June 11, 2019

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has spent the past six months in limbo.

Shanahan became the acting head of the Defense Department in January, and President Trump announced his intention to nominate him for the full role about a month ago. Yet Shanahan is still waiting for an official nomination to the post, and it may be because Trump is looking to swap him for someone else, NBC News reports.

Trump gave Shanahan some blandly high praise when announcing his intention to nominate him as defense secretary last month, and it seems the president's enthusiasm has only waned from there. While in Normandy for a D-Day remembrance ceremony last week, Trump "asked at least three people what they thought of Shanahan and if they had any suggestions for different candidates." four people tell NBC News. Army Secretary Mark Esper, who Trump previously discussed as a possible DOD secretary nominee, was reportedly mentioned.

NBC News asked Trump on Tuesday about Shanahan's nomination, and Trump responded by saying he "put it out officially" a few weeks ago, but Shanahan still "has to go through the process." Still, White House officials reportedly said Trump would send Shanahan's official nomination to Congress back on May 18, while two defense officials thought it was coming last week, NBC News reports.

It's not unusual for Trump to change his mind on nominees or even withdraw them once they've already been sent to Congress — take Herman Cain and Ron Vitiello, for example. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:49 p.m.

Everyone gets duped now and then. That goes for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well.

Netanyahu recently showed his cabinet a video he claimed was evidence Iran was engineering a novel coronavirus coverup, Axios reports. Tehran has reported more than 47,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,000 deaths, but those figures have been eyed suspiciously by much the rest of the world, and it's no surprise Israel, which, to put it gently, does not get along with Iran is among the doubters.

The video showed people dumping bodies into garbage dumps, two cabinet ministers told Axios. They said Netanyahu's national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, showed him the video, but he probably should've checked his source. Upon further review the clip turned out to be a scene from the 2007 Hallmark Channel miniseries, Pandemic.

The Israeli government certainly did a bad job of vetting the clip, but the fact it made it's way up the flagpole wasn't completely random. Iranians were reportedly sharing the footage on social media last week. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

5:42 p.m.

Respirator masks, gloves, and other protective equipment kept in the U.S. government's emergency stockpile are almost all used up, Department of Homeland Security officials tell The Washington Post.

Hospital workers already lack supplies they need to protect themselves as they treat COVID-19 patients, and an empty stockpile will only exacerbate the problem. But "the stockpile was designed to respond to handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic," and so it's already close to empty even before the pandemic has hit its peak, one DHS official said.

The national stockpile is one of the few escapes from a marketplace full of price gouging, and as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) described in a recent press conference, shortages have forced states to outbid each other just to get necessary supplies. "The supply chain for PPE worldwide has broken down, and there is a lot of price gouging happening," the anonymous DHS official told the Post. It all leaves hospitals and other care facilities with a risk of completely running out of supplies, another official said. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:59 p.m.

A Chinese county that was largely unscathed by the novel COVID-19 coronavirus went into lockdown Wednesday, signaling fears of a possible second wave in the country where the virus originated, The South China Morning Post reports.

The county of Jia in Henan province, home to 600,000 people, is now in lockdown after infections reportedly spread at a local hospital. There were previously only 12 confirmed cases in Henan, despite it being situated just north of Hubei province, where China's epicenter, Wuhan, is located. However, U.S. intelligence reportedly believes China under-reported the actual number of cases.

Either way, the new lockdown, which shuts down all non-essential business and requires people to carry special permits to leave their homes, and wear face masks and have their temperature taken when out and about, comes at a time when the country clearly wants to get its economy up and running again. It's unclear if such measures will be limited to the county or if it's a sign of things to come for the rest of the world's most populous country, but President Xi Jinping has warned that China must return to normal gradually in the hopes of preventing a full-scale COVID-19 return. Read more at The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

4:21 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden isn't afraid to reach across the aisle during this national crisis.

In a press gaggle on Wednesday, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, snapped at Biden's apparent "criticism" of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus. "Why doesn't Vice President Biden call the White House today and offer some support?" Conway questioned — and so Biden offered to do so.

"I think it's really disappointing to have President Obama's number two ... out there, criticizing, instead of saying 'hey, here is what we did that we thought was effective,' Conway said Wednesday. She repeated the criticism on Fox News and in a tweet, even though Biden had offered up both his and former President Barack Obama's advice on MSNBC Tuesday night.

Biden's deputy campaign manager fired back with another statement on Wednesday, saying Biden "has been extending his advice for months" — Fox News agreed that was true. "The Obama-Biden administration even wrote a literal playbook for pandemic response, but unfortunately Trump's administration left it on the shelf," the statement continued.

Now, the ball is in Trump's court. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:16 p.m.

Yet another big movie is clearing out of 2020 completely.

Universal announced Wednesday its animated sequel Minions: The Rise of Gru, which was originally set for release this summer, has been delayed one year and will now hit theaters in July 2021, per The Hollywood Reporter.

It had previously been announced that Minions would not make its previously-scheduled release date because Illumination's studio in Paris was forced to temporarily close amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, though it was unclear at the time whether the film could still hit theaters sometime in 2020. The first Minions, a Despicable Me prequel, took in more than $1 billion worldwide in 2015 and was one of the highest-grossing films of that year.

This is just the latest example of a major 2020 film being delayed all the way until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic after Sony on Tuesday delayed Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was scheduled to hit theaters this July, to March 2021. Universal also previously moved the ninth Fast & Furious film from May 2020 to April 2021, while Disney postponed Black Widow indefinitely.

The summer movie season typically brings in major business for Hollywood, but fewer and fewer films remain on the calendar for that period this year as theaters throughout the United States remain largely closed in accordance with social distancing guidelines. A rare blockbuster to be postponed to another date this summer was Wonder Woman 1984, as Warner Bros. moved the DC sequel from June to August 2020 in hopes theaters would widely reopen by then.

Whether they will, and whether audiences will quickly return if they do, isn't clear. AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron on Tuesday told CNBC he "would love to think" there can still be a summer movie season this year, but as far as when the chain's theaters can begin resuming operations, he said at this time, "nobody knows." Brendan Morrow

3:24 p.m.

Experts are now convinced a February Champions League soccer game between the Italian club Atalanta and the Spanish club Valencia was at the forefront of an explosion of COVID-19 cases in Italy's Lombardy region, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, The Wall Street Journal reports.

More than 40,000 people crammed into San Siro stadium in Milan to watch the contest, a 4-1 victory for Atalanta. Then, two weeks later Bergamo, where Atalanta is based, experienced a major spike in cases, with scientists pinpointing the match as a crucial petri dish. "Two weeks after Feb. 19, there was an incredible explosion of cases," said Dr. Francesco Le Foche, an immunologist in charge of infectious diseases at Policlinico Umberto I in Rome. "The match played a huge role in disseminating coronavirus throughout Lombardy and in Bergamo in particular."

To put it in perspective, 35 percent of Valencia's traveling squad tested positive for the virus after the team returned to Spain. Only one Atalanta player tested positive, but the club has published death notices on its website for five people linked to the virus who were close to the club within the last two weeks, all of whom were present for Atalanta's victory over Valencia.

The match shows the type of role sporting events can play in furthering the spread of the virus, further explaining why nearly every professional league has shut down operations, and casting doubt on whether some sports will come back at all this year. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

3:16 p.m.

Everyone wants to write the great coronavirus anthem but — apologies to Bono — there can only be one John Mayer.

On his Instagram Live program this weekend, Mayer premiered a parody song called "Drone Shot of My Yacht," in which he skewers billionaires sitting out the pandemic on their luxury boats. It was such a hit, Mayer then reposted a minute-long version later in the week, Variety reports:

"This weekend's 'Not Now' goes to David Geffen, who posted an Instagram photo of himself on his boat saying he was isolated in the Grenadines," Mayer had told fans of his inspiration. "And I gotta tell you, I don't know where the Grenadines are. The most offensive thing to me in this post is assuming that I know where the Grenadines are." Jeva Lange

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