The so-called Pharma bro rose to fame after jacking up the price of an AIDS drug by 5,000 percent, then landed in prison on a securities fraud conviction in September 2017. Now, 16 months into a 7-year sentence, Shkreli is still running his business and palling around with prison friends who "affectionately call him 'asshole,'" The Wall Street Journal reports.
After his company Turing Pharmaceuticals earned international ire for doing some pretty crappy stuff, Shkreli rebranded it as "Phoenixus AG" and runs it via a contraband cell phone, "people familiar with his new life" tell the Journal. Shkreli also bypassed his ban from Twitter by using an anonymous account that was deleted Tuesday. Cell phones and running a business are banned in jail, but Shkreli still "plans to emerge from jail richer than he entered," the Journal writes.
Still, not everything is fun for Shkreli. He opted out of playing guitar in a prison band because, as his prison pals "Krispy" and "D-Block" reminded him, the band members were "locked up for child molestation," the Journal notes. Prison guards also mispronounce Shkreli's last name (the "h" is silent), and he thinks it's "on purpose," an author writing about Shkreli who's visited him tells the Journal.
But seeing as Shkreli "loved the controversy" that swirled around his price-jacking scheme — as one former investor told the Journal — prison just seems like his next step in achieving long-lasting notoriety. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk
Comedian Dave Chappelle has gone into quarantine and canceled his upcoming shows after testing positive for COVID-19.
A representative for the comedian confirmed to TMZand Deadlinehe received a positive test result and is now quarantining. Chappelle on Wednesday performed the first of five shows planned through Sunday in Austin, Texas, the rest of which have been canceled, TMZ reports.
Last June, Chappelle released a surprise stand-up special about the killing of George Floyd, for which he had a socially-distanced, outdoor audience, and he has recently been performing in Texas.
"Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter," his representative said in a statement, per Deadline. "Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus."
The comedian's representative added he does not have symptoms. As TMZ points out, Chappelle was seen in an Instagram photo earlier this week standing alongside Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, and Grimes. Brendan Morrow
"C'mon, give me a break, man," President Biden told a reporter Thursday, when asked if his goal of getting 100 million Americans vaccinated in his first 100 days is too modest. "It's a good start, 100 million." Biden was right that when he "first made this pledge, it was an ambitious goal," Politico's Renuka Rayasam writes. "But now it's only a modest bump from the pace of vaccinations that he inherited," and experts agree it won't cut it anymore.
"At a pace of 1 million doses a day, the virus wouldn't be contained until sometime in 2022," Politico reports. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, said the U.S. needs to vaccinate 2-3 million people a day to quash the pandemic by September, and the sooner the better, given the rise of new, more contagious variants. "We've blown every other opportunity," Hotez said. "This is all we have left."
"I love that he set a goal, but a million doses a day?" Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told The New York Times. "I think we can do better," and actually "we are going to have to if we really want to get on top of this virus by, say, summer."
Currently, U.S. vaccination efforts are constrained by supply shortages and inefficient distribution of the two approved vaccines, from Modern and Pfizer/BioNTech. "States are expected to run out of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine within days," Politico says. But both companies are ramping up production, and Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine is expected to hit the shelves by the end of February, so there should be amply supply to significantly exceed Biden's current goal by April.
In the meantime, Biden's administration should focus "on fixing the hodgepodge of state and local vaccination centers that has proved incapable of managing even the current flow of vaccines," the Times reports, citing experts. Biden has requested $20 billion to vastly expand vaccination centers, and he wants to hire 100,000 health care workers to administer the vaccines. If he can do that, former FDA director Dr. Mark McClellan tells the Times, it should "push the number beyond a million doses a day and probably significantly beyond." Peter Weber
When President Biden moved into the White House on Wednesday, he probably left his Peloton exercise bike in Wilmington. With its cameras, microphones, and internet connection, "the last thing the CIA wants is the Russians and the Chinese peering or listening into the White House gymnasium," The New York Times notes. The exercise bikes also cost "upward of $2,500 apiece," the Times added, so it "does not exactly comport with Mr. Biden's 'regular guy from Scranton' political persona."
Stephen Colbert made fun of the Peloton security fears on Thursday's Late Show.
The Daily Show picked up on the widely mocked critique that Peloton is an elite symbol out of step with Biden's "Working Class Joe" image. The Peloton, in fact, was "scandal" No. 5 from the first day of Biden's presidency, according to The Daily Show's recap of Fox News' inauguration coverage.
Late night comedians have to make the mental transition from all of Donald Trump's presidential scandals — and also do something with their four years of Trump footage. At Jimmy Kimmel Live, Rufus Wainwright sang just about every saucy nickname for Trump that Kimmel has used on his show, with visual aids. It took more than 2 minutes, including a lightning round.
And The Daily Show raided its video vault so Desi Lydic could recap four years of former first lady Melania Trump, "the nation's stepmom, there for America every other weekend and on holidays," especially Christmas.
Lydic also reminded everyone about the mysterious case of "Jarvanka," Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.
The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.
Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.
The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.
Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal." Peter Weber
With the help of Slater, Screech, and Kelly Kapowski, the Lincoln Project has found a way to turn nine seconds of a Saved by the Bell episode into a roast of multiple Republican lawmakers.
Quick '90s TV history lesson: In the classic Saved by the Bell episode "There's No Hope with Dope," teen idol Johnny Dakota came to Bayside High to film an anti-drug PSA. The gang was so excited to film it with him, but once they found out Johnny was a secret stoner, they dropped him like a ton of Zack Morris' 10-pound brick phones. They ended up doing the PSA with NBC President Brandon Tartikoff, warning kids about the dangers of drugs.
Now, that PSA has been repurposed by the Lincoln Project for a mashup that might make Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wish they could disappear like Tori did at the end of Season 4. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia
Over the course of three days in early January, volunteers making their way down the Tennessee River in a 25-foot aluminum boat were able to remove more than 9,000 pounds of trash from the water.
It wasn't the first time the volunteers — staffers from the Johnsonville State Historic Park and members of the group Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful — cleaned the 652-mile river; in October, they pulled out 4,811 pounds of garbage.
Kathleen Gibi, executive director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, said it is up to "local partners and individuals who are eager about taking ownership to protect and improve their beautiful river community."
The Tennessee River has an extraordinarily high amount of microplastics in it, and every cleanup is a step in the right direction. The volunteers are already planning their next event in April, and set a goal to remove at least 100,000 pounds of trash from the river by the end of 2021. Catherine Garcia
Among the first 17 executive orders President Biden signed Wednesday evening was one hitting "pause" on construction of former President Donald Trump's border wall. "It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall," Biden's order said. "I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall."
Biden gave the Pentagon and Homeland Security departments up to a week to stop all border construction, and for the most part, the frantic wall-building Trump had unleashed in his last months in office had stopped by Thursday, The Associated Press reports. The Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it told its contractors to stop installing any additional barriers and do only what's "necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work."
Biden gave his administration 60 days to find and review all current contracts and determine which can be canceled, which must be renegotiated, and whether any of the remaining money can be used on other projects. Trump, as of Jan. 15, had spent $6.1 billion of the $10.8 billion in wall construction it had contracted out, a Senate Democratic aide told AP. Overall, the Trump administration had secured $16.45 billion for the wall, including $5.8 billion appropriated by Congress and the rest seized from the Treasury and Defense departments. Biden is targeting that latter pot of money.
Trump says he built 450 miles of his wall, though almost all of that was replacement for other barriers. His administration signed contracts for constructing 664 miles, the Senate aide told AP. "Trump said the border wall would be 'virtually impenetrable' and paid for by Mexico, which never happened," AP notes. "While the wall is much more formidable than the barriers it replaced, it isn't uncommon for smugglers to guide people over or through it. Portions can be sawed with power tools sold at home improvement stores." Peter Weber