December 13, 2016

Before President-elect Donald Trump had even officially selected ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state, Republican senators were piping up with concerns, particularly about Tillerson's ties to Russia. Tillerson has built a career on making oil deals abroad and he has established a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin along the way, even winning the Russian Order of Friendship award in 2013. Now that Trump has officially tapped Tillerson for the role, the question is whether those dissenters would go so far as to block his nomination.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said prior to Trump's announcement that he would give Tillerson a "chance," but he seemed wary about putting his concerns entirely aside. "It's a matter of concern to me that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin," McCain said of Tillerson. "And obviously they've done enormous deals together and that would color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was similarly skeptical. "I don't know the man much at all, but let's put it this way: If you received an award from the Kremlin, [an] Order of Friendship, then we're gonna have some talkin'," Graham said. "We'll have some questions. I don't want to prejudge the guy, but that's a bit unnerving."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) came the closest to suggesting he might block Tillerson's nomination. In a statement released Tuesday, just hours after Trump announced he'd chosen Tillerson, Rubio voiced "serious concerns" about Tillerson's nomination. "The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America's interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America's foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration, and on the world stage," Rubio said in the statement. However, he vowed to do his part to "ensure [Tillerson] receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing."

It would take the defections of only three GOP senators to block one of Trump's Cabinet nominations. Becca Stanek

10:50 a.m.

It's official: she's running.

Caitlyn Jenner, the reality TV star and former athlete, on Friday announced she has filed paperwork to run for governor of California. Her announcement confirmed an earlier report from Axios, and a Caitlyn for California campaign website was also unveiled.

"I have been a compassionate disrupter throughout my life, from representing the United States and winning a gold medal at the Olympics to helping advance the movement for equality," Jenner said, going on to describe herself as "a proven winner and the only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom's disastrous time as governor."

Jenner in her effort to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in a recall election is looking to follow in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who launched a successful bid to replace California's then-governor, Gray Davis (D), in a recall election in 2003. In her announcement, she criticized the state's "over-restrictive" COVID-19 lockdown and taxes that are "too high."

According to Axios, Jenner's team includes Tony Fabrizio, a pollster who worked on former President Donald Trump's 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, as well as former Trump White House staffer Steven Cheung, who also worked on Schwarzenegger's 2003 recall campaign. A Jenner campaign adviser told Axios she'll be running as "someone that's socially liberal and fiscally conservative."

Jenner is a Republican and in the past expressed support for Trump, but she later said in a critical 2018 op-ed she was wrong to think he would help transgender people in office, writing, "The trans community is being relentlessly attacked by this president." The Jenner adviser told Axios, "Certainly she has not seen eye-to-eye with [Trump] on a lot of things." Brad Parscale, Trump's former campaign manager, reportedly gave Jenner advice on setting up her campaign.

A formal campaign announcement, Jenner's Friday statement said, will "follow in the coming weeks." Brendan Morrow

10:14 a.m.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson isn't going anywhere.

You might expect him to, given his sudden, strange laughs mid-broadcast — the sort of thing that could have taken him off air for a while in the "Dean scream" era. Or you might think he'd resign over a college yearbook image circulating in which a much younger Carlson appears to make an inside joke about the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Macone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the latter of whom was California's first openly gay elected official.

You'd be wrong. We're in a weird space, culturally, with public shaming and what used to be called "gaffes." I think there's something real to the charge of "cancel culture," though the concept is much abused. Yet, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat observed in 10 theses on the subject, its threat "is most effective against people who are still rising in their fields." For those who have reached the top, particularly in politics, the threat is increasingly empty.

Indeed, in that elite realm — which obviously includes Carlson, for all his railing against the elite — we're rapidly approaching a point where anything short of tattooing Nazi symbols on your face on live television is not disqualifying for anyone willing and able to ignore the haters for a few weeks or months. Memories are short. Forced resignations aren't what they once were. Now, you can just refuse to be embarrassed and keep on trucking. Former President Donald Trump was a big part of this shift, but so are Democratic Govs. Ralph Northam (Va.) and Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.), who have steadfastly refused to resign after major public scandals.

Carlson, who last year had the highest-rated program in cable news history and is a rumored 2024 GOP contender (he denies interest), will do the same. The playbook is very simple. He's already using it, just as he has with scandals past. When his show's lead writer resigned after getting caught writing pseudonymous, racist posts online, Carlson took a vacation he said was "long-planned," then simply moved on from the subject. This month, he walked up to the line of advocating "replacement theory," then doubled down, with network support.

This is just opposition research, he'll tell his fans of the yearbook. Our shared enemies are attacking me because I'm telling the truth, and because they hate you. It's all tribal. It's all dishonest. It's all games. It's all irrelevant. And it will be. Bonnie Kristian

9:41 a.m.

Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will end his three-week hunger strike following recent warnings that his health is deteriorating and he could be near death.

Navalny announced Friday he will end his hunger strike, which he began on March 31 in protest of not being allowed to see private doctors in prison to be treated for medical issues, Axios reports.

"I do not withdraw the requirement to admit the necessary doctor to me — I am losing sensitivity in parts of my arms and legs, and I want to understand what it is and how to treat it, but taking into account the progress and all the circumstances, I am starting to get out of the hunger strike," Navalny wrote on Instagram, per CNN.

Navalny, who has blamed his poisoning last year on Putin, was recently moved to a prison hospital after physician Yaroslav Ashikhmin warned of Navalny's elevated levels of potassium, saying "our patient could die at any moment." Five doctors for Navalny urged him in a letter this week to "immediately" end the hunger strike "to preserve his life and health," per The Washington Post.

On Friday, Navalny wrote that he now been examined by civilian doctors, according to The Associated Press. "Thanks to the huge support of good people across the country and around the world, we have made huge progress," he said. Brendan Morrow

8:24 a.m.

University of Oxford scientists have reportedly developed the first malaria vaccine which, in a trial, surpassed a key goal of greater than 75 percent efficacy.

In a trial consisting of 450 children in Burkina Faso between the ages of five and 17 months, this vaccine candidate was shown to be 77 percent effective against malaria, Bloomberg reports. It also showed a "favorable safety profile and was well-tolerated." The study was published in The Lancet, though it has not yet been peer-reviewed, and the vaccine is set to be studied further in larger clinical trials with 4,800 children in four African countries.

But Bloomberg noted it was the first vaccine against malaria to show greater than 75 percent efficacy, the World Health Organization goal for such a vaccine. According to BBC News, the most effective malaria vaccine to this point showed 55 percent efficacy in trials with African children. There were an estimated 409,000 malaria deaths and 229 million cases worldwide in 2019, the World Health Organization says.

"An effective and safe malaria vaccine would be a hugely significant extra weapon in the armory needed to defeat malaria," Malaria No More U.K.'s Gareth Jenkins said. "Countries freed from the malaria burden will be much better equipped to fight off new disease threats when they inevitably emerge in the future."

Adrian Hill, director of the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute, also told BBC News that the trial suggests this vaccine "has the potential to have a major public health impact." Brendan Morrow

7:29 a.m.

India on Friday reported 332,730 new COVID-19 cases from the past 24 hours, beating the grim record it set Thursday, and oxygen supplies in the country are so low that several hospitals in the capital, New Delhi, said they have nearly or completely exhausted their supplies. As hospital put out emergency calls for oxygen on social media, the government is scrambling to ship in reserves from retooled industrial oxygen plants. Meanwhile, COVID-19 patients are dying while their families search for open hospital beds, and crematoriums cannot keep up with demand.

India on Friday reported 2,263 new deaths over the past 24 hours, for a total pandemic fatality count of 186,920, but "those who've analyzed the numbers of daily cremations taking place suggest the number is many times higher," Aleem Maqbool reports at BBC News.

An analysis Thursday by the Financial Times found that the number of COVID-19 cremations in four Indian states was anywhere from three times the official number of COVID-19 deaths in some districts to 100 times higher in others. "Local news reports for seven districts across the states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar show that while at least 1,833 people are known to have died of COVID-19 in recent days, based mainly on cremations, only 228 have been officially reported," FT says.

Health experts blame India's COVID-19 tsunami on more transmissible new variants, especially the B.1.617 strain first detected in the country last month, plus a lack of preparation for a coronavirus resurgence and decisions by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP party to permit mass Hindu religious gatherings and hold packed BJP rallies for upcoming elections in West Bengal state.

Vijay Chauthaiwale, a BJP official who heads India's foreign affairs department, told BBC News there's no proof the rallies and Hindu festivals were super-spreader events and blamed the rise in cases on individuals deciding to stop social distancing and mask-wearing, and start using public transportation. But BJP isn't above politicizing the pandemic.

"The entire system has broken down," Santosh Kumar, the son of a BJP leader in Lucknow, told FT. "Every other person in the administration here is quarantining. People are finding out from each other what medication to take and doing what they can." Peter Weber

5:23 a.m.

President Biden on Thursday nominated longtime environmental advocate Tracy Stone-Manning to head the Bureau of Land Management, the Interior Department division that oversees about a quarter-billion acres of federal lands in Western states. BLM also manages drilling and mining rights, animal grazing, and recreational activities on those lands.

Stone-Manning, 55, has worked at the National Wildlife Federation since 2015, and before that she led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality and worked as chief of staff to former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and an aide to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Tester said in a statement that Stone-Manning is "a tireless public lands champion with a lifetime of experience," while Montana's other senator, Steve Daines (R), said he would be "digging through and looking at her record and history" on environmental and energy issues.

BLM never had a Senate-confirmed director under former President Donald Trump, who cycled through "a string of acting directors to execute a loosening of restrictions on industry," The Associated Press reports. "Chief among them was conservative lawyer William Perry Pendley, who before he took the position advocated for selling off federal lands." After Pendley stayed in the job for more than a year without a Senate hearing, Bullock — with Stone-Manning's support — sued, and a federal judge ordered Pendley removed.

Montana Petroleum Association director Alan Olson said Stone-Manning, who he served on a climate council with, is highly intelligent, "left of center" but not extreme, and receptive to opposing arguments, but she should expect from Republicans the same treatment Democrats afforded Trump's appointees. "Tracy went after Pendley," he told AP. "She can expect the same." Peter Weber

4:20 a.m.

"Happy Earth Day," Jimmy Fallon said on Thursday's Tonight Show. "Everyone's in the spirit. This morning at 7-Eleven I saw a rat drinking a Big Gulp with a metal straw," and "Subway recycled last week's tuna."

"President Biden hosted 40 world leaders for a virtual climate change summit," Fallon said. "With any virtual event, you're gonna have some technical glitches, but I didn't think it'd be quite this bad," he added. "Somehow we just flew a helicopter on Mars but we still can't get a Zoom meeting to work. Next time every leader will be required to have at least one grandchild present. It's funny that we were watching Putin and he didn't know he was on camera, because usually it's the other way around. "

"Humans celebrating Earth Day is like fleas celebrating Dog Day," Jimmy Kimmel joked at Kimmel Live. "There's actually something to celebrate today, though," because Biden "announced that the Unites States will cut our carbon emissions in half by the year 2030 — which is huge, because the science is absolutely clear that it's necessary to avoid a worldwide catastrophe. No one should be against this, so naturally almost every Republican is against this."

Biden's ambitious climate plan "can be met only by sharply cutting back oil, gas, and coal use," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. "That's gonna be rough on Santa. 'Ho ho ho, Katie! You've been naughty but coal's canceled, so here's the Snyder cut of Cats.'" Meanwhile on Mars, NASA's Perseverance rover just successfully turned carbon dioxide into oxygen, he noted. Because "when you think of planets in desperate need of a way to deal with excess carbon dioxide on Earth Day, you think Mars."

"Rough day for Earth Day, for the planet," James Corden said at The Late Late Show. "We've been giving so much attention to Mars recently, I'd really like it if we all just spend these next couple of days just really making it special for Earth." During Biden's virtual summit, "Vladimir Putin was adamant we cannot keep killing the planet — only journalists and political rivals. Not everyone was thrilled about the summit, though," he said. "Earlier today, climate activists dumped over a dozen wheelbarrows of cow poop in front of the White House to protest Biden's climate plan as bulls--t. ... Subtle."

Corden and Kimmel dryly reminded everyone the Oscars are Sunday, and The Late Show created a mock cinematic preview. Watch below. Peter Weber

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