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FDA-Approved Veritor Coronavirus Test Gets Results in Minutes, But Is It Accurate?

New Jersey pharmaceutical firm Becton, Dickinson and Company has won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a fast, easy-to-use test for novel coronavirus infections.

At first glance, the Veritor test system from BD, as the company is widely known, might seem like exactly the thing public-health officials have been clamoring for since SARS-CoV-2 first reached the United States early this year.

But a closer look at BD’s data reveals limits to the new test’s effectiveness. And that underscores how difficult it can be to quickly develop a coronavirus test that’s both fast and accurate.

The FDA approved BD’s testing system for emergency use in a July 2 letter. The approval expires when the federal government ends its official state of emergency in response to the pandemic.

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Billionaire Kanye West’s Company Yeezy LLC Gets Multimillion-Dollar PPP Loan From Trump Admin

Billionaire rapper and shoe designer Kanye West’s company has received a multimillion-dollar loan as part of the federal government’s coronavirus stimulus package, according to records released Thursday by the U.S. Treasury’s Small Business Administration.

The money was handed out in the latest round of the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the Trump administration’s $2 trillion CARES Act designed to provide economic relief to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yeezy LLC, a California company, is listed in the Treasury’s log as a recipient of a loan worth between $2 million and $5 million. The company self-identified as being male-owned and a Black or African-American business. It said 160 jobs were saved using the loan.

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Halle Berry Wanted to Play a Trans Man, but Repeatedly Misgendered the Role

Did we all learn nothing from Scarlett Johansson? Over the weekend Halle Berry discussed a new role she’s been eyeing—which happens to be a trans man. The entertainment industry and critics have discussed the issues with casting cisgender people to play transgender roles for years, so at this point it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have missed the memo. But beyond that, Berry also repeatedly misgendered the character she hopes to play during an Instagram Live interview.

After taking fire, Berry apologized on Twitter late Monday for her comments, and said that “as a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”

Speaking with hairstylist Christin Brown, as first reported by PinkNews, Berry said she’d initially been pitched the project just before she began working on her directorial debut, Bruised. Berry stuck to Bruised first, she said, because she wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to pull off the role of MMA fighter Jackie Justice. With that film set to debut this year—pandemic contingencies notwithstanding—Berry is ready to tackle this new role. Or at least, she wants to be.

“She’s a woman that transitioned into a man,” Berry said of the role. “She’s a character in a project I love and I might be doing.”

“I want to experience that world, understand that world,” Berry added. “I want to deep dive in that like I did Bruised… And this world and who this woman was, is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next [acting project].”

“That’s what I want to experience and that’s what I want to understand and that’s what I want to study and that’s what I want to explore,” Berry said. “It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman—that’s a female story. It changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that. You know? I want to get into it.”

The very notion that a trans man is a “female” role demonstrates that Berry has some misguided notions about trans people. Trans men are men and trans women are women—before, after, and without making any physical changes to their bodies. Then again, given Hollywood’s sordid history in representing trans people, as outlined recently in the Netflix documentary Disclosure, Berry’s misunderstanding is unsurprising.

Films and television that cast cis performers as trans characters perpetuate the idea that trans people are just playing dress-up—an issue writer and actress Jen Richards noted in the Netflix doc. “The public thinks of trans women as men with really good hair and make-up and costume,” Richards said. “And it’s reinforced every time we see a man who’s played a trans woman off-screen.”

Films and television that cast cis performers as trans characters perpetuate the idea that trans people are just playing dress-up.

Casting controversies surrounding trans characters have been plentiful in recent years. Jared Leto won an Oscar for his performance as a trans woman in 2014’s Dallas Buyers Club despite the fact that his character, Rayon, essentially existed to further a cis character’s growth—and died once that task was complete. In 2015 Eddie Redmayne played trans painter Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl—which also stirred controversy but nonetheless earned Redmayne an Oscar nomination. In 2017, it was Matt Bomer’s turn; he played a trans woman in Anything, a film about a trans sex worker that received widespread backlash from the trans community. (Richards noted at the time that she’d auditioned for the role; “I told them they shouldn’t have a cis man play a trans woman,” she wrote on Twitter. “They didn’t care.”) Oh, and there was also that embarrassing film 3 Generations, in which Elle Fanning played a trans boy.

And perhaps most recently, in 2018, Scarlett Johansson stepped away from playing a trans man and criminal kingpin Dante Tex Gil in Rub and Tug after yet another wave of backlash. “While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film,” she said in a statement at the time.

Evidently, that “conversation” is far from over.

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Former Melania Trump Confidante Stephanie Winston Wolkoff to Release ‘Explosive’ Tell-All Before the Election

Following months of legal drama, threats, and public controversy surrounding multiple books published by former Trumpworld insiders, yet another blockbuster Trump book is set to hit shelves this summer and contain “explosive” revelations about first lady Melania Trump, written by her once close adviser and friend of 15 years.

According to people familiar with the project, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff—who was previously seen by the first lady as a loyal confidante and helped plan President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration in Washington, D.C.—will release a tell-all, Melania and Me, on Sept. 1. 

People with knowledge of the project say the content of the book is largely negative and that the manuscript heavily trashes the first lady.

Winston Wolkoff previously worked for Vogue editrix and artistic director of Condé Nast Anna Wintour, who nicknamed her “General Winston” during her stint as the magazine’s special events director producing the celebrity-packed Met Gala.

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Fox News Anchor Neil Cavuto Debunks Trump’s ‘99% Totally Harmless’ COVID Claim

Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto on Monday refuted President Donald Trump’s false claim that 99 percent of America’s confirmed coronavirus cases were “totally harmless,” tallying off a number of statistics to inform Fox viewers about how dangerous the virus is.

During his Independence Day remarks, the president downplayed the severity of the disease that has already claimed more than 130,000 American lives, claiming without any evidence that of the millions of American COVID-19 cases that have been identified, “99 percent” of them were “totally harmless.”

Speaking with Dr. Qanta Ahmed about a recent study showing the coronavirus is now airborne and can linger indoors, Cavuto—who has regularly drawn the president’s ire over his critical coverage—used basic math to debunk Trump’s recent claim.

“You know, doctor, the president was saying even with the spikes in cases, 99 percent of the cases are ‘totally harmless,’” the veteran Fox anchor said. “Now, I’m not a doctor but I know a little bit about math.”

“So I was looking at the 2.7 million cases we have and the five percent death rate associated with that,” he continued. “Hospitalizations closer to a 10 percent rate. And hospitalization rates for those with respiratory issues about a 9 percent clip. Bottom line, I don’t come up with 99 percent of cases totally harmless. What about you?”

Ahmed agreed with Cavuto, adding that she “would have to differ from the president on that” and noting that the “risks are enormous” for those with comorbidities such as diabetes and obesity. She also went on to point out that many of those who survive the disease will be left with long-term lung damage.

Cavuto wondered aloud if Trump was giving people a “false sense of security,” adding that he wasn’t sure that was the president’s intent. Ahmed replied that she “would not place the entire burden” on Trump, noting that many people are skeptical about the pandemic.

“But we now see as a nation, we trail almost the entire world in our efforts to combat this virus,” she added. “Because we have acted, as we truly are, which is a federation where the state governments are so powerful. If we had a unified response, much of this virus would have been behind us by now. And so we have no time to waste to support these other states.”

Even members of the president’s own administration couldn’t bring themselves to defend his claims that the virus is essentially harmless. Appearing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn refused to back the president’s remarks, saying he wouldn’t “get into who is right and who is wrong” while stressing that the country “absolutely must take this seriously.”

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Tucker Carlson Praises Trump Mount Rushmore Speech That Cribbed From His Fox Show

Fox News host Tucker Carlson lavished praise Monday night on President Donald Trump’s Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore, claiming it was “probably the single best speech” the president has ever given.

The Fox News star’s love of the dark and divisive speech might not come as much of a surprise, considering that the president’s address is rooted in Carlson’s most recent monologues.

Carlson, who has suddenly seen his name bandied about as a possible 2024 GOP presidential candidate amid his inflammatory commentary about the Black Lives Matter “mob,” recently cautioned the president that he might lose his bid for re-election unless he begins rounding up protesters and charging them as terrorists.

Following the president’s speech, which featured warnings that “angry mobs” are tearing down “our most sacred memorials” and bringing about a “left-wing cultural revolution,” Carlson appeared much more optimistic about Trump’s electoral chances.

“It was a road map for his re-election message, but more than that, it was a road map for the country itself. Equality, decency, pride in our nation. Those were the themes,” Carlson proclaimed.

Noting that the president “spoke eloquently about the BLM riots,” Carlson applauded him for showing that the left “cannot control” him, saying Trump is at “his most dangerous to his enemies” when he is “telling the truth.”

From there, the conservative cable news star broke down much of the president’s speech while contrasting it with what he sees as the message being delivered by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and liberals. 

As Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported earlier, one reason Carlson may have been so smitten with the president’s culture war address is that it came directly from his own program.

“Trump—or rather his speechwriter Stephen Miller—framed the president’s opposition to the Black Lives Matter protest movement using the same imagery Carlson has been laying out night after night on Fox,” Swan wrote, highlighting several passages from Trump’s speech that essentially matched portions of Carlson’s monologues.

Carlson has personally advised the president on several policy issues, including the coronavirus pandemic and military conflict with Iran. Indeed, in recent days, Trump has reportedly griped to associates that he shouldn’t have listened to senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, following Carlson’s criticism of Kushner’s advice to Trump.

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ICE Sends Foreign Students Packing After Colleges Cancel In-Person Classes

Natalia Marques was supposed to be touring apartments with her friend this week, in preparation for her final year at Sonoma State University. Instead—thanks to a new order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement—the 25-year-old economics major spent most of Monday contemplating how to pack up four years of her life and move back to Brazil in the middle of a global pandemic.

“I am so close to graduating and they are just like, ‘Eh, maybe not,’” she said.

ICE announced in a Monday press release that all international students whose colleges and universities were operating primarily online next semester would be forced to leave the United States. The order set off a panic among the thousands of international students the order is likely to affect—some of whom, like Marques, don’t know how they will get home, or if they will be able to come back to the U.S. if they do.

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Try the Some Like it Hot By Jessie Smyth Bartenders At Home

Thank you Espolòn® for partnering with Half Full on the Bartenders At Home cocktail video series.

What inspired you to create this cocktail? “I was inspired by the fresh herbs that I have growing in my garden! I am lucky to be able to spend time outdoors and wanted to share those same fresh flavors in a simple Margarita variation.”

When would you serve this drink? “Warm, sunny days beg for Margaritas! And the Some Like it Hot combines chile heat with cooling herbs, like mint and cilantro. It’s perfect for warm weather!”

What music would you pair it with? “Xique-Xique. Groovy, rhythmic, organic—they bring the outdoors in and can seamlessly transition from day to night. The center of my summer playlist.”

What food would you pair it with? “Tacos, of course! Throw some carne asada on the grill and soak in those summer vibes.”

Name the person (dead or alive) you’d like to make this cocktail for. “I would like to make this cocktail for all my friends. I miss my friends.”

By Jessie Smyth

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 parts Espolòn® Blanco Tequila
  • 1 part Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur®
  • 1 part Fresh lime juice
  • .75 part Spicy Honey Syrup*
  • Glass: Rocks, rimmed with coriander salt
  • Garnish: Coriander blossom

DIRECTIONS

Run a lime wedge along the rim of a rock glass. Dip the moistened rim into a dish filled with coriander salt (a blend of two parts coriander and 1 part salt). Put the prepared glass to the side.

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into the prepared glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a coriander blossom.

Add 2/3 of a cup honey and 1/3 of a cup hot water to a blender. Add a handful each of fresh cilantro, mint, basil and tarragon, plus 2 jalapeños and a pinch of coriander, cardamom and cumin. Blend on medium until you have a beautiful green paste. Strain the syrup into a clean bottle.

You can find more Bartenders At Home cocktail tutorials here!

Interview has been condensed and edited.

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Right-Wing Media Outlets Duped by a Middle East Propaganda Campaign

If you want a hot take about the Middle East, Raphael Badani is your man.

As a Newsmax “Insider” columnist, he has thoughts about how Iraq needs to rid itself of Iranian influence to attract investment and why Dubai is an oasis of stability in a turbulent region. His career as a “geopolitical risk consultant and interactive simulation designer” and an “international relations senior analyst” for the Department of Labor have given him plenty of insights about the Middle East. He’s printed those insights at a range of conservative outlets like the Washington Examiner, RealClear Markets, American Thinker, and The National Interest.

Unfortunately for the outlets who published his articles and the readers who believed them, Raphael Badani does not exist. 

His profile photos are stolen from the blog of an unwitting San Diego startup founder. His LinkedIn profile, which described him as a graduate of George Washington and Georgetown, is equally fictitious.  

Badani is part of a network of at least 19 fake personas that has spent the past year placing more than 90 opinion pieces in 46 different publications. The articles heaped praise on the United Arab Emirates and advocated for a tougher approach to Qatar, Turkey, Iran and its proxy groups in Iraq and Lebanon. 

On Monday, Twitter suspended Badani’s account along with 15others after The Daily Beast shared the results of its investigation into the network for violating the company’s “policies on platform manipulation and spam.”

“Using technology, human review, and partnerships with researchers and other independent organizations studying these issues, we work to identify platform manipulation on our service and take action,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Daily Beast in a statement. “As is standard, if we have reasonable evidence to attribute any activity to a state-backed information operation, we’ll disclose them—following thorough investigation—to our public archive.”

“This vast influence operation highlights the ease with which malicious actors can exploit the identity of real people, dupe international news outlets, and have propaganda of unknown provenance legitimized through reputable media,” Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar who first noticed suspicious posts by members of the network, told The Daily Beast. “It’s not just fake news we need to be wary of, but fake journalists.”

The network’s spree of hot takes targeted a range of publications and placed articles critical of Qatar and supportive of tougher sanctions on Iran in conservative North American outlets like Human Events and conservative writer Andy Ngo’s The Post Millennial, as well as Israeli and Middle Eastern newspapers like The Jerusalem Post and Al Arabiya, and Asian newspapers like the South China Morning Post.

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What Pandemic? Melania and Ivanka Trump’s July 4th Fashion Show Was all About Them

We all have those friends who continue to live their lives online, sharing their brunch and July 4th cookouts, ignoring the disastrous backdrop of a global pandemic and nationwide protests. Count Melania and Ivanka Trump among such social media showboats.