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Pence and Harris Leave Questions Unanswered in Vice Presidential Debate, Fly Becomes Star of the Show

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  • While much more traditional in scope, Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate was riddled with unanswered questions.
  • Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) dodged or redirected questions about the U.S. Supreme Court, President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and potential situations of presidential succession given the ages of both presidential candidates. 
  • Following last night’s event, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the second presidential debate will be virtual. On Fox Business, Trump then said he would refuse to participate in a virtual debate. 

A Far More Traditional Debate

Talking about Wednesday’s vice presidential debate would be impossible to do without addressing the elephant in the room — or in this case, the fly on Mike Pence’s head. 

The fly, which perched itself upon Pence’s stark white hair for more than two minutes about halfway through the debate, easily stole the show.

But that wasn’t exactly hard. The debate between current VP Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) was aboundingly more traditional than the debate last week between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. 

“We want a debate that is lively, but Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil,” moderator Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau Chief, said Wednesday in a tongue-in-cheek reference to that debate. 

Mostly, both Harris and Pence did exactly what analysts expected. Harris pitched the case for Joe Biden, while Pence used Harris to paint Biden as much more liberal than he actually is. 

Main Theme: Unanswered Questions

Like any traditional debate, unanswered questions took center stage.

In one of her first questions, Page asked Pence — the head of the Coronavirus Task Force — why the U.S. death rate for COVID-19 was higher than almost every other country. 

Instead of answering why 210,000 Americans have died under the Trump Administration’s watch, Pence did what almost every political analyst expected he would do: He redirected the question and emphasized Trump’s move to restrict what he described as “all travel” from China in February.

But that’s not exactly true. While Trump did restrict travel, he didn’t outright ban it. There were still a lot of people this rule didn’t apply to

Pence then went on to insult Joe Biden, accusing him of calling the restrictions “xenophobic,” a point Pence came back to a few times throughout the night. That’s largely false. Yes, Biden has called Trump xenophobic, but those comments were never a direct reference to the travel restrictions. 

At one point, Page noted that both Biden and Trump are the oldest presidential candidates ever. Because of that, she asked Pence and Harris if they’ve had conversations with Trump and Biden, respectively, about presidential disability and succession. Again, neither gave a direct answer to Page’s question, and she did not continue to press it.

The same situation occurred later when Page asked both candidates what they would do if Trump refuses to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election. Neither candidate actually answered the question. In fact, they mostly continued with the talking points they wanted to hit on.

At one point, Page also asked Pence if he thinks climate change is an existential threat. Rather than answering, he said, “The climate is changing. We’ll follow the science.” 

To note, the Trump administration has frequently ignored scientific evidence and even rolled back environmental regulations.

Unanswered Questions About SCOTUS 

In one of the most pivotal segments of the night, Page asked about the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. 

During the segment, both Pence and Harris dodged her questions about Roe v. Wade and what should happen in their home states if it’s overturned. Of course, that’s not to say their positions on abortion are a secret. Pence is undeniably pro-life. Harris is staunchly pro-choice. 

“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” Pence asked Harris directly during the segment. 

In recent weeks, several Democrats have called for adding more justices to the SCOTUS bench if the Senate pushes through Barrett’s confirmation ahead of the election. For his part, Biden has not addressed the issue.

Like Biden, Wednesday night, Harris did the same, quickly redirecting the question back to Pence in what arguably became the most contentious moment of the debate. 

“Let’s talk about packing—” Harris said. 

“You, once again, gave a non-answer,” Pence interrupted. “Joe Biden gave a non-answer.”

“I’m trying to answer you now.” Harris said.

“You know the people deserve a straight answer,” Pence said, “and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.” 

“I’ve witnessed the appointments for lifetime appointments to the federal courts, district courts, courts of appeal, people who are purely ideological, people who have been reviewed by legal professional organizations and found who have been not competent or substandard,” Harris said several exchanges later.

“And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion.” 

Second Presidential Debate to be Virtual

Thursday morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second presidential debate, scheduled for next week, will now be virtual “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.”

While Biden pretty much immediately hopped on board, on Fox Business, Trump announced that he was pulling out of the debate. 

“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he said. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.” 

Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien added that Trump will now hold a rally instead.

According to the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, federal election laws forbid the hosting of a solo debate.

Despite Trump seemingly pulling the plug on this debate, there is precedent for virtual presidential debates. In 1960, both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debated remotely on opposite ends of the country.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (ABC News)

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Netflix Reports First Subscriber Loss in Over a Decade, Suggests Looming Crackdown on Password Sharing

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The company claims nearly 100 million people access the service via another household’s account.


Netflix Loses 200,000 Subscribers

Netflix stock took a 37% dive on Wednesday morning after the streaming giant reported its first subscriber loss in over a decade. 

In the first quarter of 2022, the company lost 200,000 subscribers. The fall was especially steep considering Netflix anticipated gaining over two million customers in the time period. Now, it expects to lose another two million in its second quarter. 

In a Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix said four main factors may have contributed to this downward trend. 

“COVID clouded the picture by significantly increasing our growth in 2020, leading us to believe that most of our slowing growth in 2021 was due to the COVID pull forward,” the letter said. “Now, we believe there are four main inter-related factors at work.”

The first of the factors the company pointed to was the fact that Netflix relies on outside sources for its access to broadband homes, meaning it is dependent on the uptake of connected televisions and on-demand entertainment to access new consumers. 

It also noted that the recent rise of new streaming services has given Netflix sturdy competition. That, along with other “macro factors” like inflation, continuing COVID-19 issues, and geopolitical events, have also slowed its growth. Recently, Netflix made the choice to withdraw from Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine. 

Potential Crackdown on Password Sharing

Perhaps the most significant factor Netflix cited, however, was the prominence of password sharing on the platform. In addition to the 222 million paying households Netflix touts, it claims accounts are being shared with another 100 million people, making it “harder to grow membership in many markets.”

The company suggested its new focus will be monetizing those 100 million people. 

“This is a big opportunity as these households are already watching Netflix and enjoying our service,” Netflix wrote in its letter. “Sharing likely helped fuel our growth by getting more people using and enjoying Netflix.”

The company claimed that while it has tried to make it easy to share accounts within family units, the flexibility of those features “created confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared with other households.”

Last month, Netflix announced it was testing tools aimed at curbing password sharing in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. Details on a global rollout for these features remain unclear, but the company seems set on addressing the matter. 

“Those are over 100 million households already are choosing to view Netflix,” CEO Reeding Hastings said in a video accompanying the shareholder letter. “We’ve just got to get paid at some degree for them.”

The company is also weighing ad-supported tiers as an option to entice subscribers. While Netflix had previously voiced opposition to such a concept, Hastings said he would be “quite open to offering even lower prices with advertising, as a consumer choice.”

No plans for this tier are set in stone and it could take a couple years before anything is official. Other streaming services like Hulu and Peacock have found success by significantly lowering price points with ads. Disney+, which is arguably Netflix’s biggest competitor when it comes to subscriptions, will also be adding an ad-supported tier in the near future. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNBC) (Deadline)

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Jake Gyllenhaal Responds to Extended “All Too Well,” Says Artists Should Address “Unruly” Fans

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Many targeted the actor online because they believe he is the primary subject of Taylor Swift’s famous breakup record.


Gyllenhall Addresses “Red (Taylor’s Version)”

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal said he does not “begrudge” Taylor Swift for her album “Red (Taylor’s Version)” but argued that artists should have a responsibility to curb “unruly” fans.

Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version)” in November as part of her ongoing effort to re-record her early work to gain full ownership over it. The album was first released in 2012 and is largely believed to be about her relationship with Gyllenhaal, though the Grammy-winner does not comment on the subjects of her music. For its re-release, Swift included a ten-minute version of the fan-favorite breakup ballad “All Too Well,” as well as a short film accompanying it. Many fans speculated that there were parallels between the new lyrics, visuals in the short film, and the former couple’s brief relationship.

In a profile published Thursday in Esquire, Gyllhenaal was asked about this version of “All Too Well,” which was released just a month prior to him sitting down for his interview with the outlet. He said the track “has nothing to do with” him.

“It’s about her relationship with her fans,” Gyllenhaal said. “It is her expression. Artists tap into personal experiences for inspiration, and I don’t begrudge anyone that.” 

Gyllenhaal Faces Online Ridicule

In the days after the re-release of “Red,” the Internet was full of jokes and memes with Gyllenhaal as the punchline. Some came from fans, but even stars like Dionne Warwick tweeted about how the “Nightcrawler” actor broke Swift’s heart, as did brands like Sour Patch Kids

The jokes turned into larger-scale harassment. Gyllenhall disabled commenting on his Instagram when the album came out, with many assuming he did so to minimize the hateful remarks being hurled at him. His comments have since been disabled again, but The Daily Beast captured screenshots of comments Swift’s fans left on his posts when they were open and available to read. Some spammed posts he made about 9/11 and Black Lives Matter. 

While he never mentioned Swift by name while speaking to Esquire — nor did discuss any details of the online ridicule he was subjected to — he did suggest that artists should discourage fans from this kind of behavior. 

“At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name,” Gyllenhaal said. “That begs for a deeper philosophical question. Not about any individual, per se, but a conversation that allows us to examine how we can—or should, even—take responsibility for what we put into the world, our contributions into the world.” 

“My question is: Is this our future? Is anger and divisiveness our future?” he continued. “Or can we be empowered and empower others while simultaneously putting empathy and civility into the dominant conversation?”

Gyllenhaal said that while he has not listened to “Red (Taylor’s Version)” himself yet, he understands the frenzy.

“I’m not unaware that there’s interest in my life,” he added. “My life is wonderful. I have a relationship that is truly wonderful, and I have a family I love so much. And this whole period of time has made me realize that.”

See what others are saying: (Jezebel) (Entertainment Weekly) (GQ)

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I Owe You An Apology, Tom Holland Spider-Man Controversy, Florida Man Strikes Again, & Today’s News

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