June 9, 2014

On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver used his own small platform (big enough, apparently, to crash the FCC website) to utterly humiliate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Oliver started out by noting that Assad, "half a mass murderer and half your creepy sophomore year roommate," had a trove of his emails leak last year, including insights into his musical taste. One of the songs Assad downloaded was from the 1990s one-hit wonder Right Said Fred.

Oliver didn't say which song Assad downloaded from iTunes, but it's a safe bet it was that one hit, "I'm Too Sexy." "It's so frustrating that we're powerless to do anything to hurt him," Oliver said of Assad. Then he hit on an idea. "I guess we could take something he loves and turn it against him...." If you don't see where this is heading, or if you do, watch below to see how a professional comedian with an expense account burns a brutal dictator. There is, as always, mildly profane language. --Peter Weber

6:02 p.m.

The jury began deliberations en route to reaching a verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday. They'll take into account two weeks' worth of witness and expert testimony about the arrest and death of George Floyd, as well as Monday's closing arguments from the defense and the prosecution.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher kicked off the final stretch, telling the jury to "believe your own eyes," referring to bystander videos, which showed Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Then, over the course of two-plus hours, defense lawyer Eric Nelson focused on whether there's any reasonable doubt as to what caused Floyd's death, citing the possibility that substances found in his system and heart issues may have been the culprit. He also argued Chauvin acted reasonably and within the grounds of his training.

Finally, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell issued his rebuttal to Nelson, noting that his team was not required to prove that Chauvin's actions were the sole cause of Floyd's death, only that they were a substantial factor. And with his parting words, he rejected the theory that Floyd died because of an enlarged heart. Tim O'Donnell

4:52 p.m.

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, Washington, D.C.'s chief medical examiner Francisco Diaz ruled Monday.

Diaz told the The Washington Post that Sicknick's autopsy found no evidence that the officer suffered any internal or external injuries or an allergic reaction to chemical irritants, such as bear spray, which two men are accused of assaulting him with during the riot. Diaz said if Sicknick did have an allergic reaction, his throat would have quickly seized, which did not happen. The ruling "likely will make it difficult for prosecutors to pursue homicide charges" in Sicknick's death, the Post writes.

Citing privacy laws, Diaz did not divulge whether Sicknick had a pre-existing medical condition that may have contributed to the 42-year-old's death, though he did say "all that transpired" during the highly tense situation at the Capitol on Jan. 6 "played a role in his condition." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

4:13 p.m.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) looks to be facing another investigation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has opened an investigation focused on Cuomo's alleged use of state resources during the writing of a book he published about the COVID-19 pandemic last year, The New York Times reports. The attorney general had received a referral from New York's comptroller authorizing a criminal investigation.

This comes after the Times reported last month that staffers and aides for the New York governor worked on his book American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Cuomo, the Times wrote, reportedly relied on aides and staffers for "everything from full-scale edits to minor clerical work, potentially running afoul of state laws prohibiting use of public resources for personal gain."

Following this reporting, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reportedly suggested there be an investigation examining "the drafting, editing, sale and promotion of the governor’s book and any related financial or business transactions." The governor has said that some staffers volunteered to help work on his book, but Cuomo adviser Richard Azzopardi told the Times that "every effort was made to ensure that no state resources were used in connection with this project."

Azzopardi also said Monday that "idea there was criminality involved here is patently absurd on its face and is just the furthering of a political pile-on."

Cuomo has already been facing an investigation focused his administration's handling of data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, as well as an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him. The governor has continued to resist calls to resign amid these scandals. Brendan Morrow

2:38 p.m.

Researchers at the University of Oxford are looking for 64 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 30 who have recovered from COVID-19. In a new, first-of-its kind study, the volunteers will be reinfected with the original strain of the coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, under controlled, quarantined conditions for 17 days, the university said Monday.

The main goal of the challenge trial is to discover what levels and types of immunity are needed to prevent reinfection, which could aid vaccine developers going forward. So far, natural infections and vaccines appear to provide strong protection against reinfection for the most part, but it's unclear how long that will last. The study may also reveal how much virus it takes to reinfect a recovered patient.

While Oxford is excited about the study's potential, challenge trials have their critics, who argue that deliberately infecting someone is unethical, regardless of the circumstances. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

1:40 p.m.

While some countries are on an individual path out of the coronavirus pandemic thanks to their vaccination drives, that's not the norm. In fact, the world is coming off its worst ever week for COVID-19 infections, Bloomberg reports.

India and Brazil, two of the world's most populous nations, are both experiencing surges, which is contributing to the record-breaking numbers.

Analysts have warned for some time that unequal vaccine distribution would lead to these types of discrepancies. Bloomberg's David Fickling argues that the increase in cases is reflecting the varying trends around the world, though he clarifies that it actually appears to be middle-income countries, in which about two-thirds of the world's population resides, that are really falling behind on vaccinations.

Higher-income countries, like the United States, tend to have a surplus of doses, while low-income countries are receiving a significant amount on a per capita basis, as well, thanks to concentrated efforts like the COVAX, a global bulk-buying vaccine program. But the middle-income countries, including India and China, have low coverage area rates, suggesting it will still be some time before vaccinations tick up, which means the pandemic is likely far from over. Tim O'Donnell

1:30 p.m.

And now, here is yet another new guest host of Jeopardy!

CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday will step in to host Jeopardy! for two weeks, the latest in a series of guest hosts the show has brought in since Alex Trebek's death. In an interview prior to his debut, Cooper described himself as a huge fan of the show and acknowledged being "nervous" about his stint. He also honored Trebek as someone who was an "integral part of my entire youth and growing up," something he told the man himself last year.

"I got a call from him probably about a month or two before he died," Cooper said. "He was asking me about some other stuff, but I used it as an opportunity just to say to him how much I appreciated him, and what he had brought to my life and to the life of so many people. So I was really glad I got the chance to do that."

Trebek died in November 2020 following a battle with cancer, and the show since January has been temporarily hosted by former champion Ken Jennings, Jeopardy producer Mike Richards, journalist Katie Couric, TV host Dr. Oz, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It still hasn't been announced who will replace Trebek permanently, though Cooper has been seen as a potential contender.

"Whoever leads this show forward, there's certainly big shoes to fill," Cooper said in his interview. "And I know whoever becomes the host of this show, they're going to carry on Alex's legacy."

Jennings has also been a major fan favorite to take over the permanent role, while Rogers has said he'd like to be considered. Meanwhile, calls for LeVar Burton to at least get brought in as a guest host continue to fall on deaf ears. Brendan Morrow

12:40 p.m.

The early returns on COVID-19 vaccinations have largely been positive in the United States and elsewhere. There have certainly been so-called "breakthrough" cases, in which fully vaccinated people have been infected, but The New York Times' David Leonhardt notes that statistics so far indicate the chances of that happening are about one in 11,000, and the rate dwindles even further when it comes to the chances of developing anything worse than a mild infection.

Still, many people who have been vaccinated remain nervous. This is understandable, Leonhardt writes, given the novelty of the virus and the toll it's taken. The risk of dying from COVID-19 post-vaccination is probably more akin to "high profile," but "extremely rare dangers" like plane crashes, lightning strikes, or shark attacks. Getting in a car, on the other hand, is a "bigger threat," Leonhardt writes.

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver and data scientist David Shor also made this point, and Shor noted that the "per hour risk of killing somebody driving sober is at least 33 times higher than the per hour risk of killing somebody from [COVID-19] hanging out maskless post-vaccination."

That's where sociologist Zeynep Tufekci jumped in. Tufekci generally agrees that COVID-19 vaccination leads to a "dramatic risk reduction." She does, however, think the risks of driving and doing certain activities while vaccinated are not completely comparable. That's because car accidents are generally more individualized, while spreading COVID-19 can lead to a transmission chain, which is why Tufekci thinks government agencies need to be explicit about how effectively the vaccines curb transmission to determine what the true risk factor is. Tim O'Donnell

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