It's been more than a month since the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for distribution, and nearly a year since it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would require a vaccine to fully end. But former President Donald Trump's administration still failed to arrange a usable plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Americans, as President Biden's incoming administration reportedly just discovered.
Biden's team expected to find major flaws in Trump's distribution plans when they arrived at the White House on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the administration's COVID-19 work tell CNN. But "one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy," CNN reports. As one source put it, "There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch."
Biden campaigned on the promise of swiftly reversing the Trump administration's hands-off approach to handling the virus. The new president did take a small step in that direction Wednesday, signing an executive order mandating people wear masks on federal property and moving to make the federal government the command center for vaccine and testing distribution and administration. But Wednesday's reported discovery reveals it's going to be a lot harder than just changing attitudes around social distancing. And as one source told CNN, the lack of a plan "is just further affirmation of complete incompetence" by the Trump administration.
Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 czar, said as much on Wednesday, telling reporters that "what we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined." Still, as one official leading the COVID-19 response conceded to The Daily Beast, "At least we won't have a president that's actively fighting those rules on national television." Kathryn Krawczyk
The Washington Post on Tuesday announced that Sally Buzbee will succeed Marty Baron as executive editor, marking the first time in the prestigious paper's 144-year history that a woman will lead the newsroom.
Buzbee's hiring highlights the surge in female leadership at many of the world's most prominent news organizations, including major U.S. television networks like CBS News and ABC News, as well as some of the largest international news agencies, like Reuters.
A footnote: Women are now in charge of the newsrooms at the Washington Post, CBS News, ABC News, NPR, MSNBC, Reuters, Financial Times, Guardian and the Economist. The fact that this is not a big deal is kind of a big deal.
While the hire breaks new ground for the Post, it's not unfamiliar territory for the veteran Buzbee, who was previously The Associated Press' executive editor. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell
The truth is out there — according to Demi Lovato.
The pop star is set to host a new four-part unscripted series from Peacock called Unidentified With Demi Lovato, which will follow her "quest" to prove that aliens exist, TVLine reports.
"Demi is a true believer, and during this courageous adventure, she hopes to convince her friends, family and her millions of followers that not only are there intelligent beings beyond Earth but that they are already here!" the streamer declared. "Demi plans to learn enough about the extra-terrestrials through interviewing scientists, alien abductees, and her own experiments to initiate those close encounters and make peace with the aliens, and ultimately save ourselves."
The series will revolve around Lovato, her sister Dallas Lovato, and her "skeptical" best friend Matthew Scott Montgomery — the Scully to her Mulder, if you will. They'll "investigate recent eyewitness encounters, uncover secret government reports, and conduct tests at known UFO hot spots." It might sound a bit like very belated April Fools announcement, but the project isn't actually out of left field for Lovato, who previously declared on Instagram she wanted to "force our governments to acknowledge the truth about extraterrestrial life among us," Deadline notes.
We wish Lovato the best of luck on her quest, and if she happens to mysteriously disappear anytime in the next few months, we might just know why. Brendan Morrow
During a Senate Judiciary Committee on "ghost guns" (firearms made at home that lack a serial number) on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tried to change the subject to a debate about police funding.
"If you don't support abolishing the police, why do you keep voting for nominees who advocate abolishing the police?," Cruz asked his Democratic colleagues, referring to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, whom President Biden has nominated to run the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R-Conn.) responded to Cruz's attempted diversion by telling him his words were "a complete distortion of [Gupta's and Clarke's] positions" before adding that "we're not here to talk about those nominees. If you want to stay, we can do it at the end of the hearing, but right now we're gonna move on."
Cruz, it turns out, did not want to stay. He was next seen getting up and walking out of the room, though he did at least politely push in his chair. Tim O'Donnell
"As you well know, Senator Cruz, that is a complete distortion of their positions" -- Sen. Blumenthal
No, you haven't accidentally stepped into a time machine and emerged back in 2003: it appears Bennifer really might be a thing again.
After it was revealed Monday that exes Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck recently vacationed together for a week, TMZ reported Tuesday that they "didn't just rekindle their romance within the last two weeks," but "instead, it's been building since February." According to the report, Lopez and Affleck, who broke up in 2004, were in "very regular contact" beginning in early February, when Affleck "started flooding her with emails" while she was filming a movie in the Dominican Republic.
"We're told the tone of the emails wasn't just friendly," TMZ says, "but more loving and longing for Jen."
Affleck in one instance reportedly told Lopez she looked beautiful in photos and that he wished he could be down there with her in the Dominican Republic. They apparently emailed each other back and forth for Lopez's entire film shoot, which went until the end of April. The two were subsequently spotted together in May, setting the internet aflame and sparking rumors of a rekindled romance — though a source told Page Sixat the time, "They are friends."
But on Monday, E! News quoted a source as saying Affleck and Lopez have "picked up where they last left off," also saying, "the chemistry is unreal." Lopez and Alex Rodriguez officially announced they were calling off their engagement in April, and Rodriguez, E! also reported, is apparently "shocked that J.Lo has moved on."
So, is Bennifer really back, then? Affleck's buddy Matt Damon, for one, is rooting for these crazy kids.
As the Israel-Palestine conflict escalates, the lack of a U.S. ambassador to Israel or a consul general in Jerusalem for Palestinians is becoming more glaring, Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Tuesday.
I realize the Administration has lowballed and deprioritized the Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian issue. But the lack of an Ambassador to Israel and a consul general in Jerusalem is a serious problem during a crisis.
In an earlier tweet, Miller wrote that the Biden administration's decision to remain mostly out of the fray has resulted in Israel and Hamas emerging as the "key decision-makers" at the moment, which is "not an uplifting thought." Walla News' Barak Ravid seemed to agree that the unhurried approach is befuddling amid a "huge crisis," noting that the Biden administration has appointed envoys for Iran, Libya, the Horn of Africa, and Yemen. "This doesn't make any sense," he tweeted.
While the Biden administration clearly wants to play a more restrained role in the Middle East than past administrations, it does seem that moving more quickly on tapping diplomatic officials could be necessary. On Monday, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., tweeted (in Hebrew) his displeasure with the State Department's current messaging, Politico reports, suggesting the need for more direct engagement. Tim O'Donnell
In their New York City mayoral endorsement interviews, published Monday by The New York Times, Democratic candidates Shaun Donovan and Ray McGuire dramatically underestimated the cost of homes in the city.
When asked the median sales price for a house or apartment in Brooklyn, McGuire, a former Citigroup vice chairman and Wall Street executive responded, "It's got to be somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher." The correct answer was $900,000.
When asked the same question, Donovan, who was the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama and a housing commissioner under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, answered, "I would guess it is around $100,000." He later emailed to clarify his response as referring to the "assessed value" of homes in Brooklyn, not their price.
Of the eight candidates interviewed, the only one to answer correctly was former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, although Scott Stringer and Kathryn Garcia came close. Maya Wiley overestimated, responding with $1.8 million.
Nobody bungled the NYT's "how much do homes cost" Qs like Donovan and McGuire. Wiley was only wrong bc she over-estimated Brooklyn prices - tbd not a bad headspace for a mayoral candidate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's official stance is that "less than 10 percent" of COVID-19 transmission has occurred outdoors, but The New York Times' David Leonhardt wrote Tuesday that that's like saying "sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year." Sharks actually only attack around 150 people a year, so the 20,000 number is "both true and deceiving," which appears to be the case with the CDC's outdoor transmission assessment.
In reality, multiple epidemiologists told Leonhardt the actual figure is probably less than 1 percent, and may even be below 0.1 percent. The 10 percent benchmark "seems to be a huge exaggeration," said Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrew's.
The CDC reportedly reached that number based on research that defined any place that was a mix of indoors and outdoors as the latter. For instance, the bulk of cases tied to outdoor transmission in multiple studies occurred at construction sites in Singapore, which the Times reports were not solely outdoor settings, leaving open the possibility that transmission really occurred indoors. But even if all of the Singapore cases did occur outside, they still only made up less than 1 percent of total cases.
Increasing the risk by tenfold or more is an issue, Leonardt argues, not because it's bad math, but because it's "an example of how the agency is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what's truly risky." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell