March 15, 2019

Nearly eight months after firing James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Disney has suddenly changed its mind.

Gunn, who was removed from the Marvel sequel in July 2018 when offensive jokes he made on Twitter years earlier resurfaced, has been rehired to direct the movie, reported Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

This is jaw-dropping news for a number of reasons, one being that Gunn had previously been set to write and direct The Suicide Squad for Marvel Studios' competitor, DC, which seemed to close the door on any potential return to Vol. 3. Even before that, though, Disney had shown no signs that it was considering a reversal, with CEO Bob Iger telling the Reporter in September that he has never "second-guessed" the decision.

But Disney had faced criticism for its move, especially considering the tweets were dug up by far-right personality Mike Cernovich because Gunn is a vocal critic of President Trump. The cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies spoke out against the decision at the time, saying in an open letter that "we hope Americans from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponizing mob mentality."

Strangely, Deadline reports that the decision to bring Gunn back was made "months ago." Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn reportedly met with Gunn several times and was "persuaded" by his apology; Gunn had said that his old tweets were "totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative" and that he has "regretted them for many years since."

The plan is now for Gunn to work on both The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the Reporter says, meaning he'll be making extremely similar comic book films for competing studios back-to-back. DC's film will reportedly come first, and it's set for release in 2021. Brendan Morrow

9:17 p.m.

After holding an abdominal plank for 8 hours and 1 minute, George Hood surpassed the world record and could have stopped, but he had a reason to keep going.

Hood, a 62-year-old former Marine and retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent from Naperville, Illinois, broke the record on Feb. 15 at 515 Fitness, a gym that aims to end the stigma of mental illness. Hood wanted to raise awareness of how exercise can help improve mental health and dedicate his feat to the gym, so he held his plank for 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds in order to get "515" in the time.

A father of three, Hood first set the male world record for longest plank in 2011, CNN reports. For 18 months, he trained on average seven hours a day — he would practice his plank pose for four to five hours, and then do 700 pushups, 2,000 sit ups, 500 squats, and 300 arm curls. To get through the pain, he listened to his favorite music at maximum volume.

"When it gets tough, you know what I do?" he told CNN. "I turn that music up so loud, you'd think you're at a rock concert. I always had a fantasy of being a rock star back in the '80s. And at least for those 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds, I was a rock star." Catherine Garcia

8:21 p.m.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is expected to soon launch a clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine was developed by the drugmaker Moderna, and researchers hope to begin testing it on humans in late April. The first trial will involve 20 to 25 healthy volunteers, with results expected by July or August. If that round is successful, a second trial will include hundreds or thousands of subjects. The vaccine was created after the coronavirus' genetic sequence was determined in January.

"Going into a Phase One trial within three months of getting the sequence is unquestionably the world indoor record," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told The Wall Street Journal on Monday. "Nothing has ever gone that fast."

Gene-based technology has yet to result in an approved vaccine for humans, the Journal reports. If this vaccine does work, it will still have to go through regulatory measures, and likely won't be widely available until 2021. Fauci said the virus might not spread as quickly in the summer due to the heat, but could roar back in the winter. More than 2,600 people have died in this coronavirus outbreak, and there are more than 79,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with most in China. Catherine Garcia

7:18 p.m.

If you're one of President Trump's former national security advisers, you're doing a lot of waiting these days — either for your book to be published or for your prison sentence to be decided.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster was Trump's second national security adviser, serving from March 2017 to April 2018. He came on board after Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned; Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with the former Russian ambassador to the United States.

McMaster has written a book, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, set to be published on April 28. HarperCollins says it is a "groundbreaking reassessment of America's place in the world, drawing from McMaster's long engagement with these issues, including 34 years of service in the U.S. Army with multiple tours of duty in battlegrounds overseas." It will also include information on McMaster's "13 months as national security adviser in the Trump White House."

Unlike other former members of the administration, McMaster, now a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has not given many interviews about his experience with Trump. One of his aides was quoted in the book A Very Stable Genius as saying, "The president doesn't fire people. He just tortures them until they're willing to quit."

Trump's third national security adviser, John Bolton, finished writing his book, The Room Where It Happened, last year. It is supposed to come out in March, but the White House is reportedly trying to block its release. Bolton, who served from April 2018 to September 2019, is said to have included damaging information in the book, including that Trump attempted to get him to engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Catherine Garcia

5:25 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign team is going after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for reportedly once going after Biden's old boss.

The Biden campaign unveiled a new digital ad Monday that's tied to a story published The Atlantic last week that reported Sanders seriously considered launching a primary challenge against former President Barack Obama in 2012. When word got around to the Oval Office, it reportedly sent Obama's re-election campaign team into a panic.

Sanders' camp quickly denied the senator ever contemplated trying to unseat Obama, but regardless, the Biden team is unleashing the story against the new national frontrunner in a state where the former vice president is still considered the favorite. In the ad, they accuse Sanders of trying to undermine Obama's re-election, and argue he "can't be trusted" to build upon the president's legacy. Watch the full ad below and read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

4:22 p.m.

The White House apparently needs to increase its IT staff, or at least increase its subscription budget.

Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, who is the top member of President Trump's coronavirus task force, was having trouble accessing an online map produced by Johns Hopkins University of the virus' spread. So, he took to Twitter to ask if anyone else was having trouble with the website.

He quickly realized the map was behind a paywall, much to his chagrin. But while Cuccinelli expressed dismay over the university's decision to restrict access during a time of global concern, others pointed out that it was actually little more worrisome that the U.S. government's task force leader was struggling with such a simple issue in the first place. Tim O'Donnell

4:02 p.m.

Thousands of people filled the Staples Center on Monday to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant, and as his wife delivered an emotional eulogy, there couldn't have been a dry eye in the house.

Vanessa Bryant spoke at the public memorial a few weeks after her husband and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash, starting off her eulogy by talking about "my baby girl."

"She was one of my very best friends," she said.

Bryant went on to tearfully note all of the milestones in Gianna's life she won't be able to experience, including seeing her learn how to drive a car, get married, or have children, but she said that Gianna "most likely would have become the best player in the WNBA" and would have "made a huge difference for women's basketball."

"She was a beautiful, kind, happy, silly, thoughtful and loving daughter and sister," Bryant said. "She was so full of life and had so much more to offer this world. I cannot imagine life without her."

Bryant then moved on to her late husband, "my soul mate."

"He was my everything," she said. "...He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words." She concluded by saying of Kobe and Gianna, "God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to him together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi."

Among those who also delivered powerful eulogies on Monday were Michael Jordan, who said "when Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died," and Shaquille O'Neal, who said, "Now, it's time for us to continue your legacy." Brendan Morrow

3:32 p.m.

The Trump administration's efforts to curb immigration look like they're working, The New York Times reports.

A report released Monday by the National Foundation for American Policy projects policies like Trump's recently-expanded travel ban or the public charge rule preventing immigrants who may rely on welfare assistance from entering the country will alter legal immigration to the U.S. for quite some time. But change may also be noticeable rather quickly. Legal immigration had already declined by 11 percent between the 2016 and 2018 fiscal years, and the NFAP report predicts the decline will reach 30 percent by 2021.

That could have long-term consequences for U.S. economic growth, which NFAP says will slow because the average annual growth rate of the U.S. labor force will also sputter as a result of the immigration decline. The report says the rate will slow somewhere between 35 percent and 59 percent going forward if the policies remain in place. "The significant decline in the annual level of legal immigration means lower long-term economic growth may be Donald Trump's most lasting economic legacy," the report reads. Read more from The New York Times and view the full report. Tim O'Donnell

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