December 10, 2015

Should professors be required to give students advance warning before assigning, say, Ovid's account of the rape of Persephone? Students at Columbia University made headlines earlier this year when they demanded a trigger warning for the Metamorphoses, and a Yale survey found that 63 percent of American college students agree that instructors should offer such cautions.

But as FiveThirtyEight explains, professors are not on the same page. By a 45 to 17 percent margin, professors said trigger warnings would have a negative effect on classroom dynamics, and even more (63 percent) said they believe requiring warnings would diminish academic freedom.

The survey of members of the Modern Language Association and the College Art Association also found that though more than half of the participating professors had voluntarily cautioned students about the content of assigned readings, even these supporters of the practice opposed instituting a mandatory trigger warning rule at their schools. Bonnie Kristian

2:47 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for about an hour Monday as they scrabble to reach agreement on a COVID-19 stimulus package before Pelosi's Tuesday night deadline. They reported some progress. "We have finally in the last 24 hours ... come to a place where they are willing to address the crisis," Pelosi said on MSNBC Monday night. She laid out the sticking points with the White House in a private call with House Democrats on Monday.

"I want this as soon as possible because I don't want to carry over the droppings of this grotesque elephant into the next presidency," Pelosi said on the call, Politico reports. "We've got to get something big and we've got it done soon and we've got to get it done right." The financial markets seem skeptical. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 411 points, or 1.5 percent, on Monday as hopes faded for a deal.

President Trump also says he wants a big deal, but if Pelosi and Mnuchin manage to negotiate one, he will have to lean on Senate Republicans for them to even take it seriously. "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said only the Senate would 'consider' any such agreement, with no promise of a floor vote or whether it would have his support," Politico reports. A significant number of Senate Republicans are balking at the price tag, between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, and "if all Senate Democrats supported the legislation, it would still need more than a dozen Republicans to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster."

Republicans' "natural instinct, depending on how big it is, and what's in it, is probably going to be to be against it," Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Monday. "I think we're going to have a hard time finding 13 votes for anything." Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said the package "would divide Republicans if it's anything like the kind of contours we hear about."

"Given the number of Republican senators in tough re-election races, it's conceivable that some of them would support a massive spending deal," Politico notes, but Senate Republicans would clearly prefer that negotiations fail. "You'll lose a lot of Republicans on whatever that is," said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). But "If they bring it up for a vote, I'm guessing there will be enough to get it across the finish line." Peter Weber

1:44 a.m.

With North Dakota reporting the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the United States, Fargo on Monday became the first city in the state to issue a mask mandate.

"As a community, we must all do our part to greatly reduce the spread of this deadly COVID-19 disease," Mayor Tim Mahoney, a general surgeon, said in a statement. Fargo, North Dakota's biggest city, is in Cass County, which has the state's highest number of COVID-19 cases. Mahoney said he issued the mandate due to increased hospitalizations, a climbing death rate, and the high level of community spread. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has asked people to wear masks, but refuses to impose a statewide mandate, saying it's "not a magic bullet to make this virus go away." Mahoney said that while he supports Burgum, "it would be great" if he enacted a statewide mandate.

Burgum's decision not to impose a mask mandate has angered members of the health-care community, with more than five dozen pediatricians recently sending him a letter that says by not making masks mandatory, he is ignoring "sound science and the recommendations of medical experts at local, state, and national levels." Three state health officers that Burgum appointed have also quit amid the pandemic, with one stepping down after the governor rescinded a new order that would have forced people to quarantine if they come in close contact with a person infected by the virus, The Associated Press reports.

Over the past week, there have been an average of 700 cases per day in the state — up 70 percent from the average two weeks earlier, The New York Times reports. As of Monday night, the state has recorded 408 COVID-19 related deaths, with 138 occurring this month, the North Dakota Department of Heath said. At least 254 were in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Catherine Garcia

1:25 a.m.

Sacha Baron Cohen is getting good reviews for his portrayal of Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7, but it was Borat who showed up on Monday's Jimmy Kimmel Live. And he performed the full Borat, from blaming the coronavirus on Wuhan, Israel, to hijacking the interview with his own list of questions and medical exams. "In the last week, have you been in the presence for more than 15 minutes of any Jews?" he asked in his health screening, before dipping into QAnon territory. "As member of Hollywood elite, have you recently drunk any unpasteurized children's blood. ... Really, not in any pizza parlors recently? Very surprising."

Borat's daughter, Tutar (played by Irina Novak, or maybe Maria Bakalova?), joined him in the second part of the interview, and hijinks ensued. Kimmel managed to both not ask any questions and lose his pants, but somehow you get a taste of Borat 2 anyway. Watch below. Peter Weber

The Week Staff

12:21 a.m.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided Monday that Texas doesn't have to inform voters that their mail-in ballots were rejected due to signature problems until after the Nov. 3 election, and need not give them a chance to correct or "cure" their ballots. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Sept. 8 that the current signature-verification system in Texas "plainly violates certain voters' constitutional rights" and must be either abandoned or replaced.

The 5th Circuit appellate court stayed Garcia's ruling Sept. 11, and it won't rule on the merits of the case until after the election. Under current law, Texas must inform voters that their ballot was rejected within 10 days after the election. "The state election code does not establish any standards for signature review, which is conducted by local election officials who seldom have training in signature verification," The Texas Tribune reports. Counties can choose to inform voters before the election and give them a chance to cure their ballot.

Texas already limits mail-in voting to people with disabilities, seniors 65 and older, and voters outside of the country or in jail during an election. "Texas' strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of its elections from voter fraud far outweighs any burden the state's voting procedures place on the right to vote," Judge Jerry Smith, a Ronald Regan appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel. The conjuring judges were appointed by Reagan and President Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), up for re-election this year, claimed voting is easy in Texas, pointing to the large numbers of Texans casting their ballots early this election. But a new study out of Northern Illinois University ranked Texas at the very bottom of its "cost-of-voting index."

"Obviously, it's not impossible to vote in Texas," but "the state has erected obstacles throughout the voting system, and when you compare the comfort and convenience of voting in Texas with other states, Texas ends up at the bottom of the list," Ross Ramsay writes at The Texas Tribune. Probably not coincidentally, he adds, "Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country." The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Texas in several recent cases, rejecting efforts to make voting easier, the Austin American-Statesman notes. Peter Weber

12:20 a.m.

President Trump made a hypothetical statement during a rally on Monday, using ExxonMobil as an example of a company he could call and ask for campaign donations in exchange for government favors. The oil giant quickly tweeted a clarification.

"We are aware of the president's statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO," ExxonMobil stated, "and just so we're all clear, it never happened."

At a rally in Prescott, Arizona, Trump had praised his own prowess at soliciting campaign donations, telling supporters he would be the "greatest fundraiser in history. All I have to do is call up the head of every Wall Street firm, the head of every major company, the head of every major energy company. 'Do me a favor, send me $10 million for my campaign.' 'Yes sir.' They say, 'The only thing is, why didn't you ask for more, sir?' I would be — I would take in more money, but you know what? I don't want to do that. Because if I do that, I'm totally compromised."

Trump then sketched out a possible quid pro quo. "So I call some guy, the head of Exxon, I call the head of Exxon — I don't know, I'll use a company," he said. "'Hi, how you doing, how's energy coming, when are you doing the exploration? Oh you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay.' But I call the head of Exxon, I say, 'You know, I'd love [for you] to send me $25 million for the campaign.' 'Absolutely sir, why didn't you ask, would you like some more?' If I made the call I will hit a home run, every single call. I would raise a billion dollars in one day, if I wanted to. I don't want to do that, I don't want to do it."

The topic has been on Trump's mind lately, as his campaign falls behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden in fundraising. He brought it up during a rally Saturday in Wisconsin, too, CBS News noted, telling the crowd he "could have more money" if he would "call up Wall Street," but "then when they call you, you've got to take that call." Catherine Garcia

October 19, 2020

Actor Jeff Bridges shared on Twitter Monday evening that he has been diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

Bridges, 70, referenced his iconic role in The Big Lebowski in his announcement, saying, "As the Dude would say...new s**t has come to light. I have been diagnosed with lymphoma. Although it is a serious disease, I feel fortunate that I have a great team of doctors and the prognosis is good. I'm starting treatment and will keep you posted on my recovery."

In a follow-up tweet, Bridges said he is "profoundly grateful for the love and support from my family and friends. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes. And, while I have you, please remember to go vote. Because we are all in this together. Love, Jeff." He added a link to the Vote.org website.

Bridges has been nominated for seven Oscars, winning in 2010 for his performance in Crazy Heart, and his last film was 2018's Bad Times at the El Royale. Most recently, Bridges has been working on the television miniseries The Old Man. Catherine Garcia

October 19, 2020

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday night that during Thursday's debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, their microphones will be muted during specific times their opponent is speaking.

"We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today," the commission said in a statement. "One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held."

During the first debate late last month, Trump continuously interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, and the commission later released a statement saying "additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues."

Thursday night's debate will be held in Nashville, moderated by NBC News' Kristen Welker. It will be divided into six 15-minute segments, with each candidate given two uninterrupted minutes to respond to Welker's question. During that period, the opponent's microphone will be turned off. The rest of each segment will be for open discussion, and the microphones will never be muted during this time.

Trump's campaign manager Bill Stepien called the commission "biased," having earlier called the idea of muting microphones "completely unacceptable," but said Trump will attend the debate. Catherine Garcia

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