May 4, 2021

A Phase 3 clinical trial of 90 people with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found that combining MDMA, the illegal psychedelic drug also known as ecstasy or Molly, with talk therapy significantly relieved symptoms, The New York Times reports. Two months after participating in the trial, 67 percent of the combat veterans, first responders, and survivors of sexual assault, childhood trauma, mass shootings, and domestic violence who were given MDMA no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis, versus 32 percent given a placebo with their talk therapy.

The study, awaiting likely publication in the journal Nature Medicine later this month, found no serious adverse reactions from the clinical doses of MDMA. If a second Phase 3 trial underway with 100 subjects shows similarly promising results and safety, the Food and Drug Administration could approve MDMA-assisted therapy for therapeutic use as soon as 2023, the Times reports.

"This is about as excited as I can get about a clinical trial," Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Gul Dolen, who was not involved in the research, told the Times. "There is nothing like this in clinical trial results for a neuropsychiatric disease." Jennifer Mitchell, the U.C. San Francisco neuroscientist who is lead author of the study, said she's excited "people are suddenly willing to consider these substances as therapeutics again, which hasn't happened in 50 years."

MDMA was invented by Merck pharmacists in 1912 and revived in 1976 by psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin. From 1977 to 1985, hundreds of therapists and other practitioners experimented with using MDMA, some reporting thrilling successes. But after the drug "escaped the clinic to the dance floor" in the 1980s, the Times says, the Drug Enforcement Administration criminalized MDMA and the clinical research dried up. MDMA without talk therapy isn't effective against PTSD, researchers caution, and recreational ecstasy or Molly is sometimes adulterated with dangerous substances.

An estimated 7 percent of Americans — and 13 percent of combat veterans — will experience PTSD, and a significant portion of them don't respond to current medications. Mental health experts also expressed hope that this first Phase 3 trial on psychedelic-assisted therapy could pave the way for research on other banned psychedelics — including LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin (mushrooms) — or the use of MDMA on other intractable mental health conditions. Read more about the research at The New York Times. Peter Weber

7:58 p.m.

Cyclone Tauktae made landfall in India's western state of Gujarat on Monday, bringing with it heavy rain and winds.

The cyclone was classified as being "extremely severe" — the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane — and has already killed 12 people since the weekend. About 150,000 people who live in low-lying areas were evacuated ahead of the cyclone making landfall, and are now in shelters. BBC News reports Tauktae is the strongest cyclone to hit the region since 1998.

The cyclone comes as India deals with a catastrophic surge in COVID-19 cases, with hospitals running out of oxygen and beds for patients. There are concerns that by moving so many people to shelters, this could lead to coronavirus outbreaks in the next few weeks. Catherine Garcia

7:07 p.m.

President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, and during their call expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and encouraged Netanyahu "to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians," the White House said.

Over the last week, Israel has been conducting airstrike after airstrike in Gaza, and in return, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel. This is the worst fighting between the two sides since 2014, and so far, at least 200 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed.

Egypt and the United Nations have been trying to broker a ceasefire, but have yet to make any progress. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said any "diplomatic initiative that advances that prospect is something that we'll support," but "ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a ceasefire."

The Biden administration said it is focusing on "quiet, intensive diplomacy," but some Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), are calling on the president to "push harder" on Israel and Hamas to stop the violence. "We can't continue to see this loss of civilian life," Schiff said on Face the Nation Sunday. "It's got to come to an end." Catherine Garcia

6:27 p.m.

Just as Americans finished filing their 2020 taxes, the president released his.

President Biden shared his tax returns on Monday evening, which Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointedly noted was restoring the time-honored and "transparent" presidential tradition ignored by his predecessor, President Donald Trump. Vice President Kamala Harris' taxes were released Monday evening, as well.

Notably, both Biden and Harris reported lower incomes than in 2019; they would, however, still "end up paying higher tax rates under Biden's American Family Plan based on their incomes this year," Bloomberg reports. The president's income fell to $607,336 in 2020, while Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff reported a federal adjusted gross income of $1,695,225.

The big reveal came on the heels of Monday's other tax-related news, in which the Biden administration shared it would "kick-start advance payments" of the American Relief Plan's child tax credit on July 15, per Insider.

Read more at Bloomberg and Insider. Brigid Kennedy

6:13 p.m.

Ariana Grande thought she'd end up with Dalton, and it was a match.

Grande and her fiancé Dalton Gomez, a real estate agent, got married over the weekend, TMZ reported and the pop star's representative confirmed to People.

"It was tiny and intimate — less than 20 people," the representative said. "The room was so happy and full of love. The couple and both families couldn't be happier."

The wedding reportedly took place at Grande's home in Montecito, California, though TMZ writes that "there was no real 'ceremony'" and that they "said their 'I dos' in an informal way." The "thank u, next" singer, who was previously engaged to comedian and actor Pete Davidson, announced her engagement to Gomez in December after the two started dating in early 2020.

"Forever n then some," she wrote on Instagram at the time while offering a look at her engagement ring. Make that eight rings, then! Brendan Morrow

6:07 p.m.

President Biden may begin issuing pardons before the 2022 midterms, The New York Times reports.

Per the Times, administration officials have begun evaluating clemency requests, and activists have said they feel they're getting the sense pardons and commutations may be signed by the president within the next year or two. "We asked them not to wait to the end of a term to execute pardon and commutation power for photo ops, and they definitely assured us that is not this administration's plans," DeAnna Hoskins, the president of the criminal justice group JustLeadershipUSA, told the Times. Hoskins participated in a Zoom call between White House officials and formerly incarcerated citizens last month.

While Biden appears to be getting the ball rolling early, the process itself will be quite deliberate and in conjunction with the Justice Department, which oversees a "rigorous application vetting process," the Times reports. That differs from former President Donald Trump's pardon approach, the Times notes, which often bypassed the Justice Department and instead relied on "an ad hoc network of friends and allies."

Not everyone loves that idea, though. Desmond Meade, a voting rights activist who is seeking a federal pardon for a decades-old military conviction for stealing liquor and electronics on Navy bases while he was serving in the Army, said the Justice Department's application is "way too bureaucratic" and "daunting." He tried to convince the Biden administration to move the process outside the department, but it appears they are not inclined to do so, the Times reports. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

3:54 p.m.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is reportedly set to receive a whopping $5 million for his book about the COVID-19 pandemic, which controversially debuted while the pandemic was still unfolding.

Cuomo has reported that he earned $3.12 million in 2020 from his book American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, and under the contract for the book, another $2 million will be paid over the course of the next two years, The New York Times reported on Monday.

A spokesperson for the governor told the Times that Cuomo netted a total of $1,537,508 from the book last year after expenses and taxes, a third of which was donated to United Way of New York State for COVID-19 relief and vaccination efforts. The rest of the money will be given to "a trust for his three daughters equally," the spokesperson said.

Cuomo faced criticism last year for his decision to release a book about New York's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020 before the pandemic was over. In the subsequent months, his administration became engulfed in multiple scandals, including surrounding its handling of the number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents and allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo.

Last month, The New York Times also revealed that Cuomo was facing an investigation into allegations that he used state resources while writing American Crisis. Cuomo has said some staff volunteered to work on the book but has denied improperly misusing state resources.

Given that Crown, the publisher of American Crisis, previously announced it would not release a paperback edition of the book, the Times reported it was unclear whether the full advance would be paid. But the Times also notes that with about 50,000 copies sold, book sales for American Crisis "have been anemic." Brendan Morrow

3:51 p.m.

The battle for the Republican Party's future is ongoing, and Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) aims to be a part of it, albeit in a different role.

Duncan, who clashed with former President Donald Trump over the latter's false claims of widespread voter fraud in Georgia's presidential election, announced Monday that he won't seek re-election next year and will instead focus his energy on building a national organization he is calling "GOP 2.0." "The national events of the last six months have deeply affected my family in ways I would have never imagined when I first asked for their support to run for lieutenant governor in 2017," Duncan said in a statement.

Duncan's explanation of the GOP 2.0 suggests he's not looking to start a new, breakaway party. His goal, he said, is rather to heal and rebuild the current Republican Party by "reminding Americans [of] the value of conservative policies through genuine empathy and a respectful tone."

CNN's Jake Tapper praised Duncan as one of the GOP's "stalwarts standing for facts and truth against the maelstrom of election lies." Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads