June 17, 2014

Yes, Jon Stewart is a comedian, and no, The Daily Show isn't a hard news-and-analysis show. But on Monday night's show, Stewart gave a remarkably cogent and creative explanation of the geopolitical situation in Iraq. The U.S. and Iran are discussing coordinating their efforts in Iraq to defeat a common enemy, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia. Meanwhile, ISIS is getting financial support from one of America's biggest Arab allies, and Iran's biggest Muslim enemy, Saudi Arabia.

Forget "strange bedfellows" — this is a romantic Gordian knot. But it makes a lot of sense when Stewart presents the situation as a love triangle. "Sure, you say 'Death to America' and burn our flags, but you do it to our face," Stewart tells Iran. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been funding America's enemies behind our backs — but what about its sweet, sweet crude oil? Like all good love triangles, this one has a soundtrack — Stewart draws on the hits of the 1980s to great effect. In fact, the only '80s song Stewart left out that would have tied this all together: "Love Bites." --Peter Weber

8:45 a.m.

German officials appear quite displeased with the United States, as both countries search for supplies to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Berlin regional government said Friday the U.S. confiscated 200,000 FFP2 respirator masks (known as N95 masks in the U.S.) it ordered from a U.S. manufacturer based in China while they were in transit in Bangkok, Thailand. The masks reportedly never reached their destination.

Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel called it an act of "modern piracy," arguing that "even in times of global crisis, methods from the Wild West should not become prevalent."

The Berlin government didn't provide many details about the incident, including when it happened, and U.S. and German officials didn't comment on the accusations. 3M, the manufacturer, said it "has no evidence to suggest" its products were seized. But one German federal official told The Wall Street Journal that "America's behavior since the crisis has been positively rabid when it comes to medical supplies."

France has also complained about the U.S. diverting shipments, and Germany officials previously accused the Trump administration of trying to convince a German company working on a COVID-19 vaccine to relocate stateside. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:00 a.m.

President Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who informed Congress about the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump's communications with Ukraine that eventually led to his impeachment. The president said he "no longer" has the "fullest confidence" in Atkinson.

Democrats were not happy with the decision, especially considering it came as the novel coronavirus pandemic intensifies across the United States. "In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the president is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another intelligence official simply for doing his job," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Trump administration has already removed numerous officials from their posts involved with Trump's impeachment proceedings, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former National Security Council official, and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Others, like former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, resigned.

Atkinson won't be immediately removed — the statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees be informed of a dismissal with 30 days notice, so there won't be an official change until next month. Read more at The Guardian and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

April 3, 2020

President Trump is admittedly not doing everything he can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation for all Americans to wear cloth masks when in public around people, Trump announced at Friday's coronavirus task force press conference. Trump then repeatedly clarified that the recommendation is "voluntary," and declared that he won't be wearing a mask at all.

Americans are being asked to wear cloth masks when going outside around others. It'll add an extra layer of protection against transmitting COVID-19 even if someone who has the virus is asymptomatic, while saving medical-grade N95 masks for health care workers who desperately need them, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday. Los Angeles and New York City recently issued the same recommendation, and a Thursday report indicated the CDC's recommendation was coming.

When Trump was asked why he wouldn't wear a mask, he said he was "feeling fine," and then implied that it would be odd to be "sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk" in a mask while meeting "presidents, prime ministers, dictators," and so on. It's unclear which world leaders would be dropping by the Oval Office given the current climate. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 3, 2020

It's time to take a break from the monotony of quarantine and enjoy all that nature has to offer — through technology.

Though coronavirus restrictions may prevent you from going to zoos, wildlife centers, or taking nature hikes, these three animal livestreams will help you get your fix.

1. Three baby eagles in Minnesota

(Screenshot/Minnesota DNR)

This is the first brood on this live-cam since 2017, and the three babies just hatched in late March. It's the perfect opportunity to get up close with our national bird, without any of the risk. Watch the nest here.

2. Bella the hummingbird's nest

(Screenshot/Explore)

Bella and her baby live in a nest in California on a front porch ficus. The owner of that porch graciously decided to share the beauty with the rest of us. Their speed and size can make them hard to spot in the wild, so check out the hummingbirds here.

3. Aquarium viewing at home

(Screenshot/Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Let's make shark week every week. Though closed due to coronavirus, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has several live cams available for viewing, including the rocky reef shark cam. Enjoy the beautiful rays and fish as you wait for a shark to pass by. Watch them swim around here. Taylor Watson

April 3, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is looking ahead to the next few steps in the coronavirus pandemic response.

On Friday, Sanders unveiled his "Priorities for the Next Coronavirus Relief Package," proposing a number of relief measures from guaranteeing paid medical and sick leave to all workers to expanding food programs like Meals on Wheels.

The proposal unsurprisingly includes a major expansion of Medicare. "We were facing a catastrophic health care crisis before the pandemic, and now that crisis has become much, much worse," writes Sanders. The legislation would use Medicare to cover all health care expenses, notably including anyone who is sick, "regardless of immigration status."

In addition to further invoking the Defense Production Act, Sanders says payment on all rent, mortgage payments, and forms of debt should be suspended entirely, not just deferred during the pandemic only to cause "financial ruin" once they become due. Building on the one-time $1,200 payments, Sanders calls for monthly $2,000 payments.

The entire plan fits alongside policy ideas Sanders has touted throughout his presidential bid, but are ramped up in both scale and urgency now that the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly exploded to affect millions of Americans both medically and economically. This week's jobs reports showed that likely 3.5 million Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance since the pandemic began.

Bloomberg's Joe Weisenthal noted the similarities between Sanders' presidential platform and his latest proposal to Congress, but argued the ideas now sound remarkably "un-radical." The suggestions are "obviously on par with the scale of this crisis," says Weisenthal, and in line with the $2.2 trillion relief package Congress previously passed, "except on a sufficient scale to really counteract the damage."

"To prevent the collapse of the economy is far more humane and cost effective than rebuilding the economy after it collapses," Sanders told MSNBC. See Sanders' proposal, which does not yet have a budget estimate, here. Summer Meza

April 3, 2020

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has taken "last minute" to a whole new level.

Evers declared a mandatory shelter-in-place in his state on March 25 to reduce COVID-19 spread, taking the crisis seriously more than a week earlier than some states with larger populations. But he waited until Friday to take executive action to get the state's upcoming Democratic presidential primary canceled even though it's just four days away.

In a Friday video conference, Evers called a special session of the state's GOP-held legislature to compel it "to do its part — just as all of us are — to help keep our neighbors, our families, and our communities safe." He wants all in-person voting canceled so both voters and poll workers are not put at risk, and instead wants to extend the deadline for mail-in votes to the end of May.

The legislature has the power to push back the primary or change its format, but refused to do so when Evers asked it last week to send mail-in ballots to every voter in Wisconsin; Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the move would be "logistically impossible." Still, Democrats had blamed Evers for not doing more to push back the primary weeks ago. Even U.S. District Judge William M. Conley, who ultimately declined to push back the primary Thursday, had chided Evers and the legislature for putting the matter in his hands in the first place. Every other state with primaries in April has already pushed their date back. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 3, 2020

When might movie theaters widely resume operations after closing their doors amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic? Disney apparently has a guess: no later than July, or maybe even June.

The studio on Friday announced many changes to its movie schedule, including a new opening date for Mulan. This live-action remake was originally set to hit U.S. theaters in March, but it was one of numerous films postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the film has a new opening date: July 24. Disney on Friday also didn't change the release date of Pixar's Soul, which is still set for June 19.

This would suggest Disney is under the impression theaters can reopen by the summer, though the studio could always delay Mulan again if it later becomes clear they won't. Black Widow, which was set for May, will also now come out in November, while Jungle Cruise, which was set for July, will head to next summer, and Artemis Fowl, which was set for May, will go straight to Disney+.

Still, Disney's decision to set Mulan in July comes after Sony made the opposite move, taking Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Morbius off the July schedule. Paramount on Thursday also moved June's Top Gun: Maverick to December, although the studio at the same time put The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in July. Warner Bros. is another studio that hasn't given up on the summer movie season just yet, having pushed Wonder Woman 1984 to August. And Christopher Nolan's Tenet has yet to move from its previously-set release date of July 17.

But will these dates be too soon for large crowds to be gathering in movie theaters again? Variety earlier this week explored the idea that summer movie season might not happen at all this year, reporting that some insiders think even the Aug. 14 release date for Wonder Woman, which is three weeks after Mulan's new date, "may be premature." Brendan Morrow

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