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Happening Today: Spicer, Trump, Chemical Attack, Prostate Cancer, J. Geils Band, Michael Buble

What to Know

  • Sean Spicer has apologized after he incorrectly said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did not "sink to the level of using chemical weapons"
  • An influential health panel is dropping its opposition to routine prostate cancer screening in favor of letting men decide for themselves
  • Michael Buble's wife says their 3-year-old son, Noah, is "well" following treatment for cancer in Los Angeles

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Spicer Apologizes for 'Insensitive' Reference to Holocaust

White House press secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did not "sink to the level of using chemical weapons." Spicer made the comment when asked about Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons in a bombing of their people. Spicer was arguing that Syrian President Bashar Assad was in some way worse than Hitler, whom he described as "despicable." After several attempts to clarify his remark, Spicer later apologized, calling his remark "insensitive" and a "mistake" in an NBC News interview. Hitler used chemical weapons in systematically killing millions of people as part of the Holocaust and his "Final Solution" of ethnic cleansing. An April 4 chemical weapons attack in northern Syria left nearly 90 people dead, and the U.S. has blamed Assad and condemned the attack, responding with a barrage of cruise missiles on a Syrian military base. Turkey's health minister said test results confirm sarin gas was used.

Trump Administration Ends Hiring Freeze, Announces Plan to Restructure Government

The federal government hiring freeze implemented by President Trump as one of his first acts in office will be lifted. But budget director Mick Mulvaney says many jobs will remain unfilled as the White House embarks on a government-wide effort to overhaul the executive branch and significantly reduce its work force. Mulvaney told reporters at a White House briefing that the move was part of the president's campaign pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington and save taxpayers money. The president signed a memorandum in January freezing large portions of federal government hiring, barring the military and positions deemed necessary for national security and public safety. As part of the memorandum, Trump gave the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to come up with a long-term plan to reduce the federal government's size. While the guidance to be issued does not contain agency-specific hiring goals or limits, Mulvaney said agencies targeted with significant budget cuts in Trump's first proposal, such as the EPA, would be expected to make significant cuts to their workforces.

Russia Trying to ‘Cover Up’ Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack, White House Says

The White House has accused Russia of trying to "cover up" Syrian president Bashar Assad's role in a chemical weapons attack that left dozens, including children, dead, NBC News reports. Senior administration officials briefed reporters on declassified intelligence that knocks down the Russian-pushed narrative that last week's deadly chemical weapons attack could have been carried out by non-state or terrorist actors. One administration official called that effort an absolute cover up of Syrian regime culpability, and reinforced the U.S. narrative that the Assad regime was behind the attack and that the gas used was, in fact, sarin. Russians have a "clear pattern of deflecting blame" from the Assad regime, another administration official said.

Prostate Cancer Tests Get Government Panel's OK, With Caveats

An influential U.S. government health panel is dropping its opposition to routine prostate cancer screening in favor of letting men decide for themselves after talking with their doctor. The new draft guidelines echo those of several leading medical groups, but they don't make the decision any easier for men: With their doctor's help, they have to decide whether to take an imperfect PSA test that has a small chance of detecting a deadly cancer and a larger chance of triggering unneeded worry and treatment with serious side effects. Men whose greatest concern is reducing their chances of dying from cancer are sometimes willing to face the consequences and choose testing. PSA screening to detect the most common male cancer is among the most heated topics in men's health. It involves a simple blood test for elevated levels of a protein that may signal cancer but also can be caused by less serious prostate problems.

Founder of The J. Geils Band Found Dead in Home, Officials Say

John Warren Geils Jr., guitarist of the rock group The J. Geils Band, was found dead in his Massachusetts, home, police confirmed. Authorities said they responded to the 71-year-old's home for a well-being check and found him unresponsive. He was declared dead at the scene. Police said no foul play is suspected. A preliminary investigation indicates that Geils died of natural causes. The J. Geils Band was founded in 1967 while Geils, whose full name was John Warren Geils Jr., was studying mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Geils served as the band's guitarist and vocalist. Bandmates included Danny Klein, Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz, Stephen Jo Bladd, Peter Wolf and Seth Justman. The group had several Top 40 singles in the early 1970s, including a cover song "Lookin' for a Love" by the family group The Valentinos and "Give It to Me."

Michael Buble's Son Doing Well After Cancer Treatment, His Wife Says

Michael Buble's wife says their 3-year-old son, Noah, is "well" following treatment for cancer in Los Angeles. Speaking at a press conference in her native Argentina, actress Luisana Lopilato said Noah has a long recovery ahead of him. She says the experience has made her value life more. The family last shared an update on Noah in February, when they said he was progressing well in his battle against the disease. The family announced Noah's cancer in November. They didn't say what type of cancer he has or when he was diagnosed. The couple also has another son, Elias, who turned 1 earlier this year.

Jeff Cook of Alabama Announces Parkinson's Diagnosis

Jeff Cook, guitarist and fiddle player with the country band Alabama, announced he has Parkinson's disease and will no longer be regularly touring with the band. Cook, along with frontman Randy Owen and bassist Teddy Gentry, told The Tennessean in a story that Cook was diagnosed about four years ago, but the band kept the news private until now. Cook said the chronic neurological disorder gives him tremors that make it hard for him to play his instruments, but he didn't want to stop playing music. He said he is not quitting the band, but won't be regularly touring with them so he can rest.

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