October 23, 2018

Conspiracy-monger Alex Jones was on hand for the campaign rally with President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Houston Monday night, and he had a full conversation with a pile of horse poop.

Addressing the pile as "Beto" — as in, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), Cruz's Democratic challenger — Jones screamed attacks at his silent foe, making sure to glance up at the Infowars camera every few seconds. The performance was caught by Reason editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who was covering the rally:

Jones' rant is difficult to decipher as he is at least 20 feet from Brown, but he seems to take issue with O'Rourke's nickname, which Cruz and his allies have suggested is an attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters. Beto is a childhood moniker based on O'Rourke's full name, Robert.

Unfortunately for Jones, his interviewee wasn't giving him the answers he wanted. "Talk to me!" he yelled at the poop. "Treat me like a human!" Bonnie Kristian

9:26 a.m.

Billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone died Tuesday, his family's holding company, National Amusements, announced in a statement Wednesday. He was 97.

Redstone built a media empire from National Amusements, a chain of drive-in theaters. Over several decades, he accrued holdings that included CBS, Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster, Blockbuster, and Viacom. At their peak, The New York Times reports, the businesses he controlled were worth more than $80 billion.

The Wall Street Journal described Redstone as a "mercurial" figure who was known for feuding both with his top executives and his family members, earning him the nickname "Grumpy" from his own grandchildren. Barry Reardon, who oversaw distribution for the rival Warner Brothers studio, said in 1994 that being the "relentless" Redstone's competitor "is a fate worse than death." Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

7:44 a.m.

The Democratic-led House passed a huge COVID-19 aid package in May, the Republican-led Senate began discussing its more modest alternative in July, but after talks between congressional Democrats and the White House negotiating team broke down last Friday, it may well be September before any relief package reaches President Trump's desk. "In fact, we are told it could be weeks before any serious talks resume barring any significant events like Wall Street sell-offs or a run of truly dismal economic data," Ben White reports at Politico.

"The impasse leaves millions of jobless people without a $600-per-week pandemic bonus jobless benefit that has helped families stay afloat, leaves state and local governments seeking fiscal relief high and dry, and holds back a more than $100 billion school aid package," The Associated Press reports. "Money for other priorities, including the election, may come too late, if at all."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are all in Washington, though rank-and-file members of Congress have returned to their districts and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the other key member of Trump's negotiating team, "left Washington this week for an unspecified amount of time," The Washington Post reports.

Talks are on hold for now because "Meadows is out for the week but mostly because the administration feels confident they have the upper hand politically," thanks to Trump's less-than-advertised executive orders, Politico's White reports. "One official said the White House feels it has Democrats in a 'real pickle.'" Pelosi and Schumer, meanwhile, "have adopted hardball negotiating tactics as they survey a tactical landscape that favors them," AP reports. "They have given some ground on the overall price tag, but say it's up to Republicans to acknowledge the scope of the crisis." Senate Republicans are sharply divided on whether more relief is even necessary.

Schumer, Pelosi, and Mnuchin negotiated four huge COVID-19 relief packages in short order earlier in the pandemic, before Meadows took over as Trump's chief of staff, and Democrats largely blame his participation — and his pushing Trump to sidestep Congress with executive orders — for derailing the talks. "What the president doesn't understand is that Meadows knows how to do one thing — be a Freedom Caucus member," one senior administration official told the Post. "He isn't some consensus-builder or a dealmaker." Peter Weber

5:07 a.m.

"With the presidential election right around the corner, the big question is no longer 'Will Donald Trump try to cheat?'" Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. "It's now become, 'How will Donald Trump try to cheat?' And with more Americans than ever expected to vote by mail due to coronavirus, it looks like he's zeroing in on his plan" — kill the messenger. "Only Donald Trump is weird enough to have beef with the mail," Noah sighed. "Every day he's less and less like a president more like a neighbor in a sit-com."

It's not a laughing matter, though. Trump and his allies are "spending $20 million to sue mail-in voting," Noah said. "And because lawsuits alone won't stop mail-in voting, the other part of Trump's plan is to just stop the mail" by "trying to sabotage the Post Office." To carry out his "crusade against mail-in ballots," Trump has "installed a close political ally who just happened to start slowing down the mail, which means that come November, a lot of votes that are supposed to make it by Election Day might not," he added. "It also means that in the meantime, all the other mail is getting delayed, and it's having a huge effect on people's lives," and not in a good way.

"The president knows he can't win in November with a majority of votes, so instead he's trying to undermine the integrity of the election by sabotaging the Post Office," Seth Meyers agreed at Late Night. For example, "late on Friday, the Postal Service announced a massive restructuring that centers power around the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Trump loyalist who donated over $360,000 to the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee," he said. "Right off the bat you know it's shady because they did it late on a Friday night."

Meyers explained the years-old push by Republicans and conservative donors to privatize the U.S. Postal Service — which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — and the huge part they played in forcing the USPS's current financial woes. "And whether or not Trump actually succeeds in stopping mail-in voting is almost beside the point," he said. "Either way he's sowing confusion, setting up lengthy court battles, and laying he groundwork to claim the results are disputed, even if they're not. He's made that as clear as possible." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:30 a.m.

More than 200 Florida residents age 25 to 44 have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic, and more than half of those deaths were recorded in July, The New York Times reports, citing an analysis of Florida Department of Health data. That's a small slice of the more than 8,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state, the Times notes, but "the number of younger adults who died of the disease quadrupled last month, underscoring a bitter mathematical reality: As more and more young people test positive for the coronavirus, more of them will die."

The share of younger Americans dying has ticked up across the U.S., and COVID-19 is now a leading cause of death among that age bracket, "roughly comparable to the number of younger people who were murdered over the same time period in recent years," the Times reports. "Health officials have worried that young people have been overly reckless in resuming social activities at parties and bars, and the number of infections among younger people has soared. However, the young people who are dying are not necessarily those who got sick at a party."

Instead, the young adults who died from COVID-19 tended to contract the disease at work, or en route to work on public transit, and they were disproportionately Black. About 18 percent of Floridians 25 to 44 are Black, but they have accounted for 44 percent of deaths in that age cohort, the Times reports. "Black Floridians over 65 are dying at twice the rate of white residents, but among younger adults, the death rate is nearly three times as high." The death rate for Latinos is roughly equal to non-Hispanic white Floridians.

"We've had this notion in people's heads that it's okay because young people don't get sick from this virus and young people certainly don't die from it," Cindy Prins, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida, tells the Times. "Well, that isn't true. Young people are getting sick. Young people are dying." Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

1:58 a.m.

Stephen Colbert began Tuesday's Late Show with a few minutes of deadpan commentary on primaries, before hitting the day's big political news: "This afternoon, Joseph R. Biden officially announced that his running mate will be California Sen. Kamala Harris."

"This is an historic announcement, because Harris is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party," Colbert said. "So Trump's gonna have a hard time deciding exactly how to be racist about her." Biden was expected to pick a woman of color, he said, "but still, Sen. Harris is a surprising choice considering just how hard she went after him — I mean with hammer and tongs — over bussing, issues of racial equality."

"Say what you want about Joe, but the man went Black and he's not going back," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "And I've got to say, I'm impressed that Biden picked Kamala even after she destroyed him at that debate. In fact, part of me thinks he only picked her so that she can just never dust his ass in public again. This isn't a VP pick, it's an insurance policy. And I'm really interested to see what the Trump campaign's line of attack is going to be on Kamala," he added, explaining how "everything she's done in her career appeals to Trump's base."

"Kamala is the daughter of two immigrants, she went to Howard University, she's a Democratic senator from California — that's an inspiring story, unless you're Trump, then it's a Stephen King novel," Jimmy Fallon joked at The Tonight Show. "She's only had the job for a few hours, but Kamala's already gearing up for her debate with Mike Pence — that's why she spent the entire day arguing with a mannequin at Kohl's." He tried out a Biden impersonation to illustrate how popular Harris might be.

"It was down to me and Kamala, but Joe wanted to go with someone who has 'experience,'" Sarah Cooper joked on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Like Harris, Cooper is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and while neither of her parents was born in India, like Harris' mother, her former employer, Google, evidently thought Cooper was Indian, not Black, she said, "because they kept promoting me." Cooper fielded personal questions from her fans, and she answered them all with her trademark Trump lip-syching. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:56 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, expressed his doubts over Russia's claim that it has quickly created a COVID-19 vaccine that is safe and effective.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that his health ministry has approved a vaccine after just two months of trials. It "works effectively enough," he said, adding that his daughter has received a dose.

During a virtual panel discussion with National Geographic on Tuesday, Fauci said he hopes the Russians have "actually, definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective. I seriously doubt they've done that." There are several vaccine candidates being tested in the U.S. right now, Fauci continued, and "if we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people, or giving them something that doesn't work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that's not the way it works."

The Russian vaccine has not gone through Phase III testing, when scientists compare the vaccine to a placebo in tens of thousands of people, The New York Times reports. This is not the time to cut corners, Fauci said, and Americans need to know that the U.S. isn't rushing to produce a vaccine "because we have a way of doing things in this country that we care about safety." Worldwide, there are more than 20 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with at least 737,000 people dying of the virus. Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m.

Using a metal detector, an amateur treasure hunter made an incredible discovery in a Scottish field.

Mariusz Stepien was searching for objects near the village of Peebles, south of Edinburgh, when he found several items dating back to the Bronze Age, including jewelry and a sword. He told The Associated Press he began "shaking with happiness," and "felt from the very beginning that this might be something spectacular and I've just discovered a big part of Scottish history."

He was right. Archaeologists from the Scottish government's Treasure Trove Unit spent 22 days digging up artifacts from the field, and on Monday, they announced that this was only the second Bronze Age hoard ever excavated in the country. With Stepien and a few of his friends looking on, the archaeologists uncovered rings, buckles, the axle caps from a chariot, and a horse harness.

This was a "nationally significant find," Emily Freeman, the head of the Treasure Trove Unit, told AP. "It was an amazing opportunity for us to not only recover bronze artifacts, but organic material as well. There is still a lot of work to be done to assess the artifacts and understand why they were deposited." The items, as well as some dirt from the field, are now at the National Museums Collection Center in Edinburgh. Catherine Garcia

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