May 17, 2020

President Trump's decision to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick on Friday came on the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a White House official said Saturday.

The move immediately drew sharp criticism from Democrats who consider the ouster a retaliatory act; Linick was reportedly looking into Pompeo's alleged misuse of a department appointee to perform personal tasks for him and his wife, and it comes on the heels of several other federal watchdog dismissals in recent months.

It wasn't only Democrats who seemed unsatisfied with Trump's decision, though. While the president said he no longer had confidence in Linick, an Obama appointee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chair of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, said Saturday that Congress is entitled to a more thorough explanation, noting that inspectors general are "crucial in correcting government failures and promoting the accountability that the American people deserve." He said Trump's reasoning, as it stands, "simply is not sufficient."

Grassley's Democratic colleagues, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), took things a step further. They sent letters to the White House demanding officials hand over all records related to Linick's firing, adding that they plan to "look deeply into this matter." Read more at NBC News and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

9:31 p.m.

As of Monday evening, the coronavirus has killed at least one million people around the world.

"It's not just a number," Dr. Howard Markel, a University of Michigan professor of medical history who has advised governments on containing pandemics, told The Associated Press. "It's human beings. It's people we love. It's our brothers, our sisters. It's people we know. And if you don't have that human factor right in your face, it's very easy to make it abstract." Markel's 84-year-old mother died of COVID-19 in February.

The first known COVID-19 death was reported in Wuhan, China, on Jan. 11, and the virus has made its way to all corners of the globe, devastating communities and causing economic turmoil. The United States has the highest number of deaths — roughly 205,000, or 1 out of 5 worldwide. The virus has also killed 142,000 people in Brazil, 95,000 in India, and more than 76,000 in Mexico.

There is already a second wave sweeping through parts of Europe, and experts believe that due to students returning to college campuses and people not taking precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, a second wave will likely soon hit the United States, coinciding with flu season.

The death toll is based on data recorded by Johns Hopkins University, and because of inadequate testing and possible suppression of the real numbers by some countries, it is likely an undercount. Catherine Garcia

8:40 p.m.

The same scientists who reported in 2018 that they likely discovered a large saltwater lake under the ice on Mars' south pole believe they have found three additional lakes in the same area.

The researchers published their findings Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy. The scientists used radar data from the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, which was collected by its Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS). MARSIS sent out radio waves that bounced off the surface and subsurface layers of Mars, and the scientists were able to determine the material present at each location based on how the signal reflected back.

The high reflectivity indicated there were bodies of liquid water trapped about a mile beneath the ice, Nature reports. For their study, the researchers used 134 observations from 2012 to 2019, and they figured the lakes are spread out over nearly 29,000 square miles. "It's a complex system," the University of Rome's Elena Pettinelli, a co-author of the study, told Nature. While nothing is confirmed right now, Pettinelli said it is exciting to think that "there may have been a lot of water on Mars. And if there was water, there was the possibility of life." Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m.

The Chateau Boswell Winery, one of the few privately owned family wineries remaining in California's Napa Valley, was destroyed on Sunday night as the Glass fire swept through the property.

Located in St. Helena, the Chateau Boswell Winery was established in 1979, and is one of dozens of wineries that dot the famed Silverado Trail. The Glass fire has burned at least 11,000 acres, and KPIX reports that three other wineries — Reverie Winery, Viader Winery, and Davis Estates — are being threatened by flames. A boutique inn and several other buildings have also been destroyed in St. Helena.

Two new fast-moving fires, the Boysen fire and Shady fire, started burning on Sunday night, and are being fueled by high winds. The fires have forced at least 35,000 people to evacuate from Napa and Sonoma counties. Catherine Garcia

5:11 p.m.

Low- and middle-income countries should expect a boost in coronavirus testing soon, The Guardian reports.

Rapid and affordable coronavirus antigen tests from two different companies — SD BioSensor in South Korea and Abbott in the U.S. — will soon be distributed across the world as part of the global Access to Covid Tools initiative, which was launched in March by the World Health Organization, the European commission, the Gates Foundation, and the French government. The WHO has granted BioSensor's test emergency approval and is expected to do so for Abbott's in the near future, with 20 percent of their production going to lower income countries.

The WHO's Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove explained Monday that the tests are crucial because of their turnaround time, which is just 15 to 30 minutes, and the fact that they don't need to be taken to labs to determine a result. Faster testing will likely play a significant role in helping countries, especially those that currently have less access to reliable diagnostic tools, combat all aspects of the pandemic.

Antigen tests aren't always accurate, but they should pick up most cases, especially during the right timeframe, and their ease of use allows for more regular testing, which lowers the risk of a false result. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

4:52 p.m.

After Chadwick Boseman's tragic death, Sienna Miller has shared a story about the late actor's "astounding" generosity.

Miller revealed to Empire that when she starred opposite Boseman in 2019's 21 Bridges, he donated a part of his salary on the movie so she would be paid fairly.

"I know that everybody understands about the pay disparity in Hollywood, but I asked for a number that the studio wouldn't get to," Miller explained. "And because I was hesitant to go back to work and my daughter was starting school and it was an inconvenient time, I said, 'I'll do it if I'm compensated in the right way.' And Chadwick ended up donating some of his salary to get me to the number that I had asked for. He said that that was what I deserved to be paid."

Miller said this move by Boseman, who also produced 21 Bridges, was "about the most astounding thing that I've experienced," and something that "just doesn't happen" in Hollywood.

"It's just unfathomable to imagine another man in that town behaving that graciously or respectfully," she said. "I've told other male actor friends of mine that story and they all go very very quiet and go home and probably have to sit and think about things for a while. But there was no showiness, it was, 'Of course I'll get you to that number, because that's what you should be paid.'"

Miller told Empire that while she hasn't shared this story before, she decided to because it's a "testament to who he was." She's the latest former co-star of Boseman to remember him in recent weeks; Black Panther's Lupita Nyong'o recently recalled "being struck by his quiet, powerful presence," saying "his power lives on and will reverberate for generations to come." Brendan Morrow

4:44 p.m.

Millions of Americans were able to work at home and stay safe as the coronavirus pandemic exploded and continues to rage. But at least 1.87 million people kept working in America's farm and food processing industries — 790,000 of whom are immigrants — putting their health on the line to keep America fed, The Center for Public Integrity and Mother Jones report.

About 43 percent of the 1.87 million frontline workers in 10 food processing industries that kept functioning through the pandemic are immigrants, Public Integrity found by analyzing census numbers and other data. A third of them are undocumented. Immigrants make up a far greater portion of these high-risk jobs than they do the total U.S. workforce, leaving them disproportionately likely to contract COVID-19.

And yet the undocumented haven't been compensated for the additional risk they took on during the pandemic. They were left out of the federal government's coronavirus relief packages; Even filing jointly with an undocumented person would erase a citizen or legal resident's stimulus money. Unemployment and local relief programs were also restricted from the undocumented, pushing them to go to work even though meatpacking and other agricultural and food industry jobs often require working side by side. When some workers did fall ill, they either avoided medical treatment or pursued it without health insurance, they tell Public Integrity.

Beyond a lack of fair compensation throughout the deadly pandemic, immigrants have also had to deal with nonstop attacks by President Trump. Read more at The Center for Public Integrity. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:02 p.m.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett has yet to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, or even appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but there's been plenty of speculation about how she'll rule on certain cases if she fills the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When it comes to areas of the law related to science and the environment, however, "she's a bit of a cipher," Robin Craig, an environmental law scholar at the University of Utah told Nature.

Sure, there are some expectations. Given Barrett's reputation as a conservative-minded judge, other legal scholars believe she'll do her part to roll back environmental regulations and curb the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to impose its rules on industry. Daniel Farber of the University of California, Berkeley, said he thinks that a potentially-strengthened conservative majority on the high court would "pretty much" leave the world "with more climate change and fewer wetlands and less biodiversity."

But ultimately, Nature notes, the evidence just isn't there to get a clear picture of Barrett's specific thinking on science-related cases, since those don't usually come before the appeals court she oversees. As the Supreme Court has shown over the years, including some recent decisions, justices don't always follow the presumed party line. Read more at Nature. Tim O'Donnell

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