September 13, 2019

New Saturday Night Live cast member Shane Gillis' response to the controversy over his use of racist and homophobic slurs hasn't, it seems, remotely helped his situation.

Shortly after the NBC sketch show announced Gillis' hiring Thursday, examples of his use of racist and homophobic slurs spread online, including a video from September 2018 in which he uses an anti-Asian slur. He also used homophobic slurs in another instance, Variety reports. This controversy came on the same day SNL hired its first cast member of East Asian descent: Bowen Yang, who is also openly gay.

Amid the firestorm, Gillis released a statement defending himself as a "comedian who pushes boundaries" and takes "risks." While saying that "I sometimes miss," he didn't apologize and instead wrote that he would be "happy to apologize to anyone who's actually offended," seemingly questioning the motives of those criticizing him.

"The contempt in 'actually' tells you what you need to know," writer Mark Harris tweeted. "Racism is famously boundary pushing because nobody has ever been racist before," comedian Siobhan Thompson sarcastically commented. Writer Priscilla Page agreed, tweeting, "making a bad joke and sitting around with your friend just being casually racist are 2 very different things," while The Washington Post's Gene Park similaly wrote, "Ok but just saying the slur isn't really comedy or pushing any boundaries." Comedian Patton Oswalt, while not mentioning Gillis' name, also made his feelings on this non-apology pretty clear.

SNL hasn't yet responded to the controversy surrounding Gillis' hiring. For now, he's set to be a part of the show's line-up when it returns on Sep. 28. Brendan Morrow

12:30 a.m.

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to pose an "unprecedented risk" to travelers, the State Department said on Monday, and travel advisories are being updated to "outline current issues affecting travelers' health."

The changes "better reflect" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's travel health notices, the State Department said, and will "result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80 percent of countries worldwide." The advisors also take into account "logistical factors," the State Department said, like "in-country testing availability and current travel restrictions for U.S. citizens."

Level 4 is the highest travel advisory level, and there are now about three dozen countries with this designation, CNN reports. The CDC is recommending that people delay international travel until they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying even those who have been inoculated "are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

Former President Jimmy Carter is mourning the death of his former vice president, Walter Mondale, saying in a statement that Mondale was a "dear friend, who I consider the best vice president in our country's history."

Mondale died Monday at his home in Minnesota, at the age of 93. Carter, 96, and Mondale spent four years in the White House, losing their re-election bid in 1980. They were the longest-living post-presidential team in U.S. history, Axios reports.

Carter praised Mondale for using his "political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driven force that had never been seen before and still exists today." Not only was Mondale an "invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world," Carter said, but also "provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

On the day before he died, former Vice President Walter Mondale spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris on the phone, one of several conversations he had on Sunday with current and former politicians, his friend and former staffer Tom Cosgrove told Axios.

Mondale, who served under former President Jimmy Carter, died Monday at age 93. More than three decades before Harris became the country's first female vice president, Mondale, as the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket.

In a statement, Harris said Mondale was "so generous with his wit and wisdom over the years," and during their conversation, she "thanked him for his service and his steadfastness. I will miss him dearly." It wasn't just Harris that Mondale chatted with over the weekend, Cosgrove said — he also spoke with Carter, President Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D). Mondale and his family believed that "death was imminent," Axios reports, but after his phone calls, he "perked up," Cosgrove said.

Mondale also wrote an email to be sent upon his death to 320 former staffers, including many who worked for him decades ago. In the email, shared with Axios, Mondale thanked them for their work and declared that "never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight. Joe in the White House certainly helps." Cosgrove told Axios that Mondale was concerned about what would happen to democracy if former President Donald Trump had been re-elected. "There was a difference after the inauguration — a letting go," Cosgrove said. "There was a big exhale of relief." Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

Walter Mondale, the former vice president who served under Jimmy Carter and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1984, died Monday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 93.

Mondale's spokeswoman, Kathy Tunheim, announced his death, but did not reveal a cause.

Born on Jan. 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, Mondale became involved in politics in his 20s, working on campaigns. At 32, he was appointed attorney general of Minnesota, and four years later, was tapped to fill the Senate seat vacated by his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, who went to serve as Lyndon B. Johnson's vice president.

Mondale, who pushed for anti-poverty programs and open housing, was selected by Carter to be his running mate in 1976, and they narrowly won the election. While at the White House, Mondale went on several overseas missions for Carter, The Washington Post reports, and was the president's sounding board. They did not win re-election in 1980, losing to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Mondale gave the White House another shot four years later, and as the Democratic nominee, chose Geraldine Ferraro, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket. They didn't win, and after two decades in politics, Mondale went back to law, practicing in Minnesota. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Mondale ambassador to Japan.

Mondale's wife, Joan, died in 2014, and their daughter, Eleanor Mondale Poling, died of brain cancer in 2011. He is survived by his sons Theodore Mondale and William Mondale and a brother. Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

A federal judge on Monday ordered that two leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group be detained while awaiting trial on charges they helped plan and coordinate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Joseph Biggs of Florida and Ethan Nordean of Washington were indicted on March 10, and face charges of conspiring to obstruct the certification of President Biden's electoral victory; both men pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Monday determined that the men "facilitated political violence" and are dangerous, and they should not be free ahead of their trial.

Last month, federal prosecutors asked for Biggs' pretrial release to be revoked, citing new evidence that shows he poses a "grave danger" to the community, The Associated Press reports. Their indictment states that on the morning of the Capitol riot, Biggs and Nordean met with other Proud Boys members at the Washington Monument and led them on a march to the Capitol. Authorities say several Proud Boys entered the Capitol building after other protesters broke windows and doors in order to gain access.

Federal prosecutors have described more than two dozen of the Capitol riot defendants as being leaders, members, or associates of the Proud Boys. Nordean has served as a Proud Boys chapter president and member of the group's national "Elders Council," and Biggs is a self-described Proud Boys organizer, AP says. Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

At a ceremony Monday commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is "pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today."

The bombing targeted the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day care center. Domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the bombing in 1997 and executed in 2001. Garland oversaw the bombing investigation and prosecution while working at the Justice Department in the 1990s, and said that even though "many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us."

There has been a renewed focus on domestic extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and in March, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote a report saying white supremacists and militias are the most lethal domestic threat. Often, these extremists "radicalize independently by consuming violent extremist material online and mobilize without direction from a violent extremist organization, making detection and disruption difficult," the report stated. Catherine Garcia

April 19, 2021

The jury began deliberations en route to reaching a verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday. They'll take into account two weeks' worth of witness and expert testimony about the arrest and death of George Floyd, as well as Monday's closing arguments from the defense and the prosecution.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher kicked off the final stretch, telling the jury to "believe your own eyes," referring to bystander videos, which showed Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Then, over the course of two-plus hours, defense lawyer Eric Nelson focused on whether there's any reasonable doubt as to what caused Floyd's death, citing the possibility that substances found in his system and heart issues may have been the culprit. He also argued Chauvin acted reasonably and within the grounds of his training.

Finally, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell issued his rebuttal to Nelson, noting that his team was not required to prove that Chauvin's actions were the sole cause of Floyd's death, only that they were a substantial factor. And with his parting words, he rejected the theory that Floyd died because of an enlarged heart. Tim O'Donnell

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