September 18, 2019

Citing alarming U.S. data about the dangers of vaping, India is banning e-cigarettes.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the ban Wednesday, saying it covers "e-cigarette production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage, and advertisement," reports CNN.

An emergency ordinance will be issued in a few days, and will be converted into law during the next Parliament session, per CNN. Those who violate the ban could face one year of prison time, a $1,400 fine, or both.

Sitharaman said the move was an effort to control the potential "epidemic." Vaping is slowly gaining popularity in India, NDTV reports.

Seven people in the U.S. have died from vaping-related illnesses, and hundreds are being treated for lung illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes, CNN reports. Sitharaman said the U.S. deaths had compounded local fears about the devices, contributing to the decision to ban them outright to reduce risk. Read more at CNN. Taylor Watson

1:10 p.m.

If the term "self burn" was in the dictionary, Donald Trump Jr.'s face would be the only definition.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden has been the subject of Trump family taunts ever since his work with a Ukrainian energy company indirectly sparked an impeachment inquiry into the president. Yet Donald Trump Jr. saved the family's most self-unaware attack for Hunter Biden's Tuesday interview with ABC News, somehow thinking it was a good idea to grill Biden for admitting he'd benefited from his family name.

Biden on Tuesday apologized for how serving on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma has hurt his father's career, saying it was "poor judgment" for him to take the job. After all, Biden said, "I don't think there's a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn't Biden." Donald Trump Jr., blatantly ignoring his own last name, tweeted that quote from Biden and said it indicated there's a "dumpster fire at Biden HQ!"

Trump Jr. failed to mention that his entire life and career is built around his father's — and by extension his grandfather's — last name and real estate business, and that's he's still working for and profiting off those businesses to this day. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:37 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden apparently took the last debate beyond the stage — and beyond his fellow candidates.

During September's Democratic primary debate, Univision's Jorge Ramos went after Biden for the Obama agenda he's constantly praising, specifically its deportation of 3 million migrants. Biden was visibly unhappy with the question, and apparently confronted Ramos about it after the debate in a "contentious" discussion, Yahoo News reports.

Biden has unapologetically campaigned by promising he'd effectively provide a third term for former President Barack Obama. But that's come back to bite him in Democratic debates as first former Housing Urban and Development Secretary Julián Castro, and then Ramos, questioned Biden on Obama's immigration policy. Ramos asked in September why Latinos should trust Biden, and if the former vice president was "prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations." Biden gave a stuttering response that didn't answer the question.

But after the debate, Biden reportedly decided to take another crack at the question. He "approached" Ramos to tell him the questions were a "low blow" in what a Univision source called a "contentious" exchange, Yahoo News reports. Biden reportedly also relayed "that he fought for 'Dreamers' as vice president," and that the administration eventually made the right decision on deportations, Yahoo News continues. The Biden campaign didn't dispute that the conversation happened. Read more at Yahoo News. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:50 a.m.

The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees have arrived, but at least one prospective inductee may not be thrilled.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced Tuesday the nominees for its 2020 ceremony, with the list of 16 including Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Whitney Houston, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., and Soundgarden.

Funnily enough, Birth. Movies. Death.'s Scott Wampler points out, Nine Inch Nails picking up a nomination comes just a year after founder Trent Reznor publicly slammed the organization, saying he doesn't care about being snubbed and that he actually hopes not to get inducted.

"I don't give a f—k!" Reznor told Sterogum in October 2018. "You know what I mean? I don't ... the worst would be if we did [get inducted] and then what? We'd have to f—in' show up and jam? I can't even imagine what that would be."

Reznor in the interview also asked "what could be less rock and roll than the f—in' Hall Of Fame" and said that while it's "nice to be appreciated," it's "nicer when it feels like that's coming from a place that you care about." At the time, Nine Inch Nails hadn't been nominated for two years in a row, though the band was nominated for the 2015 and 2016 ceremonies. Reznor inducted The Cure into the Hall of Fame earlier this year, suggesting in his speech their induction made him take the ceremony more seriously.

Fans can vote on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees online, and the "top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots" from industry professionals and historians, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says. But with Reznor last year sounding so decidedly not jazzed about getting inducted, he may well organize a "don't get out the vote" campaign. Brendan Morrow

11:24 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has more than small donor money in her pocket.

After South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked Warren and other candidates for relying on "pocket change" to fund their 2020 campaigns, Warren issued a typically outsized response. She didn't call out Buttigieg by name, but instead pledged to avoid another segment of big-money donors and revealed a proposal to root out corporate influence in politics, essentially setting up a fight for Tuesday night's primary debate.

Buttigieg on Monday defended his acceptance of big-money donations by saying "we're not going to beat Trump with pocket change." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) issued a blatant rebuttal, but Warren took a more subtle approach in her Tuesday blog post by reminding readers she'd pledged not to take donations from federal lobbyists or PACs throughout her entire presidential run. In addition, Warren said she wouldn't take "take any contributions over $200 from executives at big tech companies, big banks, private equity firms, or hedge funds."

Warren then called on her fellow candidates to disclose if they'd given special titles to big-money donors — an attempt to expose if they'd been "hobnobbing with the rich and powerful," she wrote. And beyond these "voluntary changes," Warren discussed how, if elected, she'd stop foreign and corrupt influence in U.S. elections, "expand disclosure of fundraising and spending," and establish public financing for federal campaigns. Find all of Warren's proposal here. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:35 a.m.

Since President Trump decided a week ago, after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria's Kurdish-held border with Turkey, Turkey invaded Syria, Islamic State prisoners previously guarded by the embattled Kurds started escaping, America's erstwhile Kurdish allies joined forces with Syria's Russian-backed government, many of Trump's Republican and Fox News allies are horrified, current and former U.S. military personnel are seething, the NATO alliance is teetering, and on Tuesday, Russian troops "moved to fill the void left by the United States," The Associated Press reports.

Trump's decision to effectively abandon the Kurds, in other words, doesn't seem very strategically sound at this point. At least not for the United States.

Russia, meanwhile, is "quickly moving to entrench its de facto power broker role," AP says, and that includes sending Russian troops in to keep the Turkish and Syrian armies from directly clashing. Using its troops as human shields may not seem like a winning position for Moscow, but Russia was "gloating on their global television propaganda network" as U.S. forces left the area, Defense One executive editor Kevin Baron captioned this video posted by RT.

Russian journalists are also documenting cheerful Russian soldiers apparently moving into deserted U.S. military outposts.

"It's all in working order!" translated Telegraph foreign correspondent Roland Oliphant, who added: "The Russians are having fun around playing around in this abandoned U.S. military base in Syria." Peter Weber

10:07 a.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) won't deny the late University of Houston law professor Eugene Smith played a role in getting her where she is today.

But the presidential candidate was also frank about Smith's alleged sexual harassment while she taught at UH. So frank that she revealed the story of him "lunging at" and "chasing" her around her his office at his funeral, The Washington Post reports in a profile of Warren published Tuesday.

After taking classes at UH, Warren applied for a professorship there in 1978. That's when Smith took her to dinner with the hiring committee and, unable to cut his steak due to his post-polio syndrome, pushed it to Warren and implied she should do it for him. "Can't you tell I'm crippled?" retired UH professor John Mixon, who was at the dinner, recalled him saying. "I thought you knew that when you ordered the steak," Warren replied. The whole table laughed, and Warren was hired.

But with that moment, Warren knew worse things would come. Faculty members treated her like a "second-class citizen," she said. And Smith, who was essentially "the gatekeeper to her future," made uncomfortable comments about her appearance, "told dirty jokes, and invited her out for drinks," the Post writes. Warren "thought she was managing him" until that day in his office in early 1979. She kept quiet about it because "if Gene wanted to sink me, he could," she said.

That is, she kept quiet until his funeral, where Smith had asked her to speak. And she did, telling Smith's ex-wife, his three grown sons, and the rest of the "slack-jawed" crowd what happened in Smith's office, Mixon recalled. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:18 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani is hitting back at former National Security Adviser John Bolton with his own explosive comparison.

Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia adviser, testified Monday that Bolton expressed concern about Giuliani's effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats by comparing him to a "hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up," The New York Times reports.

An angry Giuliani fired back Tuesday with a real "I know you are, but what am I" type of response, comparing Bolton himself to an explosive.

"I'm very disappointed that his bitterness drives him to attack a friend falsely," Giuliani said of Bolton, NBC News reports. "It's really ironic that John Bolton is calling anyone else a hand grenade. When John is described by many as an atomic bomb."

Giuliani further slammed Bolton while speaking to New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi, saying he's "disappointed" and Bolton's comparison is "almost like projection." Though Bolton didn't make his comment publicly and it instead came by way of an aide's testimony, considering he's got a book on the way and had promised to have his "say in due course," this could be the shape of things to come. Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads