×
May 25, 2019

A federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction on Friday temporarily blocking the government from constructing a wall in two sectors along the U.S.-Mexico border using funds diverted from the Defense Department, throwing a wrinkle into President Trump's national emergency declaration.

Construction was set to begin on Saturday, but the order — which applies specifically to two areas along the border near Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, where a total of 51 miles of fencing was set to be built — will put that on hold. The construction of additional segments, announced too late for Friday's decision, will reportedly be taken up in June.

The judge, Haywood S. Gilliam, wrote that Congress' "absolute" control over federal funding is an "essential" feature of the United States government and that Trump's emergency declaration would "pose serious problems under the Constitution's separation of powers principles." The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "win for our system of checks and balances." Gilliam's ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Tim O'Donnell

9:50 a.m.

Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh (Ill.) wants to get in the ring and work on his left jab, apparently.

Now a conservative talk radio host, Walsh is reportedly exploring a primary challenge to President Trump, and his reasons for doing so are not subtle.

"He's a bully and a coward," Walsh told The Washington Post, referring to the president. "Somebody's got to punch him in the face every single day." The former Illinois lawmaker, the Post notes, has been known for his own "incendiary comments" since he was elected to the House as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010 and served one term.

Assuming Walsh goes through with the plan, he'd reportedly take a different approach from Trump's currently lone primary challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who leans libertarian. Instead, Walsh, an immigration hard-liner who voted for Trump in 2016, would attack Trump from the right and "on moral grounds." (It's important to note Weld is also campaigning against Trump's "outrageous racism.")

The Post also mentioned former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), as possible GOP primary challengers. Flake said he has no intention of running, but did add that several Republican donors who are worried about the state of the economy have called to ask him to at least consider launching a bid. "They are wondering, if the economy isn't stellar next year, how is the party going to win?," he said. "By the president offending more people?"

Finally, there are the 2012 nostalgists, reportedly self-aware of the futility of their fantasy, who still want a certain Utah politician to throw his hat into the ring. But Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is not expected enter the race. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

9:20 a.m.

Roopkund Lake is filled with hundreds of human skeletons, and no one knows why.

The high-altitude lake, which sits in India's Himalayas, has been an archaeological mystery since the morbid contents were discovered by a forest ranger during World War II. There are several extremely creepy details about the lake, which harbors an estimated 500 bodies in its depths. For one thing, "not a single skeleton found so far is intact," The Atlantic reports. For another, the bodies sometimes float back up to the surface, often with their "flesh still attached," The Independent writes.

And for another, the best working theory for explaining why there is a lake full of human bones in the first place just got completely blown out of the water.

Until recently, archaeologists had believed that Roopkund Lake was the site of a massive tragedy that took place some 1,000 years ago — perhaps the skeletons belonged to a group of travelers who had gotten caught in a storm and perished. That theory was swiftly disproven in a new study released Tuesday in Nature Communications, which analyzed the DNA of 37 of the skeletons.

It turns out that while the people indeed perished some 1,000 years ago, it didn't happen all at once. It happened sporadically over time, and as recently as the early 1800s. Plus the bodies weren't South Asian, as one might expect at a lake in India; their DNA makeup was more akin to people from the Mediterranean region, some thousands of miles away.

On the one hand, this is pretty cool for geneticists, who study patterns of human migration. On the other hand, a creepy lake filled with dead bodies just got way harder to explain. Read some of the new theories at The Atlantic. Jeva Lange

9:14 a.m.

This fall, ABC will draw the largest audience ever to witness a season of Dancing with the Stars, period!

At least, that's probably what former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would tell you after on Wednesday being announced as a contestant on the dance competition show's upcoming season. He appeared on Good Morning America along with the rest of the recently-announced cast, with some of his fellow stars this season including Kate Flannery, Kel Mitchell, Christie Brinkley, and James Van Der Beek.

Spicer actually came close to starring on Dancing with the Stars before, evidently being asked on in 2017, but he reportedly turned the show down due to being too busy. That was pretty soon after Spicer left the White House, but his schedule has apparently cleared up since then.

Spicer won't actually be the first Trump administration official to wind up on Dancing with the Stars, with Energy Secretary Rick Perry having competed in the fall 2016 season prior to being hired by President Trump. He was eliminated after three weeks. Check out the full line-up for the next season of the show here; sadly, Melissa McCarthy is not included. Brendan Morrow

8:46 a.m.

Don't look now, but President Trump just tweeted out a quote suggesting that Jewish people everywhere should love him as if he's the "second coming of God."

Trump on Wednesday morning promoted a claim from Wayne Allyn Root, a conservative radio host and author who was the Libertarian vice presidential nominee in the 2008 presidential election and has promoted numerous unfound conspiracy theories. Root, whose words the president calls "very nice," bafflingly declares that Jewish people in Israel love Trump like he's the "second coming of God," not to mention the "King of Israel."

This odd statement comes a day after Trump concluded in the Oval Office that any Jewish people who vote for Democrats do so either because of a "total lack of knowledge" or "great disloyalty," a claim that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) mocked on Twitter by writing, "The popular vote was #DisloyalToTrump." The president has been on a cable-news-quoting tear on Wednesday, so don't be surprised if even more odd statements from even more conspiracy theorists wind up on his feed by mid-morning. Brendan Morrow

7:59 a.m.

Is there still a chance that Spider-Man could swing back home into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Potentially, although it's not looking good.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that Disney and Sony failed to reach an agreement that would allow them to continue sharing ownership of the Spider-Man character, with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige no longer set to be involved in the upcoming sequels starring Tom Holland.

This would likely mean that Spider-Man would exit the Marvel Cinematic Universe completely, no longer being able to interact with any of the Avengers in future films. Considering Spider-Man was just recently set up as a crucial component to the rest of the Marvel franchise, and effectively the next Iron Man, this would be a radical shift.

Sony in a statement now says that "we are disappointed but respect Disney's decision." The point of contention, according to Deadline's Tuesday report, was Disney wanting a 50-50 co-financing arrangement on future Spider-Man films. This was reportedly far too high for Sony, which made counteroffers that Disney turned down. The current deal sees Marvel get five percent of the first-dollar gross.

In its response, though, Sony suggests the issue is actually that Feige does not have "time" to work on a movie series not owned by Disney due to his "many new responsibilities," but Deadline writes that this "seems like spin."

Sony also says that "we hope this might change in the future," leaving the door open for a deal to still happen. Indeed, Variety cites a source as saying a deal remains possible, although talks are not currently ongoing. But The Wrap reports that Disney "considers the matter closed," even as Sony believes that "negotiations are ongoing."

If director James Gunn can be re-hired nearly eight months after his public firing, anything's possible when it comes to Marvel. But should nothing change, don't expect Spider-Man to do whatever an Avenger can. Brendan Morrow

7:39 a.m.

The heads of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) correctly identified the nascent opioid abuse epidemic in March 2006 and nearly convinced then-Surgeon General Richard Carmona to issue an official call to action, the most potent tool the surgeon general has to alert the public, Politico reported Wednesday. But for reasons that aren't fully clear, "the effort didn't lead to any real action, and the toll of death and addiction climbed."

"Why it then didn’t happen is still a mystery to me," Geoffrey Laredo, a former senior NIDA adviser who worked closely on the call to action, tells Politico. "We were facing what we believed was a public health crisis that needed to be addressed and we had what we thought was an agreement with the surgeon general to do a thing. We produced that thing ... and then it never saw the light of day."

Carmona told Politico he held a number of meetings about the call to action with Health and Human Services Department officials and the George W. Bush White House Domestic Policy Council, but his office was dealing with other big crises, like obesity and bioterrorism. "The [opioid] crisis was in its infancy," he said. "It wasn't like we dropped the ball." His term ended a few months after NIDA Director Nora Volkow pressed him for urgent action, and when an acting surgeon general took over, "what little momentum had built for a public warning evaporated," Politico says.

"Had the call to action succeeded it would have been the first major attempt by the federal government to counteract the aggressive marketing of pharmaceutical companies that had led doctors to liberally — too liberally, in retrospect — prescribe the painkillers," Politico reports. Instead, "more than 133,000 people have died from prescription opioids since then — and hundreds of thousands more from street drugs including heroin and illicit fentanyl." Read more about the failed warnings at Politico. Peter Weber

6:02 a.m.

An Australian appellate court Wednesday upheld the 2018 conviction of Cardinal George Pell on charges of sexually molesting two 13-year-old boys in 1996 and 1997. The 2-to-1 verdict in Victoria's Court of Appeals sends Pell back to prison, where he is serving a six-year sentence. Pell's lawyer said the 78-year-old prelate will likely appeal the decision to Australia's High Court, though there's no guarantee the nation's final arbiter would agree to hear his appeal. Pell, the former Vatican finance minister and archbishop of Melbourne, is the senior-most Catholic prelate convicted of sexual abuse. He maintains that he is innocent.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said she and Justice Chris Maxwell "decided that it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty," adding that dissenting Justice Mark Weinberg "could not exclude as a reasonable possibility that some of what the complainant said was concocted."

Advocates for sexual abuse victims cheered the verdict, the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference said it respectfully accepted the verdict, and the Vatican, which is conducting its own investigation of Pell, confirmed "its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads