January 29, 2020

British Airways, Seoul Air, and Indonesia's Lion Air suspended all flights to and from mainland China on Wednesday as the death toll from a ballooning coronavirus outbreak grew to 132 people, most of them in the epicenter city of Wuhan. United Airlines, Air Canada, Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific, and other airlines cut the number of flights amid sagging demand and health fears, and Hong Kong has already severed most transportation with mainland China. The U.S. and Japan evacuated hundres of their citizens from Wuhan on Wednesday and Australia, Britain, and several other European countries are following suit. There are now nearly 6,000 confirmed cases of the virus in China and 15 other countries, and more than 9,000 suspected cases.

Australian researchers, meanwhile, announced they have developed a lab-grown version of the coronavirus, paving the way a possible treatment. "Having the real virus means we now have the ability to actually validate and verify all test methods, and compare their sensitivities and specificities," said Julian Druce at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. The researchers said they would share their possible breakthrough with the World Health Organization and other nations. Peter Weber

11:09 a.m.

The New York Times' report on President Trump's tax info shed a significant amount of new light on his businesses and personal wealth, but there are still several questions left unanswered. Journalist Adam Davidson, who has reported on Trump's business dealings for The New Yorker, suggests people look to Trump's golf courses to find out more.

One of Davidson's big takeaways from the Times report is that Trump had a "new source of funds" beginning around 2011 after he had finished "blowing through" most of the money he received from his father, television producer Mark Burnett, and through loans. It's not clear who this alleged new source of money may be, but Davidson believes golf courses could be the key. In 2011, Davidson writes, Trump went into business with families from Azerbaijan, and was also "flirting" with Georgian and Kazakh businesses that have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Between 2011 and 2016, all of those groups were known to be laundering money through golf courses.

Trump, of course, has his own courses across the U.S., as well as in other countries, and those properties have cost him a lot of money. Davidson singled out his Scottish golf resorts, which have prompted investigation requests in the past, because that is where he, perhaps confoundingly, spent the post-2011 money.

But speculation is just that, and Davidson argues that little more can be known about who Trump "owes and what they know about him" until the alleged funding source is uncovered. Tim O'Donnell

10:49 a.m.

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara have reportedly welcomed their first child, naming him River in a moving tribute to Phoenix's late brother.

Director Victor Kossakovsky, who worked with Phoenix on the documentary Gunda, recently revealed the news at the Zurich Film Festival, saying of the Joker star, "He just got a baby by the way," People reports. "A beautiful son called River."

Phoenix and Mara, who reportedly got engaged in 2019, have not confirmed the update. It was reported in May that they were expecting their first child together.

Phoenix's brother, River Phoenix, died at 23 of a drug overdose. When Phoenix took home the Academy Award for Best Actor earlier this year for his performance in Joker, he honored his late brother by quoting one of his lyrics in an emotional speech.

"When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric," Phoenix said. "He said, 'run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.'"

At the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Gala, Phoenix also recalled his late brother showing him Raging Bull when he was a teenager and telling him, "You're going to start acting again, this is what you're going to do," reports Variety.

"He didn't ask me, he told me," Phoenix continued. "And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life." Brendan Morrow

10:16 a.m.

The coronavirus appears to have "one big trick," Shane Crotty, a professor in the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, told Bloomberg.

That trick — avoiding the human body's "initial innate immune response for a significant period of time," and, particularly, the response of a substance called interferon that typically helps orchestrate the defense against viral pathogens — is linked to more severe cases. Indeed, new studies published last week in Science found that an insufficient amount of interferon, the production of which may sometimes be inhibited in people with previously "silent" gene mutations, could signal a more dangerous infection because the lack of interferon can overstimulate the rest of the immune system.

The good news is that, because scientists are catching on to the virus' strategy, they have a better idea of how to prevent it from causing severe infections. Writes Bloomberg, the work highlights the potential for interferon-based therapies, which are typically used in in the early stages of a viral infection when it's easier to avoid life-threatening respiratory failure. Now, dozens of studies focusing on interferon treatments are recruiting COVID-19 patients. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

10:07 a.m.

Amy Coney Barrett has a reasonably clear path to the Supreme Court, and top Republicans reportedly know it.

President Trump formally nominated the 7th Circuit Court judge to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday. And with Republicans firmly in the Senate majority, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are "so confident" in Barrett's confirmation that they're already dreaming up her appeals court replacement, Axios reports.

Republican senators nearly universally said they'd like to vote on Trump's Ginsburg replacement even before he announced it would be Barrett. Just Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) definitively said they would rather not consider a nominee, citing the 2016 precedent in which Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama's election year nominee. But two senators won't be enough to keep Barrett off the bench before Election Day.

If Barrett is quickly confirmed after her mid-October hearings, it's possible Republicans could quickly shove her 7th Circuit replacement through the Senate as well. That would be "the cherry on top" of conservatives' Supreme Court victory, and "one that McConnell won't pass up," a GOP Senate aide told Axios. McConnell and Republicans are reportedly considering nominating Kate Todd, a White House lawyer who was also on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist, to fill Barrett's slot. Todd is "a favorite of White House counsel Pat Cipollone," Axios writes, though an administration official said no one is formally in consideration for the appeals court yet. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:35 a.m.

President Trump was reportedly eyeing a potential Trump-Trump ticket in 2016.

According to an upcoming book by former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, Trump suggested naming his daughter Ivanka Trump as his running mate in 2016, The Washington Post and Bloomberg report.

"I think it should be Ivanka," Trump reportedly said. "What about Ivanka as my VP?"

Gates writes that "we all knew Trump well enough to keep our mouths shut and not laugh" at the idea, per Bloomberg, as Trump went on to say that his daughter is "bright, she's smart, she's beautiful, and the people would love her!"

In fact, according to Bloomberg, the book describes how Trump brought up this idea numerous times over the following weeks, and Gates said it became clear to advisers "just how serious he was about putting his politically inexperienced daughter just a heartbeat from the presidency." The campaign reportedly conducted polling on the potential pick, and Gates writes that by July 2016, the idea "started to catch some momentum." Ultimately, though, Ivanka Trump herself shot it down, according to Gates.

"She went to her father and said, 'No, Dad. It's not a good idea,'" Gates writes, per Bloomberg. "And he capitulated."

Other alternative running mates who reportedly were considered include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but Gates writes that Trump "had already told us, privately, that he thought 'there was something wrong and off' with Newt." While Ivanka would ultimately become an adviser to her father in the White House, the campaign in the end went with then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as the 2016 running mate, despite the fact that, according to Gates, Trump had previously referred to Pence as a "loser." Brendan Morrow

8:13 a.m.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reportedly overheard sharply criticizing a new White House coronavirus task force member for repeated "false" statements.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, is "concerned" that President Trump is "sharing incorrect information" about the COVID-19 pandemic publicly, and he suggested to a colleague that Dr. Scott Atlas, new White House coronavirus task force adviser, is providing the president with "misleading data," NBC News reports. In fact, NBC reportedly heard Redfield slamming Atlas on a phone call made on a flight, saying, "Everything he says is false."

Redfield, according to the report, subsequently confirmed to NBC that he was talking about Atlas on the call. A CDC spokesperson said in a statement that NBC is "reporting one side of a private phone conversation" and that Redfield "was having a private discussion regarding a number of points he has made publicly about COVID-19." Atlas told NBC that "everything I have said is directly from the data and the science."

The CDC director isn't the first official to reportedly have concerns about the influence of Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases and has reportedly controversially pushed for a herd immunity strategy, in the White House. Recently, CNN reported that Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force response coordinator, sees Atlas as "an unhealthy influence" on Trump and believes he is "feeding the president misleading information about the efficacy of face masks for controlling the spread of the virus." Birx, that report also said, is unsure "how much longer she can serve in her position."

Additionally, there is "concern" among Redfield and other officials that Atlas "misrepresents what other health experts have said in sworn testimony" when briefing Trump. Read more at NBC News. Brendan Morrow

8:06 a.m.

President Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017 and also 2016, and paid no income tax at all in 11 of the past 18 years due to huge reported business losses, The New York Times reported Sunday evening. It didn't take the Biden campaign long to throw together some stock footage, pensive music, and figures for what the average teacher, firefighter, registered nurse, and — adjacent to Trump's own business — construction manager paid in income tax last year. None of them paid less than $5,000, and most paid more than $10,000 in federal taxes — or at least six times what the purported billionaire in the White House paid three years ago.

Joe Biden and his campaign are looking to cut into Trump's support among working class voters. "Of course, Trump has repeatedly faced — and survived — devastating turns that would have sunk any other politician," Jill Colvin notes at The Associated Press. But the news he "paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters," because "even today, when asked to explain their support for Trump, voters often point to his success in business as evidence of his acumen." Peter Weber

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