March 23, 2019

The king will get some extra rest this year.

For the first time since 2005, the NBA playoffs will not feature LeBron James, whose teams had appeared in 13 straight postseasons, including eight straight trips to the NBA Finals.

James' Los Angeles Lakers were officially eliminated from contention following Friday evening's 111-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Los Angeles dropped to 31-41 overall with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

It's the sixth year in a row that the Lakers, who signed James during the offseason, have missed the postseason. Before the current streak of futility, the storied franchise missed the playoffs only five times during its first 65 seasons in the league, Per ESPN.

Despite the lack of team success and having to deal with a mid-season injury, James still put up his usual prolific numbers, averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game on the year.

"I'm probably going to have a conversation with the coaching staff and my trainer and go from there," James said. "But I love to hoop. S---, I'm going to have five months and not play the game." Tim O'Donnell

2:31 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) isn't ruling anything out.

Pelosi addressed her Democratic colleagues on Monday with a letter detailing how she thinks the party should proceed following last week's public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling.

In the letter, Pelosi refrains from choosing a hard path about how to proceed — she writes that the party consists of a range of members, some of whom wish to continue investigating Mueller's findings, while others want to move directly toward impeachment procedures. But the speaker did say that, either way, the party must be "free from passion or prejudice" as they proceed, and rely "strictly on the presentation of fact."

"It is clear that the President has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds," she wrote.

Pelosi also attached a letter Democratic leaders sent rejecting Attorney General William Barr's suggestion to provide an unredacted version of the Mueller report only to a limited group of members of Congress in a classified setting. Instead, she argued Democrats need to insist on the "public's right to know." Read Pelosi's full letter below. Tim O'Donnell

2:12 p.m.

Samsung has delayed its new foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, just days before it was scheduled to launch.

The company on Monday confirmed a report from The Wall Street Journal that it's delaying the release of the Galaxy Fold, which functions both as a 4.6-inch smartphone and a 7.3-inch tablet and was scheduled to be released on April 26, per CNBC.

This comes after a number of journalists from outlets like Bloomberg and CNBC reported that their review copies broke after just days of use. Some said they inadvertently peeled off a part of the screen that looked like a screen protector, while others said the screen simply stopped working. Samsung on Monday explained that these reviewers "showed us how the device needs further improvements," promising to "take measures to strengthen the display protection."

Some of these early issues "could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge," Samsung said, adding that there "was an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance," per CNN.

No new launch date was provided for the device, which costs almost $2,000, but Samsung said it will announce a new one "in the coming weeks." Brendan Morrow

1:57 p.m.

Back in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came up with a plan to eradicate syphilis. But 20 years later, it's making a fierce comeback — and can, in certain cases, be described as an epidemic.


Research points to several causes that, when combined, have created a veritable breeding ground for syphilis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease which, while it can initially fly under the radar, can lead to permanent brain damage, birth defects, and even death. It's "both treatable and curable," but our decaying public health system means that efforts at eliminating the disease are failing.

Federal funding for STD prevention has stagnated over the past 15 years, but accounting for deflation, that money is worth almost 40 percent less than in 2003. And in Midwestern states, where rural communities are bearing the brunt of the increase in syphilis cases, CDC funding has been cut, sometimes by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, says the Post-Dispatch.

This problem is being exacerbated by people's misunderstanding of syphilis: The disease is sometimes called the "great imitator," because its symptoms are often diagnosed as something else.

With the advent of dating apps that can make sex anonymous, tracking where syphilis is coming from and how people are contracting it is becoming a fraught affair. And with the public health system "not even treading water" in some states, per syphilis transmission researcher Hilary Reno, there is little recourse for those trying to combat the disease.

Given all these influences, syphilis is having a field day. Missouri's cases have quadrupled from 2012 to 2018, and many Midwestern and Western states are seeing similar rises. Unfortunately, we're a far cry from the CDC's plan from back in 1999. Read more at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Shivani Ishwar

1:56 p.m.

Even a 141-year-old White House tradition can't stop President Trump from bringing up his favorite subject.

On Monday, the president and first lady Melania Trump hosted a few hundred kids on the South Lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll. EPA head Andrew Wheeler read a book to kids and perhaps mentioned Earth Day, the first lady organized some #BeBest hopscotch, and Trump himself bonded with one child over a coloring sheet. Yes, as the White House pool reporter at the event recounted, Trump "looked up at one point while coloring the cards with the kids and said one of the children told him to build the wall."

Beyond his wall discussion with a confirmed non-voter, Trump also discussed up some non-egg related matters, including just how loyal his staffers are and how the military was apparently "very depleted." Kathryn Krawczyk

1:22 p.m.

Thought TurboTax was supposed to simplify life during tax season? Think again.

Despite advertising free tax filing services — which anyone who makes less than $66,000 per year is entitled to based on an agreement between the Internal Revenue Service and multiple filing companies — ProPublica reporters found out that TurboTax does quite a bit of maneuvering to make it difficult for people to actually file their taxes for free.

The reporters created fictional profiles for people who make less than $66,000, but would hit a barrier each time. It turns out that it's impossible to find a truly free version if starting from the TurboTax website, which the company actually admits in its "Frequently Asked Questions" section on the site. But even when following their new lead, the reporters still found themselves running in circles, chasing link after link until they eventually landed back on TurboTax's homepage. The vicious cycle is an example of a "dark pattern," an internet design tactic to get web users to pay for products they don't necessarily want, ProPublica reports.

The reporters did ultimately access the real free filing service, but the arduous process is an example of how the free program is "failing to achieve its objectives." The IRS has faced criticism for not overseeing the program and consumer groups have advocated for the IRS to offer its own free tax preparation service as many other countries do, ProPublica reports.

But instead the House recently passed a bipartisan bill that would restrict the IRS from doing just that, which the Senate is now considering. Companies like TurboTax creator Intuit have lobbied for the bill heavily. It looks like it will only get more challenging to file taxes for free. Read more at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

1:21 p.m.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden are essentially tied in a new 2020 New Hampshire poll.

A survey released by the University of New Hampshire on Monday has Buttigieg in third place behind Biden, earning 15 percent of the vote to Biden's 18 percent. That's a smaller gap than the poll's margin of error. In first place is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who earned 30 percent of the vote.

Buttigieg has jumped up 13 percentage points since February, at which point he had launched a 2020 exploratory committee fairly recently. On the other hand, Biden has slipped about four points since then, while Sanders has gained four points. Biden hasn't officially entered the 2020 race yet, but he's expected to do so in the coming days.

This is just the latest in a series of polls showing Buttigieg in third place behind Biden and Sanders, although he and Biden have typically not been in such a dead heat.

The University of New Hampshire's poll was conducted by speaking to 549 New Hampshire adults over the phone from April 10-18. The margin of error of the overall survey is 4.2 percent and 6.3 percent for the 241 likely Democrats surveyed. Read the full results here. Brendan Morrow

1:02 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, released with redactions on Thursday, showed that President Trump's staffers don't always listen to his demands.

So on Monday, CNN's Kaitlin Collins asked Trump about that revelation. "Nobody disobeys my orders," he tersely and falsely claimed before walking away. As a recap, here are seven — or possibly more — officials who proved him wrong.

1. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn. Per Mueller's report, McGahn was "prepared to resign" over Trump's insistence that he have Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oust Mueller.

2-3. Rick Dearborn and Corey Lewandowski. Trump asked these two officials to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only," Mueller's reporting shows. They didn't listen.

4. Ex-FBI Director James Comey. Trump told Comey to drop his drop his investigation into Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. But Comey refused, leading to "Flynn's prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI," Mueller's report says.

5. Jeff Sessions. Trump tried to get his ex-attorney general to "unrecuse" himself from the Mueller probe, the report showed. Not that it's even clear if unrecusal is a thing.

6. Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She was ousted after saying she wouldn't try to reinstate a family separation policy, and for refusing to illegally close the border, per an NBC News report.

7. Some anonymous senior official — or a few. Remember the whole New York Times op-ed that detailed a legion of Trump officials working to disrupt his agenda every day? It's unclear who wrote it, or just how many officials are in this so-called resistance, though some speculate Nielsen was behind it all. Kathryn Krawczyk

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