November 10, 2020

Before President Trump unceremoniously fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper via tweet on Monday, Esper sat down with The Military Times on Nov. 4 for what turned out to be a sort of exit interview, published Monday afternoon. Esper said the nickname used by Trump and others, "Yesper," was unfair. "My frustration is I sit here and say, 'Hmm, 18 Cabinet members. Who's pushed back more than anybody?' Name another Cabinet secretary that's pushed back," he said. "Have you seen me on a stage saying, 'Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?'" (Yes, The Washington Post's Aaron Blake responded, with video evidence.)

Esper told the Times he never had any intention of quitting but thought he might be fired at some point soon. He recounted some things he was proud to have accomplished, some times he tried to "make the best out of" Trump orders he disagreed with, and when asked if any other defense secretaries had to spend as much time balancing a president's demands with very real consequences for national security, he answered, "Probably not."

And he had a warning of sorts for America. "At the end of the day, it's as I said — you've got to pick your fights," Esper said. "I could have a fight over anything, and I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that — why? Who's going to come in behind me? It's going to be a real 'yes man.' And then God help us."

That's a "very real and grim" warning for the last 10 weeks of Trump's presidency, even if it ends up being unfair to Esper's acting successor, Christopher Miller, Blake writes in the Post. "That one of Trump's Cabinet officials would literally say 'God help us' about a situation in which we now find ourselves should send shock waves through our body politic," and a second consecutive defense secretary suggesting "Trump is dangerous" is "a big deal, which should escape nobody's notice." But "Esper overstated his true history of standing up to Trump," he added. And that more "obsequious" part of Esper's legacy shouldn't be forgotten, either. Peter Weber

5:44 p.m.

Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who performed George Floyd's autopsy, testified in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Friday, telling jurors that the primary cause of Floyd's death was the restraint of his body and pressure on his neck.

Chauvin's defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that Floyd's underlying health issues and drug use were to blame for his death while Chauvin was arresting him in May 2020, reports The New York Times. Baker testified that while Floyd's heart disease and drug use were "contributing conditions," compression of his neck was the primary cause of death.

Baker said medical examiners are allowed to classify the manner of death as "undetermined" if circumstances are unclear, but in this case, he classified Floyd's death as "homicide." Read more at The New York Times. The Week Staff

5:14 p.m.

Taylor Swift didn't re-record 27 tracks for Fearless (Taylor's Version) just for fans to listen to the one owned by her former label/sworn enemy, Big Machine.

Following Friday's midnight release of Fearless (Taylor's Version) — for which Swift re-recorded her music after failing to acquire the rights to her early albums two years ago — Swifties launched a campaign to bury the Big Machine version on Spotify.

The instructions — which involve looking up Fearless (Platinum Edition), clicking the three dots to "hide this song," and then repeating the process "for all the songs" — are intended to make it so the "old versions don't play during shuffle," a fan account said. "[For] Swifties who want to heed Taylor's call to stop supporting her old albums ... it's pretty much mandatory," TMZ wrote. Jeva Lange

4:53 p.m.

Being an 11-time Grammy Award nominee is maybe not as glamorous as you might think.

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who shares two daughters with her wife, Catherine Shepherd, published her memoir, Broken Horses, this week, and in it details the complexities of being both a music star and a parent.

Describing the morning that she learned that she and her bandmates had received six Grammy nominations for their album By the Way, I Forgive You, Carlile writes that "both my kids woke up vomiting. That's what I love about the juxtaposition of my jobs. You'd think that it would be a total downer to spend a day like that getting life-affirming news and simultaneously being thrown up on and stuck in front of Dora the Explorer all day, but it was PERFECT."

Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

4:46 p.m.

Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes ... Travis sucking Kourtney's fingers in public. Then comes Travis with a Kourtney tattoo.

Even though Kourtney and Travis have been friends and neighbors for years, things are moving pretty quickly for the new couple, who've only been public with their relationship since January 2021. Travis has seemingly already devoted himself to Kourtney with the permanence of a tattoo, having apparently gotten her name inked over his heart — at least judging by shirtless photos of him on the set of his new music video, reports Cosmopolitan.

Kourtney's ex, Scott Disick, recently was rumored to not be "threatened" by Kourtney and Travis' blossoming relationship, although that might quickly be changing… Read more at Cosmopolitan. Jeva Lange

3:11 p.m.

After recently unveiling positive trial results, Pfizer and BioNTech are looking to get their COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in adolescents between 12 and 15 before the next school year.

Pfizer announced Friday that it has submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15.

The request came after the companies last week said a phase 3 study showed the vaccine, which has already been approved for those 16 and older, to be 100 percent effective in this age group. The study consisted of 2,260 adolescents between 12 and 15, and there were no COVID-19 cases reported among the group that was vaccinated, with the vaccine demonstrating "robust antibody responses, exceeding those recorded earlier in vaccinated participants aged 16 to 25 years old," the companies said.

Pfizer's goal, it says, is to make the vaccine available to adolescents between 12 and 15 before the start of the 2021 school year. Meanwhile, according to NBC News, the company is also studying the vaccine in children between 6 months and 11 years old, and the first participants in that trial were dosed last month. Brendan Morrow

2:11 p.m.

Employees at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a union. The final tally, announced Friday, was 1,798 "no" votes and 738 "yes" votes.

The labor drive was the most significant in Amazon's history, and would have had a far-reaching ripple effect if it had succeeded, likely encouraging other Amazon workers to organize, as well as employees of other major competitors, like Walmart. Even though Amazon managed to squash this particular drive, The Hill reports the visible organizing effort alone was enough for the RWDSU union to pick up momentum. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union says it has heard from hundreds of Amazon workers across the country since the Alabama warehouse drive began, writes The Hill.

As separate unionizing efforts begin, The New York Times reports Bessemer's outcome will likely "lead to a rethinking of strategy inside the labor movement." The Times predicts future organizers will pivot away from emphasizing location-specific concerns and "focus more on backing national policies, such as a higher federal minimum wage, than unionizing individual workplaces."

The spotlight on Bessemer may also reach the national level in another way — writes The Hill, Amazon's victory over the union may bring more attention to the Democratic-backed PRO Act, which offers protections for employees trying to unionize. The bill passed the House and remains in the Senate.

This particular union battle will likely continue to set new precedents for organizers as the RWDSU challenges the results. Union leaders accused Amazon of "blatantly illegal conduct," which Amazon denies, arguing the company engaged in illegal union-busting tactics like intimidating employees and harvesting ballots, reports The Washington Examiner. The union vowed to "demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election." Summer Meza

1:55 p.m.

Don't be surprised to see some fourth-wall-breaking glances at the camera when Indiana Jones returns next summer.

Lucasfilm announced Friday that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the Emmy-winning creator and star of Fleabag, will star opposite Harrison Ford in the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones movie. Details about her role weren't officially announced, though Deadline reported she'll be playing the movie's female lead.

The studio also confirmed that composer John Williams will once again return to score the movie. Ford was already on board to star as Indiana Jones in this sequel, which will be the series' first installment not directed by Steven Spielberg. Instead, Logan's James Mangold will direct it, though Spielberg is still on board as a producer.

This actually won't be Waller-Bridge's first collaboration with Lucasfilm, as she previously played Lando Calrissian's droid companion L3-37 in 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story. The plot of this long-awaited fifth Indiana Jones still hasn't been revealed, although given Ford is approaching his 80s, it's been speculated it could involve Indy finally hanging up his whip. Could he, perhaps, pass it on to Waller-Bridge's character for future sequels?

The movie, according to Deadline, is looking to begin production this summer, and it's slated to hit theaters in July 2022. Given that it's already been delayed multiple times and was once scheduled to debut in 2019, though, not getting too attached to that release date might be wise. Brendan Morrow

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