×
May 16, 2018

Scott Pruitt, the scandal-plagued administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, faced his third hearing in a month before Congress on Wednesday, where the Senate Appropriations subcommittee grilled him on his possible spending and ethics violations. Of particular ridicule was Pruitt's 24/7 security detail and his first-class air travel, which the EPA has defended as justified due to unnamed threats against Pruitt's safety.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in particular took Pruitt down a few notches during the hearing for that excuse. "You traveled first class around the world," Leahy said, then paused to sigh disapprovingly. "What a silly reason you had to fly first class: because of a danger to you … Nobody even knew who you are."

Oof. Watch below. Jeva Lange

4:17 p.m.

Three years after Prince's tragic accidental overdose at the age of 57, Random House announced on Monday that The Beautiful Ones — the singer's highly anticipated autobiography — will be posthumously released on October 29.

Initially announced just weeks before his 2016 death, the memoir will be a collection of Prince's unfinished manuscripts, never-before-seen pictures, and handwritten lyrics, and will invite the reader to take a deep dive into the creative process of the singer's early days as he shaped an iconic "persona, an artistic vision and a life, before the hits and the fame that would come to define him," wrote Random House, per The Hollywood Reporter.

The nearly 300-page book will also include an introduction by Dan Piepenbring — the New Yorker writer who Prince chose as collaborator before passing — focusing on Prince's last days and his conflicted attempts to reveal more of himself and his ideas to the public, while remaining true to the "mystique he'd so carefully cultivated."

The biography will cover the singer's childhood in Minneapolis, early years as a rising musician, all the way to the peak of his international fame, solely using Prince's own writings, personal archive and unfinished manuscripts. The Beautiful Ones promises to detail and celebrate the story of one of the most influential musicians of all time — read more about the upcoming work at The Hollywood Reporter. Marina Pedrosa

3:38 p.m.

The response didn't take long.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the United States would not renew waivers exempting five countries from sanctions on Iranian oil imports. Pompeo said the intention is "to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue."

The list of countries includes large markets such as China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey. And a few of them quickly let the U.S. know they were not happy about the announcement.

Iran denounced the move as "illegal" and denied that it has "any value or credibility." Turkey, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, followed suit. The country's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter that Turkey would not accept the "unilateral" terms.

China also pushed back, calling Pompeo's words more evidence of the United States' "unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction."

On the flip side, Israel and Saudi Arabia — two countries historically at odds with Iran — praised the decision. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it "is of great importance for increasing pressure" on Iran.

India, South Korea, and Japan have yet to formally respond.

The announcement is the latest example of the Trump administrating ramping up tensions with Iran — the White House recently designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group. Tim O'Donnell

3:27 p.m.

It's not a good day to be one of President Trump's picks for the Federal Reserve Board.

Not only did Herman Cain on Monday withdraw from consideration after facing Republican opposition in the Senate, but CNN is also now reporting on numerous old articles written by Trump's other Fed pick, Stephen Moore, in which he complains about "the feminization of basketball."

Moore wrote that at men's college basketball games, there should be "no more women refs, no women announcers, no women beer venders, no women anything," unless the women "look like Bonnie Bernstein." He also said that female tennis players want "equal pay for inferior work," complained about the fact that women "now feel free to play with the men," and wrote, "Women are sooo malleable! No wonder there's a gender gap."

"This was a spoof," Moore told CNN in defense of his past writing. "I have a sense of humor."

Trump has not yet formally nominated Moore to the Federal Reserve Board, although he has announced his intention to do so. Moore's nomination previously faced some setbacks especially in light of a report that he owes the IRS $75,000. As the White House interviews other potential candidates, Politico reported on April 16 that Moore's nomination may not ever end up reaching Capitol Hill. Brendan Morrow

2:31 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) isn't ruling anything out.

Pelosi addressed her Democratic colleagues on Monday with a letter detailing how she thinks the party should proceed following last week's public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling.

In the letter, Pelosi refrains from choosing a hard path about how to proceed — she writes that the party consists of a range of members, some of whom wish to continue investigating Mueller's findings, while others want to move directly toward impeachment procedures. But the speaker did say that, either way, the party must be "free from passion or prejudice" as they proceed, and rely "strictly on the presentation of fact."

"It is clear that the President has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds," she wrote.

Pelosi also attached a letter Democratic leaders sent rejecting Attorney General William Barr's suggestion to provide an unredacted version of the Mueller report only to a limited group of members of Congress in a classified setting. Instead, she argued Democrats need to insist on the "public's right to know." Read Pelosi's full letter below. Tim O'Donnell

2:12 p.m.

Samsung has delayed its new foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, just days before it was scheduled to launch.

The company on Monday confirmed a report from The Wall Street Journal that it's delaying the release of the Galaxy Fold, which functions both as a 4.6-inch smartphone and a 7.3-inch tablet and was scheduled to be released on April 26, per CNBC.

This comes after a number of journalists from outlets like Bloomberg and CNBC reported that their review copies broke after just days of use. Some said they inadvertently peeled off a part of the screen that looked like a screen protector, while others said the screen simply stopped working. Samsung on Monday explained that these reviewers "showed us how the device needs further improvements," promising to "take measures to strengthen the display protection."

Some of these early issues "could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge," Samsung said, adding that there "was an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance," per CNN.

No new launch date was provided for the device, which costs almost $2,000, but Samsung said it will announce a new one "in the coming weeks." Brendan Morrow

1:57 p.m.

Back in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came up with a plan to eradicate syphilis. But 20 years later, it's making a fierce comeback — and can, in certain cases, be described as an epidemic.

Why?

Research points to several causes that, when combined, have created a veritable breeding ground for syphilis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease which, while it can initially fly under the radar, can lead to permanent brain damage, birth defects, and even death. It's "both treatable and curable," but our decaying public health system means that efforts at eliminating the disease are failing.

Federal funding for STD prevention has stagnated over the past 15 years, but accounting for deflation, that money is worth almost 40 percent less than in 2003. And in Midwestern states, where rural communities are bearing the brunt of the increase in syphilis cases, CDC funding has been cut, sometimes by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, says the Post-Dispatch.

This problem is being exacerbated by people's misunderstanding of syphilis: The disease is sometimes called the "great imitator," because its symptoms are often diagnosed as something else.

With the advent of dating apps that can make sex anonymous, tracking where syphilis is coming from and how people are contracting it is becoming a fraught affair. And with the public health system "not even treading water" in some states, per syphilis transmission researcher Hilary Reno, there is little recourse for those trying to combat the disease.

Given all these influences, syphilis is having a field day. Missouri's cases have quadrupled from 2012 to 2018, and many Midwestern and Western states are seeing similar rises. Unfortunately, we're a far cry from the CDC's plan from back in 1999. Read more at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Shivani Ishwar

1:56 p.m.

Even a 141-year-old White House tradition can't stop President Trump from bringing up his favorite subject.

On Monday, the president and first lady Melania Trump hosted a few hundred kids on the South Lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll. EPA head Andrew Wheeler read a book to kids and perhaps mentioned Earth Day, the first lady organized some #BeBest hopscotch, and Trump himself bonded with one child over a coloring sheet. Yes, as the White House pool reporter at the event recounted, Trump "looked up at one point while coloring the cards with the kids and said one of the children told him to build the wall."

Beyond his wall discussion with a confirmed non-voter, Trump also discussed up some non-egg related matters, including just how loyal his staffers are and how the military was apparently "very depleted." Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads