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May 26 2016 10:27 PM

First Drug-Resistant Superbug Detected in U.S. Could Mean the “End of the Road” for Antibiotics

Before you head off for a nice little family vacation at the beach this weekend, just a quick heads up that researchers announced Thursday that for the first time a drug-resistant E. coli superbug has been detected on American shores. (Gulp.) It was last seen on I-95 tossing cars and trucks left and right with its tentacles. Just kidding, everyone knows superbug tentacles are only strong enough to lift a compact. Have a great trip!

But seriously, a drug-resistant strain of the bacteria, how bad are we talking? Because it certainly sounds bad. “It basically shows us that the end of the road isn’t very far away for antibiotics…” CDC Director Tom Frieden told the Washington Post Thursday. I’m going to miss the road. Before you go stock up on hand sanitizer for this post-antibiotic world, here’s more from the Post:

The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery "heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria…”
Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs… [i]n some instances, these superbugs kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called CRE among the country's most urgent public health threats… Scientists and public health officials have long warned that if the resistant bacteria continue to spread, treatment options could be seriously limited. Routine operations could become deadly. Minor infections could become life-threatening crises. Pneumonia could be more and more difficult to treat…
In November, public health officials worldwide reacted with alarm when Chinese and British researchers reported finding the colistin-resistant strain in pigs, raw pork meat and in a small number of people in China. The deadly strain was later discovered in Europe, Africa, South America and Canada.
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“[The CDC has] been urging drug companies to develop new antibiotics, and asking people to make better use of the antibiotics now available so that more superbugs do not evolve,” according to NBC News.

May 26 2016 8:26 PM

Orrin Hatch Op-Ed Says Meeting With Merrick Garland That Hadn’t Happened Yet Was Unpersuasive

If you needed yet another indicator of how intransigent Senate Republicans are about Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, in the face of fair play, good faith, and good governance, you got it on Thursday in the form of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. The Republican senator has been an anti-confirmation hawk for the party. On Thursday, Hatch appears to have been scheduled to meet with Garland, although he has been unwilling to participate in confirmation hearings on his nomination. The meeting appeared to be a courtesy call, but, you know, at least Hatch is going into it with an open mind. Or not.

On Thursday morning, the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper, mistakenly published an op-ed by Hatch that discussed Garland’s nomination and the senator’s reaction to his meeting with Garland—even though it hadn’t happened yet. The paper quickly took it down and blamed it on an editing error, but here’s the cached version:

I met with Judge Garland as a personal friend and out of respect for his position as a distinguished federal judge. Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle.
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Hatch didn’t even wait to hear Garland’s elevator pitch before deciding his “principled position” against the nomination was right all along! Of course, pre-writing an opinion piece is pretty standard practice in politics, but it seems emblematic of the current state of play on Capitol Hill that Hatch went ahead and decided what happened in the meeting—and wrote about it—before even attending the meeting. “The nominee’s background and reputation, the views of experts and the opinions of pundits and other third parties will be relevant when the confirmation process occurs, but not before,” Hatch wrote. “The question for the Senate is when and how the confirmation process for the Scalia vacancy should occur.”

May 26 2016 5:35 PM

The Thursday Slatest Newsletter

Today's biggest stories:

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Have a good night out there.

May 26 2016 5:22 PM

Marco Rubio Is Now a Full-Fledged Trump Supporter

Marco Rubio has now completed his transition from #NeverTrump tri-captain to full-fledged Donald Trump supporter. Yep, the very same Marco Rubio who was so desperate to stop the celebrity billionaire earlier this year that he questioned the size of his, um, hands. Via CNN:

Marco Rubio says he plans to attend the Republican convention, will release his delegates to vote for Donald Trump and would be willing to speak on Trump's behalf. "I want to be helpful. I don't want to be harmful, because I don't want Hillary Clinton to be president," Rubio told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview.
"Look, my policy differences with Donald Trump—I spent 11 months talking about them. So I think they're well understood," Rubio said. "That said ... I don't want Hillary Clinton to be president. If there's something I can do to help that from happening, and it's helpful to the cause, I'd most certainly be honored to be considered for that."
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Rubio’s slow embrace of Trump actually began about a month after the Florida senator dropped out of the GOP race following an embarrassing loss in his home state to the real estate tycoon. In May, Rubio made it clear that he’d back the GOP nominee whoever it was (at a time when it looked increasingly like that person would be Trump).

These latest comments, though, suggest the former White House hopeful is willing to take a more public role in campaigning for Trump, be it at the convention or on the stump. While his stated goal is to prevent Clinton from winning in November, it sounds like there may be a secondary reason for why he’d willing to fall in line with the rest of his party. He told Tapper that it’s a “safe assumption” that his failed 2016 presidential bid won’t be his last run for office. "If there’s an opportunity to serve again in a way that I feel passionate about, I most certainly think I’d explore it," Rubio said.

May 26 2016 5:21 PM

Today's Trump Apocalypse Watch: A Little Good News in the Polling Department

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.

Last night, Trump agreed on a whim to debate Bernie Sanders, but then backed out. Slate's Jim Newell thinks he would've benefited from such a stunt; personally, I think Trump was smart to back out, because the debate would have been an opportunity for someone with nothing to lose (Bernie) to attack the exact kind of person he's spent his whole career denouncing (Trump) for two hours on national television. But who really knows, in 2016? Actually, one thing we do know is this: Polls have started to veer back in Hillary's direction. This bounceback was predicted by many people who projected confidence about it in public but harbored a secret fear that it would never actually happen and that we would all be eating lizards in a nuclear wasteland a year from now. But it happened. And that's good news! Let's lower the danger level.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons

May 26 2016 12:38 PM

Baylor University Fires Its Best Football Coach Ever Over Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases

Earlier this week, reports emerged that Baylor University would oust its president, Kenneth Starr—but not its football coach, Art Briles—over sexual assault charges against several Baylor football players and ESPN reports that athletic and school officials had ignored reports of similar assaults by other team members. The idea that the president but not the highly successful and well-compensated football coach at a Texas university would be punished for criminal behavior by football players was met with (justifiable) outrage—and now multiple reports say that Briles will, in fact, be fired. (Starr—who, yes, is that Kenneth Starr—will apparently be removed from the school's presidency but kept on as chancellor.)

Last fall Baylor, a Baptist school, commissioned a Philadelphia law firm to investigate several football sexual assault cases; the university's board of regents was reportedly given an update on that investigation in mid-May, but its results haven't been made public. (Update, 1:05 p.m.: Baylor has released the law firm's findings. They are very critical of the football coaching staff.)

May 26 2016 12:36 PM

Why It Would’ve Made Sense for Trump to Debate Sanders

Donald Trump was mouthing off on the Jimmy Kimmel program Wednesday night when he said he’d “love” to debate Sen. Bernie Sanders for charity. Shortly thereafter, the Sanders campaign agreed via tweet. Only this morning did Trump’s people pop the balloon, telling CBS News that Trump was “kidding” when he said on national television that he would love to do this exciting thing for charity.

He should’ve done it.

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Not just to provide entertainment to the masses and money for charity, or to keep his word. Those are some upsides. But also, there are no downsides. If he has a bad debate against Bernie Sanders, it would still heighten tensions within the Democratic Party at a point when they're already running pretty high. If he has a good debate against Bernie Sanders, then he has a good debate against Bernie Sanders.

And, yes, it's possible Trump could have a good debate. Consider the dozen presidential debates he’s already participated in this cycle that appeared disastrous, given how each moment exposed his utter unpreparedness for the presidency, but for whatever strange anti-reasons only helped him. Debating with an eye toward the general and before a general electorate would be a different story. But one could imagine him just mocking Bernie as “Professor Whacko” or whatever for two hours and getting away with it, in his trademark way of getting away with things.

Should Trump be given to tactics beyond name-calling his opponent, he’d have a strong one at his ready: squeezing Sanders on Clinton. As he has already been doing, Trump could echo some of Sanders’ (mostly unpersuasive) complaints about the primary process: that a corporate-controlled Democratic establishment and its ringleader Hillary Clinton have rigged the process, making it impossible for Sanders to win. He could echo all of Sanders’ complaints about how Clinton is owned by Goldman Sachs. What does Sanders say to these things? Does he … agree with Donald Trump? Or does he defend Hillary Clinton against variations of the arguments he himself has made while he's still trying to beat her in California?

The other possibility is that Sanders could trounce Trump, refuting just about everything he says and pointing out what an awful human being he is. That might temporarily embarrass Trump. But Trump isn’t going to be running in the general election against Sanders. The best outcome for Sanders, here, would be that he puts on enough of a show against Trump to catapult him to a come-from-behind victory in the California primary.

A Sanders win in California would be a godsend for the Republican Party. It would not net him enough delegates to win the nomination. It would give him a half-baked reason to stave off conceding to Clinton, spend the first half of the summer persuading superdelegates to come to his side, and turn the convention into a confrontational affair. Trump has of late been propping up Sanders for the purpose of tenderizing Hillary. What better way is there to prop up Sanders than to, either self-consciously or not, take a dive against him?

Of course Trump was just blabbing nonsense when he said he’d “love” to debate Sanders. A pity, for him, that his advisers were so quick to clean it up before giving the idea further consideration.

May 26 2016 11:47 AM

Trump Adviser: Trump Will Outsource Being President to His VP

Being president of the United States of America is, to put it mildly, hard work. It’s an incredibly taxing job that involves making an untold number of decisions—a few big and splashy, the vast majority small-bore and likely to go unnoticed unless something goes catastrophically wrong—that will impact millions and millions of people. Setting aside the power and the prestige, the day-to-day job doesn’t sound like one Donald Trump would actually want. And, according to his top campaign strategist, he doesn’t.

Here’s Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in a recent Huffington Post interview talking about the importance of his boss’ selection of a running mate. Pay particular attention to the bit where Manafort talks about “the part of the job” of being president that his boss has no interest in actually doing:

The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he’s ready for the White House, Manafort said. “He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”
“There is a long list of who that person could be,” Manafort added, “and every one of them has major problems.” The campaign probably won’t choose a woman or a member of a minority group, he said. “In fact, that would be viewed as pandering, I think.”
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For those of you don’t speak MBA, the chief executive is a company’s top decision-maker while the chief operating officer or president typically handles the day-to-day operation. (POTUS is probably best thought of as a combination of the two, though his or her chief of staff also has some COO-like duties.) A company’s chairman of the board takes a significantly broader view of long-term strategy and ​stays out of the daily grind all together.

Manafort has had a long and (sadly) successful career reinventing some of the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom, and he’s already off to a solid start repeating that here since being hired by Trump earlier this year. He’s tried to assure the Republican establishment that much of Trump’s primary performance was all just an act, and many in the party have either been convinced or realize it’s in their best interest to pretend to agree.

Here we see Manafort make that no-reason-to-be-terrified pitch directly to the general public. Manafort is laying the groundwork for something resembling a GOP unity ticket, where Trump die hards focus on their man at the top of the ticket and Trump-skeptical Republicans focus on the establishment figure sitting in the No. 2 slot, who they’re told will actually run the government day to day. I guess he has good evidence that the party would be cool with that.

May 26 2016 10:45 AM

Trump Officially Clinches Nomination

According to the AP's running count, Donald Trump has officially collected enough pledged and committed delegates to clinch the Republican presidential nomination:

Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention ... It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president. Trump has reached 1,238. With 303 delegates at stake in five state primaries on June 7, Trump will easily pad his total, avoiding a contested convention in Cleveland in July.
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On that note, here's the scene from Team America: World Police of a puppet vomiting graphically for almost a full minute:

Enjoy the rest of your day.

May 26 2016 9:32 AM

Sanders and Trump Say They’ll Debate Each Other (Update: Maybe Not)

Update, 10:05 a.m.: Nevermind, maybe.

Original post, 9:32 a.m.: Well, this is random and interesting—Donald Trump went on Jimmy Kimmel's show Wednesday night and said (in response to a query that the Bernie Sanders campaign submitted to Kimmel) that he'd be willing to debate Sanders. From NBC:

"If he paid a sum toward charity I would love to do that," said the business mogul, noting that a Sanders vs. Trump debate "would have such high ratings."
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(LOL Trump, always concerned about making sure that other people's money gets raised for charity.)

Then Sanders, who's peeved that Hillary Clinton is backing out of a planned Democratic debate, jumped on the offer:

Interesting, interesting. Aside from being must-see political TV (ugh), it's hard to immediately say who this would help. On the one hand, Sanders would likely be ruthless in criticizing Trump's business activities and worldview, reducing the chances that Sanders-leaning independents would move to Trump in the general; on the other hand, an effective performance might help him win California, which would be another party-unification-delaying pain in the neck for Hillary.

Of course, Trump is not exactly known for following through on public promises, so another major possibility here is that it just doesn't end up happening at all.

This post has been updated with additional information.

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