Wednesday, October 5, 2022

NASA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch set for noon today


NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission is anticipated to launch around noon today, the agency confirmed.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped by a Dragon spacecraft is currently awaiting liftoff at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Hours ahead of the launch, NASA shared a video of the crew smiling and waving in their spacesuits.

Lead by Commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, the team of four is expected to spend six months at the International Space Station’s microgravity laboratory.

When they arrive, there will be a brief handover period with members of the Crew-4 mission. 

Astronauts from the Crew-5 mission smile and pose ahead of the launch.
Astronauts from the Crew-5 mission smile and pose ahead of the launch.
AFP via Getty Images
The sun rising over the launch site early this morning.
The sun rising over the launch site early this morning.
Getty Images

Launched on April 27, Crew-4 is expected to splashdown off the coast of Florida later this month.

Today’s SpaceX launch comes shortly after NASA confirmed it had tapped Elon Musk’s private company to reinvigorate the Hubble mission.

Calling the partnership “an exciting example of the innovative approaches NASA is exploring,” NASA Chief of Science Thomas Zurbuchen pledged to continue supporting “the most robust, superlative science missions possible.”

A bystander takes a photo from the press area at SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch.
A bystander takes a photo from the press area at SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch.
Getty Images
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft pictured yesterday at the Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft pictured yesterday at the Kennedy Space Center.
Getty Images

Meanwhile, live footage of the upcoming launch is being streamed on NASA’s website.

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Elon Musk teases ‘X’ app that will do ‘everything’ after he closes Twitter deal


Billionaire Elon Musk teased his plans to create a mysterious app dubbed “X” on Wednesday, hours after he reversed course and offered to buy Twitter at its original price of $44 billion.

Musk has provided few details about his plans for “X” despite hinting about its development on multiple occasions in the last year. The Tesla CEO’s latest comment indicates he sees Twitter’s platform as a key building block.

“Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” Musk tweeted in his first public confirmation of the proposal.

Musk added that his acquisition of Twitter “probably accelerates X by 3 to 5 years, but I could be wrong.”

Musk’s surprise offer to proceed with the Twitter deal came just days before he was set to face off against the company’s legal team in Delaware Chancery Court. He had previously sought to back out of the $44 billion deal due to concerns about spam bots in Twitter’s user base.

The most recent hint about Musk’s vision for an “X” app surfaced in August, when one of his Twitter followers asked if he had considered creating his own social media platform.

“,” Musk replied at the time.

While Musk hasn’t elaborated on what form an “X” app will take, Bloomberg noted that he has praised the Tencent-owned social media app WeChat, which allows users access to services ranging from payments to food delivery to ordering cars.

Conversely, WeChat is widely viewed as a government surveillance tool in China that is also subject to heavy censorship, even as Musk has touted his plans to remake Twitter as a beacon of free speech.

Musk expressed his affinity for WeChat and other so-called “super apps” during a town hall meeting with Twitter employees in June – referring to the Chinese platform as “great.”

At the time, the billionaire touted Twitter’s development of a similar platform as key to its long-term success. WeChat boasts more than one billion users.

“There’s no WeChat movement outside of China,” Musk said, according to a transcript of the meeting obtained by Vox. “And I think that there’s a real opportunity to create that.”

Elon Musk has teased his plans for an app called “X” on multiple occasions.
AFP via Getty Images

“You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so useful and so helpful to your daily life. And I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success,” Musk added.

Similar “super apps” offering more than just basic social media services are prevalent in other parts of Asia, including the Grab app in Singapore and Malaysia and Line in Japan, according to CNN. 

The “” domain name was previously linked to the eponymous financial services startup that Musk founded and later merged with PayPal. Musk reacquired rights to the website in 2017.

At present, the website’s homepage displays a single letter “x” in the top-left of a blank background, with no other links or graphics.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter at its original $54.20 per share price.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In personal texts that were published as part of legal proceedings in the Twitter case, Musk told his brother, Kimbal, that he had “an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like Twitter.”

“You have to pay a tiny amount to register your message on the chain, which will cut out the vast majority of spam and bots,” Musk added. “There is no throat to choke, so free speech is guaranteed.”

Musk’s idea called for users to pay small amounts of Dogecoin in order to post – though he acknowledged in subsequent texts that the idea for a blockchain-based version of Twitter “isn’t possible” due to performance requirements.

While Musk hasn’t elaborated on what form an “X” app will take, Bloomberg noted that he has praised the Tencent-owned social media app WeChat, which facilitates a variety of services ranging from payments to food delivery to ordering cars.

Conversely, WeChat is subject to heavy censorship in China, while Musk has touted his plans to remake Twitter as a beacon of free speech.

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Amazon’s Jennifer Salke says ‘Rings of Power’ won’t be like ‘Game of Thrones’


The top executive at Amazon Studios said “Lord of the Rings” fans lobbied the producers of the “Rings of Power” prequel series to avoid the graphic and explicit sexual content and violence that have become commonplace on rival HBO’s “Game of Thrones” franchise.

Jennifer Salke, the former NBC Entertainment president who was lured away by Jeff Bezos in 2017 to run the e-commerce giant’s television and film department, told Variety that enthusiasts of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth demanded a family-friendly streaming experience.

“We knew from the beginning that this was not our ‘Game of Thrones’,” she said.

In 2017, Amazon Studios struck a deal with Tolkien’s estate, buying the rights to “Rings of Power” for a whopping $250 million. Three months later, Salke took the helm.

She said fans of Tolkien immediately made their feelings known about how they want the prequel series to look.

“In fact, the fans spoke up from the minute the deal was closed, saying, ‘Please don’t try to insert sex and a level of provocative violence,’ things that don’t feel true to the stories that Tolkien wanted to tell,” Salke told Variety.

“There’s so much darkness in the world,” she added.

“Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” has been streamed by some 100 million Amazon customers worldwide since its release last month.

“Leaning into light was the other thing that was really appealing to everybody — bringing something to our global customer base that is hopeful and has light and that a family can watch.”

Salke added: “So many people have grown up with this literature, and we wanted this series to pay it forward for new generations of Tolkien lovers.”

The stakes are high for Salke, whose division has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in producing “Rings of Power.” Some reports put the price tag as high as $1 billion.

Salke told Variety that in the month since the release of the first season, “we’re cresting toward 100 million customers having watched it so…it’s a big number.”

Salke said Amazon Studios had no intention of matching the explicit content often seen on HBO's "Game of Thrones" franchise.
Jennifer Salke said Amazon Studios had no intention of matching the explicit content often seen on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” franchise.

After the first two episodes premiered last month, an estimated 25 million viewers worldwide tuned in on the Amazon Prime Video service.

Some 1.8 million US households tuned in to the premiere of the first episode within the first three days of its rollout while another 1.3 million watched the second episode, making it the highest debut of any show on Amazon Prime, according to the analytics firm Samba TV.

But viewers gave the series a thumbs down and some critics said it failed to match the quality of “House of the Dragon,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel which debuted to much fanfare this summer.

Despite the reputation for its explicit content, it took seven episodes for Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by Emma D’Arcy, to have sex with her uncle, Daemon Targaryen, who is portrayed by Matt Smith, on “House of the Dragon” on Sunday.

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OPEC+ Weighs Large Oil Cutback That Could Scramble Midterms, Boost Russia


FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting countries on Wednesday will debate a potentially large cut in the amount of crude it ships to the global economy — a move that could help Russia weather a looming European ban on oil imports and raise gasoline prices for U.S. drivers just ahead of national midterm elections.

Energy ministers from the OPEC cartel, whose leading member is Saudi Arabia, and allied non-members including Russia are meeting in person at the group’s Vienna headquarters for the first time since early 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who has been sanctioned by the U.S., was attending the meeting in Austria’s capital.

A production cut could benefit Russia by establishing higher prices ahead of a European Union ban on most Russian oil imports, a sanction over the invasion of Ukraine that takes effect at the end of the year, analysts at Commerzbank say.

Russia “will need to find new buyers for its oil when the EU embargo comes into force in early December and will presumably have to make further price concessions to do so,” the analysts wrote in a note. “Higher prices beforehand — boosted by production cuts elsewhere — would therefore doubtless be very welcome.”

Moscow also faces a separate push by the U.S. and the other Group of Seven wealthy democracies to impose a price cap on Russian oil by Dec. 5. The EU agreed Wednesday on new sanctions that are expected to include a price cap on Russian oil, an EU official said.

Oil prices surged this summer as markets worried about the loss of Russian supplies from sanctions over the war in Ukraine, but they slipped as fears about recessions in major economies and China’s COVID-19 restrictions weighed on demand for crude.

The fall in oil prices has been a boon to U.S. drivers, who saw lower gasoline prices at the pump before costs recently started ticking up, and for U.S. President Joe Biden as his Democratic Party gears up for congressional elections next month.

It’s unclear how much impact a production cut would have on oil prices — and thus gasoline prices — because members are already unable to meet the quotas set by OPEC+. Yet Saudi Arabia may be unwilling to strain its relationship with Russia even if the world’s largest oil exporter had any reservations about cutbacks and has recently has drawn leaders from Biden to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to talk about energy supplies.

The Commerzbank analysts said a small trim would likely see oil prices fall further, while the group would need to remove at least 500,000 barrels day from the market to bolster prices.

Such a production cut “would undoubtedly signal to the market the determination and resolve of the cartel to support oil prices,” said UniCredit economist Edoardo Campanella. But supply would drop by less than announced.

“If the group cuts target production by 1 million barrels per day, actual output would likely drop by about 550,000 barrels per day — as countries like Russia or Nigeria that are producing below quota would see their formal target decline but remaining above what they can currently produce,” Campanella said.

At its last meeting in September, the group reduced the amount of oil it produces by 100,000 barrels a day in October. That token cut didn’t do much to boost lower oil prices, but it put markets on notice that OPEC+ was willing to act if prices kept falling.

International benchmark Brent has sagged as low as $84 in recent days after spending most of the the summer months over $100 per barrel. U.S. oil prices fell below $80 per barrel Friday. Ahead of the meeting, U.S. crude traded at $86.38 and Brent at $91.66.

The White House declined to comment before OPEC leaders made a final decision on oil production, but press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. would not extend releases from its strategic reserve to increase global supplies.

“We’re not considering new releases,” Jean-Pierre said.

Biden has tried to receive credit for gasoline prices falling from their average June peak of $5.02 — with administration officials highlighting a late March announcement that a million barrels a day would be released from the strategic reserve for six months. High inflation is a fundamental drag on Biden’s approval and has dampened Democrats’ chances in the midterm elections.

Gasoline prices recently turned up because of refinery outages in California and Ohio, and vary widely, from over $6 per gallon in California to under $3 in some parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast, according to motoring club federation AAA. The national average of $3.80 is up slightly but down from a record high on June 14.

One major factor weighing on oil prices has been fears of recessions in places like the U.S. and Europe and slowdowns due to China’s strict COVID-19 measures.

Higher inflation is sapping consumer purchasing power, while central banks are raising interest rates to cool off overheating prices, a step that could slow economic growth. Oil prices at their summer highs, and higher natural gas prices boosted by Russian cutbacks to Europe, helped fuel inflation.

Associated Press reporter Josh Boak contributed from Washington.

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Aaron Judge, wife Samantha Bracksieck hold hands after 62nd home run


A victory lap like no other.

Aaron Judge and his wife Samantha Bracksieck walked off into the sunset together after the Yankees slugger made history on Tuesday, becoming the American League single-season home run record-holder after hitting his 62nd homer.

Judge surpassed the mark he shared for a week with Roger Maris in the first inning off Texas pitcher Jesus Tinoco — and received a standing ovation from the road crowd in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers.

The happy couple — who tied the knot in December — was all smiles as they held hands walking through the back hallways of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Judge and Bracksieck reunited after his historic game and headed to a post-game press conference, where the outfielder’s parents Patty and Wayne Judge watched on as he reflected on the night.

Yankees star Aaron Judge walking with his wife Samantha Bracksieck to speak at a press conference after hitting his 62nd of the season at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Po
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge holding hands with his wife Samantha Bracksieck after hitting his 62nd of the season, which passes Roger Maris, Jr., for the single season home run record for the American League.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge holding hands with his wife Samantha Bracksieck after hitting his 62nd of the season.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Po
Aaron Judge’s wife Samantha Bracksieck holding hands with Judge's mom, Patty, who is sitting next to his dad Wayne Judge at a press conference after hitting his 62nd of the season, which passes Roger Maris, Jr.
Aaron Judge’s wife Samantha Bracksieck holding hands with Judge’s mom, Patty, who is sitting next to his dad Wayne.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Po

Bracksieck and Patty held hands during the press conference as the family soaked in Judge’s historic night.

“It’s a big relief. I think that everyone can sit back down in their seats and watch the ballgame, you know? No, but it’s been a fun ride so far,” Judge said. “Getting a chance to do this, with the team we’ve got, the guys surrounding me, the constant support from my family whose been with me through this whole thing … it’s been a great honor.”

Bracksieck was seen with Judge’s parents at the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Rangers. She was not shown in the nightcap, however.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge poses with his wife Samantha Bracksieck after hitting his 62nd of the season.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge poses with his wife Samantha Bracksieck after hitting his 62nd of the season, which passes Roger Maris, Jr., for the single season home run record for the AL.

Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge connects on a Jesus Tinoco pitch for No. 62.

Aaron Judge’s wife Samantha Bracksieck, and his parents Wayne and Patty Judge at the Yankees-Rangers in Arlington, Texas on Oct. 4, 2022.
Aaron Judge’s wife Samantha Bracksieck, and his parents Wayne and Patty Judge at the Yankees-Rangers in Arlington, Texas on Oct. 4, 2022.

It remains unclear how the notoriously private couple will celebrate Judge’s big night. Meanwhile, back home in New York, the Empire State Building was lit up in Yankees colors to honor Judge. 

The Yankees finish their series against the Rangers in Texas on Wednesday.

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Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche And French Peers Cut Hair In Support Of Iranian Women


Actors Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert and around 50 other French artists cut their hair in support of Iranian women engaged in mass protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for not wearing her hijab.

Posted Wednesday on the Instagram account @soutienfemmesiran, which translates to “support Iranian women,” the symbolic slashing of locks was inspired by viral social media footage of Iranian women cutting their hijabs or hair in protest after Amini’s death in custody.

“Since Mahsa’s death on September 16, the Iranian people, led by women, have been protesting at the risk of their lives,” the translated caption reads, per Deadline. “These people only hope for access to the most essential freedoms. These women, these men, are asking for our support.”

“We decided to answer the call that was thrown at us by cutting some of these locks,” the caption adds.

The video is set to Iranian singer Gandom’s cover of the Italian anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao,” which also went viral last week. It shows actors including Charlotte Gainsbourg, Isabelle Adjani and Bérénice Bejo participating in the act of protest as title cards urge viewers to support the women of Iran.

“Their courage and dignity oblige us,” the caption urges. “It is impossible not to denounce again and again this terrible repression. There have been dozens of deaths, including children. The arrests are swelling the number of prisoners already illegally held and too often tortured.”

Amini was arrested Sept. 13 by the morality police, a state apparatus that enforces the Islamic Republic’s religious laws, for not properly wearing her hijab. The police sent her to a “re-education center,” where authorities claim she died of a heart attack.

Witnesses who were locked up in the same facility as Amini said she was aggressively beaten in custody. On Sept. 20, the U.N. human rights office called for an investigation into the matter and demanded Iran end its “systemic persecution” of women.

The non-profit Iran Human Rights, which has monitored the protests since their eruption in Tehran, estimated at least 154 people had been killed during the demonstrations as of Tuesday. At least 63 of those citizens were gunned down in Zahedan in one day, according to the organization.

“This time protesters aren’t only calling for justice for Mahsa Amini,” Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told CNN. “They’re also calling for women’s rights, for their civil and human rights, for a life without a religious dictatorship.”

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Trump Stole White House Emails About His Coup


Among the items that the DOJ recovered from Mar-a-Lago was a record of Trump’s calls to Rudy Giuliani and emails about his post-election coup.

Bloomberg reported:

The log shows items titled “Draft 2019 immigration initiative,” “For POTUS Review,” and “Executive Action to Curb Illegal Immigration.” There was an “internal analysis” and packages of materials related to requests for presidential pardons and sentence commutations. Some of the clemency-related documents refer to initials, while others refer to full names of people who ended up receiving clemency from Trump, such as former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The document titled “The President’s Calls” included a note that read, “Message from Rudy,” but it wasn’t clear if that was a reference to Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. There was an unsigned June 2017 letter from one of Trump’s law firms to former special counsel Robert Mueller, contents of a folder marked “NARA letters” — an acronym for the National Archives and Records Administration — and emails to a White House account regarding post-election legal action.

Donald Trump won the presidency after months of screaming about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Fast forward six years and Trump could be facing criminal charges for mishandling government emails.

The fact that Trump took documents and a record of his calls to his coup point man suggests that part of his motivation for mishandling government documents was to keep them out of the hands of investigators.

It is hard to say that the cover-up is worse than the crime in this instance because Trump tried to overthrow the government, but the cover-up is what could get him charged with a federal crime.

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Dem Strategist Rips Republicans With Reason For Their ‘Very Low-Quality Candidates’


Longtime Democratic political consultant James Carville pulled no punches with his searing assessment of the GOP field of those he described as “very low-quality candidates” in the 2022 midterm elections.

“They have a lot of stupid people that vote in their primaries. They really do. I’m not really supposed to say that but it’s obvious fact. And you know, when stupid people vote, you know who they nominate? Other stupid people,” Carville said of Republicans on Tuesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour.”

Carville’s comments came during a discussion with anchor Ayman Mohyeldin about the fresh controversy surrounding former football star and Georgia GOP U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who this week was accused of paying for an abortion for a then-girlfriend in 2009. Walker is running a staunch “pro-life” campaign.

Other Republicans running for office this November who drew Carville’s ire included Doug Mastriano, the Donald Trump-backed nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, and U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters in Arizona.

The GOP’s problem is the “very low-quality people that vote in their primaries” are “producing predictably very low-quality candidates,” Carville reiterated. “It’s evident right in front of you.”

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Mark Meadows Now Implicated In Mar-a-Lago Files Case


Mark Meadows, Trump’s final chief of staff – and likely the most loyal, will, at the very least, be a crucial fact witness in any case that might be brought against Trump arising from wrongfully withholding files that belong to the American government. Additionally, depending on what Meadows really knew about the contents of the boxes, Meadows could face obstruction of justice charges. The New York Times says that Meadows vouched for what was in the files, only newspaper clippings, and personal stuff.

The National Archives has told the Justice Department that another lawyer representing Mr. Trump indicated to the archives last September that boxes Mr. Trump had taken from the White House included only nonclassified material like newspaper clippings, according to a person briefed on the matter.,,

…Mr. Philbin indicated to Mr. Stern that the information was based on what Mr. Trump’s final White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, believed to be the contents in the boxes, the people said. Mr. Stern preserved his own description of the exchange in an email, one of the people said.

The conversation between Mr. Cannon and Mr. Trump raises new questions about Mr. Trump’s attempt to interfere with the efforts by the archives to regain all the documents. And the conversation appears to fit a pattern: In June, after turning over a small batch of classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago following the return of the 15 boxes, another one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers attested in writing to the Justice Department that Mr. Trump had returned all of the presidential records the government was seeking.

As is readily seen, there are no publicly available facts that indicate whether Meadows really knew what the boxes contained and was running interference for Trump, or is just caught up in the mess and will have to testify at some point, should DOJ bring charges against Trump. If the investigation were to uncover the fact that Meadows knew exactly what Trump was trying to take from the White House and he was covering for Trump, Meadows would be in a position where he has to either face charges for obstruction of justice or another relevant crime, which might put Meadows in a position where he has to make a deal and testify.

If Meadows is in a position where he had to make a deal, you can bet that DOJ will want the broadest deal it can get and make Meadows discuss what he knows about January 6th. It would be an avalanche. Trump would find himself in a very precarious position, more so than he is already.


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Anthony Fauci Says He Should Have Exercised More Caution In Delivering COVID Advice


Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, on Tuesday acknowledged he should have been more cautious with his COVID-19 messaging as he helped steer the country through the pandemic.

“When I go back, in the early months I probably should have tried to be much, much more careful in getting the message to repeat the uncertainty of what we’re going through,” Fauci told The Washington Post’s Dan Diamond in a conversation hosted by the Center for Health Journalism at USC’s Annenberg School.

Fauci remembered saying early in the pandemic, when there were only a handful of cases in the U.S., that people didn’t have to alter their way of life. He should have emphasized that the situation “could change rapidly and we need to be prepared,” he said, and critics later seized on his failure to assail him.

Asked if health experts should tailor their public comments to anticipate that their words will be reduced to tiny sound bites “that might stick with people,” Fauci said: “You have to be very careful and think about what your words are.”

“It is really unfortunate, that that’s the world in which we live, in that it’s a bunch of sound bites, sound bites that sometimes get cut in half and get misinterpreted,” Fauci said.

“Someone could always make mischief by clipping out a few words,” he added.

Fauci also spoke on the current state of the pandemic in the U.S.

“I don’t think we can say the end, being no more COVID, is in sight,” Fauci said.

As of Tuesday, the average number of daily COVID cases in the U.S. was 42,828, and daily deaths averaged 322, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both figures show a huge decline from their January peak.

“Right now, it looks like we’re going in the right direction. However, we are entering into the winter months, where no matter what the respiratory disease is there’s always a risk of an uptick in respiratory diseases,” Fauci said.

“We can’t let our guard down now,” he said.

Fauci was also asked to weigh in on President Joe Biden’s comment last month that “the pandemic is over,” and how that could affect Americans’ COVID precautions and decisions on whether to get booster shots this fall.

“It’s obvious that that could be problematic because people would interpret it as it’s completely over and we’re done for good, which is not the case,” Fauci said. “No doubt about that.”

Fauci added that he believes the president meant that the more difficult stages of COVID have passed. He pointed out that Biden also made references to the challenges ahead.

“Unfortunately, when it gets to the point of messaging, it’s understandable how people can latch on to three or four words and that could interfere with the incentive of getting vaccinated,” Fauci said.

Fauci was also asked if he plans to cooperate with the investigations House Republicans have vowed to launch into his role in developing COVID guidance and the origins of the pandemic if they win control of the chamber in November’s election.

“I have no problem,” Fauci said. “I’m a big believer in oversight and I have testified before Congress literally hundreds of times.”

Fauci, 81, has said he will leave the Biden administration and step down as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in December “to pursue the next chapter of my career.”

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NASA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch set for noon today

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