July 20, 2014

Buzz Aldrin: Famed astronaut, second man on the moon, and puncher of smug faces.

Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the lunar landing — unless, of course, it never happened and the government faked the whole danged thing to make America look super powerful at the height of the Cold War. Is that conspiracy theory likely? Probably not, though there are some who ardently believe in it.

Bart Sibrel is one of those lunar truthers. And back in 2002, he ambushed Aldrin outside a Los Angeles hotel and berated him about his supposed role in the hoax, asking him to swear on a Bible he landed on the moon and calling him a "liar" and a "coward." Offended that someone would question his integrity, and fed up with being pestered for so long, Aldrin finally snapped and socked Sibrel in the face.

Police declined to press charges. Jon Terbush

12:38 a.m.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale (D), who died Monday, led a successful effort to reform the filibuster in 1975, when he was a U.S. senator from Minnesota. Before Mondale and James Pearson (R-Kan.) introduced a resolution to reform cloture, the parliamentary mechanism to end a filibuster, at the beginning of the 94th Congress, a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting were needed to break a filibuster; Mondale and Pearson pushed for three-fifths of all senators voting and present.

Senate Rule XXII, which governed cloture, "in its present form, has protected the right of debate at the expense of the right to decide," Mondale told his Senate colleagues. "Rule XXII has significantly impaired the ability of this body to function."

Sen. James Allen (D-Ala.) led the opposition to the measure, and after several rancorous weeks of debate, the Senate agreed to a compromise resolution in which three-fifth of the entire Senate, or 60 senators, had to agree to invoke cloture and thwart a filibuster. That rule still stands for legislative filibusters, though once again there is clamor for reform amid obstruction.

Earlier in his Senate career, Mondale supported a simple majority of 51 senators to quash a filibuster. And he and Pearson briefly set a precedent for a 51-vote cloture, James Wallner explained in 2019. But Mondale had changed his mind by then. "As I see it, it is an issue between the ability to paralyze, on the one hand, and the ability to require full ventilation of an issue, on the other," he said in 1971. "In my opinion, there are crucial issues which demand full consideration by the Senate."

By 2011, Mondale was ready for another round of cloture reform. In 1975, senators hoped lowering the threshold to 60 votes from 67 "would preserve debate and deliberation while avoiding paralysis, and for a while it did," he wrote in a 2011 New York Times op-ed. "But it's now clear that our reform was insufficient for today's more partisan, increasingly gridlocked Senate." Mondale suggested lowering the threshold to 55 votes, or "requiring a filibustering senator to actually speak on the Senate floor for the duration of a filibuster."

"I still would like to keep some of the filibuster," Mondale said in 2013. "I think the Senate should be different from the House. I'm looking for that mysterious line between requiring debate and consultation on the one hand and paralysis on the other hand. ... What we clearly have today is paralysis." Peter Weber

12:30 a.m.

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to pose an "unprecedented risk" to travelers, the State Department said on Monday, and travel advisories are being updated to "outline current issues affecting travelers' health."

The changes "better reflect" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel health notices, the State Department said, and will "result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80 percent of countries worldwide." The advisories also take into account "logistical factors," the State Department said, like "in-country testing availability and current travel restrictions for U.S. citizens."

Level 4 is the highest travel advisory level, and there are now about three dozen countries with this designation, CNN reports. The CDC is recommending that people delay international travel until they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying even those who have been inoculated "are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

Former President Jimmy Carter is mourning the death of his former vice president, Walter Mondale, saying in a statement that Mondale was a "dear friend, who I consider the best vice president in our country's history."

Mondale died Monday at his home in Minnesota, at the age of 93. Carter, 96, and Mondale spent four years in the White House, losing their re-election bid in 1980. They were the longest-living post-presidential team in U.S. history, Axios reports.

Carter praised Mondale for using his "political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driven force that had never been seen before and still exists today." Not only was Mondale an "invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world," Carter said, but also "provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

On the day before he died, former Vice President Walter Mondale spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris on the phone, one of several conversations he had on Sunday with current and former politicians, his friend and former staffer Tom Cosgrove told Axios.

Mondale, who served under former President Jimmy Carter, died Monday at age 93. More than three decades before Harris became the country's first female vice president, Mondale, as the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket.

In a statement, Harris said Mondale was "so generous with his wit and wisdom over the years," and during their conversation, she "thanked him for his service and his steadfastness. I will miss him dearly." It wasn't just Harris that Mondale chatted with over the weekend, Cosgrove said — he also spoke with Carter, President Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D). Mondale and his family believed that "death was imminent," Axios reports, but after his phone calls, he "perked up," Cosgrove said.

Mondale also wrote an email to be sent upon his death to 320 former staffers, including many who worked for him decades ago. In the email, shared with Axios, Mondale thanked them for their work and declared that "never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight. Joe in the White House certainly helps." Cosgrove told Axios that Mondale was concerned about what would happen to democracy if former President Donald Trump had been re-elected. "There was a difference after the inauguration — a letting go," Cosgrove said. "There was a big exhale of relief." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

Walter Mondale, the former vice president who served under Jimmy Carter and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1984, died Monday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 93.

Mondale's spokeswoman, Kathy Tunheim, announced his death, but did not reveal a cause.

Born on Jan. 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, Mondale became involved in politics in his 20s, working on campaigns. At 32, he was appointed attorney general of Minnesota, and four years later, was tapped to fill the Senate seat vacated by his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, who went to serve as Lyndon B. Johnson's vice president.

Mondale, who pushed for anti-poverty programs and open housing, was selected by Carter to be his running mate in 1976, and they narrowly won the election. While at the White House, Mondale went on several overseas missions for Carter, The Washington Post reports, and was the president's sounding board. They did not win re-election in 1980, losing to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Mondale gave the White House another shot four years later, and as the Democratic nominee, chose Geraldine Ferraro, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket. They didn't win, and after two decades in politics, Mondale went back to law, practicing in Minnesota. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Mondale ambassador to Japan.

Mondale's wife, Joan, died in 2014, and their daughter, Eleanor Mondale Poling, died of brain cancer in 2011. He is survived by his sons Theodore Mondale and William Mondale and a brother. Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

A federal judge on Monday ordered that two leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group be detained while awaiting trial on charges they helped plan and coordinate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Joseph Biggs of Florida and Ethan Nordean of Washington were indicted on March 10, and face charges of conspiring to obstruct the certification of President Biden's electoral victory; both men pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Monday determined that the men "facilitated political violence" and are dangerous, and they should not be free ahead of their trial.

Last month, federal prosecutors asked for Biggs' pretrial release to be revoked, citing new evidence that shows he poses a "grave danger" to the community, The Associated Press reports. Their indictment states that on the morning of the Capitol riot, Biggs and Nordean met with other Proud Boys members at the Washington Monument and led them on a march to the Capitol. Authorities say several Proud Boys entered the Capitol building after other protesters broke windows and doors in order to gain access.

Federal prosecutors have described more than two dozen of the Capitol riot defendants as being leaders, members, or associates of the Proud Boys. Nordean has served as a Proud Boys chapter president and member of the group's national "Elders Council," and Biggs is a self-described Proud Boys organizer, AP says. Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

At a ceremony Monday commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is "pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today."

The bombing targeted the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day care center. Domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the bombing in 1997 and executed in 2001. Garland oversaw the bombing investigation and prosecution while working at the Justice Department in the 1990s, and said that even though "many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us."

There has been a renewed focus on domestic extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and in March, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote a report saying white supremacists and militias are the most lethal domestic threat. Often, these extremists "radicalize independently by consuming violent extremist material online and mobilize without direction from a violent extremist organization, making detection and disruption difficult," the report stated. Catherine Garcia

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