September 15, 2020

Major League Baseball is on the bubble train.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that MLB and the Players Association agreed Monday night on a plan for the 2020 postseason that would seemingly lower the risk of coronavirus outbreaks among the qualified teams.

The so-called bubble doesn't appear quite as extreme as the NBA's Orlando version since there will be travel involved as the playoffs progress — as earlier reports suggested, the first round series will be played at the higher seeds' ballpark, while the American League's division and championship series will be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego, and the National League teams will play at Minute Maid Park in Houston and Globe Life Field in Arlington, which will also host the World Series — but it sounds like there will be some strict measures in place.

While MLB hasn't officially released the details, The New York Post's Joel Sherman reports players on contending teams will have to quarantine at a hotel during the final seven days of the regular season, and there will be daily coronavirus testing. During that time, players' family members can stay with them and will be subject to the same restrictions as the team going forward. If a player's family chooses to join the bubble at a later date, they will be able to do so on the condition that they quarantine for a week in a separate hotel from the team. Tim O'Donnell

11:30 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has gone on record multiple times in the past to nix the idea of adding more seats to the Supreme Court. But, recently, in light of President Trump's plan to nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — reportedly Amy Coney Barrett, who is well-respected by conservatives and would theoretically shift the high court to a 6-3 conservative majority — before the November election, Biden exhibited a slight change of tone.

When asked about court expansion earlier this week, Biden responded that it was a "legitimate question." He didn't elaborate, and there's no reason to believe he's drastically altered his view, but, as The New York Times reports, "that he would even publicly entertain the idea of adding justices as 'legitimate' is a telling signal of how far is thinking has traveled."

It also, per the Times, suggests that the way Biden views his old stomping grounds, the Senate, has shifted. The longtime senator from Delaware was a firm believer in the upper chamber's "culture of collegiality," the Times notes, which allowed him to strike up positive, friendly relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle back in the day. Now, though, that idealization may be fading as the Senate becomes more and more polarized. "He's disappointed in a lot of the people in the Senate now and a lot of the people he knew — or thought he knew," Mike Gelacak, a former aide who has known Biden since law school, told the Times. "I think he has a hard time relating to it because that's not the way he operated, and it's not the way it used to be done. It's a different place." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

9:15 a.m.

Mustapha Adib, Lebanon's prime minister-designate, resigned Saturday after he was unable to form a non-partisan cabinet in the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion in August that killed around 200 people and left thousands homeless, prompting the last cabinet to step down amid accusations of corruption and neglect.

Even before the blast, Lebanon was struggling with ongoing political and economic crises. Adib, who was designated prime minister at the end of August, was reportedly trying to move away from Lebanon's sectarian-based system of government and "create a government of experts" to address the crises, but his efforts reportedly ran into trouble when two of Lebanon's dominant Shia parties, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, insisted "they wanted the finance minister portfolio."

Adib's resignation also hinders French President Emmanuel Macron's controversial efforts to break Lebanon's political stalemate. Macron's initiative gave the country's political parties 15 days to nominate a cabinet of independent experts, The Financial Times reports, and afterward, France would convene an international pledging conference in October. Paris' attempt to intervene in Lebanon was not well received by everyone, given that France ruled the country for around two decades after the Ottoman Empire fell, but Macron's plan does have support within Beirut's political system, and leading Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri said Saturday that "those who applaud" the initiative's collapse "will bite your fingers in regret." Read more at Al Jazeera and The Financial Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:30 a.m.

Johnson & Johnson announced the start of phase three of its coronavirus vaccine trial this week, citing "positive interim results" from earlier stages of its study. Those were published Friday, and they were indeed promising.

The pharmaceutical giant reported that 99 percent of the participants between the ages of 18 and 55 in early-to-mid stage clinical trials developed neutralizing antibodies against the novel virus. The analysis also found that most of the side effects associated with the vaccine were mild and resolved within a matter of days.

It wasn't clear, however, whether participants over 65 were well-protected since immune response results were available for only 15 people in that demographic. Additionally, Reuters reports, the rate of adverse reactions — like fatigue and muscle aches — to the vaccine in that age group was just 36 percent, far lower than those seen in 64 percent of the younger participants. That might sound like good news, but it actually suggests the immune response in older people may be weaker.

One of the key aspects of Johnson & Johnson's trial is that just a single dose produced a strong immune response in participants. Other companies developing vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer are using a two-dose approach. If Johnson & Johnson's phase three trial, in which 60,000 volunteers will enroll across three continents, eventually proves the single dose is safe and effective, it could simplify distribution of the vaccine. Read more at Reuters and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

September 25, 2020

President Trump has reportedly settled on a Supreme Court nominee.

Trump plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court, senior Republican sources tell CNN and and multiple sources involved in or familiar with the selection process tell CBS News. Trump may still change his mind, but as of Friday evening, he's expected to announce Barrett as his pick on Saturday afternoon.

Barrett is a Notre Dame Law School professor and a judge for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She formerly clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and her judicial style has been likened to the conservative originalist. Her confirmation would give the conservative wing of the court a solid 6-3 majority.

Ginsburg died last week at age 87, after decades fighting for gender equality and leading the court's liberal wing. Democrats are expected to oppose Barrett's nomination, largely because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) avoided hearing from former President Barack Obama's nominee in the last year of his presidency. Nearly all Republican senators have indicated they will support a vote on Trump's nominee, making it extremely likely that if Barrett is nominated, she will be confirmed. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 25, 2020

Ben Carson has some problems with the White House.

The secretary of housing and urban development spoke Friday in Atlanta ahead of President Trump's speech outlining his platform for Black Americans. But it's what Carson didn't say that stole the show: A bulleted list of talking points and complaints he seemingly wanted to bring up with Trump.

In a photo captured by Bloomberg's Justin Sink, words on a paper in front of Carson at the event clearly showed Carson has some problems with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and its director John McEntee. "I am very loyal to you and after you win I hope to stay in your administration," the first bullet reads. "I am not happy with the way PPO is handling my agency," the next bullet says. The final line reads "I like John and respect what he is doing, however I am sensing a severe [illegible] of trust," with the illegible word blocked by a microphone stand.

Carson didn't say any of those things during the speech. The White House declined to comment to Bloomberg, and Carson's team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 25, 2020

There was an idea ... to bring Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury to Disney+.

Jackson will once again play Fury, his character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a new Marvel series on Disney+, Variety reported on Friday.

Details about the plot of the series weren't available, but this is another Disney+ show Marvel has in the works based on its characters from the films, in addition to the upcoming WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye. Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk are also Marvel shows in development at Disney+. Marvel for years has had television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D running simultaneous to the films, but these upcoming Disney+ projects are expected to be more directly connected to the continuity of the movies.

As Variety notes, this new Marvel Disney+ series would be Jackson's first regular television role ever.

Jackson memorably debuted as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the end credits of 2008's Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first film, and he has played the character all the way up to last year's Spider-Man: Far From Home. A post-credits scene of that 2019 film revealed Fury to be on a spaceship, possibly working on a galactic version of S.H.I.E.L.D., where he stumbled about asking where his shoes were. Might we see Fury among the stars in the Disney+ show? And will he ever find his shoes? Either way, this is one series that may be worth keeping an eye on. Brendan Morrow

September 25, 2020

Former Rep. Ron Paul says he's "doing fine" after being hospitalized in Texas.

After alarming video emerged on Friday showing Paul starting to slur his words as he spoke during a livestream, Fox News reported that the former congressman was hospitalized for "precautionary" reasons. Fox News' Harris Faulkner also reported that Paul is "lucid and optimistic" at the hospital, according to the Washington Examiner.

A picture that was soon posted to Paul's Twitter account showed him giving a thumbs up at the hospital, while a message from the former congressman said, "I am doing fine. Thank you for your concern." His son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), also tweeted, "Thank God, Dad is doing well. Thank you for all your prayers today."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was among those who had quickly wished Paul well on Twitter following the livestream, tweeting, "For many decades, he has been an extraordinary warrior for liberty. May God's healing hand be upon Dr. Paul, and may God's peace and grace be upon the entire family." Brendan Morrow

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