December 9, 2018

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner continued to privately advise Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The story says Kushner "has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm" caused by the killing, for which the CIA has reportedly concluded with "medium-to-high confidence" MBS is responsible. Kushner also counseled MBS to "resolve his conflicts around the [Mideast] region and avoid further embarrassments," the Times report says.

This close relationship "constitutes the foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the" entire Middle East, Martin Indyk, a former Middle East envoy and current Council on Foreign Relations fellow, told the Times. Indyk attributed decisions including the Trump administration's continued support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen to the Kushner-MBS "bromance."

While National Security Council staff are supposed to sit in on all communications with foreign leaders, Kushner and MBS reportedly have informal, one-on-one chat and text conversations. The White House declined to comment on this apparent breach of protocol. Bonnie Kristian

1:46 p.m.

Having someone who's got your back is everything, according to Zac Efron, who appeared on Thursday's episode of Hot Ones.

The High School Musical actor specifically told host Sean Evans about the first time he met his pal Leonardo DiCaprio. The pair were sitting next to each other at a basketball game, when the veteran star unexpectedly invited him over for breakfast. "He cooked waffles, and he burnt those, and then he made pancakes," Efron remembered, laughing.

Efron added that he had "a billion questions" for DiCaprio, particularly about dealing with the paparazzi. DiCaprio admitted "frankly, you're getting it a little bit different [than I did]," noting that there'd never been so many paparazzi at his house as when Efron came over.

DiCaprio nevertheless reassured the young actor. "He was like 'Don't worry about it, man. You're good,'" Efron said. "I really appreciate that he took that time … I feel like that's the biggest hand you can give someone in Hollywood, looking out for somebody younger." Watch the full interview below. Jeva Lange

1:29 p.m.

Say "oh, hello" to your latest quarantine binge.

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney have donned their turtlenecks once again to reprise their roles as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, two old men who first bemoaned today's world on The Kroll Show and eventually their own Broadway show turned Netflix special. Not that you'll see their constantly frowning faces on this latest Oh, Hello iteration, seeing as it's a podcast devoted to one of Faizon and St. Geegland's favorite subjects: Princess Diana.

Kroll and Mulaney shared a trailer for Oh, Hello: the P'dcast on Thursday, saying at least the first episode will come out Friday. The trailer doesn't even feature Faizon and St. Geegland's exaggerated New York accents; instead we hear from This American Life producer Line Misitzis who says she started working with the duo a year and a half ago. The project apparently fell apart, but Faizon and St. Geegland have since realized "what the world needs is a podcast" — and by releasing it, they're going to "win the quarantine." Kathryn Krawczyk

12:31 p.m.

The Democratic National Convention has become the latest summer event to be postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was originally scheduled to begin on July 13, announced Thursday it's officially being postponed to August.

"Ultimately, the health and safety of our convention attendees and the people of Milwaukee is our top priority," DNC Chair Tom Perez said.

Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese also said Thursday that taking "additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds" is the "smartest approach," but "I'm confident our convention planning team and our partners will find a way to deliver a convention in Milwaukee this summer that places our Democratic nominee on the path to victory in November."

The Thursday announcement floats the possibility of significant changes to the event as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the convention committee will "further explore all options to ensure nominating the next president of the United States is done without unnecessary risk to public health," with options including "everything from adjusting the convention's format to crowd size and schedule."

Former Vice President Joe Biden in recent days had been suggesting that delaying the convention would likely be necessary, saying Tuesday it's "hard to envision" keeping the July 13 date and later predicting it will move to August. The convention is now scheduled to begin on Aug. 17. The Republican National Convention had already been set for Aug. 24. Brendan Morrow

12:06 p.m.

This might blow your mind, but indoor cats are technically in quarantine all the time. Anyway, Jennifer Garner and her three children were evidentially getting a little stir crazy earlier this week and decided to take their family cat for a walk. In a stroller.

"As someone who religiously checks Garner's Instagram feed for hilarious cooking adventures and fangirl ballet posts, I considered myself pretty in-the-know about Garner's pets, but this one got me," a baffled Marissa DeSantis wrote for The Evening Standard. Importantly, while they were out the family did not awkwardly run into the kids' dad (and Garner's ex) Ben Affleck, who lives in the same Los Angeles neighborhood and has been spending his time in quarantine taking daily PDA-filled walks with Ana de Armas.

Check out pictures of the family's fluffy friend out for a joyride at The Daily Mail. Jeva Lange

11:29 a.m.

The governor of Georgia seems to have been unaware until this week that the novel coronavirus can be spread by people without symptoms, something that is by no means new information.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in a news conference on Wednesday, in which he announced a stay-at-home order for the state, pointed out that the COVID-19 coronavirus is "transmitting before people see signs" while wrongly suggesting this was not known until very recently.

"We've been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home," Kemp said. "Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. Well, we didn't know that until the last 24 hours."

In fact, health officials have been warning about this for quite some time. The Washington Post notes, for example, that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said as far back as Jan. 31 that it was at first "not clear whether an asymptomatic person could transmit it to someone while they were asymptomatic," but "now, we know from a recent report from Germany that that is absolutely the case." Brendan Morrow

11:05 a.m.

An alarming new report by The Wall Street Journal suggests that nearly one in three patients who are infected with COVID-19 receive incorrectly negative test results. "A false negative is problematic because it tells the patient they don't have the virus," Dr. Craig Deligdish explained to the paper.

The estimate about the incorrect results is based on limited data, but the implication that tests may be far from accurate is worrisome. As Deligdish observed, it means that people who've been reassured they are not contagious are likely going forth and spreading the disease to others.

Health care experts additionally told The Wall Street Journal that part of the problem with the tests is how fast they've been approved. "The thing that is different this time is most of these tests are going through a really rapid validation process," said Ohio State University epidemiologist Bill Miller. "As a result, we can't be completely confident in how they will perform." Other doctors have already picked up on the faulty results; in New York City, the center of the U.S. outbreak, "a negative is not clearing anybody who is symptomatic," one emergency room doctor said.

New guidelines to sick Americans asks that if you have coronavirus symptoms, assume you have COVID-19. "Research coming out of China indicates that the false-negative rate may be around 30 percent," writes The New York Times' Harlan M. Krumholz. "Some of my colleagues, experts in laboratory medicine, express concerns the false-negative rate in this country could be even higher."

Curiously, it doesn't seem to go the other way. The Times adds, "the tests appear to be highly specific: If your test comes back positive, it is almost certain you have the infection." Jeva Lange

11:00 a.m.

Elon Musk's ventilator giveaway may do more harm than good.

After weeks of brushing off the COVID-19 pandemic as "dumb," the billionaire Tesla founder earlier this week announced he had 1,000 "FDA-approved ventilators" and ended up donating 40 to New York City's hospital system. Except the devices Musk gave away aren't powerful enough to use in the ICU, and health officials have actually warned against using them on COVID-19 patients because they could spread the virus further.

What Musk purchased and gave to New York's hospitals were BiPAP machines made by ResMed, a photo shared by the hospital system reveals. ResMed CEO Mick Farrell later confirmed Musk's purchase of 1,000 5-year-old "bi-level, non-invasive ventilators" known as BiPAPs to CNBC, and said it was "fantastic" that Tesla could transport ResMed's product like it did.

But hospitals are far more desperate for ventilators more invasive than BiPAP and CPAP machines, which are usually used to treat sleep apnea — many doctors don't even call them "ventilators," the Los Angeles Times' Russ Mitchell reports. In fact, CPAP machines may have only helped spread COVID-19 through the nursing home outside Seattle that was the center of the U.S.'s initial coronavirus outbreak, NPR reports. These machines can "possibly increase the spread of infectious disease by aerosolizing the virus," NPR writes. Health officials in King County, Washington, have since warned against using CPAP machines on coronavirus patients, as did the American Society of Anesthesiologists back in February.

What would actually help, Farrell added to CNBC, is if Musk's Tesla could produce and donate lithium ion batteries — ResMed can use them to make invasive ventilators that hospitals actually need. Kathryn Krawczyk

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