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May 5 2016 9:38 PM

North Carolina Lawmakers Dismiss DOJ’s Bathroom Law Deadline: “That’s Not How This Works.”

Republican leaders in North Carolina responded defiantly Thursday to the Department of Justice’s warning that the state’s recently passed “bathroom law,” which limits bathroom access for transgender people, violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. The DOJ issued an ultimatum to North Carolina lawmakers earlier this week, giving them until Monday to respond “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2” or potentially set itself on a course that could cost it billions in federal education funding.

“We will take no action by Monday,” North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters Thursday. “That deadline will come and go. We don’t ever want to lose any money, but we’re not going to get bullied by the Obama administration to take action prior to Monday’s date. That’s not how this works.” Moore did go on to indicate the state legislature may back down on the bill after facing withering criticism nationally and from corporate America threatening to cut ties with the state. “The legislative process doesn’t work where a response can be given by just a few days,” Moore said, “so we’re going to move at the speed that we’re going to move at to look at what our options are at this point.”


“The North Carolina law, known as HB2, also bars cities and other local governments in the state from establishing their own antidiscrimination ordinances,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “Republican legislators passed the law and [the governor] signed it in a one-day emergency session in March to head off a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify.”

May 5 2016 8:24 PM

Court Documents Show Sandusky Victim Reportedly Told Joe Paterno of Sexual Abuse as Early as 1976

In 2012, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys dating from 1994 to 2009, but, according to a report by the Patriot-News Thursday, Sandusky's abusive behavior reportedly dated back nearly twenty years earlier to 1976 and was known to head football coach Joe Paterno. The allegation is part of an ongoing court case over the university’s insurance claims related to the Sandusky abuse and the subsequent fallout.

Here’s more from the Patriot-News:

The line in question states that one of Penn State's insurers has claimed "in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU's Head Coach Joseph Paterno that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky." The order also cites separate references in 1987 and 1988 in which unnamed assistant coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and unidentified children, and a 1988 case that was supposedly referred to Penn State's athletic director at the time. All, the opinion states, are described in victims' depositions taken as part of the case, but that, according a PennLive review of the case file, are apparently under seal.

Paterno, along with the university president and athletic director, were all ousted after the Sandusky scandal came to light mid-season in 2011. Paterno, however, died months later and was never charged with any crimes. The Freeh Report , authored by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, found that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s abusive behavior, failed to report it, and helped cover it up. The Paterno family has gone to great lengths to clear the late coach’s name. The new allegations would mean that Paterno knew decades earlier about the Sandusky abuse.

May 5 2016 6:22 PM

Ben Carson Is Helping Trump Find a Running Mate, Says He Won’t Pull a Cheney

Ben Carson is on Donald Trump’s vice presidential search committee but says he won’t be the running mate, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

“I’m not interested in doing that for a number of reasons,” Carson told the Journal. “I don’t want to be a distraction. I’m sure you remember how crazy the media was about me, I don’t want to be a distraction, it’s too important a time in our life.”


The Journal reported that Carson will be the “public face on the search process” but that top campaign aide and friend to tyrants everywhere Paul Manafort will be “maintaining tight control over the process, according to people familiar with the campaign.”

So even if he wanted to, Carson probably couldn’t just pick himself as the vice presidential candidate, a move formally known as “pulling a Cheney.” (Other forms of “pulling a Cheney” including shooting close friends in the face and encouraging people to believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.)

The Journal also reported that Carson said that the search would not be restricted by party, which theoretically means that the campaign could pick a Democrat. “We would consider people who are Americans and who put America first,” he said.

Trump has already been rejected by former presidential rivals John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Lindsey Graham, as well as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake from being considered as running mates, the New York Times reported late last month before Trump had sewed up the nomination. The Journal also reported that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman would not accept a spot on the ticket, but that Maine Gov. Paul LePage and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have expressed interest.

Reminder: Paul LePage once used an anal sex metaphor to attack a political opponent and blamed “black dealers” for his state’s drug epidemic. Sounds like he’d get along swimmingly with the presumptive Republican nominee!

May 5 2016 5:52 PM

The Thursday Slatest Newsletter

Today's biggest stories:


Have a good night out there.

May 5 2016 5:48 PM

Today's Trump Apocalypse Watch: "I Love Hispanics"

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

Well, as you can see above, today Donald Trump announced via tweet that he was eating a taco bowl and loves Hispanics. He's also currently polling at about 11 percent among Latinos, which is way down from the 23 percent Mitt Romney got in 2012 and wayyyyyy way down from the 44 percent the last winning Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, got in 2004. Will eating a generic Tex-Mex dish help Trump win over this voting bloc? My one-person survey of myself says the answer is no—and Slate campaign blogger Josh Voorhees' survey of this year's Senate races notes that Trump's reputation among Latinos could also be a big obstacle to Republicans campaigning in states such as California, Nevada, and Florida. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has already started hanging Trump by his own petard in very effective new ads. Today, the Trump Apocalypse Watch danger level drops to one horseman.

May 5 2016 5:13 PM

Paul Ryan Is "Not Ready" to Support Trump, but Sounds Like He'll Get There

Speaker of the House and 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on Thursday that he is “just not ready” to support presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump for the presidency. But he also made it seem as though he would eventually do so.

Sounding as though he was in the fourth stage of grief and understood that he needed to—and would—reach acceptance at some point, Ryan said he couldn’t support Trump, yet.


"I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now," Ryan told CNN. “And I hope to, though, and I want to, but I think what is required is that we unify this party. And I think that the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee."

Ryan didn’t quite lay down particular conditions for giving Trump an endorsement, but he indicated in generalities that the real estate mogul would have work to do.

“[Trump] inherits something very special, that's very special to a lot of us. This is the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp” Ryan said. “And we don't always nominate a Lincoln or a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln-or Reagan-esque—that that person advances the principles of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans."

"And so, I think what is necessary to make this work, for this to unify, is to actually take our principles and advance them. And that's what we want to see. Saying we're unified doesn't in and of itself unify us, but actually taking the principles that we all believe in, showing that there's a dedication to those, and running a principled campaign that Republicans can be proud about and that can actually appeal to a majority of Americans—that, to me, is what it takes to unify this party."

Ryan was previously critical of Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country, but when pressed on whether or not Trump needed to reverse that position, his opposition to free trade, and his call to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants in order to win Ryan's support, the Wisconsin Congressman deferred. “We got work to do,” he said.

Mitt Romney, on whose ticket Ryan ran in 2012, has already said he would not attend this year’s Republican convention in a clear rebuke of Trump. Both of the Republican Party’s living former presidents, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush, have revealed through spokesmen that they have no plans to endorse Trump. This comes of no surprise, of course, as Trump spent the first half of the GOP primary campaign tormenting Jeb Bush as a weenie and blaming his brother for 9/11.

Ryan’s reluctance to endorse the man who he would be partnering with if his party was to reclaim the White House is a bit more strange, which is probably why he hedged so much. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, has said he’d back Trump. From the sound of it, unless Trump alienates him personally in some profound way (always a possibility), Ryan will get there too. Eventually.

Update, May 5, 2016, 6:25 p.m. ET: Maybe I overestimated Donald Trump's ability to play nice enough to even try to win Ryan's support. After a spokeswoman went on CNN and downplayed Ryan's lack of immediate support as not a big deal and something that would eventually get resolved by both parties, the candidate himself issued this statement:

"I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!"

May 5 2016 3:53 PM

Medical Errors Have Become So Common That They Are Now a Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. 

In a way, musician Tom Waits owes his iconic, gravelly purr to a medical error. Waits wasn't the victim of the error: It was his Uncle Vernon, whose raspy, important-sounding voice was the single most important influence on Waits’ developing style. Later, Waits learned that the reason Uncle Vernon’s voice was so distinctive was that he had once undergone a throat operation in which doctors left behind a small pair of scissors and gauze. “Years later, at Christmas dinner, Uncle Vernon started to choke while trying to dislodge an errant string bean, and he coughed up the gauze and the scissors,” Waits told Buzz magazine in 1993.

That’s a great story. But in reality, preventable medical errors cause a grave amount of damage. Despite the medical mantra of “do no harm,” medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to an analysis released by Johns Hopkins researchers in the medical journal the BMJ this week. The report calculated that a whopping 251,000 deaths annually—or 700 deaths a day—are due not to lethal accidents or the inevitable progression of disease but commonplace, preventable errors that happen in medical facilities. That's equivalent to 9.5 percent of deaths in the U.S. annually.

"Medical errors” in hospitals and other health-care facilities are incredibly common and may now be the third-leading cause of death in the United States—claiming 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s.
Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research, said in an interview that the category includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.
“It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” Makary said.

These horrifying statistics aren’t totally out of the blue. A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine found that an “epidemic” of medical errors was plaguing the system, and that medical errors were responsible for an estimated 98,000 deaths a year. That report cited errors including delays in diagnosis, errors in operations and other procedures, dose errors, communication failures, and equipment failures. But this report, which found a far larger number of deaths, reviewed four other large studies and represents a more comprehensive analysis, reports the Post.

Sadly, it appears that we haven’t had much reform in the 17 years between.

May 5 2016 3:28 PM

Donald Trump Eats a Taco Bowl as a Means of Reaching Out to Hispanic Voters

Donald Trump exits his plane during his trip to the border on July 23, 2015, in Laredo, Texas.

Matthew Busch/Getty Images

Donald Trump has the worst approval rating among Hispanic voters of anyone ever. But that was before the General Election Pivot. Now he has posted a photo of himself eating a Trump Taco Bowl, Thursday's special at the Trump Tower Grill, with the caption "I love Hispanics!"

How did he forgot the sombrero? Where's the mariachi band? Does he want to win or not?

May 5 2016 1:39 PM

The FDA Is Finally Cracking Down on E-Cigarettes. It Also Plans to Find Out What They Actually Do.

E-cigarettes are a tobacco product. That might not sound like a revelatory statement, but for the Federal Food and Drug Agency, it is. Thursday, the agency released a long-anticipated ruling that will allow it to regulate all tobacco products—including e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, and any other future form of tobacco-delivery we have yet to devise—just as it does cigarettes. The new rules mandate that e-cigarettes register with the agency and reveal their ingredients, methods of manufacturing, and other scientific data that will be key in determining how safe these products truly are.

Since e-cigarettes burst onto the scene about a decade ago, they have enjoyed huge growth with virtually no regulation. No longer: In three months, when the rule takes effect, companies will be legally prohibited from selling e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18 (which is already the law in many states). Additionally, companies will not be allowed to offer free samples of e-cigarettes; not be able to market their products as “light” and “mild” without FDA approval; and ultimately be required to put warning labels on their e-cigarettes that clearly state the danger of nicotine.


“FDA is taking this action to reduce the death and disease from tobacco products,” states the ruling, which was first proposed in draft form in 2014. With these new regulations, “FDA will be able to obtain critical information regarding the health risks of newly deemed tobacco products, including information derived from ingredient listing submissions and reporting of harmful and potentially harmful constituents.” (You can read the rest of the novel-length report here.)

This is a major step in what has been a murky debate over a product that has attracted equal parts suspicion and intrigue. E-cigarettes have prompted national handwringing over the future of the youth—which, as Amanda Hess pointed out, is the general response to anything kids find cool and fun these days. Health agencies and some media reports allege that these products are being used to “lure” in a new generation of smokers with their claims of safety and seemingly endless variety of flavors. (The new rule doesn’t limit flavorings in e-cigarettes, in contrast to actual cigarettes with flavorings, which were outlawed in 2009.) 

The evidence, though, is still out. Surveys have found that the vast majority of e-cigarette smokers are already current or ex-smokers. On the other hand, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that teens may be more likely to start smoking actual cigarettes after first trying an e-cigarette. Vaping devices, a subset of the e-cigarette market, “are being shrewdly marketed to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes of any kind,” wrote the New York Times in 2014. “The products, which are exploding in popularity, come in a rainbow of colors and candy-sweet flavors but, beneath the surface, they are often virtually identical to e-cigarettes, right down to their addictive nicotine and unregulated swirl of other chemicals.”

It's true that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is extracted from tobacco and forms the pleasurable and addiction-forming substance found in traditional cigarettes. But one of the great appeals of e-cigarettes is that they rely on heating a liquid into an aerosol rather than combusting tar, which is what creates that foul tobacco smoke full of toxic chemicals. And that is no small difference: A public health body in England found that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less dangerous than cigarettes. The FDA, too, acknowledges in its ruling that e-cigarettes are less risky than traditional cancer sticks.

But how much less risky? And, crucially, is inhaling nicotine from e-cigarettes just as addictive as inhaling it from cigarettes? Right now, we have little reliable government data on which to base a sound science-based policy. Fortunately, data is exactly what this new ruling promises to provide.

May 5 2016 1:07 PM

Republicans Are Afraid Trump Will Cost Them the Senate. They Should Be.

Being kept out of the White House for another four years may not even be Republicans’ biggest worry in 2016. Now that Donald Trump is the GOP’s de facto standard-bearer, the party faces the prospect that it could lose more than just the general election (and its identity)—it could also lose control of the Senate.

Republicans currently hold a four-seat advantage, meaning Democrats will need to net four seats (if they also win the White House) or five (if they don’t) to retake the upper chamber. That’s no easy task, but this year’s electoral map has long looked particularly friendly for the party—even before Trump made his grand entrance this past summer. (Thanks to partisan gerrymandering and geographical quirks, Republican control of the House seems safe for now.)


Of the 34 Senate seats up for grabs this fall, Democrats currently hold only 10, and most of those are extremely safe. This means that they’ll be able to play significantly more offense than defense ahead of Election Day. According to the Cook Political Report’s most recent ratings—published in March—only three of the 10 Democratic seats are in any danger of falling into Republican hands: The races in Nevada and Colorado are expected to be competitive, while the race for Barbara Boxer’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in California has the potential to become competitive down the road. Things are much less rosy for Republicans. According to Cook, the GOP is currently at risk of losing seven seats, and another six hold the potential to end up in the competitive column before it’s all said and done.

And that’s where Trump comes in. There’s already been plenty of handwringing among Republicans about the Donald’s drag on down-ballot races, and justifiably so. The rank and file will need to decide whether to run away from Trump and risk alienating his base, or run toward him and risk alienating everyone else. Right now, many are trying to have it both ways. New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte—up for re-election in one of the seven Senate races seen as a toss-up—is among those tying themselves in knots to play both sides. As her spokesman put it to the New York Times recently, Ayotte will “support” Trump but not “endorse” him. (Say no more, senator!) Toss in concerns that Trump will put the GOP fundraising apparatus at a significant disadvantage, and that he will depress turnout among Republicans this fall (when turnout models will already favor Democrats), and it’s easy to see the Senate map turning blue.

Consider the potential impact of Trump’s loudly stated views on immigration and immigrants. All three of the Democratic seats at stake in competitive races are in states where Latinos make up a potentially game-changing slice of the electorate. According to Pew, Latinos represent 28 percent of eligible voters in California, where Boxer is retiring; 17 percent in Nevada, where Harry Reid is doing the same; and 15 percent in Colorado, where Michael Bennet is fighting for re-election. It’s a similar story in two competitive races for seats held by Republicans: Latinos make up 18 percent of eligible voters in Florida, where Marco Rubio isn’t running for re-election; and 11 percent in Illinois, where Mark Kirk is. Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” comments caused headaches for some Republicans four years ago; it stands to reason that Trump’s proposal to build a wall—as beautiful as it may be—will give them migraines.

Even John McCain has privately told supporters that he thinks he’s in for “the race of my life” with Trump as the nominee. “If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump,” the Arizona senator told donors at a private event last month, a recording of which was obtained by Politico. “The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I've never seen in 30 years.” Polls back that up. According to a Gallup survey from last month, 77 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of Trump compared to just 12 percent who felt the opposite.

Trump’s appeal (or lack thereof) isn’t just a problem in states with large nonwhite populations, either. He is also polling poorly in a trio of whiter states where a Republican incumbent is running in a race considered a toss-up by Cook: Pennsylvania, where Pat Toomey is up for re-election; Wisconsin, where Ron Johnson is facing a high-profile challenge from former Sen. Russ Feingold; and New Hampshire, where Ayotte is squaring off with Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Add it all up and it’s easy to see why Republicans are so worried. As for Trump, well, he doesn’t think very highly of Congress anyway.

Also on the Slatest: