like our FBI agencies to not be focused on something that is clearly a hoax." Watch the exchange below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:58 p.m. ET
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What's the best way to lose weight? Scientists still don't have an answer, but they have managed to rule out one trendy option.

A recent popular theory among dieters is that certain types of diets may be more effective than others, based on individual dieters' genes. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday says this is, essentially, bunk.

Researchers at Stanford University conducted a study on overweight adults to find out whether certain weight loss methods would be more successful with certain genetic makeups. In total, 600 participants were randomly assigned to either a low-fat or a low-carbohydrate diet. Additionally, all participants had their DNA analyzed to determine whether they had a gene that could predict better weight loss under one of the diets.

The participants then followed their randomly assigned diets for a year. But after comparing the diet regimens to the DNA analysis, the researchers found no evidence that the predicted gene markers made any difference in what form of dieting works best for different people, Live Science reported. While there was overall success in losing weight — an average of 11.5 pounds for participants on the low-fat diet, and 13 pounds for those on the low-carb one — there were no significant differences between those who had the expected "right genes" for each diet and those who didn't.

The researchers plan to continue to analyze their data in order to try to determine other possible indicators for what types of diets might work best for different people. Read more about the study's findings at Live Science. Shivani Ishwar

4:25 p.m. ET
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President Trump announced Tuesday that he is directing the Justice Department to propose a ban for bump stock firearm modifications, which he said "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 — which essentially makes semiautomatic firearms operate as though they were fully automatic — was used to kill 58 people and injure hundreds of others.

Trump's order comes the week after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed by a teenager with an AR-15 semiautomatic 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 semiautomatic 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 semiautomatic you squeeze the trigger and it automatically reloads." [Miami Herald]

Additionally, the Justice Department determined in December that it likely does not have the ability to regulate bump stocks "without congressional action," The New York Times reports. Jeva Lange

3:58 p.m. ET
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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

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