Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have come under heavy criticism for their unusually high speaking fees, and perhaps no example quite exemplifies the absurd maneuvering required to arrange such engagements as two separate speaker series the former president committed to in California in 2002. In addition to a $1,400 bill for a day's worth of phone calls from San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, Clinton also ran up a $700 dinner bill for two. What's more, his contract insisted a private plane transport him from San Francisco to his speaking event at the University of California at Davis — a distance of only 70 miles.
"That is the one and only time" such a demand had been made, said Jeremy Ganter, the director of programming at the Mondavi Center, which hosted the event at UC Davis.
The contracts and internal emails exchanged while securing Clinton as a speaker were made public thanks to an open-records request filed by the Republican National Committee, which has added its own scrutiny to the fees as Hillary Clinton runs for president; the records revealed that the former president's aides vetted questions before they were asked of him. "We wish we never had to give in to that. He is the only person I can think of that required it. It has never happened before or since," said Richard Henning, the speaking series manager for Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which hosted the other of Clinton's Bay Area speeches in 2002.
But that's not all the emails revealed: There was also a racist remark made by one of the speaking series organizers during negotiations with Team Clinton, in addition to the organizer's comments that the male aides who traveled with Clinton were "mistresses." Still, "the Harry Walker Agency, which [represents] Bill and Hillary Clinton, did not let any of [the organizer's questionable behavior] interfere with closing a deal," The Los Angeles Times noted. Read about the entire ordeal, here. Jeva Lange
CNN's Sanjay Gupta is calling out Fox News' Tucker Carlson for his latest "dangerous" vaccine comments.
Carlson during a segment on his highly-rated Fox show on Wednesday cited a federal reporting system to baselessly suggest COVID-19 vaccines could be responsible for 30 deaths in the United States every day. But PolitiFact writes that not only is this an "open system, where anyone can submit a report," but the system warns users that its reports shouldn't be used "on their own to determine whether a vaccine caused or contributed to a particular illness." Indeed, radiologist Pradheep J. Shanker writes that "the vast majority" of the complications found in the system "are likely not from the vaccine," noting, "If you had a vaccine today, and then had a heart attack unrelated to the vaccine, your death would be in" the system.
With this in mind, Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, on Thursday blasted Carlson's "reckless" and "dangerous" segment and said it's "absolutely not true" that 30 people are dying from COVID-19 vaccines every day.
"It's absolutely, 100 percent false," Gupta said. "The problem is that it continues to stir up this vaccine hesitance, or outright vaccine reluctance. It is so frustrating."
Gupta, who recently revealed his uncle died from COVID-19 amid India's surge in coronavirus cases, pointed to the fact that this same reporting system found a "one-in-a-million" chance of an adverse reaction to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as evidence the CDC isn't somehow overlooking over two dozen daily deaths from vaccines. He added that "we could be in a much better position" in the pandemic "if it were not for people like Tucker Carlson." Carlson previously drew criticism after baselessly speculating that COVID-19 vaccines might not work "and they're simply not telling you that."
CNN host John Berman put things far more bluntly, asking of Carlson, "Does he want his viewers to live?" Brendan Morrow
It's “100% false" that people are dying from the Covid-19 vaccine, says @drsanjaygupta.
“We could be in much better position if it were not for people like Tucker Carlson who continue to embolden this vaccine hesitancy. It's really very irritating.” pic.twitter.com/Ob2g8RHIsq
Tucker Carlson was right: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is living in the Washington, D.C., penthouse of Republican pollster and messaging maven Frank Luntz, and it does sound like a pretty sweet deal. Carlson was tipped off to the roommate arrangement, and McCarthy confirmed it Tuesday, telling Fox & Friends he has "rented a room from Frank for a couple of months, but don't worry, I'm back to — going back to where I normally am, on my couch in my office. But, yes, we pay fair market rate"
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler looked into Luntz's apartment, and it's actually a 7,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom, 16-bathroom amalgamation of 4 three-story penthouses Luntz purchased for nearly $4.3 million in August and September 2018 and merged in November 2019. The homeowner's association fees on the four units is $4,976 a month, Kessler calculates, citing Redfin.
Neither McCarthy nor Luntz responded to the Post's request for comment, but a McCarthy spokesman told the Daily Wire the minority leader "calculated the fair market value amount at $1,500/month" to rent an "approximately" 400-square-foot room in Luntz's penthouse. Kessler's Apartments.com search found that a comparable studio or one-bedroom would run about $5,000 a month. Regardless, he writes, "besides the 'room' he rented, McCarthy would have had access to a 24/7 concierge, a rooftop pool, a fitness center, a media room, a business center, and a party room with a bar and pool table."
"This is quite a deal, especially considering that Luntz has talked about how he's on the road all the time," Politico muses. "Imagine paying $1,500 a month for what is essentially a mansion carved into a high-rise? It's good to be the minority leader!"
Carlson was less amused by the "sleazy and corrupt" arrangement. "Kevin McCarthy promises Republicans he shares their values" and "will fight for them against permanent Washington, the forces that would like to destroy their lives," he said. "And at the end of the day, Kevin McCarthy goes home to Frank Luntz's apartment in Penn Quarter and laughs about it." Peter Weber
Early data indicates Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, the company says.
Moderna released this data on Thursday along with its first-quarter earnings, CNBC reported. An initial analysis of a study of its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents between 12 and 17 years old "showed a vaccine efficacy rate of 96 percent," the company said. The vaccine was also "generally well tolerated," and the "majority of adverse events were mild or moderate in severity." Like Pfizer, Moderna also said Thursday it plans to apply for full FDA approval of the vaccine this month.
The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly on the verge of authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children between 12 and 15 years old, allowing the vaccine to expand to this key age group ahead of the next school year. In March, Pfizer said a trial showed its vaccine was 100 percent effective in adolescents aged 12 to 15, demonstrating "robust antibody responses." President Biden earlier this week said his administration's COVID-19 vaccination efforts are set to enter a "new phase," which includes vaccinating kids between 12 and 15 pending FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has also said it expects to seek authorization of its vaccine for kids between 2 and 11 this September, and Moderna says a phase 2 study of its vaccine in children 6 months to 11 years old is ongoing. Brendan Morrow
The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted to allow most Texans to carry handguns without any sort of permit or training, sending the legislation to a conference committee with the House, which already passed a similar measure. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said last week he will sign the bill. The Senate passed permitless carry on a party-line 18-13 vote, "less than a week after it sailed out of a committee created to specifically to tackle the legislation," The Texas Tribune reports. Every Republican voted for it, but several voiced concerns about the legislation during debate.
The legislation, considered too fringe during previous legislative sessions, faced opposition from law enforcement groups, firearms instructors, and Democrats. Currently, Texans must undergo four to six hours of training, pass a written exam and shooting proficiency test, and get fingerprinted to carry a handgun.
State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, argued that gun safety is a personal responsibility. "The obligation on the part of the citizen who owns a potentially dangerous weapon to understand gun laws, to become proficient in their handling of their gun, is not absolved," he said. One Republican who showed up to vote for unlicensed carry despite injuries from a car accident collapsed on the Senate floor during debate.
Texans oppose unlicensed carry, 59 percent to 34 percent, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll from April. When asked, 46 percent of Texans would make gun laws stricter while 30 percent would leave them untouched and 20 percent would loosen them further, the poll found. Three-quarters favor requiring criminal and mental background checks before all gun sales.
"A lot of the [legislative] agenda right now seems at odds with public opinion," said James Henson, co-director of UT/Texas Tribune poll. "Guns is the best example" of Republican lawmakers chasing policies that "come from the most conservative wing of the majority party," he added. "But this is also notable on the abortion questions." Peter Weber
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is extremely effective against two dangerous variants of the coronavirus, the B.1.1.7 strain first found in the United Kingdom and the B.1.351 variant discovered in South Africa, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet.
Moderna also reported Wednesday that, according to early results from its booster shot trial, a third dose of its vaccine given six to eight months after the first two doses boosted antibodies to protect against the South African B.1.351 variant and other worrisome strain found in Brazil. Moderna is testing its original vaccine and a version modified to target the B.1.351 variant.
The new variants are more transmissible than the original strain and, some studies suggest, deadlier. The New England Journal of Medicine study examined records of more than 200,000 people from Qatar's COVID-19 database. The Pfizer vaccine was 87 to 89.5 percent effective at preventing infection from the B.1.1.7 variant among people two weeks past their second shot, 72.1 to 75 percent effective against the B.1.351 variant, and 100 percent effective at preventing severe, critical, or fatal cases of either variant, the researchers found.
The study in The Lancet was based on more than 230,000 cases from Israel. It found that the Pfizer vaccine was more than 95 percent effective against infection, hospitalization, or death in fully vaccinated people 16 and older, and 94 percent effective in people 85 and older. The vaccine efficacy numbers aren't self-evident, but Brains On!, a science podcast for kids, has a short, entertaining, and pretty effective explanation using defecating seagulls. You can watch that below. Peter Weber
"Earlier today, Facebook ruled to uphold former President Trump's suspension," Jimmy Fallon said on Wednesday's Late Show. "So if you want to see crazy conspiracy theories, you'll have to settle for any other person on Facebook." That's right, "no Facebook for Trump," he said. "On the bright side, he still has a good excuse for forgetting his kids' birthdays."
Still, "this has to be driving him nuts — if Trump runs for president again, he's gonna have to go door to door, talking to voters like a Jehovah's Witness or something," Jimmy Kimmel joked on Kimmel Live. "Trump has been banned from Facebook since Jan. 7. His punishment for trying to overthrow the government is the same punishment you give a teenager for coming home late after curfew."
"Trump is like a bullhorn without batteries right now, but he's trying to change that," Kimmel said. "Finally he can speak freely and safely with himself on his new website. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think he just started a blog."
"Hold up — this dude has been saying for months that he's gonna create a whole new social media platform to rival Twitter and Facebook, and he just ended up making a blog?" Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "I get it, Trump had to do something to distract from the fact that he lost his appeal to get back on Facebook — or as he put it, 'We won this appeal in a landslide, everyone knows it!'"
"Look I get why Facebook extended Trump's suspension, but you have to admit, it does seem pretty unfair to ban him from a website that began as a way to rate women's looks," Noah said. "And just as a side note, it's crazy that Facebook even has a supreme court to make these decisions. What's even crazier is Mitch McConnell has already appointed four of its justices."
"Being on Facebook's oversight board, that's got to be a cushy job, hasn't it?" James Corden mused at The Late Late Show. "You've banned Trump and you've done absolutely nothing else ever to make Facebook better." Trump's new site is "called 'From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,' and it's a blog," Corden affirmed. "Trump's jotting down some thoughts when they come to him, so let's be honest about what this whole thing should really be called: 'From the Bathroom of Donald J. Trump.'" Peter Weber
McConnell repeated the line when the same reporter asked if he is concerned that a sizable portion of the Republican Party says they believe Trump's lie that he actually won. "One hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration," he said. "What we have in the United States Senate is total unity, from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz, in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country."
"Who knows what matters anymore, but this is a gift-wrapped quote for Democrats," Washington Post reporter David Weigel tweeted. "The thing about an ongoing controversy" like the Liz Cheney saga is that politicians "keep getting asked about it — like any interrogation, it leads to slip-ups."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made some hay out of McConnell's quote, telling reporters, "The contrast for people to consider is 100 percent of our focus is on delivering relief to the American people and getting the pandemic under control and putting people back to work." But Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris mostly shrugged it off.
"He said that about the last administration — about Barack, that he was going to stop everything — and I was able to get a lot done with him," Biden said, referring to McConnell's statement to National Journal in 2010 that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Harris, in Rhode Island, said she and Biden "are sincere and serious about the potential to actually get something done together."
Trump said in a statement Wednesday that McConnell is "gutless and clueless." Peter Weber