×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
February 13, 2018
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Credit to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for thinking outside the box — or, rather, thinking up a new box. Nestled in President Trump's 2019 budget proposal is a plan to transform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program into an "America's Harvest Box" full of government-picked nonperishable items. The boxes would be distributed to the roughly 16 million U.S. households getting at least $90 a month in food stamps. Perdue called his Harvest Box idea "a bold, innovative approach" that would give low-income families the "same level of food value as SNAP" at considerably lower costs.

"Secretary Perdue wanted to give it a chance," White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Monday. "We thought it was a tremendous idea." Apparently unimpressed with the "America's Harvest Box" branding and enticing pitches like "same level of food value," however, Mulvaney called the idea a "Blue Apron-type program" — which, Politico notes, compares Perdue's boxes to the "high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers."

The Blue Apron comparison has other problems, too. Blue Apron specializes in delivering fresh fruit, meat, and produce to customers' doors. The Harvest Boxes would include staples like shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, pasta, cereals, beans, canned meat and fish, and canned fruit and vegetables — in other words, nothing fresh. And USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh said states would have "flexibility" in how they got the boxes to SNAP recipients, adding, "The projected savings does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients."

The plan has already gathered an unusual coalition of detractors — advocates for the poor, Walmart, rural mom-and-pop markets — and it faces long odds in Congress, which would have to approve the program. SNAP recipients would still get half of their monthly disbursement on a special debit card, like under the current system. Peter Weber

2:54 p.m. ET
iStock

A young pharmaceutical startup wants to develop a groundbreaking new treatment for a relatively common cancer. Yet it struggles to find funding.

That's because the startup in question is Antiva Biosciences, and the cancer it aims to treat is cervical cancer. Stat reported Thursday on the company's struggles to attract investment, as well as its constant fight to receive buy-in from male doctors, quoting Antiva's top executives discussing frankly their perceptions of the problem: "It's very safe to say that we got more traction in [venture capital] firms where there was a woman partner who was in a decision-making role," Antiva CEO Gail Maderis told Stat.

Antiva's proposal is to replace the most common treatment prescribed for women who develop the precancerous cervical lesions that result from being infected with HPV, which is surgery. The operation removes the lesions by "essentially cutting off the tip of the cervix," Stat reports. The surgery has proven effective in eradicating the problem cells, but "women of childbearing age who undergo the surgery may later have difficulty conceiving, recurrent miscarriages, and preterm delivery," Stat explains.

Antiva says about 500,000 women undergo this procedure every year. Instead of surgery, the company is proposing a topical treatment that patients can administer themselves. But the reception has been lukewarm: Maderis told Stat of how one prospective male investor who appeared unenthused during Maderis' pitch. But after their meeting, he called Maderis to explain how his wife had pressed him to investigate the deal further after he'd told her about the company's mission.

One man, David Kabakoff, did invest in Antiva through his firm. His team has been calling gynecologists to glean their reactions to the topical treatment. "The trend was unmistakable," Stat wrote: "Male physicians tended to express skepticism ... Female physicians tended to say new treatment options are badly needed." Read more about Antiva at Stat. Kimberly Alters

2:29 p.m. ET

Omarosa Manigault Newman has another tape.

Manigault Newman appeared on MSNBC on Thursday and played a secret recording of a conversation with Lara Trump, President Trump's daughter-in-law and a campaign adviser.

During the recorded phone call, Lara Trump offered Manigault Newman $15,000 a month to work on the re-election campaign. Manigault Newman told MSNBC that the offer came just days after she was fired from her White House position, calling it proof that the Trump family "can't keep their story straight" when it comes to whether they love or hate her.

The president on Tuesday called Manigault Newman "a crazed, crying lowlife" and a "dog," characterizing her as an incompetent liar who was "vicious, but not smart." In response, Manigault Newman is looking to prove that Trump never had a problem with her until she began criticizing the administration. "Every time the Trump people challenge me, I bring the receipts," she told MSNBC's Craig Melvin. She said she understood the job offer to be "hush money" to keep her from exposing the "corruption" she had witnessed in the White House. Lara Trump said in a statement that she offered the job "before we knew anything about the gross violations of ethics and integrity during her White House tenure."

After previously releasing recordings of Trump campaign advisers and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly firing her, Manigault Newman said she had more tapes to share if she felt she needed to "protect" herself. Watch the full interview below, via MSNBC. Summer Meza

1:48 p.m. ET
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Aretha Franklin's death on Thursday inspired a flood of heartfelt sentiments, from fellow musicians remembering her influence to fans reveling in her legacy. Politicians piped in as well, with a wide range of reactions.

President Trump tweeted that Franklin was a "great woman with a wonderful gift from God," but his extemporaneous words later in the day were slightly less focused on her talents. "I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well," Trump said. "She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing." He additionally said her legacy would "thrive and inspire many generations to come" and noted that "people loved Aretha."

Meanwhile, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama issued a statement hoping the "Queen of Soul" may "rest in eternal peace" and recalling Franklin's "unmatched" musicianship. "Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine," they wrote.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted that Franklin deserves "our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears, and hearts," while former President Bill Clinton joined his wife in a statement that called Franklin "elegant, graceful, and utterly uncompromising in her artistry." Summer Meza

1:43 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

No matter how loudly Democrats call for fresh leadership, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has insisted she'll run for speaker if her party claims a majority in the lower chamber this fall. But now, Pelosi has hinted she may at least be tuning in to the calls.

In a Wednesday interview with The New York Times, Pelosi said she's "[building] a bridge to the future," and hinted she'll pass on leadership roles to Democrats who "show what's on the other side of the bridge." Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), the third ranking Democrat in the House, may be the first in line.

As Democrats shoot to regain the House in this November's midterms, members of Pelosi's own party have shunned the former speaker. Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.) already won a special election on the promise that he wouldn't support Pelosi, and he joins other rising blue stars calling for a new generation to replace the 78-year-old minority leader.

Clyburn is also 78, but he's still thinking about becoming the first black House speaker. He indicated to the Times that he'd aim for speaker only if Pelosi fails; Pelosi told the paper that she's fine with this "beautiful, lovely member of Congress" wanting to lead the House.

In fact, Pelosi doesn't care if Democrats running deride her either. "Let them do whatever they want. We have to win the election," she told the Times. It's a big statement from Pelosi, but some Democrats say that the longtime leader rejecting the speakership altogether would make things even sweeter. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:26 p.m. ET

R&B legend Aretha Franklin died Thursday at 76, following a long bout with pancreatic cancer. The "Queen of Soul" leaves behind a nearly 60-year career dotted with chart-topping hits, Grammy wins, and a performance at a presidential inauguration. Here are some of the best photos of Franklin's incredible life. Kathryn Krawczyk

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

12:04 p.m. ET
JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump keeps calling media "the enemy of the people," and journalists have had enough. On Thursday, hundreds of news outlets answered a call from The Boston Globe to join forces and reaffirm the importance of the Fourth Estate. The theme was consistent, with more than 350 news organizations large and small banding together to defend the press against denigrations of "fake news."

"Unable to carry on in the light, the president attempts to drag us all into a dark labyrinth where rules don't apply and some vacant concept of winning seems attainable," said the Record-Journal in Meriden, Connecticut. "But news organizations do not play in that dark playground. They perform in the light."

"Our country's leader shouldn't be making it easier for dictators to harass and silence journalists in places where freedom of the press remains a dream," wrote the Sun Sentinel, a Florida paper just down the coast from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

"The true enemies of the people — and democracy — are those who try to suffocate truth by vilifying and demonizing the messenger," said the Des Moines Register in Iowa. "The response to that cannot be silence."

"We are the watchdogs, the questioners, the annoying voice that refuses to accept this moment in time as the best we can do," wrote the Capital Gazette, the Maryland newspaper that suffered an attack from a gunman in June. The publication opted not to coordinate with national outlets, citing its focus on more local issues.

"We are not the enemy," the Longview News Journal in Texas wrote. "We, like you, are the American people."

Trump responded by tweeting Thursday morning that "THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY." Read more of the most arresting excerpts, and check to see if your local paper published an editorial, at The Boston Globe. Summer Meza

10:34 a.m. ET

While much of the Northeast has been battling weeks of storms and flooding, the American West is drying up.

The National Drought Mitigation Center, housed at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, released a stark map Thursday that shows that fully one-third of the country is battling drought. Not only that, but in parts of Missouri and Kansas, areas suffering "exceptional drought" are expanding:

"Exceptional drought" is the most severe classification of drought conditions that exists, describing "widespread crop/pasture losses" and "shortages of water in reservours, streams, and wells, creating water emergencies," per the U.S. Drought Monitor.

While the country boomerangs between extreme weather conditions, President Trump has systematically sought to dismantle his predecessor's signature achievements — and that includes legislation related to climate change. Politico reported Thursday that in an effort to unwind the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which imposed emissions limits on power plants, the Trump administration is prepared to tweak the federal calculations of money saved by the rule. "They are cooking the books on technical analysis to try to justify preconceived conclusions that these regulations are bad," one climate expert told Politico.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is shirking its climate change duties too, Ryan Cooper argues here at The Week. Read his indictment of DNC Chairman Tom Perez's acceptance of fossil fuel money here. Kimberly Alters

See More Speed Reads