Donald Thing

The 1 thing NOT to expect from Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings – CNN

(CNN)On Monday, President Donald Trump totally reversed course on how he is handling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — posting a picture wearing a mask and announcing that he would restart the coronavirus daily(ish) briefings that ended in late April.

“I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television. There’s never been anything like it,” Mr. Trump said of the briefings. “It’s a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics.” (When Trump ended the daily briefings a few months back, he said they were “not worth the time & effort” because “the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately.”)
On Tuesday, we learned more details about the briefings — the first of which is set for Tuesday at 5 p.m.
According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, there are no current plans for any members of the White House coronavirus task force to join Trump at the podium — although that could change. They also report that the way White House aides convinced Trump to restart these briefings was to tell him he could talk about more than just the coronavirus. Which brings me to the most delicious detail we know about the planned briefings — courtesy of press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Fox News Tuesday morning (bolding is mine):
These are going to be short briefings, of the President mainly, delivering information to the American people that’s needed on therapeutics and vaccines. There will be other information tied into these briefings. We have a lot of plans over the next three months. So you’re going to be hearing about other topics as well. The President may, at times, bring someone with him, maybe not. That will be his decision. But these will be very newsy briefings with a lot of information the American — the American people will hear.”
Oh, and she also noted that Trump will take questions from reporters.
OK, let’s break down what McEnany told us there:
1) The briefings will cover coronavirus and other topics
2) They will mostly feature the President
3) He will take questions
4) They will be short.
Quick: Name the last time that Trump went “short” when dealing with the press? Was it the 50-plus minute opening speech he delivered in the Rose Garden on July 14 before taking roughly two questions from the media? Or the rambling press conferences he held in April to address the growing coronavirus pandemic? Or every campaign speech he has ever given?
Of all the things these coronavirus briefings will be, they almost certainly will NOT be short.
The dirty little secret about President Trump is that for all of his “fake news” rhetoric, we haven’t ever had a President who enjoyed the banter with reporters — or cared more about what the media thought of him — than this one. When Trump gets in front of the media — with the bright lights on and the cameras running — it’s right where he wants to be, at the center of attention. It’s why he can never break away, taking questions before he leaves on Marine One, taking questions when he gets of Air Force One, taking questions at every pool spray and photo op.
Trust me when I tell you that Trump’s top aides would like him to talk to the media far less than he does. But Trump believes himself to be his own best messenger and, again, he loves the attention. So he talks and talks and talks.
Why would that suddenly change now, with Trump facing major political problems as he seeks to win a second term? Trump has always believed he can talk himself out of any corner, and this is the tightest corner he has ever been in. And the White House only got him to agree to these briefings by promising he could talk about more than the coronavirus! And they say he plans to take questions!
Add all of those things up and there is no way that Trump is going to provide “short” updates about the coronavirus — or anything else. Quite the contrary. My guess is that Trump goes long — at least an hour — for as long as he thinks it makes sense to continue to do these briefings. (I’m skeptical they last all that long, because Trump will want to see immediate improvement in his poll numbers by doing them and I don’t think that’s at all likely.)
So buckle up. We are in — at least in the short term — for a torrent of Trump talking.

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First Thing

First Thing: US has three months to prepare for second Covid-19 wave, say scientists – The Guardian

Good morning.

A group of nine leading scientists who advised President Barack Obama has warned that the US has just three months to rebuild its stockpile of emergency medical equipment if it wants to be prepared for a second wave of coronavirus in the fall. In a seven-page report, whose lead author was the White House science adviser for both Obama terms, the experts fault the Trump administration for failing to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile in preparation for a pandemic just like the one we’re living through now.

The EU’s coronavirus chief has also warned Europe to brace for a second wave, while another top US scientist, the groundbreaking cancer and HIV researcher William Haseltine, has said countries must work to contain the disease, not count on the possibility of a vaccine being developed, which is “not a slam-dunk by any means”.

There is a staggering racial divide in Covid-19 deaths

Black Americans are dying from coronavirus at three times the rate of white people, according to figures compiled by the non-partisan APM Research Lab. In certain states the racial divide is even more stark: in Kansas, for instance, black people are dying at seven times the rate of whites. More than 20,000 African Americans have died from the disease – that’s almost one in 2,000 of the entire black population in the US.

As Lois Beckett writes, the government’s pandemic response has been warped by racism, with the health secretary, Alex Azar, apparently blaming the disease’s victims for their ill health:

Someone had to be held responsible for an American death toll approaching 100,000 people, worse than any other country’s reported deaths. In order for the Trump administration to remain blameless, someone else had to be blamed, and the administration was now blaming the dead.

Trump threatened states for trying to make voting easier

Nevada and Wisconsin are trying to make it easier for people to vote safely and by mail during the pandemic. So Donald Trump has falsely accused both states of facilitating election fraud, and threatened illegally to withhold critical election funding. Trump voted by mail in Florida this year.

Meanwhile, the US supreme court has temporarily blocked the House from obtaining secret grand jury testimony from the Mueller investigation, potentially keeping previously undisclosed details of the Trump-Russia investigation out of Democrats’ hands until after the November election. And Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen has been released to serve the rest of his prison sentence at home amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

  • Ukraine has announced an investigation into calls between Joe Biden and its ex-president when both were in office. Heavily edited recordings of the calls were published by a Ukrainian associate of Rudy Giuliani, in an apparent effort to embarrass Trump’s 2020 opponent.

  • Trump is considering an in-person G7 meeting. The president, this year’s G7 leader, had previously moved the June summit to a video conference, but now says he wants to host foreign leaders at Camp David despite the pandemic.

Did a frontline Florida nurse take his own life?

William Coddington, a 32-year-old nurse who volunteered to treat Covid-19 patients on the frontline of the pandemic in Florida, was recently found dead in his car close to the hospital where he worked in West Palm Beach. Coddington battled opioid addiction for years and possibly succumbed to an overdose. But his family said he was also struggling with the fear, trauma and isolation of the coronavirus crisis, and may have killed himself as a result.

In other news…

Michigan dam failures force thousands to flee flooding – video

Great reads

John Malkovich: ‘Nobody who knew me would consider me cold’

John Malkovich has been in more than 90 movies, but he’s still working as hard as ever – including in Space Force, the new Netflix comedy series. It could have something to with his having lost millions to the fraudster Bernie Madoff. Fortunately, he tells Simon Hattenstone, “I always love working.”

Kim Kardashian’s controversial face masks

The reality TV star is just the latest celebrity to capitalise on the coronavirus crisis, with a line of non-medical face masks to match various skin tones, which led to accusations of “casual racism”. The line between public health necessity and fashion statement is starting to blur, writes Morwenna Ferrier.

Opinion: Africa’s virus successes are being overlooked

Many African countries saw the coronavirus coming and developed innovative strategies for testing, tracing and containment. But the rest of the world, accustomed to patronising Africa, has all but ignored its successes, says Afua Hirsch.

A patronising attitude towards east Asia is what allowed European countries to be caught by such surprise at the spread of this disease. Now a similar mindset seems set to ensure we don’t learn the lessons Africa has to offer in overcoming it.

Last Thing: Invite a real party animal to your Zoom call

If you’re fed up with the monotony of Zoom meetings, why not invite an alpaca to crash the party? Jessica Murray reports on the animal breeds you book to liven up your video conference call.

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Entirely Thing

“It Will Be an Entirely New Thing”: Zack Snyder’s $20M-Plus ‘Justice League’ Cut Plans Revealed – Hollywood Reporter

So here, the morning after, was their agent saying that Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures, was acknowledging the movement, and more importantly, was willing to accede. “This is real. People out there want it. Would you guys ever consider doing something?” was what Emmerich was asking, Zack Snyder recalls.

The answer to Emmerich’s question, a whispered-about secret for months, was revealed Wednesday when Snyder confirmed, at the end of an online screening of his 2013 movie, Man of Steel, that his version of Justice League was indeed real. And that it will be coming to HBO Max, the WarnerMedia digital streaming service launching May 27, and is expected to debut in 2021. 

It is currently unclear what form Snyder’s Justice League will take. Whether it will be released as an almost four-hour director’s cut or split into six “chapters” has yet to be decided, but the Snyders are now in the midst of reassembling much of their original postproduction crew to score, cut, add new and finish old visual effects, and, yes, maybe bring back many of the actors to record additional dialogue.

Also unclear is the cost of the endeavor. One source has pegged the effort in the $20 million range, although another source says that figure could be closer to $30 million. The parties involved had no comment.  

“It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie,” Snyder tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that, to this day, he has not watched the version released in theaters.

“You probably saw one-fourth of what I did,” the director notes, basing his judgment on what has been shared with him of Whedon’s version.

Before Emmerich came calling, says Snyder, “I always thought it was a thing that in 20 years, maybe somebody would do a documentary and I could lend them the footage, little snippets of a cut no one has ever seen.” 

But, adds Deborah, “With the new platform and streaming services, you can have something like this. You can’t release something like this theatrically, but you could with a streaming service. It’s an opportunity that wasn’t there two years ago, to be honest.”

It is a very unlikely development, and the latest twist for a movie that has, like the Man of Steel himself, seen death and rebirth.

Snyder was in a unique position when he shot Justice League in 2016. Warner Bros. had entrusted its universe of DC characters to one filmmaker — him — and he had been building toward a great onscreen team-up, though not without some bumps in the road. He began with Man of Steel, which grossed $668 million worldwide, then followed up with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the 2016 blockbuster that polarized fans with its dark take on the iconic titular heroes and took in $873 million globally. 

In January 2017, Snyder had what he considered his optimal version of Justice League, almost four hours long, although he knew it was something the studio would not release. Warners wanted a cut in the two-hour range, and he delivered a rough version with an approximate two-hour, 20-minute running time. That was the first cut the studio saw. Both sides agreed that there was much work still to be done before the November release, but tragedy struck the Snyders when their daughter, Autumn, died by suicide. A month and a half later, Snyder officially stepped away and Whedon was brought in.

League opened Nov. 17 to weak reviews and sluggish box office, eventually taking in $658 million worldwide. However, almost immediately a movement was born. Fans unhappy with the film created the now-infamous hashtag. A petition for Warners to release Snyder’s version had already garnered over 100,000 signatures less than five days after the movie’s release.

Forget that the version that fans wanted technically didn’t exist. What did exist was a semi-unfinished work, with no visual effects, no postproduction. One person who had seen that version described it like a car with no panels, just a drivetrain and some seats. And it sat on a hard drive in the Snyders’ house. “When we left the movie, I just took the drive of the cut on it,” says Snyder. “I honestly never thought it would be anything.” 

In the year following their daughter’s death, the Snyders closed circles around their family as they tried to heal from the tragedy. “The first year was about the milestones and the holidays,” recalls Deborah. “Now, it’s not those but other moments, like songs that trigger memories, that hit me unexpectedly.”

Adds the director: “As a family, as a couple, I think we have grown in a way that has made us stronger. We’re doing our best. You really can’t hope for more.”

The duo also became involved in suicide-prevention charity work and plotted a return to movies with Army of the Dead. Meanwhile, #ReleasetheSnyderCut became more organized and visible, gaining mainstream media attention. Snyder fed into the movement by occasionally teasing images from his movie or storyboards on social media, in some ways only stoking the hot embers. And he saw some of the seeds he planted in his movies, especially in his castings of Gadot as Wonder Woman and Momoa as Aquaman, grow into gardens as the spinoffs became pop culture phenomenons and billion-dollar hits.

It was on the two-year anniversary, however, that the zenith was reached and the hashtag became a top worldwide trend. “#ReleasetheSnyderCut is the most-tweeted hashtag about a movie that WB has ever made, but it’s a movie they’ve never released,” says Snyder. “It’s a weird stat but it’s cool.”

After the Saturday morning phone call, the Snyders began to move puzzle pieces into place. “We had to figure out what it meant to finish it, and how do you pull it off?” recalls Deborah.

The couple put together a presentation and, in early February, invited a select group of executives from Warner Bros., HBO Max and DC to their house in Pasadena to screen Snyder’s little-seen version that was shown in black and white. The number of execs in the room — there were more than a dozen in attendance, ranging from Warners’ Emmerich, Carolyn Blackwood and Walter Hamada to HBO Max’s Kevin Reilly, Sarah Aubrey and Sandra Dewey to DC’s Jim Lee — showed the importance of the potentially extensive undertaking. Heads of physical production and business affairs were there to assess what needed to be done and how much it would cost. At his presentation after the screening, Snyder outlined ideas for not just releasing the cut but the concept of episodes and cliffhangers.

The executives left the meeting pumped. The Snyder Cut was real. Except then it almost wasn’t.

The novel coronavirus struck, and Hollywood all but shut down in mid-March. Says Deborah, “People thought, ‘It won’t be possible to ramp up, and that maybe this should go on the back burner.’ But we said, ‘No, this is the right time’ because our visual effects houses that rely on so much are running out of work, so now is the time to be doing this.” It also helped that many of those post facilities had held on to the original assets.

Snyder also spent April and this month reaching out to the sizable cast, giving a heads-up on the new development and letting them know their services may be needed. (The first person called: Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg. “He was like, ‘You’re kidding me, right?'” recalls the director.)

There is no schedule going forward at this stage for the project as talks are now beginning with postproduction houses, which also gives HBO Max plenty of time to find the best way to present this version of Justice League. Snyder is at the same time in postproduciton on Army of the Dead, his zombie thriller for Netflix that is also to debut in 2021.

For the Snyders, the chance to revisit the movie also brings the prospect for closure on a project they were forced to let go. “This movie was the culmination of a hero’s journey that all these characters went on,” says Deborah. “And the idea was always to build them up to be the heroes people expected them to be.”

And while the cut will contain the many elements Snyder has teased over time (yes, expect Darkseid), the duo also relish adding a fair amount of character development: “What’s so lovely about this is that we get to explore these characters in ways that you’re not able to in a shorter theatrical version.” 

The Snyders know that fan power is what led to the Snyder Cut becoming a reality. “Clearly this wouldn’t be happening without them,” says the director. He also credits Warners for living up to its old reputation as the filmmaker’s studio.

Adds Snyder, “This return to that pedigree and to let my singular vision of my movie be realized, in this format, in this length, is unprecedented and a brave move.”

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