February 24, 2021

Defections from the Republican Party have spiked in several key states in the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Bloomberg reports.

In Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania around 57,000 voters combined have left the GOP in the weeks following the attack, which many people consider to have been inspired by former President Donald Trump. That number is small compared to the more than 74 million people who voted for Trump last year, but it could still have an effect on the shape of the party going forward and strengthen the former president's base within the GOP's ranks, Bloomberg notes.

The data also indicates that departures are much more significant among Republicans than Democrats. Per Bloomberg, there's always been some fluctuation, but in North Carolina, for example, Democratic and Republican voters had been leaving their parties at roughly the same rate as recently as December 2020. In the days and weeks after Jan. 6, however, the Republican numbers shot up dramatically, while the Democratic figures remained steady. And in Colorado, 11 Republicans have left for every Democrat. Read more about GOP defection data and how it could alter the political landscape in swing states at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

10:53 a.m.

With cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase making its Nasdaq debut on Wednesday, "investors no longer have the luxury of watching from the sidelines," Nir Kaissar writes in Bloomberg. "We all have a stake in cryptos now."

Kaissar explains that Coinbase differs from a lot of companies that head to Wall Street for public stock offerings in that it's "already hugely profitable" with expected earnings of $730 million to $800 million in the first quarter on $1.8 billion of revenue. It's valued at about $100 billion, placing it among the 100 largest companies in the U.S., which means it's guaranteed to lock up a spot in most broad market index funds. Coinbase is also eligible for the S&P 500, which Kaissar notes is "the most popular index of them all and a core investment in countless portfolios and retirement accounts," so, regardless of whether they realize it, millions of people are about to become crypto investors.

Aside from its inclusion in index funds, Kaissar expects the exchange to be very popular with actively managed funds, though he notes there are a few reasons not to get overly excited. For instance, Coinbase's profitability could soon invite competition (including from central bank digital currencies), as well as the risk of increased regulation. "With Coinbase soon to be dropped into millions of portfolios, cryptos have essentially found a way around regulators," Kaissar writes. "That may compel the [Securities and Exchange Commission] to ramp up regulation and scrutiny on crypto exchanges." Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

10:40 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is pushing back against the "crazy" COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory Fox News host Tucker Carlson floated on his highly-rated show.

In a Tuesday night segment, Carlson questioned why those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are still advised to wear masks and avoid large gatherings, proceeding to baselessly suggest of the vaccines, "Maybe it doesn't work and they're simply not telling you that." Asked to comment on these remarks on CNN on Wednesday, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dismissed them as "crazy."

"That's just a typical crazy conspiracy theory," Fauci said. "Why would we not tell people if it doesn't work? Look at the data. The data are overwhelming."

Fauci added that "I don't have any idea what he's talking about." Asked by CNN's John Berman how "dangerous" these comments by Carlson are, Fauci said they're "certainly not helpful to the public health of this nation or even globally."

The remarks came at a key time when public health officials were seeking to prevent a rise in vaccine hesitancy after the FDA and CDC recommended a pause in Johnson & Johnson's vaccine due to six cases of blood clots. At a White House briefing on Tuesday, Fauci made the case that this pause serves as evidence of "how seriously we take safety" and should make people more confident in vaccines. He noted that officials are investigating a "very rare event" seeing as just six blood clotting cases have been identified after 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S.

Carlson drew heavy criticism for his baseless vaccine remarks, with former Fox host Gretchen Carlson writing, "For Fox to allow Tucker to go off the rails and tell millions it doesn't work — criminal." Brendan Morrow

10:19 a.m.

Bernie Madoff, the former Wall Street financier who was convicted of carrying out a massive Ponzi scheme, died in prison on Wednesday morning at age 82, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

Madoff was carrying out his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, due to a terminal kidney disease. His death was of natural causes, The Associated Press reports, and is not believed to be COVID-19 related. In 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty and admitted to "swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades," writes AP. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Madoff said he was "deeply sorry and ashamed."

His scheme, considered the largest in U.S. history, nabbed an estimated $17.5 billion from investors, and "around $13 billion has been recovered since his conviction," reports The Daily Beast. The Week Staff

9:31 a.m.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario has filed a lawsuit alleging two Virginia police officers violated his constitutional rights and assaulted him following a traffic stop in December.

As it turns out, the 27-year-old Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was related to Eric Garner, the Black man who died in Staten Island in 2014 after an officer placed him a chokehold. Garner's last words were, infamously, "I can't breathe."

Nazario called Garner his uncle, The Washington Post notes, though their exact relation, aside from sharing a cousin, is unclear. He also grew up around the corner from Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, in Brooklyn.

After Garner's death, their mutual cousin told Nazario the news and reportedly reminded him that if he was ever confronted by a police officer, he needed to "stay calm, comply, never make them feel threatened," the Post writes. As footage captured by Nazario's phone and the officers' body cameras suggests, Nazario did just that during the arrest despite the escalating situation. Carr told the Post she believes that composure and Nazario's decision to drive to a well-lit area, while unable to spare him from drawn guns and pepper spray, kept him alive. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

9:05 a.m.

Colton Underwood, former star of The Bachelor, has come out as gay in an emotional interview on Good Morning America.

Underwood, who was the star of the hit reality show's 23rd season in 2019 after previously being a contestant on The Bachelorette, opened up in a conversation with ABC's Robin Roberts that aired on Wednesday, revealing he "came to terms" with his sexuality earlier this year.

"I've ran from myself for a long time," he said. "I've hated myself for a long time."

Underwood told Roberts he struggled with thoughts of suicide and that it was a "wake-up call" when he got to a "dark" place where he "would have rather died than say I'm gay." Looking back on his time on the show, Underwood said he wishes he hadn't "dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was." He apologized to the women who were contestants during his season, including winner Cassie Randolph. They ended their relationship in 2020, with Randolph filing for a restraining order against Underwood that she later dropped.

"I loved everything about her," he said. "It's hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were in going through that relationship with her was because I obviously had an internal fight going on."

Opening up further about struggling with his sexuality, Underwood revealed that when he was cast on The Bachelor, he thanked God "for making me straight" after being raised Catholic and taught that being gay was a sin. But since coming out, Underwood said he's received "love" and "support" from his friends and family, so much so that he wishes he would have had more "faith" in them before.

"I'm emotional, but I'm emotional in such a good, happy, positive way," Underwood said. "I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life, and that means the world to me." Brendan Morrow

7:58 a.m.

It seems recent reports about Sylvester Stallone joining former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club may not have been rock solid.

The Rocky star has shot down reports that he recently became a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, writing on Instagram, "I would like to say to everyone that this never happened. This is just not true. It NEVER ever happened."

It had previously been reported by Page Six that Stallone was at Trump's club last month after he bought an estate nearby, with a source claiming to the outlet, "Sly just became a member of Mar-a-Lago." That quickly drew backlash on the left, with George Takei simply tweeting, "Seriously?"

It sounds like Stallone really was at Mar-a-Lago recently, as his representative told The Hollywood Reporter he was there for a fundraising dinner, and "from that event it was mistakenly assumed that he was there as a member."

But the representative added that Rocky himself is "officially not a member of the Mar-a-Lago Club," as he "did not join the organization" or "pay initiation dues." He is, however, a member of the Breakers Club in Palm Beach. So there you have it. Stallone while denying the reports wrote on Instagram that he means "no disrespect to anyone," adding — in a phase that could probably use a comma — "so keep punching folks." Brendan Morrow

7:57 a.m.

While India, parts of South America, and other areas of the world are experiencing another wave of COVID-19, the U.S. appears to be treading water with new cases and continuing a downward trend in deaths. According to The Washington Post's tracker, the seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths was 765 on Tuesday, a slight uptick from the weekend but a rate last seen Oct. 20. A running count by economist Patrick Chovanec put Tuesday's seven-day average at 748, the lowest rate since Oct. 17.

While deaths have declined 2 percent in the past week, hospitalizations rose 2.6 percent and new cases were up 11 percent, the Post reports. And some parts of the U.S., notably Michigan, are faring much worse, with per capita cases up 18 percent to a new high and deaths rising 32 percent.

Overall, 563,449 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. And 122.3 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 75.3 million people — or 23 percent of the U.S. population — fully vaccinated. Peter Weber

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