April 15, 2020

President Trump's incorrect assertion Monday that he has "total" authority over when states lift or relax coronavirus mitigation rules "caught his aides off guard and prompted them to study whether Trump would have such authority in a time of emergency like the ongoing pandemic," The Washington Post reports. Trump continued pushing the idea Tuesday, suggesting that disobeying his orders to reopen the economy would be akin to "mutiny."

Governors from both parties noted pointedly on Tuesday that they have and will retain the authority to lift social distancing rules they put in place. By his press conference Tuesday night, Trump largely reversed course.

"I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly and I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening, and a very powerful reopening plan, of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate," Trump said. "The day will be very close," and in some states "maybe even before the date of May 1." He added that "the governors will be very, very respectful of the presidency," but they "are responsible, they have to take charge, they have to do a great job," or he might "close 'em up and start all over again."

"Trump outlined a vision in which workers would be tested, perhaps on a weekly basis, and governors would test travelers arriving at their states' borders," The Associated Press reports. "But the U.S. is nowhere near having that kind of infrastructure." Atypically, Trump ended the press conference without letting federal health officials field questions.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump appeared to threaten to withhold federal assistance from states that don't obey him, oddly placing himself in the role of Capt. William Bligh.

One official told the Post that "Trump is frustrated that the governors are getting so much credit and no blame while he gets all the blame and none of the credit," specifically complaining about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Trump tweeted Tuesday that Cuomo has been "begging" for supplies but "now he seems to want Independence! That won't happen!" Peter Weber

10:45 a.m.

India recorded 4,187 new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the government said Saturday, marking the first time the country, which is in the midst of a record-breaking surge of infections, has tallied 4,000 fatalities in a day. India's death toll, which has been questioned by health experts, officially sits at 238,270, the third highest in the world after the United States and Brazil.

India also added 401,078 cases on Saturday, a slight drop from the previous day, but the country's peak is not expected until the end of May. While cases appear to be stabilizing in large cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, the coronavirus is spreading in rural areas and southern states, several of which have ordered lockdowns. Oxygen and critical care bed shortages remain a major concern. Read more at Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse. Tim O'Donnell

7:55 a.m.

More than 200 people were injured Friday night after a protest over the threat of evictions of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers had gathered at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism (known as the Temple Mount in that faith), for the final Friday of Ramadan, and many remained for the protest, which reportedly erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed. The police reportedly fired rubber bullets at the crowd, while video footage shows the demonstrators throwing chairs, rocks, and shoes at the officers.

The United States and other foreign governments called for calm and expressed concern about the potential evictions, but Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days. Worshippers will return to Al-Aqsa on Saturday for the most sacred night of Ramadan, while Sunday night marks Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem. And on Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions. Read more at Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

May 7, 2021

Conservative TV host Greg Kelly, who once complained that the impeachment of Donald Trump was racist against "white folk," was put on the defensive over his choice of pants on Thursday after posting a photo with said former president.

"Those are BUGLE BOY jeans I'm wearing," the Newsmax host had tweeted, drawing attention to his multi-pocketed khakis.

"Honestly one of the most f--ked up pairs of pants I've ever seen," one horrified onlooker wrote, while another observed, "It looks like a pair of cargo pants mated with some jodhpurs and its offspring got all of the worst jeans … er, um genes."

Kelly followed up by insisting that the pants were very expensive — "the truth is, they're BALMAIN (the most prestigious brand in PANTS)" — which just goes to show, you really can't buy good taste.

Read more at Newsweek. Jeva Lange

May 7, 2021

As the dreaded Elon Musk-hosted Saturday Night Live episode draws nigh, the show is out with its first teaser.

"Let's find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is," Musk says in the clip. "I'm a wild card, so there's no telling what I might do." (The Atlantic claims Musk's "eccentricity is good fodder for sketch comedy," which is clearly … debatable).

While some SNL members have made their disdain clear, Pete Davidson said no one discussed the controversy when they took Musk out to dinner pre-show, as is tradition. "I just don't understand why this is the dude everyone's so freaked out about," Davidson said. "I was like, 'What did he do? He's just like a really wealthy businessman that makes, like, nerd s---.' I don't know. He's really nice. I'm excited."

Read more at Entertainment Weekly. Jeva Lange

May 7, 2021

Remember that time when everyone (and The Daily Mail) was so mad about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry trying to trademark "Sussex Royal," and in doing so, cruelly placing Queen Elizabeth "in an invidious position, given her long-held conviction of refusing to allow working members of the family to profit from their positions"?

Well, People reports that the British monarch has since started selling Sandringham-branded beer, brewed from plants grown on her Norfolk estate, as well as a Royal Collection Trust gin, which retails for $41 a bottle and will "help preserve the Queen's extensive art collection."

Writes Celebitchy, "HOW GAUCHE! How tacky! I assume all of the royal reporters are up in arms about how dreadful it is that the Queen is monetizing the Crown in such a disgusting and cheesy way."

Read more at Celebitchy and People. Jeva Lange

May 7, 2021

As the IRS deals with a significant backlog, a new report suggests one factor is ... printers that don't work?

That's according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which said the Internal Revenue Service is having difficulty processing tax returns in part thanks to issues with broken printers and copiers, Politico reported on Friday.

During on-site walkthroughs of IRS offices, a "major concern that surfaced" was "the lack of working printers and copiers," with management estimating that as of the end of March, 42 percent of printers for workers involved with processing returns weren't usable, the report said.

IRS employees said "the only reason they could not use many of these devices is because they are out of ink or because the waste cartridge container is full," per the report. Evidently, the IRS' contract for the printers ended in September 2020, and while the agency subsequently entered into a new contract, employees said the "new contractor may not have been coming into the sites to replace the old printers due to COVID-19 concerns."

The IRS back in March delayed this year's tax filing about a month, which would give taxpayers more time to figure out what they owe in light of Congress' COVID-19 relief bill. But another issue, as the The Washington Post reported, was that the agency has been grappling with a "mounting backlog" of tax returns that need to be processed. According to the new inspector general report, "more than 8.3 million individual tax returns and transactions remained to be processed" as of the end of 2020 — and while the agency has also had other problems including staffing issues, a lack of functioning printers and copiers has contributed "to the inability to reduce backlogs." Brendan Morrow

May 7, 2021

If George Lucas is Seth Rogen's only hope of surviving the end of the world, he's in trouble.

Rogen during an appearance on Conan O'Brien's podcast described a bizarre conversation he had with George Lucas back in 2012, during which Rogen says the Star Wars creator started talking as if he legitimately believed the world was going to end that year.

"A question that still haunts me to this day — and again, I think I know the answer — is, was he joking?" Rogen said. "I really don't think ... it did not appear he was joking."

Rogen and his producing partner Evan Goldberg apparently jokingly went along with the end-of-the-world talk, asking Lucas if they could get a seat on his spaceship to escape the planet, only to have that request immediately shot down.

"He was like, 'No,'" Rogen said. "Which, again, it makes me think he wasn't joking, because if you were joking, you would just say yes to at least placate us by granting our wish to go on the spaceship. But no, he said no!"

Rogen added that even all these years later, he's still "confounded and plagued by that story." The actor actually previously described this encounter closer to when it happened, and a Lucasfilm representative at the time clarified that Lucas was "not serious" about thinking the world was going to end — a statement presumably issued while Lucas tinkered with his spaceship in the background just in case. Brendan Morrow

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