August 23, 2018

President Trump is officially a liar — according to The Washington Post's stickler-for-words Fact Checker team, headed by Glenn Kessler. Kessler's team has documented 4,229 false or misleading claims Trump has made as president — for an average of 7.6 a day — but despite pressure from Trump's critics, the team "has been hesitant" to accuse Trump of lying, "as it is difficult to document whether the president knows he is not telling the truth," Kessler explained on Wednesday. But with Trump's firm denial of knowledge about his lawyer Michael Cohen's hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, "it's now clear that the president's statement was a lie."

You can read Kessler's "definitive story of a Trump lie," including names, dates, and supporting video evidence, at The Washington Post. At CNN on Wednesday night, Chris Cuomo discussed Trump's lie about the Stormy Daniels payment, but he also spent a few minutes debunking Trump's new whopper, that former President Barack Obama "did the same thing." "In fact, he liked this excuse so much — so nice — he used it twice," Cuomo said, calling the charge Trump's "weakest" line of attack yet. But in the end, the main point is Trump's shifting story about paying off Daniels, he said, and "the real problem here is lying." Watch below. Peter Weber

May 10, 2018
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A coalition of opposition parties won control of Malaysia's government on Wednesday, unseating scandal-tarred Prime Minister Najib Razak and ending 60 years of rule by the National Front party. According to official results, the opposition Alliance of Hope has more than the 112 parliamentary seats needed to form a new government, and Mahathir Mohamad — Najib's mentor and a former authoritarian prime minister — is expected to be sworn in as soon as Friday. At that point, Mahathir, 92, will be the oldest elected leader in the world.

Mahathir came out of retirement to join the opposition after Najib's government became embroiled in a massive corruption investigation involving a state investment fund, One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The U.S. Justice Department says Najib's associates stole $4.5 billion from the fund, and $700 million ended up in Najib's bank accounts while millions more was laundered in the U.S. through banks, a Picasso gifted to Leonardo DiCaprio, and expensive real estate, among other vehicles. Najib has denied wrongdoing.

Opposition parties, many of whose leaders were jailed by Mahathir during his 22-year rule, agreed that the former prime minister was their best hope for wresting control from Najib and the dominant National Front. The Alliance for Hope scored its landmark victory in state and national elections despite newly drawn gerrymandered districts, a recent "fake news" law critics said was a tool to silence dissent, and electoral laws that give outsize power to the National Front's base in rural areas. Critics also say Najib used all the tools at his disposal to quash investigations into the 1MDB scandal.

"We are not seeking revenge," Mahathir said Thursday morning, as Malaysians celebrated in the streets. "What we want to do is restore the rule of law." You can learn more about the 1MDB investigation — including cameos by President Trump and his D.C. hotel, DiCaprio, a flashy Malaysian playboy, and Paris Hilton — at the PRX show Reveal. Peter Weber

April 24, 2018

On Monday, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore announced that they successfully completed the first full penis and scrotum transplant. The patient, a U.S. service member whose lower legs and genitals were blown off by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, "is expected to be discharged from the hospital this week, and we are optimistic that he will regain near-normal urinary and sexual functions following full recovery," said Dr. Andrew Lee, chairman of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University.

A team of nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons preformed the surgery over 14 hours in March, after five years of preparatory research and practice. The unidentified patient said in a statement that losing your genitals is "a real mind-boggling injury to suffer; it is not an easy one to accept," and "when I first woke up, I felt finally more normal." The doctors said that the patient will likely be able to urinate by the times he leaves the hospital but it will take about six months for the nerves to regrow enough for sexual function and sensation. The medical team did not transplant the donor's testes, due to ethical concerns about the patient being able to father the late donor's children.

Johns Hopkins released a mildly graphic illustrated re-enactment of the surgery, if you are interested:

More than 1,300 male veterans sustained genital injuries in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars between 2001 and 2013, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Urology. Lee said the "hidden" genital injuries have a "devastating impact" on the identity, self-esteem, and relationships of afflicted veterans. This wasn't the first penis transplant — there was an apparently successful one in South Africa in 2015 and an unsuccessful one in China, and a 2016 penis transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital has left the patient, Thomas Manning, doing fine but without full sexual function, USA Today reports. Peter Weber

December 26, 2017

Monday's Doctor Who Christmas special marked the end of Peter Capaldi's role as the 12th Doctor, as well as Steven Moffat's seven years as head writer and showrunner for the iconic BBC sci-fi franchise about a time-traveling Time Lord, and it briefly introduced the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, a star of Broadchurch and now the first woman to play the Doctor. Capaldi's regeneration into Whittaker, 35, occurs at the end of the episode, and it appears the Doctor's time machine, the TARDIS, is not pleased with the change.

Whittaker will appear in her first full episode next year. Moffat's replacement is Chris Chibnall, the creator of Broadchurch — which, along with featuring the future 13th Doctor also starred the 10th Doctor, David Tennant. Peter Weber

July 5, 2017
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On Wednesday, Chinese-owned Swedish automaker Volvo announced that by 2019, every new model it introduces will have either an electric or a hybrid gas-electric engine, making Volvo the first major automaker to ditch traditional gasoline engines. "This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," said Volvo president Håkan Samuelsson. The Swedish car company said that it will launch five full electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of them under the Volvo brand and the other two from its Polestar subsidiary; it will continue selling combustion-engine models introduced before 2019, at least for now.

The shift toward electric cars "is likely to have been influenced by Chinese auto company Geely, which bought Volvo in 2010," CNNMoney reports, explaining that China has been quick to adopt electric vehicles — more than half of the electric cars in the world are currently sold in China, according to Germany's Center for Automotive Research. Peter Weber

December 20, 2016
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Donald Trump officially won the presidential election on Monday, when 304 members of the Electoral College voted for him, exceeding the 270 he needed to become president. Despite the hopes and pleas of some Hillary Clinton supporters, only two electors pledged to Trump voted for someone else — Ron Paul and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both picked by Texas electors — while five Clinton voters were "faithless." The seven defecting electors did not sway the outcome of the election, but they made history, beating the previous record of six faithless electors who voted for George Clinton over James Madison in 1808. Since 1832, no election has had more than one faithless voter, the last being in 2004.

One Clinton elector from Hawaii wrote in Bernie Sanders, three Washington State electors picked Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and another Washington faithless elector opted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American leader. Three other Clinton electors tried to vote for someone else, but the Maine elector changed his vote when he was told he was breaking state law, and voters in Colorado and Minnesota were replaced with alternates. Most of Clinton's faithless electors voted for someone else as part of a fruitless scheme to unite behind a Republican alternative to Trump. The plan would have only worked if Republican electors had joined in. Peter Weber

May 24, 2016
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On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first of two scheduled hearings on a motion to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, but Koskinen said Monday he won't be there, citing the late invitation and other commitments that have left him no time to prepare "for what could be a wide-ranging and complex discussion regarding claims that may only become clear after the hearing's first panel." Instead, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the House Oversight Committee chairman who filed the impeachment motion, will testify under oath, along with Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

Chaffetz accuses Koskinen of lying under oath and defying a House subpoena to turn over emails from Lois Lerner, a former IRS official at the center of a scandal involving extra scrutiny of Tea Party groups and other organizations seeking tax-exempt status. Koskinen, who was appointed months after the scandal, denies lying and said the IRS has turned over the relevant Lerner emails but lost other ones due to "the inadvertent destruction of very old tapes." The Justice Department found mismanagement but no criminal wrongdoing in its investigation of the IRS, but Chaffetz said the House has no choice to but impeach Koskinen. "You can't be under a duly issued subpoena and mislead Congress, and when you provide false testimony there has to be a consequence," he said.

Congress hasn't tried to impeach a U.S. official other than the president since 1876, when the House went after War Secretary William W. Belknap, and no official below cabinet level has ever faced impeachment. "This is unprecedented in many respects," University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt tells The New York Times. But "lying to Congress is a very serious charge, and if somebody were actually guilty of that, that is a perfectly legitimate basis for their removal."

Koskinen says he plans to attend the next hearing, in June, but barring some bombshell revelation, his job is probably safe. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said that the Senate won't convict the IRS commissioner even if the House approves impeachment, noting the two-thirds vote needed and the lack of appetite for going after Koskinen, a businessman known for managing organizations in crisis. Still, The Washington Post observes, "by holding hearings, House leaders are allowing IRS opponents to keep their constituents' frustration with an unpopular agency in the foreground — and a good political target in their crosshairs." Peter Weber

May 16, 2016

Last week, Thomas Manning underwent the first penis transplant in the United States, with a dozen surgeons and 30 other medical personnel at Massachusetts General Hospital spending 15 hours replacing Manning's penis with one from a dead donor. Manning, 64, had a partial penectomy in 2012 after doctors discovered an aggressive form of penis cancer, and he told The New York Times on Friday that he has hardly experienced any pain from the operation. "I want to go back to being who I was," he said.

This is the third known penis transplant in the world, following an unsuccessful 2006 procedure in China and a successful operation in South Africa in 2014. Manning is a bank courier, but doctors say they are motivated to perfect the procedure to help wounded veterans. According to Pentagon figures, 1,367 military service members suffered genitourinary injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013, and some of those men lost at least some of the penis. Suicide rates are high among this group. "They're 18- to 20-year-old guys, and they feel they have no hope of intimacy or a sexual life," said Dr. Curtis L. Cetrulo, a reconstructive surgeon and a leader of Manning's surgical team. "They can't even go to the bathroom standing up."

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is also preparing to perform penis transplants, with an Afghanistan veteran on the waiting list. The Pentagon told The New York Times it "does not like to have wounded warriors undergo unproven techniques — i.e., they do not want them to be 'guinea pigs,' as they have already sacrificed so much." If all goes well with Manning, he should be able to urinate normally in a few weeks, and have restored sexual function in weeks to months, Certulo says. Peter Weber

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