February 18, 2018

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday offered a qualified defense of President Trump's claim that he has been vindicated by the evidence revealed in federal investigations of Russian election meddling.

Friday's indictment of Russian nationals and entities by Special Counsel Robert Mueller "proves there’s no collusion to this point," Christie said on ABC's This Week. "There's no collusion in terms of the Facebook ads, the other social media activity."

"Director Mueller made it very clear in the indictment that any participation by anybody — whether it was in the Trump campaign or the [Bernie] Sanders campaign, which they said was also being assisted by this effort by Russia — that all of that was done unwittingly," Christie continued. "No one participated in a knowing fashion. Now, we have to see where [Mueller] goes next, but certainly at this point, there is no allegation by Director Mueller and his team of collusion."

Watch a clip of Christie's comments below, or read his full interview here. Bonnie Kristian

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

11:33 a.m.

At this point, Natalie Shure writes in The New Republic, the "ongoing ubiquity" of outdoor masking has turned into "meaningless political theater," even as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson seems to concur, writing that "mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of 'taking the virus seriously,' while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread,'" adding that such rules may actually backfire in that they force people to gather inside, which is much riskier. Slate's Shannon Palus joined Shure and Thompson in arguing that outdoor masking makes little sense anymore, given how much more information there is about COVID-19 transmission these days.

Shure, Thompson, and Palus were quick to clarify that they're still very much in favor of wearing masks indoors, but they all pointed to several studies that found the risk of passing on the virus outdoors to be very small. The rare cases that do occur tend to "involve considerable close contact," as opposed to, say, "passing someone maskless on the street or in the park," Shure writes.

The counterargument is that wearing masks outdoors reinforces the idea that people should wear them indoors, but Thompson notes that Julia Marcus, a Harvard Medical School epidemiologist, found through some anecdotal interviews with mask skeptics that people became more open to adhering to indoor mandates when they learned outdoor masking wasn't as important. "The purpose of mask wearing isn't to send a message," Shure writes. "If it were we could just iron whatever slogan we wanted to onto a T-shirt. The point of mask-wearing is to reduce infection, and there's simply no reason to believe that wearing a mask while walking to the grocery store accomplishes this." Read more at The Atlantic, The New Republic, and Slate. Tim O'Donnell

10:53 a.m.

Meet the latest addition to Earth's mightiest heroes.

Marvel Studios on Monday debuted the teaser trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, its very first superhero movie centered around an Asian lead.

Simu Liu stars as the titular Marvel superhero. In the film, Shang-Chi is living in America after training to become an assassin under his father but walking away from it all, "only to find himself sucked back into his father's sinister domain," Entertainment Weekly writes.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton explained to Entertainment Weekly that the film tells a story about Asian identity and that its crew was a "big mix of Asian cultures coming together," while star Awkwafina added that she saw a "level of Asian representation that I haven't seen" while working on it. Liu also told Entertainment Weekly that although Shang-Chi draws from Marvel's comics, it avoids some aspects of the character's portrayal dating back to the 1970s that "could feel a little stereotypical."

For Liu, it's surely a bit surreal debuting as the character after tweeting at Marvel calling for an Asian superhero all the way back in 2014 — only to himself become the very hero he was looking for. Besides, today just so happens to be Liu's birthday. As far as birthday presents go, this was surely a pretty good one, and Liu could hardly contain his excitement as he tweeted, "THIS IS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to hit theaters in September. Brendan Morrow

9:49 a.m.

Things are complicated in the world of European soccer at the moment.

The continent's most powerful clubs — Manchester United, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and several others from England, Italy, and Spain — are attempting to form their own "Super League," much to the chagrin of their domestic leagues and UEFA, the sport's European governing body.

Basically, it comes down to money; the venture would be lucrative for the clubs, and not so lucrative for the UEFA, leaving the two sides in an apparent standoff. The whole thing may wind up being a bluff by the clubs to get more money from UEFA's Champions League, an annual continent-wide competition featuring the best teams from several domestic leagues, but right now it's unclear just how serious either side is.

If no one blinks, the world's most famous competition, the FIFA World Cup, may wind up in the middle of the dispute. On Monday, UEFA's president Aleksander Čeferin confirmed that any players who participate in the Super League "will be banned" from playing in the World Cup or the European Football Championship. "They will not be allowed to play for their national teams," he said, adding that sanctions against the clubs and players would come "as soon as possible," per Italian soccer journalist Fabrizio Romano. FIFA has also previously said the players would be ineligible for international competitions, suggesting players from non-European countries would be affected.

The World Cup would go on as planned, but if the threat is ultimately realized, many of the world's greatest players would be absent, which, it's safe to say, is not a desirable outcome and could potentially greatly diminish the event. That scenario would have consequences for the U.S. men's national team, as well, considering several of its young stars, most notably 22-year-old Cristian Pulisic (who plays for Chelsea, a would-be Super League participant), would be subject to the ban. Read a full explainer of the situation at CBS Sports. Tim O'Donnell

9:24 a.m.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken to a prison hospital after his team warned his health is deteriorating and he could die "in a matter of days."

Navalny, the prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was moved to a hospital in a high security prison by Russian authorities on Monday, The New York Times reports.

"With the patient's consent, he was prescribed vitamin therapy," Russia's federal penitentiary service said, per The Washington Post.

Navalny for three weeks has been on a hunger strike, which he began to protest authorities not allowing him to see his personal doctors, according to The Associated Press. He was hospitalized last year after being poisoned with a nerve agent, which he has blamed on Putin.

Physician Yaroslav Ashikhmin has warned that test results show Navalny may be at risk of cardiac arrest due to increased levels of potassium, per NPR. On Friday, Ashikhmin wrote on Facebook, "Our patient could die at any moment." The U.S. has said that Russia will face "consequences if Mr Navalny dies."

After news of his transfer to a prison hospital was announced, top Navalny strategist Leonid Volkov dismissed this step, per The Associated Press, saying, "Until the lawyers locate him, we won't know where he is and what is up with him." Brendan Morrow

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