May 23, 2016

NFL officials "improperly attempted to influence" a major U.S. government study on the link between football and brain disease, Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said in a report released Monday.

In 2012, the NFL pledged $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for unconditional use toward research on medical conditions in athletes. But when the league learned the money would fund a $16 million study on football and brain disease led by Boston University researcher Robert Stern, who has criticized the NFL in the past, the league allegedly tried to pressure the NIH to transfer the project to more league-friendly researchers. When the NIH refused, the NFL backed out of the funding agreement, and taxpayers bore the cost of the research.

"These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels," an NFL spokesman said in a statement Monday. The report, which you can peruse here, is the latest in a string of allegations that the league has attempted to cover up potential connections football has to concussions and brain disease. Julie Kliegman

8:00 a.m.

Joseph Siravo, the actor who starred as Tony Soprano's father on The Sopranos, has died at 64.

Siravo died following a battle with cancer, his co-star Garry Pastore confirmed on social media, according to The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

"RIP my dear friend, who fought an incredible fight," Pastore wrote on Instagram. "I will miss you. See you on the other side."

In addition to Johnny Soprano on HBO's The Sopranos, Siravo's other roles included Ron Goldman's father Fred Goldman on The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and he starred in films like Carlito's Way, which served as his screen debut. Outside of film and television, Siravo had a successful theater career starring in shows like Jersey Boys, Oslo, and The Light in the Piazza. He was also "highly regarded" as an acting teacher in New York, Variety writes.

"Joe was an excellent actor and a wonderful guy and he will be missed dearly," The Sopranos star Michael Imperioli wrote on Instagram. "His performance of Johnny Boy Soprano was spot on and he also made a perfect John Gotti in Nick Sandow's The Wannabe. In my opinion he was the best of all the actors who've played the Teflon Don. Farewell Joe. Until the next life my friend." Brendan Morrow

7:12 a.m.

President Biden is preparing to nominate a slate of ambassadors, and among them will be Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a key Biden backer in Arizona last year, Politico reports. McCain is being vetted as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations Food Programme in Rome, a "coveted ambassador post in Western Europe in what would be his administration's first Republican appointee to a Senate-confirmed position," Politico says.

McCain, 66, has worked on global food scarcity and hunger issues, including collaborating with the World Food Programme in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Georgia. The three presidents before former President Donald Trump all appointed at least one member of the other party to their Cabinet, and Biden has not resumed that tradition. The Arizona Republican Party censured McCain in January, along with former Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and Gov. Doug Ducey (R), for insufficient fealty to Trump. Biden won Arizona in November, becoming the first Democrat to do so since 1996. Peter Weber

6:21 a.m.

President Biden signed an executive order Feb. 4 revoking the historically low cap on refugees and other related restrictions put in place by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and pledged to raise that limit to 125,000 a year. But he "has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination," The Washington Post reported Sunday. Until he does, Trump's cap of 15,000 refugees in the 2020-21 fiscal year will remain in place.

In a report released Friday, the humanitarian nonprofit International Rescue Committee said Biden is on track to admit the fewest number of refugees of any modern president, including Trump. In its first two and a half months, the Biden administration has admitted 2,050 refugees, the IRC said, and without a change in policy, that will result in just 4,510 refugees this fiscal year.

Biden's effort to sharply raise the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. is supposed to take effect in "the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration," which begins in October. Biden "also intends to propose a raise in refugee admissions for this fiscal year, after appropriate consultation with Congress," the White House said in its Feb. 4 fact sheet.

Refugee advocacy groups have "deep concern" about Biden's delay in ramping up refugee resettlement, said Nazanin Ash, the IRC's vice president for global policy and advocacy, and "tens of thousands of already cleared refugees" are stuck "in uncertain limbo." Biden's fiscal 2021-22 budge calls for large increases in refugee resettlement funds, but "refugee advocates say those in limbo often cannot afford to wait weeks, let alone months, until the next fiscal year," the Post reports.

At Friday's White House press briefing, a reporter noted that Biden hasn't formally signed the paperwork on refugees and asked if he's "still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yes, "the president remains committed to raising the cap." Peter Weber

4:41 a.m.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) may have only briefly figured in the cold open of this week's Saturday Night Live, but he was the lead story on "Weekend Update" again. "Matt Gaetz, who looks like all the dudes from American Pie combined, reportedly sent $900 on Venmo to an alleged sex trafficker, who then forwarded that same exact amount to three young women in payments labeled 'tuition' and 'school' — which, if true, would make him the only congressman actually helping with student loans," joked anchor Colin Jost.

"But at least Gaetz is taking the allegations seriously," Jost added. "That's why yesterday he spoke at the Women for America First summit — which was a nice changes to see women pay for an hour with Matt Gaetz." The best part was when Gaetz boasted of the support he's getting from former President Trump and GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), he said. "Oh no, did he think those were good character references? Who was next on his list, the ghost of Jeffrey Epstein?"

Jost also pointed to President Biden's order to regulate make-at-home gun kits. "Remember how frustrated and angry you get assembling a dresser? Now imagine at the end of that you had a gun," he said. "Also, I gotta say, it's weird seeing a guy who's basically doing a Clint Eastwood impression be pro-gun control. I mean, look at him, you could put him into Gran Torino and no one would know the difference."

Jost and co-anchor Michael Che also interviewed the unrepentant iceberg that sank the Titanic (Bowen Yang), but all the iceberg wanted to talk about was his new album. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:53 a.m.

"Nursing homes, and long-term care in general, are something that we tend to try to avoid thinking about, but the truth is, whether due to old age or disability, many of us do — or will — require help with daily living," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "For the rich, there are plenty of options," but "the vast majority of people receive long-term care at home," not retirement palaces with $200 Versace plates.

About 80 percent of home care is provided by unpaid caregivers, typically family members trying to keep their loved ones out of institutional care. But "taking care of someone at home can be an incredibly complicated full-time job that is almost always unpaid," Oliver said. "In fact, in terms of lost wages, the labor of family caregivers totals about $67 billion annually," or roughly the GDP of Bulgaria.

There are more than 2 million people in long-term care facilities, though, and that 0.63 percent of the U.S. population accounts for about 33 percent of COVID-19 deaths, Oliver noted. "The truth is, COVID just exposed what we've basically known for years: that the way the elderly and disabled are treated in far too many of these facilities is with, at best, indifference, and at worst abuse and neglect. So tonight let's talk about long-term care: how the industry is structured, how that structure creates bad incentives, and what we can do going forward."

There are different issues depending on whether you are underserved on Medicaid or inappropriately over-treated on Medicare — for the short period Medicare covers nursing home care, at least, Oliver said. But partly because of the myriad problems at both kinds of facilities, 90 percent of people 65 and older want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, something Medicaid generally doesn't cover. There are bills to fix that, and President Biden's infrastructure plan would help a lot, he said, "but we do need to do something, and it all starts with showing we give a sh-t about what happens to the elderly and people with disabilities in this country. Because right now, evidence points to the fact that we absolutely don't, and all the other problems are stemming from that." There is some off-color language, disturbing tales, and one Andrew Cuomo joke. Peter Weber

2:25 a.m.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Sunday night to protest the fatal officer-involved shooting of a Black man earlier in the day during a traffic stop.

The motorist was identified by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and relatives as 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department headquarters, people chanted Wright's name, and some covered the building's sign with graffiti. Officers in riot gear fired a chemical irritant and rubber bullets at the crowd, hitting at least two people and leaving one bleeding from the head, a witness told Reuters. Several people were also seen looting at a nearby Walmart and shopping mall, the Star Tribune reports, and National Guard troops — already in Minneapolis for the Derek Chauvin trial — were dispatched.

The Brooklyn Center Police Department released a statement saying a motorist was pulled over shortly before 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon for a traffic violation. The officers found that the driver had an outstanding arrest warrant, the police department said, and while trying to arrest him, the man got back into his car. One of the officers then shot the motorist, who died after driving several blocks and hitting another vehicle. The department said the officers involved were wearing body cameras that captured the incident.

Wright's mother, Katie Wright, told reporters her son called to let her know he was being pulled over for having air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota, Reuters reports.

Brooklyn Center is a Minneapolis suburb, about 10 miles from where George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man, was killed last May while being arrested. Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, is now on trial, charged with murder and manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd's neck while he was on the ground and handcuffed. Catherine Garcia

2:08 a.m.

Ecuador elected Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker, as its next president on Sunday, giving him about 52 percent of the vote in a runoff against Andrés Arauz, the handpicked candidate of leftist former President Rafael Correa. Arauz, a 36-year-old economist, conceded Sunday night. Lasso, 65, narrowly lost the 2017 election.

"For years, I have dreamed of the possibility of serving Ecuadorians so that the country progresses, so that we can all live better," Lasso said Sunday night. "Today, you have resolved that this be so." He will be sworn in May 24. Correa, who governed from 2007 to 2017, congratulated Lasso from Belgium, where he is living in exile to avoid jail after being convicted of corruption in absentia. "Your success will be Ecuador's," Correa said. "I just ask that he stops the lawfare, which destroys lives and families."

Lasso, a member of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, has pledged to raise the minimum wage and promote foreign investment in mining and oil sectors, among other changes. He inherits a weak economy and bad COVID-19 outbreak, and he will likely face resistance from the National Assembly. Lasso barely finished in second place in the first round of voting, narrowly edging out environmentalist Yaku Pérez.

Peru also went to the polls Sunday to elect a new president and Congress. Voters appear to have selected socialist candidate Pedro Castillo for the June runoff, where he will face one of two conservative candidates: right-wing economist Hernando de Soto or Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of polarizing former strongman Alberto Fujimori.

Political analysts don't give the eventual winner great odds of finishing his or her term, given the impeachment-happy Congress and Peru's recent history. "The country's political chaos reached a new level in November, when three men were president in a single week after one was impeached by Congress over corruption allegations and protests forced his successor to resign in favor of the third," The Associated Press notes. "All former Peruvian presidents who governed since 1985 have been ensnared in corruption allegation, some imprisoned or arrested in their mansions. One died by suicide before police could arrest him." Peter Weber

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