October 17, 2020

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban on Saturday was "cleared to safely return to activity effective immediately" after testing negative for COVID-19 three days in a row, the team said.

The university had announced on Wednesday that Saban tested positive for COVID-19, but on Saturday, a statement from the team's physician said that Saban had since received three negative COVID-19 test results 24 hours apart, allowing him to return to activity in time for the day's game against the University of Georgia, CNN and The Associated Press report.

"Upon evaluation today, Coach Saban remains completely asymptomatic," the statement said. "To address the potential for a false positive, the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol allows for follow-up testing to clear the individual's return to activity. That protocol requires three negative PCR tests 24 hours apart."

In addition to these tests, "two additional PCR tests were administered at the same time on Thursday and Friday and were tested by a separate lab," and those results were negative as well, the physician said, per The Associated Press. The statement added that Saban is "completely asymptomatic" and that "the initial test from Wednesday is considered a false positive under the SEC protocols." ESPN reports that Saban "was informed he had been cleared to return a little before 12:30 p.m. ET, and he immediately left his home with a state trooper to go straight to the team hotel and was able to join meetings prior to 1 p.m. ET." Brendan Morrow

7:44 a.m.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health on Monday ended one clinical trial of Eli Lilly's experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment after finding that the drug, "bamlanivimab, is unlikely to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover from this advanced stage of their disease." The trial was suspended Oct. 13 out of "an abundance of caution," but the NIH said Monday it had found no significant safety issue with the monoclonal antibody treatment.

Eli Lilly said it will continue testing bamlanivimab with the NIH on mild or moderately ill COVID-19 patients to see if it reduces hospitalizations and severe symptoms. Eli Lilly is also conducting its own separate trials.

Human bodies make antibodies to fight off infections, and Eli Lilly's experimental drug, like a similar treatment from Regeneron, features concentrated copies of one or two antibodies found to be effective at fighting of COVID-19. President Trump was given Regeneron's version when he was hospitalized with COVID-19, and public health experts have high hopes for monoclonal antibody treatments. Eli Lilly and Regeneron are both seeking emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Peter Weber

6:43 a.m.

"The election is just a week away, but the White House is making news for all the wrong reasons," a COVID-19 outbreak in Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Tonight Show. "Yeah, the only place the coronavirus is 'rounding the corner' is in the halls of the White House." And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the Trump administration is "not going to control the pandemic," he sighed. "They talk about COVID like it's a wild teen on Dr. Phil."

Yes, "Meadows went on CNN to reassure a worried nation that you're on your own," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. But while the virus is hitting a third peak nationwide, "the most infectious part of the country is the Trump administration." He laughed at how the White House is keeping the COVID-exposed Pence on the campaign trail by calling him an "essential worker," and explained the administration's proposed COVID-19 vaccine "quid pro ho ho ho" with mall Santas.

"It's interesting how zen Trump's people are about this," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. With migrant children, "they're like: 'Zero tolerance! One is too many! We have to deport!' But with a virus that's killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, they're like, 'Look, man, the virus is trying to make a better life in our lungs. Who are we to stop it?'" If you listen to Trump, though, he's just bored of the whole COVID thing. "I can safely say that I've never seen a world leader get bored of a crisis," Noah said. "But hey, shout-out to COVID for helping Trump understand what we've felt for the past five years every time we switch on the TV and heard his name. 'Trump, Trump, Trump, always Trump.'"

Jimmy Kimmel played a supercut of Trump's "COVID, COVD, COVID" rants. "I think I've figured it out: He's jealous of the virus," he said on Kimmel Live. "He's upset that COVID is getting more attention than he is."

"Election Day is eight days away, which means we're just a few short weeks away from the Supreme Court telling us who we elected," Seth Meyers joked, darkly, at Late Night. "At a campaign event in Maine yesterday, President Trump signed a pumpkin. So if someone could write a stimulus bill right above it, that would be great." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:18 a.m.

Borat showed up to taunt Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week, but Stephen Colbert got to interview Sacha Baron Cohen on Monday's Late Show. And Cohen had some new details about Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's most infamous scene, where Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, puts himself in a compromising position with a young actress playing Borat's daughter, Tutar.

Giuliani "has denied that he was actually doing anything untoward toward this girl, this 24-year-old woman playing your 15-year-old daughter," Colbert said. "Do you have anything to say to Rudy Giuliani about going into a bedroom with a supposedly teenage girl to drink whisky and zip your pants up and down?" Cohen noted that Giuliani "said that he did nothing inappropriate, and you know, my feeling is if he sees that as appropriate, then heaven knows what he's intended to do with other women in hotel rooms with a glass of whisky in his hand."

Cohen explained that while the actress, Maria Bakalova, was in the hotel room with Giuliani, he was hiding in a custom-built box in the wardrobe, unable to see but supposed to be getting updates from his producer based on the cameras hidden in the room. "You don't want Maria left alone with Giuliani," Colbert suggested, and Cohen said Giuliani thought he was alone with her. "He brought a cop with him, an ex-policeman, and the policeman does a sweep of the entire hotel suite," he explained, and then Rudy's security guard left and "sits outside the room, ensuring that no one could come in and out — which is actually more scary when you think about it, for her." Things got even dicier when he turned on the phone, Cohen said.

Cohen also recounted what really happened when he interviewed Trump as another of his alter-egos, Ali G, and showed unreleased footage of Borat narrowly escaping a gun-rights rally after being recognized by undercover Black Lives Matter activists. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:21 a.m.

President Trump signed an executive order last week that could turn tens of thousands of nonpartisan career civil service jobs into "excepted service" positions, stripping federal scientists, public health experts, attorneys, regulators, and other policy professions of civil service protections. These career employees would essentially become political appointees whom the president could fire without cause or recourse.

Ronald Sanders, appointed by Trump to head the Federal Salary Council, cited this order when resigning Sunday, telling The Washington Post on Monday, "I don't want to sound too corny here, but it was just a matter of conscience."

Trump's order "is nothing more than a smoke screen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the president, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process," Sanders wrote in his resignation letter. "I simply cannot be part of an administration that seeks ... to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance. Career federal employees are legally and duty-bound to be nonpartisan; they take an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law ... not to be loyal to a particular president or administration."

Sanders, a lifelong Republican who has worked in federal personnel positions over four decades, said in his letter he "cannot in good conscience continue" to serve a president who "seeks to make loyalty to him the litmus test for many thousands of career civil servants." On MSNBC Monday night, Rachel Maddow applauded his letter a "very, very rare Trump administration profile in courage."

Trump's executive order "would be a profound reimagining of the career workforce, but one that may end up as a statement of purpose rather than anything else," the Post notes. "The order fast-tracks a process that gives agencies until Jan. 19 to review potentially affected jobs. That’s a day before the next presidential inauguration. An administration under Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be unlikely to allow the changes to proceed." Peter Weber

1:47 a.m.

You won't see his art hanging in a museum, but Phil Heckels' drawings of family pets are bringing joy to his friends — and raising money for a good cause.

Heckels lives in England, and about six weeks ago, he asked his son to make a thank you card. He worked on his own piece of art, drawing their dog Narla, and posted a picture of it on Facebook, joking that it was available to buy for just £299 (about $390). It wasn't a great drawing, and Heckles was shocked with seven friends asked him to sketch their pets.

Word spread and more requests started coming in from people, so Heckels, who works in commercial real estate, started a Facebook page with the tongue-in-cheek promise to create "extremely realistic pictures." Heckels told CNN he does "genuinely try quite hard to draw them" while also "having a laugh with it. People seem to be enjoying it and I'm certainly enjoying it."

When one client insisted Heckels accept payment, the artist instead asked that they donate to charity, and he has since launched a fundraiser for one of his favorite charities, Turning Tides, which helps the homeless. So far, Heckels, who estimates he's finished 220 portraits, has raised $15,000 for the organization. He told CNN his drawings have provided "a little bit of fun and a little bit of light," and he would "die a happy man if I could spend the rest of my life doing this." Catherine Garcia

1:39 a.m.

The Supreme Court sided with Republicans in Wisconsin on Monday, ruling 5-3 along ideological lines that Wisconsin can count only those absentee ballots that arrive by Election Day — even if they were mailed days earlier. Since first-class mail has been taking an average of 10 days to be delivered in the state, Wisconsin's Democratic Party urged mail-in Democrats to hand-deliver their absentee ballots or vote in person.

The practical issue involves what happens with Wisconsin's 700,000 outstanding absentee ballots. "But the deeper issue is about the extent to which a ballot should be considered as valid," Phillip Bump writes in The Washington Post. In a factually sloppy concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh evidently embraced President Trump's baseless conspiracies about voter fraud and bizarre demand that the winner be announced election night.

Many states require absentee ballots to arrive by Election Day because they "want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election," Kavanaugh wrote. "And those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter."

Justice Elena Kagan, in her dissent, noted that "there are no results to 'flip' until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more 'suspicio[us]' or 'improp[er]' than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night."

More broadly, Kavanaugh — and Justice Neil Gorsuch — embraced late Chief Justice William Rehnquist's concurring opinion in 2000's Bush v. Gore, which invented a legal theory "so radical, so contrary to basic principles of democracy and federalism, that two conservative justices" rejected it, even as they agreed to hand the White House to George W. Bush in what was supposed to be a one-off decision, Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate.

Rehnquist argued that state courts cannot interpret state election laws in federal elections, Stern writes, "a breathtaking assault on state sovereignty" that would transform the Supreme Court "into a national board of elections with veto power over each state's election rules." With Judge Amy Coney Barrett put on the court, the conservatives likely have five votes enact Rehnquist's theory, throwing out ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina as well as Wisconsin, he added. "In other words, Barrett's first decisions as a justice may determine the outcome of the election." Peter Weber

12:24 a.m.

Two wind-driven brush fires in Orange County, California, have burned more than 10,000 acres combined and forced at least 100,000 residents to evacuate from their homes.

The Silverado fire broke out in Irvine on Monday morning, and by evening it had scorched 7,200 acres. Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy told the Los Angeles Times that a 26-year-old firefighter and a 31-year-old firefighter both sustained second- and third-degree burns while battling the blaze, and are now intubated at a local hospital. "They're gravely injured," he said. "We're doing all we can for them."

On Monday evening, Southern California Edison told the state's Public Utilities Commission it is investigating whether its equipment may have sparked the Silverado fire. So far, no homes have been reported destroyed.

A second blaze, the Blue Ridge fire near Yorba Linda, has burned 3,000 acres and destroyed one home. The dry Santa Ana winds are fanning the flames, and gusts of up to 70 mph were recorded in Orange County on Monday. Relative humidity was at 5 percent, "which is bone-dry," National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria told the Times, and the dry air combined with high winds is "creating these critical fire conditions." Catherine Garcia

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