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September 27, 2018

It can be difficult to take a song closely associated with a particular artist — Frank Sinatra's "My Way" or "Fly Me to the Moon," or Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" — and make it your own. But Late Show bandleader Jon Batiste's arrangement of George David Weiss and Bob Thiele's "What a Wonderful World" will almost make you forget the song belongs to Louie Armstrong, or forget to care. More to the point, Batiste wants you to remember that the planet Earth is "a beautiful place to be" and that it's important to "take time to reflect and love yourself," especially when life turns especially ugly. If you happen to be facing one of those days, consider this a short musical amulet, a respite from the unpleasantness, if only for five and a half minutes. Peter Weber

1:58 p.m.

Up to 20 subpoenas have been served to correctional officers as part of the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein's death, CNN reports.

After the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges was on Aug. 10 found dead in his jail cell, investigations were opened by the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general into the circumstances surrounding what a medical examiner later concluded to be a suicide. Reports have emerged in recent weeks suggesting protocol was not followed at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was being held. The New York Times has reported that two guards who were tasked with routinely checking on Epstein fell asleep on the job, leaving him unwatched for hours, and The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that at least eight staffers at the jail, including supervisors and managers, were aware that Epstein was not to be left alone.

Now, CNN reports that "as many as 20" correctional officers from the Metropolitan Correctional Center received grand jury subpoenas last week, with investigators in particular wanting to "talk to the lieutenants who were in charge that night to get details on rounds that were not made." CNN also reports that "more subpoenas could be in the works as the investigation widens." Attorney General William Barr, who has said he was "appalled" to learn of Epstein's death, has promised that "we will get to the bottom of what happened" and recently replaced the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In its Wednesday report on the investigation, the Post noted that the eight officers' "apparent disregard for the instruction" to keep Epstein under supervision "does not necessarily mean there was criminal conduct" and that it may be a "simpler and sadder" case of "bureaucratic incompetence spanning multiple individuals and ranks within the organization." Barr has said the investigation's findings will be ready to share with the public "soon."

Brendan Morrow

1:10 p.m.

You should have no trouble at all keeping your fancy new Apple credit card in tip-top shape, the company says, so long as you keep it away from ... one or two things.

Apple has released an official list of instructions for how to handle its physical titanium Apple Card after its credit card service officially launched in the U.S. earlier this week, as noted by Apple Insider. The company warns, first of all, that if the card should come into contact with leather or denim, it may receive "permanent discoloration that will not wash off."

But that's not all. Apple also warns that you dare not allow your card to touch other credit cards, as "if two credit cards are placed in the same slot your card could become scratched." Oh, and it can't come into contact with "potentially abrasive objects," such as loose change or keys. Other than nearly every single thing that a credit card typically comes into contact with, though, you're all good. Apple provided no word on whether you can feed it after midnight.

Of course, getting a physical card when signing up for Apple's credit card service isn't entirely necessary, so customers can not be bothered with any of this headache by simply sticking to the app.

The titanium Apple Card, which has no number printed on it and looks like something Patrick Bateman would absolutely love, even comes with cleaning instructions for when you need to wipe it down with a microfiber cloth, which, based on this extensive list of dangerous contaminants, sounds like it will be fairly often. The day when Apple begins selling screen protector-style add-ons for its credit cards to ensure not one single fingerprint rubs off on its impeccably-crafted surface may not be far away. Brendan Morrow

11:12 a.m.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders might not be going on Dancing with the Stars like her White House predecessor, Sean Spicer, but she's just lined up a new TV gig of her own.

The former White House press secretary, who announced her resignation in June after almost two years on the job, has been hired by Fox News as a contributor, The Hollywood Reporter reports. She's set to make her debut on Fox & Friends, Trump's favorite morning show, on Sept. 6. In a statement, Sanders said she is "beyond proud" to join Fox's "incredible stable of on-air contributors in providing political insights and analysis."

Sanders being hired by the Trump-friendly network may put the president at ease, as he has in recent months complained about Fox, especially as its news division has conducted polls showing him losing to 2020 Democrats.

"Fox has changed, and my worst polls have always been from Fox," Trump recently said, Deadline reports. “There's something going on at Fox. I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it.”

Trump, who also attacked the network earlier this year over a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in which moderator Bret Baier was supposedly too "smiley and nice," has been so concerned that The Daily Beast reports he's been "repeatedly" asking various people, "what the hell is going on at Fox?"

Sanders is just the latest former Trump administration official to join Fox. Former White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah is currently the Fox Corporation's senior vice president, while former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is its executive vice president and chief communications officer. Numerous members of Trump's administration are also former Fox News contributors. Brendan Morrow

10:44 a.m.

President Trump has apparently not just been mulling over the idea of adding territory to the United States. He might want to get rid of some, too.

Trump this week abruptly called off a meeting with Denmark over its prime minister's "very not nice" remark that his idea of buying Greenland was "absurd," and The New York Times reports that a potential Greenland purchase has been on the president's mind for "more than a year." He also told his National Security Council to look into it.

But that's not all. The Times reports that last year, Trump "joked in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland," as he was "happy to rid himself" of it.

Though not a serious suggestion, Trump's joke may have had a kernel of truth in it, as he has on numerous occasions feuded with Puerto Rico's leaders and labeled them "grossly incompetent." He has, in particular, repeatedly gone after San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has slammed his administration's response to Hurricane Maria as a "historic failure." Trump has defended his Maria response and last month praised himself for doing a "great job" while declaring that he is "the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico." He added, "I have many Puerto Rican friends." Brendan Morrow

9:51 a.m.

Andrew Yang's 2020 campaign just got a little bit weirder.

The tech entrepreneur has peppered his Democratic presidential run with charmingly odd tidbits about himself, notably promising to be the first "ex-goth" president and constantly reiterating how much he loves math. Yet in a Politico profile published Thursday, Yang let his pectoral muscles do the talking, with slightly disturbing results.

Yang, like his fellow millennials, spent his adolescence and young adulthood working through several phases. To Politico, he described himself as an "angsty" and "brooding" kid who read a lot of sci-fi and listened to a mix of Pearl Jam and Sarah McLachlan. Yang's personality evolved in college at Brown University, where he "started to lift weights, mostly to try to get dates, and was proud to be able to bench press 225 pounds eight to 10 times in a row," Politico writes.

Thus sums up the origin story of "Rex" and "Lex," Yang's right and left pectoral muscles, respectively. And back in college, Yang "could jostle them on command" to make them "talk," he wrote in his 2014 book Smart People Should Build Things. Today, Yang acknowledges, they're "almost mute," though Rex did sputter out a few sentences to Politico: "Andrew, I still have a little bit of voice left. You haven’t fed me in a long time. You used to looooove meeeeeee.'"

Read about more than just Yang's abandoned workout regimen at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:49 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has announced an aggressive climate change plan that he tells The New York Times puts "meat on the bones" of the Green New Deal.

Sanders on Thursday unveiled his $16.3 trillion plan, which calls for the U.S. to reach 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation "no later than" 2030, as well as for "complete decarbonization" by 2050. He refers to the plan itself, which would also declare climate change a national emergency, as a Green New Deal.

The senator's plan, the Times notes, is more expensive than that of any other candidate in the race; for comparison, former Vice President Joe Biden has released a climate change plan that calls for spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Sanders says his proposal would "pay for itself" in 15 years and create 20 million jobs. He would, among other things, impose new taxes on the fossil fuel industry and eliminate subsidies, which he says would account for $3.1 trillion and be a way of making the industry "pay for their pollution." The plan does not include a carbon tax.

Axios notes that Sanders' plan, though more specific than the Green New Deal, is "more of a vision statement than a pathway for policy that stands much chance of implementation as proposed," with "huge sections" requiring cooperation from Capitol Hill.

"I have seven grandchildren, and I'm going to be damned if I’m going to leave them a planet that is unhealthy and uninhabitable," Sanders told the Times, also saying that "we must be extraordinarily aggressive."

Sanders announced his climate change plan just after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), whose campaign was the only one focused entirely on the issue of climate change, left the 2020 race. The Democratic candidates are set to participate in a climate change-centric debate next month. Read more about Sanders' plan at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

8:27 a.m.

Texas executed Larry Ray Swearingen on Wednesday night for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. The Supreme Court had denied his request for a stay just before 6 p.m. CDT, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had declined to commute his sentence, and state and federal courts had upheld his conviction. The prosecutor who got Swearingen's conviction, Kelly Blackburn, said he's sure Texas executed the right man, as did Trotter's mother. But Swearingen has maintained his innocence from the beginning, and his defense team has steadily poked holes in the forensic evidence, calling it "junk science."

"Today the state of Texas murdered an innocent man," Swearingen said in a statement released to The Washington Post on Wednesday, before his death. His last words were: "Lord forgive 'em. They don't know what they're doing."

Swearingen was convicted on strong circumstantial evidence, but earlier this month his lawyers presented new evidence suggesting that the key piece of physical evidence — half a pair of pantyhose that prosecutors said matched hose used to strangle Trotter — didn't match. The blood under Trotter's fingernails was from a man but not Swearingen — a state lab technician attested that the blood flakes were probably evidence contamination, though the state lab said earlier this month that the technician had no grounds for that testimony. And experts said Trotter was probably dead no longer than two weeks when hunters found her in the woods; Swearingen had been in jail for three weeks for unpaid parking tickets.

"Larry Swearingen needs to be removed from the annals of history as far as I'm concerned," Blackburn said. "A bad man got what he deserved tonight." Swearingen's attorney, James Rytting, disagreed. "They may put Larry Swearingen under," he said. "But his case is not going to die." Peter Weber

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