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Jon Stewart Is Joining The Fight To Get Help For Veterans Who Were Exposed To Burn Pits: ‘This Is the Cost of War’

In a rare moment of political unity, comedian-turned-activist Jon Stewart joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday to announce legislation that would allow easier access to VA benefits for veterans who were exposed to burn pits during their military service.

The bill, officially known as the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, is being spearheaded by odd couple Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio, who were both advocating alongside Stewart for this landmark legislation. If passed, the law would remove the current burden of proof that is placed on veterans to establish a direct link between their time in the military and the health condition(s) from which they’re now suffering, which range from respiratory illness to cancer.

“These men and women swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” Stewart said. “Well, what do you do when you’ve fulfilled that obligation and you come home and the enemy is now negligence and bureaucracy and apathy? They’re not trained for that.”

Burn pits are open-air swaths of land that the military uses for disposing of everything from human waste to munitions. The smoke from these areas has been shown to cause a wide range of health issues, many of them fatal. Though they were originally designed as a temporary solution to ridding military bases of excess debris, they’re no longer legal in the United States precisely because of the health hazards they pose.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burn pits. In 2014, the VA created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, so that veterans experiencing health issues related to burn pits could document their cases and receive the appropriate care. But so far, less than 240,000 people have registered, as an estimated 78 percent of burn pit claims are denied. But according to Stewart, it’s not the VA’s job to determine who is and is not eligible for benefits — nor should the onus be on the veterans themselves, who were never warned of the dangers of these burn pits, even when they were sleeping just a few feet away from them.

According to Stewart: “The VA has one job: to act for the benefit of the veteran. That’s it. You’re not an insurance company. You’re not an obstacle to care. You are there to act for the benefit of the veteran. And if the culture doesn’t change, then we will continue to make the same mistake we’ve clearly made decade after decade after decade.” Stewart has likened the issue to both Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War and the health issues faced by 9/11 first responders — another group that has remained close to Stewart’s heart.

Stewart brought further awareness to the issue of burn pits when he chatted with Jake Tapper later in the day. “This is sort of a moral imperative,” Stewart told the CNN anchor of his push for stronger laws to protect the men and women who are losing their lives after fighting for our country. “This is the cost of war when you send people overseas, you have to be prepared for taking care of the consequences of that service.”

Though the fate of the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act is uncertain, other proposals are currently being floated that would seek to compensate the victims of burn pit exposure. But to Stewart, the matter goes far beyond financial compensation.

“For those that have fought and defended and served this country, for them to come home and have to fight against the very government that they volunteered to defend is immoral.”

(Via ABC News, The Lead with Jake Tapper)

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Morgan Wallen Won’t Tour This Summer, But He Promises To Be Back ‘Sooner Than Later’

Morgan Wallen’s 2021 was off to a fire start. He began the year with the release of his sophomore full-length effort, Dangerous: The Double Album, a project that would tally the biggest debut streaming week for a country album and spend its first ten weeks atop the album charts, the first album in history to ever accomplish this. Despite the achievements, a huge stain in the midst of this run would arrive when TMZ released a video of the singer using a racial slur with friends outside his home. Wallen would eventually apologize for the incident, but since then he’s laid low and avoided the public eye. He returned on Tuesday night with an update for fans about his future plans.

“I’ve found this time away to be very valuable to me in many ways, but I feel like I need a little more of it, and therefore will not be performing tour dates this summer,” he said in a lengthy handwritten note he posted on Twitter. “It means I won’t be playing festivals or the Luke Bryan tour dates. But it’s important to me personally, if you can, still go to these shows — support country music. Country music is back & that’s a beautiful damn thing.” Concluding the letter, he added, “My story is far from over & getting back out to see y’all is all I can think about. So just know you’ll be seeing me sooner than later.”

You can read the full letter from Wallen in the post above.

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Trever Noah Is Flabbergasted That Health Officials Paused The J&J Vaccine Because 6 People Out Of 6.8 Million Developed Blood Clots

After a stutter of a start, the vaccine rollout in the United States has gone better than expected. Millions of doses are being injected daily, and while we’re still a ways away from herd immunity, we’re in far better shape than we’ve been since the pandemic began. But on Tuesday, a monkey wrench thrown into the gears: After six people who’d been given the one-shot Johnson & Johnson brand developed rare blood clots, the CDC and the FDA announced they were putting that line on pause. The move caused real concern — for people worried it would inspire those already reluctant to get dosed to avoid vaccines altogether.

One of those people was Trevor Noah, who used his Daily Show platform to put things into perspective. He pointed out the ridiculously low odds — six people out of seven million doses. “That means you’re more likely to get struck by lightning 10 times,” he said — or 0.0001%.

He also pointed out that, while you definitely don’t want a rare blood clot, you also really, really, really don’t want to contract one of the many possible side effects of COVID-19.

“If you get coronavirus, you can get lung damage, heart damage, neurological damage, strokes, seizures, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, immune disorders, erectile dysfunction, and — get this — also blod clots!” Noah said.

He also praised the company itself. “Honestly if you ask me, I think it’s impressive Johnson & Johnson made an effective vaccine with such a low risk of blood clots,” Noah said. “I mean, Phizer and Moderna, those are drug companies. Johnson & Johnson make baby shampoo. I’m surprised their s*it works at all.”

Far more worrisome, though, is how this might affect skeptics. “This is setback for a country that is already dealing with a s*it-ton of vaccine hesitancy. Because even if they look at the problem, and they see that the vaccine is safe, you best believe for a lot of people the damage is already done,” he said. “Imagine you’re at a restaurant and the chef comes out and says, ‘We need to pause eating to make sure your dinners aren’t going to give you diarrhea.’ Even if he says, ‘Nevermind, your crab cakes are safe,’ by then you’ve been thinking of diarrhea for 20 minutes. So you’re probably just going to have drinks.”

Still, Noah was careful not to be a Debbie Downer. He gushed about how well the vaccines rollout has gone, this (hopefully brief and minor) setback aside. “Given how America handled everything else about the pandemic,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if when Vaccine Time came around, America accidentally locked all 300 million doses in the trunk of the car.”

You can watch the full segment in the video above.

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Brockhampton Lets Lil Nas X And Dominic Fike Embark On A Trippy Journey In Their Video For ‘Count On Me’

Brockhampton has promised two albums this year, and the first, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, arrived last week. Already there’s a new video for one of its tracks, and it finds the boy band teaming up with two of his musical peers, Lil Nas X and Dominic Fike. The two star in the video for “Count On Me,” the second single from the new album, and it begins with Lil Nas and Fike riding in a Jeep as they kick off while cracking jokes like, “Who the f*ck is Radiohead?” Things take an unexpected turn when the two singers end up in the midst of a seemingly drug-infused trip that ends with surprising make-out session.

Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine enlists ASAP Rocky, ASAP Ferg, Danny Brown, Jpegmafia, Charlie Wilson, and more for the thirteen-track effort. Prior to the project’s release, Kevin Abstract, the groups’ lead vocalist, delivered news about Brockhampton’s future in a tweet. “2 brockhampton albums in 2021 – these will be our last,” he wrote. Exactly when that second album will arrive remains to be seen, but it appears that after a long run that started back in 2016 with their debut mixtape, All-American Trash, Brockhampton will be no more come 2022.

You can watch the “Count On Me” video above.

Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine is out now via Question Everything/RCA Records. Get it here.

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In Praise Of The Thunder Social Media Person Who Made A Papa Roach Joke Using Luguentz Dort

In April of 2000, Papa Roach released their sophomore album, Infest. While their debut record, 1997’s Old Friends from Young Years, was more fan favorite than chart-topping hit, Infest went 3x platinum in the United States, in large part because the second song on the album, “Last Resort,” is the most well-known song the band ever released.

Papa Roach has dropped a handful of albums in the two-plus decades since, but unless you really liked the song “Scars,” the default Papa Roach track for most people is “Last Resort.” Apparently, this also applies to the person who sat behind the keyboard of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Twitter account on Tuesday night.

Luguentz Dort had a gargantuan first half in the team’s game against the Utah Jazz, scoring 18 points and hitting all four of his attempts from three in the frame. At one point, he was also the subject of this extremely good tweet:

Honestly, terrific post. We need more tweets from NBA teams that reference songs that your middle/high school basketball team put on the pump-up CD that one kid burned after downloading a bunch of songs off of Limewire. It can go in any number of directions — in this context, a “‘Till I Collapse” joke is just as good as, say, a “Remember the Name” joke or something — but the person who sent this post for the Thunder deserves a ton of praise, regardless. Even if they do not become the trendsetter they deserve to be, this was a good tweet. Good job. And good job to Lu Dort, too. That’s a very impressive first quarter against any team, let alone one as good as the Jazz.

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Taylor Swift Speaks About Creating A ‘Same But Better’ Version Of ‘Fearless’

After a failed attempt to regain the masters of her first six albums following the end of her contract with Big Machine, the label on which they were released, Taylor Swift wound up re-recording them through her new deal with Republic Records. The first re-done release arrived last Friday with Fearless (Taylor’s Version), an updated take on her 2008 sophomore album, which also boasted six new songs. In a recent sit-down with People, the singer opened up about her thought process in re-creating the project more than a decade removed from its release.

“In terms of production, I really wanted to stay very loyal to the initial melodies that I had thought of for these songs,” she said. “And so we really did go in and try to create a ‘the same but better’ version. We kept all the same parts that I initially dreamed up for these songs. But if there was any way that we could improve upon the sonic quality, we did… But yeah, I did go in line by line and listen to every single vocal and think, you know, what are my inflections here.” She added, “If I can improve upon it, I did. But I really did want this to be very true to what I initially thought of and what I had initially written. But better. Obviously.”

Shortly after she released Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Swift wrote a touching letter about the album in which she said, “It was an honor to get to be a teenage alongside you.”

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is out now via Republic Records. Get it here.

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Alex Rodriguez Introduced Himself To Anthony Edwards On Instagram

Anthony Edwards: not a baseball fan! The Minnesota Timberwolves’ rookie guard spoke to the media after the team’s game on Tuesday afternoon and made it clear that he’s never heard of the more famous half of the team’s new ownership duo. This, of course, means he has never heard of Alex Rodriguez, who is maybe the most famous baseball player of the last decade or so.

It was the latest funny moment involving Edwards, who is rapidly becoming one of the funniest dudes in the NBA. And a few hours after this quote started making its way around the internet, Rodriguez decided it’d probably be prudent to introduce himself to the young tentpole of the franchise, tagging him in a post on his Instagram Story.

Edwards decided to turn to his default setting — “I’m gonna have fun with this” — and respond to Rodriguez, likewise on his IG Story.

It’s unclear exactly when Rodriguez will begin his involvement in the team’s ownership group, although we do know he and business partner Marc Lore will become majority owners in 2023. But whenever A-Rod gets around the team for the first time, I demand that he and Anthony Edwards find a local batting cage or something and go bond.

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Key Glock Cozies Up With His Yellow Lamborghini Truck In His Video For ‘Move Around’

Last month, Key Glock returned with some help from Young Dolph for his third project in a little over twelve months. The new effort was the Memphis rappers’ Dum And Dummer 2, the sequel to the pair’s 2019 joint album. Just a little over two weeks after the project’s release, Key Glock has released a laidback video for “Move Around,” one of five new solo tracks from Glock. Here, the rapper posts up by his Lamborghini truck to deliver cold lyrics about the fame and wealth he’s accumulating over his career.

While the arrival of Dum And Dummer 2 was big one for fans of both rappers, it came with some unfortunate news about the former. “I hope y’all enjoying the new mixtape, it’s my last project putting out,” Dolph revealed in an Instagram post. “I wasn’t gonna tell y’all but i thought y’all should know im done with music. ENJOY.” Last summer he publicly contemplated retirement, but he changed his mind, returning with his last solo album, Rich Slave. The duo has also delivered music videos for “Aspen,” Dummest And The Dummest,” “Penguins,” and more.

Watch the “Move Around” video above.

Dum And Dummer 2 is out now via Paper Route Empire. Get it here.

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Capitol Police Were Reportedly Told To Go Easy On The MAGA Rioters On January 6, Despite Warnings That They’d Turn Violent

The failed MAGA riot of January 6 was a surprise even to the most pessimistic observer, but there’s one reason it got out of hand: According to a new 104-page report, Capitol police were told to hold back when it came to the incoming MAGA protesters — despite knowing that potential for violence was high.

This comes from The New York Times, who reviewed the large document, prepared by internal investigators and to be presented before the House Administration Committee on Thursday. What the inspector general, whose name is Michael A. Bolton, found is pretty scathing:

Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.

They had every reason to be prepared. The report states that Capitol Police intelligence were warned three days before the events that supporters of then-president Donald Trump — riled up by false claims about a stolen election, including by Trump himself — were likely to turn violent. Says Bolton’s report:

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th … Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

And yet despite this, the plan laid out the day before asserted that “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.”

It’s not clear if Bolton’s report lays the blame at the feet of any one party or parties, but it did find, at the very least, rampant dysfunction. As per NYT:

Some of the shields that officers were equipped with during the riot “shattered upon impact” because they had been improperly stored in a trailer that was not climate-controlled, Mr. Bolton found. Others could not be used by the police in desperate need of protection because they were locked on a bus in the middle of the siege.

But there’s more:

The agency did not train its recent recruits with the required 40 hours of civil disturbance training, citing concerns about the coronavirus, and failed to ensure its officers completed their 16 to 24 hours of annual training over “the past few years.”

Munitions stocked in the police armory were beyond their expiration date, and the agency repeatedly failed to adequately complete required quarterly audits of the unit, the inspector general said.

Moreover, within the agency, the Civil Disturbance Unit “has a reputation as an undesired assignment” and that fostered a “culture” that decreased “operational readiness,” the inspector general found.

One curious note: Officers were ordered not to use “heavier, less-lethal weapons,” including stun grenades. Bolton’s report also offers damning critiques for those managing Capitol police that day, nearly 140 of whom were injured and one, Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died as a result of injuries perpetrated by Trump supporters. Meanwhile, conservative media — chief among them Tucker Carlson, on the most watched program on Fox News — have been spinning the failed MAGA coup as not that bad.

(Via NYT)

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Lil Nas X’s Claim That ‘Montero’ Will Be Removed From Streamers Has Been Confirmed By His Label

On Tuesday, Lil Nas X’s had some news: His No. 1 single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” will be removed from streaming services. Why? He did not say. Hours later, his label, Columbia Records, confirmed the news over Twitter.

“Thanks for all your comments regarding @LilNasX ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name),’” the company wrote. “It’s unfortunately out of our control but we are doing everything possible to keep the song up on streaming services. We will keep you up to date as we hear more. Thank you for understanding.”

It was such a shock that some people assumed it was all a big joke. But Lil Nas revealed that it was all too serious.

“Not even joking,” he wrote on Twitter. “Everybody stream call me by your name hard today because it may no longer be available tomorrow and there’s nothing i can really do about it. thanks for all the support tho! (white heart emoji).” He even told them to “screen record the audio/video on YouTube so you will have the song in your gallery worst case scenario.”

But there is some hope: One managed to get the controversial song to play on a Game Boy Advance, which even surprised the singer himself.