Posts tagged with "CBS News"

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki plans to leave for an on-air role at MSNBC

April 4, 2022

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, is planning to leave her post to take an on-air role at MSNBC, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC on April 1.

Psaki, who is still fleshing out details with the company, is expected to leave the White House around May, Axios reported earlier Friday.

Psaki will host a show for NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, Peacock, Axios reported. She had reportedly also been in talks with CNN and other networks.

Psaki did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“We don’t have anything to confirm about Jen’s length of planned service or any consideration about future plans,” a White House official told CNBC in an email. “Jen is here and working hard every day on behalf of the president to get you the answers to the questions that you have, and that’s where her focus is.”

News networks have long looked to recruit spokespeople and other high-profile Beltway figures for their day-to-day political coverage, both as anchors and regular contributors.

Longtime ABC News host George Stephanopoulos, for instance, was formerly the White House communications director under President Bill Clinton. MSNBC political analyst and host Nicolle Wallace was a senior spokesperson for the George W. Bush administration and a spokesperson for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Last March, former President Donald Trump’s final Press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, joined Fox News as a commentator. More recently, CBS News signed ex-Trump official Mick Mulvaney as a paid contributor.

Research contact: @CNBC

Justice Thomas’ wife Ginni and Mark Meadows swapped 29 deranged texts after Trump’s loss

March 28, 2022

In the weeks after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, outgoing White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ phone blew up with texts from Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who urged him over and over again to keep trying to overturn the results, reports The Daily Beast.

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” she texted, going on to call Biden’s win “the greatest Heist of our History.” The trove of texts, 29 in all, were among 2,320 texts Meadows provided to the House select panel probing the Capitol riot.

All 29 texts were obtained by CBS News and The Washington Post on Thursday, March 24.

  “This is a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows wrote to Thomas in a message. “Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs… The fight continues.”

In another, Thomas cited a deranged belief that the “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators” were being arrested and “will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

Panel members have said the messages could be just a fraction of the communications between Meadows, who is not cooperating with the panel, and Thomas.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

NYC announces first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for private companies

December 7, 2021

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced what he called a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for private companies on Monday, December 6, reports the local CBS-TV affiliate.

“This is how we put health and safety first by ensuring there is a vaccine mandate that reaches everyone universally in the private sector,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to do this so that every employer is on a level playing field, one universal standard.”

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said that, while the city is monitoring, the Omicron variantDelta cases have been going up in every borough since early November.

“Vaccines work, and vaccine mandates work—particularly when joined with efforts to build vaccine confidence, provide incentives, and improve access, as we have in New York City,” he added. “We’ve seen this with our health care workers, school staff, and public employees. Now it’s time for the private sector to step up and follow suit.”

The mayor said that the city will release specific rules on December 15, before the mandate takes effect on December 27.

New York City previously imposed vaccine mandates for city workers, but this would be the first-of-its-kind for private employees.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams said he will “evaluate” the mandate when he gets into office.

Research contact: @CBSNews

To boldly go: William Shatner sets record in space with Blue Origin sub-orbital flight

October 14, 2021

William Shatner, the 90-year-old veteran of countless imaginary space voyages playing Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, blasted off for real Wednesday, October 13,—becoming the oldest person to reach the final frontier in a PR bonanza for Jeff Bezos and his rocket company Blue Origin, reports CBS News.

Over the course of about 11 minutes, Shatner and three crewmates took off atop a hydrogen-fueled rocket, climbed to edge of space more than 62 miles up and enjoyed three to four minutes of weightlessness, along with spectacular views of Earth, before plunging back to a gentle parachute-assisted touchdown.

“It was so moving to me,” Shatner said after landing. “This experience is something unbelievable.”

He said he was overwhelmed, and that Bezos has given him the most profound experience he can imagine. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened … it’s extraordinary,” he told Bezos.

“I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now,” he said. “I don’t want to lose it.”

The flight marked only the second crewed launch of a New Shepard capsule since Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen took off on July 20 on the company’s first such flight.

Shatner eclipsed Funk’s age record by eight years and John Glenn’s mark before that by 13.

“I want to see space, I want to see the Earth, I want to see what we need to do to save Earth,” Shatner told Gayle King on “CBS Mornings” before launch. “I want to have a perspective that hasn’t been shown to me before. That’s what I’m interested in seeing.”

Boshuizen and de Vries paid undisclosed sums for their seats aboard the New Shepard spacecraft, but Shatner was an invited guest of Blue Origin. Powers, a former NASA flight controller who is now Blue Origin vice president of flight operations, flew as a company representative.

While the New Shepard rocket and capsule are only capable of up-and-down sub-orbital flights, Shatner and his crewmates endured the same liftoff accelerations space shuttle astronauts once felt—about three times the normal force of gravity — and even higher “G loads” during descent back into the lower atmosphere.

Even so, Shatner and his crewmates were considered passengers, not astronauts, aboard the automated New Shepard. But professional astronauts nonetheless welcomed them to the brotherhood of space travelers.

I’m impressed. I mean, he’s 90 years old and showing that somebody at his age can actually fly to space,” Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency astronaut launching to the International Space Station at the end of the month, told CBS News.

“Even if it’s, let’s say, just a sub-orbital flight, I’m highly impressed, and I wish him all the best. Hopefully it will be the experience of a lifetime. And yeah, I hope many more people will follow his steps and also experience space.”

Blue Origin’s 18th New Shepard flight began at 10:49 a.m. (EDT) when the BE-3 engine powering the company’s 53-foot-tall booster ignited with a roar, throttled up to 110,000 pounds of thrust and lifted off from Launch Site One at the company’s West Texas launch site near Van Horn.

Climbing straight up, the booster quickly accelerated as it consumed propellant and lost weight, reaching a velocity of about 2,200 mph and an altitude of some 170,000 feet before engine shutdown.

The New Shepard capsule then separated from the booster at an altitude of about 45 miles and both continued climbing upward on ballistic trajectories, but rapidly slowing.

The onset of weightlessness began shortly after separation. All four passengers were free to unstrap and float about as the capsule reached the top of its trajectory and arced over for the long fall back to Earth. The New Shepard capsule is equipped with some of the largest windows in a currently flying spacecraft, giving Shatner, de Vries, Boshuizen and Powers picture-window views of Earth far below.

Plunging back into the dense lower atmosphere, the passengers, back in their padded, reclining seats, were briefly subjected to more than five times the normal force of gravity before three large parachutes deployed and inflated, slowing the craft to about 15 mph, CBS News reports.

An instant before touchdown, compressed-air thrusters were programmed to fire, slowing the ship to just 2 mph or so for landing.

A few minutes earlier, the New Shepard booster flew itself back to a pinpoint landing a few miles away, reigniting its BE-3 engine, deploying four landing legs and settling to a concrete landing pad. Assuming no problems are found, the rocket will be refurbished and prepared for another flight.

The mission marked the sixth piloted commercial, non-government sub-orbital spaceflight in a high-stakes competition between Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Power play: Putin signs law enabling him to serve two more terms as Russia’s president

April 6, 2021

On April 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin—who already has served two decades as his nation’s leader—signed into law a change to the country’s constitution that will allow him to run for two more six-year terms; thereby granting himself the chance to remain in power until 2036, CBS News reports.

A copy of the new law was posted on the government’s legal information website on Monday, confirming that the legislation—the success of which was really never in doubt — had been finalized. Prior to the new law, Putin would have been required to step down after his fourth and current term in 2024. 

But in March last year, Valentina Tereshkova, a lawmaker from Putin’s ruling party, proposed the constitutional change during a discussion in the State Duma (congress). After Tereshkova, who is a Soviet cosmonaut and was the first woman to go to space, suggested the amendment, Putin himself showed up in the parliament building and offered his backing for the idea, undermining earlier speculation that he might seek to maintain power by taking another role.

In principle, CBS notes, this option would be possible, but on one condition,” Putin told lawmakers in a televised speech a year ago. “If the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution.”

Putin said then that the Russian president was “the guarantor of the country’s security and domestic stability” and that the country should avoid political upheavals. “Russia has fulfilled its plan when it comes to revolutions,” he said.

In July last year, Russians were given the opportunity to vote on a raft of constitutional reforms, including the change to the limit on presidential terms. Other measures included a proposed ban on same-sex marriages, new language mentioning for the first time the importance of “faith in God,” and measures meant to protect “traditional family values” and forbidding top officials from holding dual citizenship.

Russians could either vote for or against the whole package of changes, but there was little doubt even as ballots were cast about the outcome. The vote was seen widely as an effort to demonstrate Putin’s broad support in the country.

Political opposition leader and outspoken Putin critic Alexey Navalny—who is currently on hunger strike as he serves a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence on charges he insists are politically motivate— criticized the vote last summer as a populist spectacle designed to give the Russian leader the right to be “president for life.”

“I know that in two years, instead of working normally at all levels of the state, all eyes will be on the search for potential successors,” Putin said in an interview with state-run television last year. “We must work and not look for successors.”

He’s said at the time that he might consider running for a fifth term, but insisted that he hadn’t yet made a final decision.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Protection for primates: Great apes at San Diego Zoo receive COVID-19 vaccine

March 5, 2021

Several gorillas, orangutans and bonobos at the San Diego Zoo have received an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed specifically for animals since January. They are the first-known non-humans to get the shot, CBS News reports.

An orangutan named Karen—who made history in 1994 as the first ape in the world to have open-heart surgery—was among those who received the vaccine, according to National Geographic.

Last month, Karen, along with three other orangutans and five bonobos at the zoo, received two doses each of the vaccine, which was developed by the global veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis.

“This isn’t the norm. In my career, I haven’t had access to an experimental vaccine this early in the process and haven’t had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one,” Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, told Nat Geo.

The decision to vaccinate the apes came after Frank, a 12-year-old gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for coronavirus—and then the whole group of eight western lowland gorillas got sick in January. They all are in recovery now.

Infections also have been confirmed in dogscatsminktigers, lions and several other species around the world, reports CBS News. However, great apes are a particular concern among conservationists.

All species of gorillas are listed as endangered or critically-endangered on the IUCN Red List, with “susceptibility to disease” as one of the main threats. Infections spread rapidly among the animals, who live in close familial groups.

COVID-19 has the potential to wipe out populations of gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos if humans don’t take steps to prevent its spread, experts have warned.

Zoetis started development on a COVID-19 vaccine for dogs and cats after the first dog tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong over a year ago, notes CBS.  The vaccine was deemed safe and effective in October—but testing had only been done in dogs and cats.

Still, Lamberski decided vaccinating the great apes was worth the risk. She told National Geographic that they haven’t suffered any adverse reactions and will soon be tested for antibodies to determine if the shots were a success. 

“It’s not like we randomly grab a vaccine and give it to a novel species,” she said. “A lot of thought and research goes into it—what’s the risk of doing it and what’s the risk of not doing it? Our motto is, above all, to do no harm.”

Lamberski said that, because vaccines are made for a specific pathogen and not a specific species, it’s common to give a vaccine meant for one species to another. Apes at the zoo get flu and measles vaccines developed for humans.

A spokesperson for Zoetis told National Geographic that other U.S. zoos have requested doses of the vaccine for their own great apes. The company expects more to be available in June.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Going, going … Donald Trump plans early adieu on Inauguration Day

January 19, 2021

Donald Trump will be clinging to the last vestiges of his presidency—thousands of feet in the air and hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration—on Wednesday, January 20, The Huffington Post reports.

The outgoing president is taking Air Force One home to Florida while he still can—arriving there before Biden is sworn in around noon, according to CBS News.

As it stands now, Trump is “scheduled to land in West Palm Beach at 11a.m. (ET) Wednesday morning with just 1 hour left in his Presidency. He no longer has access to Air Force One as of noon that day,CBS’s Ben Tracy tweeted Sunday.

Trump would no longer be deemed the commander-in-chief after noon and the plane would lose its “Air Force One” call sign―which Trump wanted to avoid, NBC News noted earlier.

Usually, the HuffPost noted, presidents depart on another government jet to begin civilian life.

The White House sent out invitations for Trump’s departure event at Joint Base Andrews, which begins at 8 a.m. (ET), Bloomberg reported. Guests can bring up to five other people, must wear masks and should arrive between 6 a.m. and 7:15 a.m, Bloomberg said after viewing one of the invites.

Trump has requested the red-carpet treatment with a 21-gun salute and military band, reports noted.

His helicopter goodbye from the White House’s South Lawn is expected to be a low-key affair. Some White House aides will be there to send off Marine One and attendance will be “limited,” Bloomberg reported. Heightened security around the inauguration and the White House following the Capitol insurrection curtailed the size.

Trump, the only president to be impeached twice and the only president in modern history to not attend his successor’s inauguration, will likely spend the rest of the day at his Mar-a-Lago club.

Palm Beach police recently warned residents that the Secret Service would have a “final road closure near Mar-a-Lago” on January 20 and would be closed for several days, CBS in Miami reported.

“Beyond this, we do not foresee any future road closures related to the presence of a former President,” police wrote.

Research contact: @HuffPost

As COVID-19 rages, Trump asks Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare

June 29,2020

The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the United States hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, June 26—eclipsing the mark set during one of the deadliest stretches in late April, CBS News reports; noting that there is “ample evidence” that the pandemic is making a comeback.

Yet, even so, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on June 25 to terminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—the only health insurance to which many Americans have access. If the justices agree, they will wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans, The New York Times reports.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the Administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that, in 2017, the largely Republican Congress had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance—the so-called individual mandate.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco maintained that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together, the Times said.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them, according to the Times report.

Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the news outlet that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue—and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs—are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday, June 29, on a measure to expand the healthcare law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Space Force drops first recruitment video: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet”

May 12, 2020

The United States Space Force has released its first recruitment video—a 30-second clip that encourages potential recruits to ponder joining the newest independent branch of the U.S. military at this “incredibly exciting time.”

“Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet,” the video suggests..

In a press release, the agency explains, “The FY20 National Defense Authorization Act approved a new, independent Space Force within the Department of the Air Force. As this new military branch takes shape in 2020, we’ll be recruiting the brightest minds in science, technology, aerospace, and engineering to meet its needs. Join us. The future is where we’ll make history.”

“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?'” a narrator is heard over footage of a man looking up at the sky. “Our job is to have an answer.”

The video then shows a montage of military personnel working within the new military branch, interposed with images of space. Available jobs include: Space Operations Office, Fusion Analyst, and Intelligence Officer.

According to a report by CBS News, even before the video was posted, officials said they’ve received lots of interest. The Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, said during a livestream presented by the Space Foundation on May 6 that “there’s been an avalanche of applicants.”

As of that day, there were 88 “commissioned space professionals” working within the Space Force,  Barrett said, and the number is expected to grow “substantially” by the end of 2020. The service’s “total force” is projected to eventually be approximately 16,000 strong.

The recruitment video dropped just one day after Netflix released the new teaser trailer for its upcoming comedy series “Space Force,” starring Steve Carell. The show revolves around Carell’s character, a fictitious four-star general who is tasked with starting up the military branch. The

Chief of Space Operations, General John Raymond said in a less serious moment at the end of the press release,  “The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut. He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force Chief.”

Research contact: @SpaceForceDOD

Thousands of former DOJ employees again call for Barr’s resignation

May 12, 2020

On May 11, more than 1,900 former Justice Department employees repeated their demand for Attorney General Bill Barr to head for the exits—asserting in an open letter that he had “once again assaulted the rule of law” by moving to drop charges against President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael  Flynn, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The letter, organized by the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, was signed by Justice Department staffers serving in Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). The vast majority were former career staffers — rather than political appointees — who worked as federal prosecutors or supervisors at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country or the Justice Department in downtown Washington.

The signatories to the letter were united in their belief that Barr should resign, as the following excerpt shows:

In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States …. The Department [of Justice] has now moved to dismiss the charges against Flynn, in a filing signed by a single political appointee and no career prosecutors. The Department’s purported justification for doing so does not hold up to scrutiny, given the ample evidence that the investigation was well-founded and — more importantly—the fact that Flynn admitted under oath and in open court that he told material lies to the FBI in violation of longstanding federal law.

Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented. If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.

We thus unequivocally support the decision of the career prosecutor who withdrew from the Flynn case, just as we supported the prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case. They are upholding the oath that we all took, and we call on their colleagues to continue to follow their example. President Trump accused the career investigators and prosecutors involved in the Flynn case of “treason” and threatened that they should pay “a big price.” It is incumbent upon the other branches of government to protect from retaliation these public servants and any others who are targeted for seeking to uphold their oaths of office and pursue justice.

It is now up to the district court to consider the government’s motion to dismiss the Flynn indictment. We urge Judge Sullivan to closely examine the Department’s stated rationale for dismissing the charges — including holding an evidentiary hearing with witnesses — and to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate. While it is rare for a court to deny the Department’s request to dismiss an indictment, if ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence, it is this one. Attorney General Barr’s repeated actions to use the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests have undermined any claim to the deference that courts usually apply to the Department’s decisions about whether or not to prosecute a case.

Finally, in our previous statement, we called on Attorney General Barr to resign, although we recognized then that there was little chance that he would do so. We continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside. In the meantime, we call on Congress to hold the Attorney General accountable. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in over a century, we would all prefer it if Congress could focus on the health and prosperity of Americans, not threats to the health of our democracy. Yet Attorney General Barr has left Congress with no choice. Attorney General Barr was previously set to give testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31, but the hearing was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Committee to reschedule Attorney General Barr’s testimony as soon as safely possible and demand that he answer for his abuses of power. We also call upon Congress to formally censure Attorney General Barr for his repeated assaults on the rule of law in doing the President’s personal bidding rather than acting in the public interest. Our democracy depends on a Department of Justice that acts as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus.

A spokeswoman for Barr did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. However, Barr has publicly defended the move, telling CBS News that it was an “easy” decision and one for which he was prepared to take criticism. As the group of Justice Department alumni acknowledged, their letter is unlikely to persuade him to step down.

“I also think it’s sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice,” Barr told CBS News. “And the groups that usually worry about civil liberties and making sure that there’s proper procedures followed and standards set seem to be ignoring it and willing to destroy people’s lives and see great injustices done.”

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan must still approve the department’s request to drop the case, and so far has not indicated what he will do. The Justice Department alumni asked Sullivan to hold a hearing with witnesses to examine Barr’s legal reasoning and “to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost