What's in a name?
April 19, 2021

The White House has removed Betsy Weatherhead, an experienced atmospheric scientist, from her role leading the U.S. National Climate Assessment and reassigned her to the U.S. Geological Survey, The Washington Post reports. Weatherhead was put in charge of the U.S. government's definitive report on the effects of climate change last November by Kelvin Droegemeier, director of President Trump's White House Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP). Officials at President Biden's OSTP made the decision to return her to USGS, the Post reports.

Weatherhead's appointment surprised many science policy experts, but pleasantly so, because she accepts the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and poses a serious threat to the planet and the economy, the Post reports. Despite her long experience in the field and mainstream views, the Post says, Weatherhead had clashed with other federal officials in the 13 agencies involved in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates the report.

Weatherhead wanted to bring in more authors from the private sector, include more viewpoints, and increase the number of chapters on options to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the Post says, and she has also "historically placed great emphasis on communicating scientific uncertainty." One of Weatherhead's previous bosses in the private sector, Juniper Intelligence CEO Rich Sorkin, called her "one of the world's experts on uncertainty," speculating that may have been what resonated with the Trump administration.

The Biden administration has yet to pick a replacement for Weatherhead or a new director of the Global Change Research Program. Trump removed the previous director, career appointee Michael Kuperberg, in November and replaced him with David Legates, who rejects the consensus on climate change. Droegemeier, who is not a climate change skeptic, reassigned Legate and another Trump political appointee, Ryan Maue, in January after they contributed to unapproved papers casting doubt on climate change, and both men resigned from the government a few days before Biden took office. Peter Weber

March 9, 2020

Twitter announced last week that it will apply the label "manipulated media" to misleadingly edited or synthetic videos like deepfakes, and it used its new policy for the first time Sunday evening. The tagged post was from White House social media director Dan Scavino, and President Trump retweeted it for his 73 million followers.

The video in question shows Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden saying "we can only re-elect Donald Trump" during a speech Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri. Biden's full sentence was: "We can only re-elect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It's gotta be a positive campaign."

"Twitter applied the label to Scavino's tweet at about 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, about 18 hours after Scavino first shared the video," The Washington Post reports. "The video had at least 5 million views and more than 21,000 retweets as of Sunday evening. Twitter's rollout of the new label was not without technical glitches, however. The label was not showing up when people searched for Scavino's tweet, though Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said it was appearing in individuals' timelines. She added the company is working on a fix."

Twitter typically holds Trump's tweets and retweets to a looser standard, and Scavino protested that labeling the edited video was a step too far. "The video was NOT manipulated," he tweeted. Trump campaign officials and the Republican National Committee's spokeswoman also complained that changing the meaning of Biden's sentence by cutting it in half does not count as manipulation. Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said with such tactics, Trump "has made it inescapably clear that he's terrified of Joe Biden." After all, he added, "Trump himself is so panicked about Joe Biden that he got himself impeached trying to force a foreign country to lie about him." Peter Weber

March 6, 2019

On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), "the longest-serving independent in congressional history," signed a statement affirming: "I am a member of the Democratic Party. I will run a Democrat, accept the nomination of my party, and I will serve as a Democrat if elected." Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats and is one of more than a dozen candidates running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has consistently run for office in Vermont as an independent.

After Sanders' 2016 run for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Democratic National Committee decided that all future presidential candidates had to sign the pledge Sanders notarized Tuesday, obtained by NBC News. The DNC sent out the statement to all declared candidates last week, and the signed pledges were due this week.

In late 2015, Sanders told reporters, "I am a Democrat now," and said he would run as a Democrat in all future elections. In 2018, he won re-election in Vermont as an independent, and on Monday, he filed for re-election in 2024 — also as an independent.

"Vermont is one of a handful of states where voters do not register by party and can participate in any primary they wish," NBC News notes, "so Sanders has never had to officially declare his personal partisan membership." Peter Weber

February 5, 2019

At a Manhattan Barnes & Nobel in Manhattan last week, financial journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin asked budding "centrist independent" presidential candidate Howard Schultz if he agreed with Winners Take All author Anand Giridharadas — plus Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other wealth-tax Democrats — that "billionaires have too much power in American public life." At least one viewer enjoyed his answer.

"You haven’t lived until you've seen Howard Schultz's facial muscles react when @andrewrsorkin asks, on my behalf, if billionaires have too much power in American life," Giridharadas tweeted above a video of Schultz's answer. The interview is most famous for a heckler who called Schultz an "egotistical, billionaire a--hole," and the former Starbucks CEO began by suggesting the label "billionaire" might be a little toxic nowadays. He offered some alternatives.

"The moniker 'billionaire' now has become the catchphrase," Schultz said. "I would rephrase that and I would say 'people of means' have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair. And I think that speaks to the inequality, but it also directly speaks to the special interests that are paid for by people of wealth and corporations who are looking for influence, and they have such unbelievable influence on the politicians who are steeped in the ideology of both parties." He's not, he said. "All I'm trying to do is one thing: Walk in the shoes of the American people."

Schultz did not at that moment explain what "ideology" has to do with money in politics, which "special interests" he finds problematic, or how "people of means" and "people of wealth" think they can "walk in the shoes of the American people" while they still have, unlike most of the American people, many billions of dollars. But he does address his humble upbringing in the hourlong Q&A, and you can watch the entire thing if you are interested. Peter Weber

January 16, 2019

Fox News senior analyst Brit Hume doesn't think Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) should get a pass for defending white nationalism and white supremacy, he told Marth MacCallum on Tuesday's The Story. "I'm sorry, the juxtaposition of what's wrong with those terms and white supremacism is just too close for comfort." But journalists have to be careful not to go "throwing the word racist around with abandon," he argued, because while the Civil Rights movement rightfully stigmatized racism in the 1960s, the word "racist" has since been "weaponized."

Hume singled out The New York Times for running an article listing "racist" things King has said, objecting to their inclusion of anti-Islamic statements, and he criticized NBC News for rescinding its guidance that NBC journalists shouldn't call King a racist. The media should just "accurately" quote what people say and let people "make up their own minds" if it's racist, he said. "I think it is absolutely one of the things it is wrong with the news media today and why we as an institution stand in such low esteem," Hume said. "People think we are biased, and this suggests that indeed we are."

As it turns out, Fox News is one of the few news organizations that called King's remarks racist.

"Fox News earned some credit on Twitter when its news alert called King's comments racist," but "the conservative network hasn't given the story much air time," notes HuffPost's Lydia O'Connor. "King's quote got a 30-second mention on Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning, in which the hosts referred to his statement as 'comments about white supremacy and white nationalism.' For comparison's sake, the show spent 12 minutes discussing a razor commercial that day." Peter Weber

December 31, 2018

About a quarter of the federal government is shut down indefinitely because President Trump is demanding $5 billion for a border wall, Democrats are countering with $1.3 billion for border security, and Congress has the power of the purse. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Sunday, outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly threw a little nuance into the standoff.

"To be honest, it's not a wall," Kelly told the Times in a sort of exit interview Friday. "The president still says 'wall' — oftentimes frankly he'll say 'barrier' or 'fencing,' now he's tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it." Kelly was Trump's first Homeland Security secretary, and when he first asked the border-security "salt-of-the-earth, Joe-Six-Pack folks" in U.S. Customs and Border Protection about Trump's wall, he told the Times, "they said, 'Well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people.'"

Kelly has downplayed Trump's wall idea before, drawing Trump's ire by telling House Democrats and then Fox News last January that the president's views on the wall had "evolved," after being "not fully informed" during the campaign. Trump tweet-responded that "the Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it." He has recently suggested he still means a coast-to-coast barrier, though he's testing out phrases like "artistically designed steel slats."

"Kelly was known to tell aides that he had the 'worst job in the world,' and frequently told people that Mr. Trump was not up to role of president," The New York Times reports, citing two former administration officials. Kelly told the Los Angeles Times that he stayed on the job for 17 months out of a sense of duty. "Military people," he said, "don't walk away." Peter Weber

June 29, 2018

Former President Barack Obama doesn't care if his namesake health-care legislation becomes TrumpCare. In fact, he encourages it.

Obama apparently told President Trump to just change the Affordable Care Act's nickname instead of repealing it, CNN reports. "I said to the incoming president, 'Just change the name and claim that you made these wonderful changes,'" Obama said at a Democratic fundraiser Thursday night. "Because I didn't have pride of authorship, I just wanted people to have health care."

Getting rid of ObamaCare and replacing it with something better was a hallmark Trump campaign promise. And while President Trump hasn't exactly followed through, Obama pointed out at the fundraiser that Republicans have surgically removed key parts of the original law, per CNN. The GOP tax plan passed in December ended ObamaCare's individual mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance.

But Trump probably realized creating a sweeping health-care law wasn't easy, Obama said Thursday, adding that "we had actually thought it through and it's a hard thing to do." So keep the ACA and call it RyanCare, call it ReaganCare, call it TrumpCare — Obama says there's nothing to the name. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 26, 2018

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child, a boy, on Monday, and while they've revealed his weight and the time he was born, they've remained mum about one very important detail: the little prince's name.

Not content with waiting for an official announcement, internet sleuths turned to the royal family's website for some clues. They found that most members of the family have their own pages, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry, which follow the same pattern: royal.uk/their-name. On Prince George and Princess Charlotte's pages, it says "access denied," and that same message popped up when people tried to visit royal.uk/prince-albert. Type in other names, like prince-james and prince-arthur, and it merely says the page cannot be found.

Since this was discovered, the royal web developer made a change — now, royal.uk/prince-albert redirects to the website's home page. Albert is a name that runs in the royal family — there was Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, and it was also King George VI's birth name and one of Prince Andrew and Prince Harry's middle names. Albert was rumored to be one of the names under consideration, with British bookmakers at one point having the odds at 5-1, so for those who thought the baby might be named Prince Brayden Jayden Kayden, sorry. Catherine Garcia

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