June 12, 2020

The launch of HBO Max was so ridiculously confusing that just over two weeks later, WarnerMedia is scrambling to clear things up. They're attempting to, at least.

When the new WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max debuted last month, it existed alongside HBO Go and HBO Now, leaving everyone forced to look up explainer articles about what exactly the difference between the three is. The short answer: HBO Max is a Netflix-like streaming service with HBO content plus other movies and shows, while HBO Go is where you stream just HBO content if you subscribe to the channel through cable, and HBO Now is where you can stream just HBO content if you don't have cable.

Apparently, WarnerMedia realized how overcomplicated that is, as on Friday, the company announced some changes. First of all, it's killing off HBO Go, saying that this app will be removed "from primary platforms as of July 31." The company is also rebranding HBO Now, so that will just be called "HBO." HBO Max stays the same, so there will soon be two options for apps: HBO Max and HBO.

But there was still tons of confusion. For one, it was unclear what HBO Go users who don't have access to the HBO Max app are supposed to do now. HBO Max, after all, still hasn't launched on Roku or Amazon Fire TV, despite these being the two most popular streaming platforms. The announcement, then, sure makes it sound like for those who use HBO Go on Fire TV or Roku, the app is just disappearing with no replacement.

There's also likely to still be confusion about why, exactly, "HBO" (formerly HBO Now) is even a separate thing from HBO Max, given that they're both the exact same price. Stay tuned to see how WarnerMedia can somehow, improbably, make this even more confusing. Brendan Morrow

2:10 p.m.

At least 18 people were killed and 57 injured Saturday during a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, the interior ministry said. The casualty toll may rise as family members continue searching hospitals where the wounded are being treated.

The explosion occurred outside an education center in Dasht-e-Barchi, a heavily Shiite neighborhood in the western section of the capital, per The Associated Press. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban — which has begun peace talks with the Afghan government amid an ongoing, decades-long conflict that has seen a recent surge in violence — rejected any involvement. The Islamic State said it was behind a similar attack that killed 34 students at an education center in 2018, but there has been no word from the militant group regarding the most recent incident.

Also on Saturday, one roadside bomb killed nine people in eastern Afghanistan, and a second killed two policemen after it struck their vehicle en route to the site of the first explosion. Again, no one claimed responsibility, although a spokesman for the provincial police claimed the Taliban had placed the explosives, AP reports. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

1:38 p.m.

In the latest episode of Pod Save America — a podcast hosted by several former Obama administration staffers — the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, laid out what Politico described as "the most in-depth statement of priorities we've heard from" the candidate.

Biden, responding to the Republican Party's agenda for a second Trump administration term (which includes items focused on space exploration and a national high speed wireless network), said that, first and foremost, he's determined to "get control" of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, though, he said he wants to invest in "real infrastructure," with a heavy focus on science and technology. "We used to invest a little over 2.6 percent of our GDP in research and science," Biden said. "It's now down to 0.6 percent ... We're going to make sure that we can compete with the rest of the world and lead the rest of the world."

The former vice president predicted that, through these renewed efforts, "we're going to cure cancer" while making strides in research on Alzheimer's and diabetes, among other diseases. He also described an aspect of his agriculture policy plan, which he said could make the industry the first in the U.S. to reach the net zero carbon emission threshold. Tim O'Donnell

12:50 p.m.

The State Department on Friday temporarily halted "all training programs related to diversity and inclusion," Reuters reports.

Reuters obtained an internal cable detailing the decision, which was made in response to an executive order issued by President Trump in September forbidding federal agencies to teach "divisive concepts" such as the idea that the United States is "fundamentally racist or sexist." Before that, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memo telling government officials they couldn't use taxpayer money to fund sessions focused on subjects like critical race theory or white privilege. The Trump administration's efforts to cut back on such programs comes amid a nationwide debate about racial injustice in the U.S. — both contemporarily and historically — which was fueled in large part by protests against police brutality earlier this year.

The State Department cable said the pause will allow the OMB "to review program content." Per Reuters, a report from an independent federal watchdog released this year said "longstanding diversity issues exist" in the State Department, particularly in senior ranks. The report noted that the overall proportion of racial or ethnic minorities working at the agency has increased, but the proportions of Black and female employees have declined. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

11:27 a.m.

Coronavirus vaccine trials conducted by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are preparing to resume, the pharmaceutical companies said Friday.

Both studies were put on hold after two volunteers who enrolled in AstraZeneca's vaccine trial developed a possible neurological side effect, and another person enrolled in J&J's study reportedly suffered a stroke. AstraZeneca, which had already restarted its trial in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, said independent monitoring committees and international regulators agreed it was safe to resume the trial in the U.S, as well. The Food and Drug Administration reportedly did not find the vaccine candidate to be responsible for the neurological symptoms, but the agency was also unable to definitively rule out a link.

Similarly, investigators concluded the J&J volunteer's illness did not appear to be related to the vaccine candidate, although there was "no clear cause" of the incident. Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer at J&J, told Stat News the company could begin enrolling patients for the vaccine study — the only major one to test just a single dose — again early next week. Read more at The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

10:53 a.m.

President Trump on Saturday joined the more than 50 million Americans who have already cast their ballots ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. The president, who spent Friday evening at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, voted in person early in the morning before getting ready to depart the Sunshine State for three campaign rallies in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio, all crucial battlegrounds.

After exiting the booth, Trump told reporters he was very impressed with how secure the voting process was, especially compared to mail-in voting, which has become a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats due to the increase in absentee ballots nationwide in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, but Trump has continually reiterated his belief that the system is vulnerable to it. "When you send in your ballot, it could never be secure like that," Trump said Saturday. (Observers pointed out that the president mailed in his Florida primary ballot in August amid his criticism.)

Trump ended his quick exchange with the press on a lighter note, declaring that he voted "for a guy named Trump." Tim O'Donnell

8:41 a.m.

Polish President Andrzej Duda tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, a presidential minister said Saturday. Duda is the latest among a handful of world leaders, including President Trump, to contract the virus. He reportedly "feels good" and is in isolation. Poland's president guides foreign policy and signs legislation, but most duties designated for the office are ceremonial, and day-to-day governance is the responsibility of the prime minister.

Duda's positive test result comes amid a wave of infections in Poland, which saw low rates earlier this year when the virus first struck Europe. On Saturday, the country recorded 13,628 new COVID-19 cases and 179 deaths, marking new 24-hour highs since the pandemic began. The government imposed new restrictions Saturday that fall just short of a lockdown in the hopes of curbing the outbreak, The Associated Press reports.

The virus continues to surge in other European countries, as well, including the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. Those five countries currently have the highest rate of infection worldwide, CNN reports.

Italy and Spain, which were hit hard by the virus early in the pandemic, are also dealing with case increases. Several regions in Spain have announced new night curfews in the coming days, while the governor of Italy's Campania said he is imposing a regional lockdown "for 30 to 40 days" after the country reported a daily record of infections Friday. Read more at The Associated Press and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

8:08 a.m.

The United States on Friday recorded more than 85,000 new coronavirus cases, The New York Times reports. That set a new single-day record, breaking the previous mark from mid-July by nearly 10,000 cases. Hospitalizations have also been rising steadily since the start of October, and while deaths have mostly remained flat, they are often a lagging indicator.

The current surge is most heavily concentrated in the Midwest and West, but it's spread out more widely than the previous waves from the spring and summer, which occurred primarily in the Northeast and Sun Belt, respectively. More than 170 counties across 36 states were designated rapidly rising hotspots, an internal federal report produced Thursday for Department of Health and Human Services officials that was obtained by The Washington Post revealed.

Earlier in the pandemic, health care workers would move around to help ease the burden facing overwhelmed hospitals, but "that's just not possible when the virus is surging everywhere," Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told the Post; experts have warned of shortages of medical staff and supplies.

Additionally, Murray said, "we are starting this wave much higher than either of the previous waves. And it will simply keep going up until people and officials decide to do something about it." Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

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