The World Roger Ailes Made

This op-ed originally appeared in the NY Daily News on May 18, 2017.

When we released ?Outfoxed,? in 2004, the clear and present danger Roger Ailes presented to democracy was not as patently obvious as it is today. Back then, even liberals considered what he was doing basically legitimate news with some bad commentators. They assumed people would be able to tell the difference.

Flash forward to 2016 and the rise of Donald Trump. Now we know better. Roger Ailes made Donald Trump President. And if we don?t learn from how that happened, we are doomed to repeat it.

Part of what made Ailes successful was simply talent. He understood what made a story compelling, the importance of visual storytelling. He mastered the art of backing verbal lies with pictures, with video that, while often aggressively edited or taken terribly out of context, nonetheless provides the casual viewer with the comfort of having ?seen it with my own eyes.?

He added Hollywood-style mood music to so-called news programming, signaling clearly for audiences who was a hero and who a villain, and exactly how they were supposed to feel about a particular story. He perfected the quick cut, the action-film editing that keeps the heart pumping and the rational reaction and pondering to a minimum. Reality television and news were not always distinguishable, and that was what Ailes wanted.

And of course, he was a bully. He perfected the art of bullying, though it did eventually bring him down. People were terrified of him, women in particular.

We made a film about a news organization where people were so scared of the boss that we had to hide their faces and voices. We could not get anyone to come forward on camera about the sexual harassment, but it was no secret even way back in 2004. Women were scared to come to work, scared to be in a room with him. His comeuppance was nothing compared to the very real psychological damage done. 

Ailes made bullying cool. He hired, hyped and promoted infamous bullies ? Glenn Beck, Bill O?Reilly. He made bullying not only acceptable but somehow desirable, as if the ability to yell louder, to interrupt more, to refuse to budge in the face of reality was the mark of a powerful person or a leader. It is not a long walk from Bill O?Reilly to Donald Trump.

Formidable as it was, Ailes? talents ? dubious and otherwise ? would not have had the impact they did were it not for his pursuit of an agenda. Ailes did not suggest that his ?journalists? use certain language, twist certain facts and omit certain others. Ailes insisted upon it. In ?Outfoxed,? we exposed memos proscribing exactly what to cover and exactly how to cover it.

Ailes started with the story he wanted told, and bent everything within his formidable reach to tell it that way. He did so without apology, without qualms.

The result was what we have today: A society inured to lying, where truth is in the eye of the beholder, where being loud and vehement is the same as being correct. Technology helps spread fake news around, but Ailes made it normal, made it acceptable, to believe what one wanted to believe.

Now we are seeing a bit of a bounce back of the traditional values of journalism: getting facts right, digging beneath the surface ? particularly in print. That?s heartening but it has to last, and it has to grow. We have to see a commitment from the mainstream media, and broadcast media in particular, to take on Fox News and fake news directly, to call a lie what it is and to refuse to cover the latest Twitter rant even if the ranter is our president.

In the meantime, remember Roger Ailes and pledge ourselves to vigilance in news consumption, in truth-telling and standing up to bullies, bigots and profiteers, be they behind the camera, or in front of it.

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Mom And Son Inspire Thousands With Creative Graduation Photo

A memorable photo taken this month has not only highlighted a mother?s accomplishments, but her son?s love for her. 

Brittney Brooks graduated with her MBA from the University of Maryland University College on May 13. At lunch after her graduation, she took a now-viral photo with her son, 4-year-old Mason, while holding a sign that read, ?I did it.? Mason also held a sign that acknowledged his mother?s hard work. It read, ?No! Mom, you mastered it.?

Brooks? brother, Xavier Codie Robinson (known as artist Codie Monowi online), shared the Pinterest-inspired photo on Twitter where it has been retweeted more than 5,000 times. Brooks told HuffPost she?s glad the photo has had such an ?inspiring effect? on people. 

?I just wanted to take this with my son and hang it at work or home and share with a couple of friends on social media, but I never thought it would be this big,? she said.

In 2009, Brooks earned her bachelor?s degree in communications with honors as well as a concentration in public relations from Bowie State University. She attempted to get her master?s in 2011 and later dropped out when she became pregnant and decided she wanted ?to enjoy the blessing? of her first child. She then went back to school in 2015 and never looked back. She credited her family for helping her with her goal.

?I would not do it without the love and support of my family and most importantly God and my fiance,? she told HuffPost. ?He is amazing and a great dad. Without him I wouldn?t be about to do it. He is my biggest supporter along with my son and they push me to do better and go further.?

Robinson told HuffPost he?s also excited about the photo going viral and said he is very proud of his sister?s accomplishments. 

?I?ve seen her studying in her living room while bouncing on calls, planning her wedding and making sure her son is taken care of,? he said. ?The greatest part about it was never seeing her knees shake under the pressure.?

When asked if she had advice for other students pursuing their master?s degree, Brooks, who is now looking for jobs in management consulting or event planning, stressed the importance of a solid support system.

?Some people look at the picture and think I did this on my own and that I am a single mom, but that?s far from the truth,? she told HuffPost. ?I had a great support system and even though it was hard and I felt like giving up so many times, I pulled through because I had people depending on me.?

She also stressed that the kind of support she received can come in many forms. 

?It could be family, friends, co-workers, whoever, but that?s whats going to get you through ? their words, advice, support, and encouragement.?

The HuffPost Parents newsletter, So You Want To Raise A Feminist, offers the latest stories and news in progressive parenting.   

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Seeking A New Narrative, Trump Heads To Middle East And Europe

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) – With turmoil enveloping his administration at home, President Donald Trump heads abroad on Friday for a trip the White House hopes will shift focus away from domestic controversies and on to his foreign policy agenda.

Trump leaves for Saudi Arabia on Friday afternoon and will make stops next week in Israel, Belgium and Italy. The trip was billed as a chance to visit places sacred to three of the world?s major religions while creating face time with Arab, Israeli and European leaders.

But a political uproar in Washington over Trump?s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, allegations that he pressed Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the subsequent appointment of a special counsel to look into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential ties with Trump?s campaign threaten to overshadow his trip.

?We look forward to getting this whole situation behind us,? the Republican president told a news conference at the White House on Thursday.

The sojourn abroad, his first foreign trip since taking office in January, may or may not help.

Trump is expected to be welcomed warmly by leaders in Riyadh and Jerusalem, but lingering questions over his views on the Iran nuclear deal, commitment to NATO security and skepticism of the Paris climate agreement could generate tension at meetings with European counterparts in Brussels and Sicily.

?It?s almost always true that when a president goes on a big foreign trip, especially one that has some important summits … that that dominates the news and knocks most other stuff out,? said Republican strategist Charlie Black.

?Whether by accident or design, this will help him in terms of Russia news for a while.?

 

?MESSAGE OF UNITY?

The White House laid out three purposes for the trip: reaffirming U.S. leadership globally, building relationships with world leaders and broadcasting ?a message of unity to America?s friends and to the faithful of three of the world?s greatest religions,? said national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

?What President Trump is seeking is to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress and prosperity,? he told reporters.

Trump generated controversy as a presidential candidate with his call that Muslims be banned temporarily from entering the United States. His administration?s proposal to limit travel from several Muslim-majority countries is tied up in court.

McMaster said Trump would deliver a speech in Saudi Arabia expressing hope that a peaceful vision of Islam would resonate worldwide.

The national security adviser, who publicly defended Trump this week against allegations that he improperly shared intelligence information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during an Oval Office meeting, has a lot riding on the trip himself.

?He?s already on thin ice after his attempt to defend the president?s discussion of intelligence with the Russians, and he urged the president to do this trip, which may have been a bad idea,? said one U.S. official. ?It?s too long and covers too much ground and too many topics. If it goes badly, no matter who?s fault it is, it will be H.R.?s.?

Although he kept a grueling schedule as a presidential candidate, Trump is fond of being home at night, often flying back to New York after campaign events to sleep in his own bed. The nine-day trip will be his longest since becoming president.

 

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and John Walcott; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Selling Dog Meat May Be Banned At This Year’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival

Animal rights activists are reporting that the local government in Yulin, China, will be banning the sale of dog meat at the city?s controversial Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in June.

However, officials in Yulin did not confirm the ban when questioned by media outlets, leading some to question whether the purported ban is happening at all.

The annual festival, which involves the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat, has incited protests both within China and internationally. National Geographic reports that in China, young people in particular are opposed to the dog meat trade.

According to Humane Society International and the Duo Duo Project, officials told traders that restaurants, vendors and market traders will be temporarily prohibited from selling dog meat, beginning one week before the June 21 festival. Peter Li, HSI?s China policy specialist, said the ban is set to last until the festival is over and that there?s no evidence the ban includes any restrictions on cat meat.

But city officials would not confirm any ban at all when both The New York Times and the BBC reached out to them. The BBC also reports that ?some vendors? told the outlet they hadn?t heard of a ban.

But Humane Society International told HuffPost it is confident in its sources and that it isn?t surprised Yulin officials won?t confirm the ban to the media.

?It?s likely not in [the local government?s] interests to appear to be responding to national or global pressure,? Wendy Higgins, HSI international media director, said in an email. ?The contacts in China of HSI and Duo Duo Project have spoken directly with a number of traders, all of whom confirm the ban, and that traders were told to attend a meeting at which the ban was explained.?

So, what would be the point of a ban if officials won?t confirm it?

Li said the likely goal is to prevent activists and journalists from taking gruesome-looking photos of canine carcasses.

?What the authorities are trying to accomplish is not a ban announcement, but the disappearance of slaughtered dog bodies,? he said.

And Higgins said that not formally announcing the ban was a logical strategic move.

?If the ban is a failure, the officials can say ?what ban?? because they never confirmed it, and if it is a success, they can say ?see what we have done? and hopefully build on it next year until the problem goes away,? she told HuffPost.

In an interview with the BBC, Li said the policy appears to stem from the new Communist Party secretary of Yulin, Mo Gong Ming, who wants to improve the city?s reputation around the world.

Opponents of the Yulin festival often face criticism from those who point out it?s irrational to be more outraged over the slaughter of dogs than the slaughter of less traditionally cute and fuzzy animals like pigs and chickens ? which are killed and eaten in far greater numbers worldwide.

But Li countered that there are specific reasons to oppose the Yulin festival besides the species of animals involved. For one thing, he said, dogs killed in the festival are often stolen pets. Eating dog meat is legal in China (as well as in many U.S. states), but stealing dogs is not.

?Dogs slaughtered for food come from suspicious sources,? he said. ?Many are stolen pets and rural guard dogs.? He noted that Chinese activists would protest a beef festival, too, if the animals were stolen cattle.

And Higgins pointed out that many groups, including HSI, that oppose the dog meat festivals also actively fight for the rights of all animals that suffer in the food industry.

?HSI doesn?t shy away from exposing and challenging the suffering of all animals killed for food around the world, including in Western countries such as the U.K. and U.S.,? she said. ?Whilst we realize that we can?t stop the suffering of all animals for the food industry overnight, we shouldn?t use the suffering of pigs or chickens in one country as an excuse for inaction to stop the suffering of dogs in another country.?

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Dwayne Johnson Knows Exactly Why People Want Him To Be President

Will Dwayne Johnson ?rock? the White House? 

This week a PPP poll showing the actor and former wrestler leading Trump in a hypothetical 2020 presidential race went viral. The Rock knows why.

In an interview with ?Good Morning America,? Johnson said he?s flattered but unsure if he?d be the right fit for the job. He understands the reason people want him to run, though.

?I don?t know if I would make a good president. I know that I have a certain skill set, and I think it?s in that skill set that people see and that people would want me to run,? he said.

The actor continued, ?And I also think that?s reflective of them wanting to see a better leadership happen right now.?

You can say that again, dude. Trump?s approval rating just hit a new low at 42 percent in Politico/Morning Consult?s weekly survey.

That?s not a cute look.

Johnson previously told GQ that he saw running for president as a ?real possibility,? so who knows what could happen? If you?re curious what a 2020 race of Johnson vs. Trump would look like, Jimmy Kimmel has you covered.

Yeah, it’d probably be something like that.

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Miami Official Compares Legalizing Medical Marijuana To Pedophilia

Miami?s deputy city attorney is getting a lot of buzz after compared allowing sales of medical marijuana in the city to legalizing pedophilia

The bizarre comparison by Barnaby Min occurred Wednesday night at a meeting of Miami?s Planning Zoning and Appeals Board.

 Adam Gersten, a board member and attorney, wanted city leaders to explain how they were dealing with zoning regulations for medical marijuana retail outlets.

Min responded point blank: ?I?m happy to make it very easy. It?s not allowed,? according to the Miami Herald.

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of medical pot in November?s election, and Gersten pressed the issue.

Min responded with what he conceded was a ?very poor example? of the rationale for the city not moving forward on allowing medical marijuana to be sold.

?If the city of Miami for some infinite, god-forbidden reason thought having sex with a child was a great way to recover from some issue, and so we wrote it into our city code, just because the city says it?s legal does not mean it?s legal,? Min said, according to the Miami New Times. ?So just because for marijuana, we say marijuana is legal and the state says it?s legal, until the federal government says it?s legal, it is not legal.?

The paper reports Min?s comments were greeted with three or four seconds of ?extremely awkward silence.?

Twitter was much more vocal:

Calls to Min on Thursday were not immediately returned.

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Got $20 Million? Use It To Move Next Door To The Queen

We haven?t pined over a neighbor this badly since Mr. Rogers was on television.

London?s Buckingham Gate is a six-unit lap of luxury building which, according to its brochure, is made up of ?impressive grand two and three bedroom apartments, crafted out of three 19th-century Grade II Listed townhouses.?

It?s also situated right next door to and overlooking ? you guessed it ? Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II?s famous London residence.

Its pièce de résistance is a $20 million-plus penthouse that spans 5,189 square feet, two floors and two buildings, boasts three bedrooms, three private terraces and was designed by ?one of the most celebrated names in the world of contemporary interiors.? It is aptly referred to as the ?jewel in the crown? of the project, according to House Beautiful UK.

An apartment situated on the first and second floor will run you around a cooler $14 million. But if you?re going to go big, you might as well pick the pad that could potentially give you a direct view at the queen rolling around the driveway in her Jaguar. At least that?s what we imagine she?s doing behind those closed gates.

And who knows? Perhaps her majesty will be coming knocking on your door in her jammies one night for a cup of milk.

Us mere mortals (with deep pockets) can dream.

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19 Travel Tips I’ve Learned After Visiting 60 Countries

Whether you?re moving to a new country or taking off on a two-week holiday, here are 19 things you should know before you go:

1. Take two debit cards and two credit cards. Your credit card company will assure you that you?ll have no trouble using your card overseas if you contact them in advance to let them know where and when you?ll be traveling. Don?t believe them. In today?s world, credit card companies are uber-sensitive. Break your usual pattern of card use, and your card will be declined. Count on it. You need at least one backup.

2. Do not use your debit card to pay for things when traveling abroad. Save it for use in ATMs only. Debit cards are easy targets for fraud.

3. If you?re traveling to a country where the language is not English, learn how to say the basic pleasantries in the local language?good morning, good evening, hello, good-bye, thank you, please, etc. I recommend the language app Duolingo, which you can use to study before you go and on the fly as you?re traveling.

4. Carry a small amount of cash with you (maybe US$200 or US$300). Get additional cash as you need it from ATMs? which today are everywhere in the world and the easiest and most cost-efficient way to access cash when traveling. You?ll almost always get a better rate than from a currency exchange service. Definitely do not exchange money at an airport.

5. Find out what your bank will charge you for using your ATM card overseas. Charges vary from zero to as much as US$4 or US$5 per transaction. Schwab, for example, imposes no charge when you use your Schwab card at an ATM anywhere in the world. If the foreign bank imposes a fee (as they often do), Schwab reimburses it.

6. Buy a local SIM card upon arrival. You should be able to do this in the airport. With a local SIM card, you can use your phone to access translation apps and google maps, for example. Plus it means you have a local phone number to give to local contacts and new friends. If you?re traveling in a group, it makes communicating and staying in touch much easier. Before we made obtaining a local SIM card upon arrival in a new country a rule for every member of our family, we spent the better part of one cold day in Paris running around (in the rain) trying to find one of us who?d taken a wrong turn.

7. Dress appropriately. Try to blend in so you?re not a target for touts and hustlers. In some parts of the world, Americans stand out even if they dress to fit in? in Asia, for example. However, in Europe and Latin America, you can blend in. This has benefits? from not being targeted for tourist scams to being offered better tables in restaurants.

8. Carry US$50 in your shoe when going out at night. If your purse or wallet is snatched, you have cab fare.

9. Don?t carry your passport with you. Carry a photocopy of the photo and entry stamp pages of your passport, but leave the document itself in the hotel room safe.

10. Know what it should cost for the taxi ride from the airport to your destination? as well as what it should cost to take a taxi across town. In most places in the world, taxi fares are standard. Still, sometimes, unscrupulous drivers try to take advantage of foreigners. Know what you should pay before getting into a cab.

11. Stick with official taxis, rather than random guys who approach you asking if you need a ride.

12. Try to step away from the tourist zone. Never go where tourists go? never shop where tourists shop? never eat where tourists eat. Tourists pay the highest prices and get the worst service.

13. Walk with confidence and act like you know where you?re going. If you need to consult a map, for example, step into a restaurant, a shop, or a hotel lobby to reorient yourself.

14. In today?s world, it can be a good idea to avoid protests and demonstrations.

15. Avoid politics and political arguments. How the people of the country you?re visiting choose to run their country isn?t really any of your business.

16. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable for any reason, go into a public place.

17. Be aware of the popular tourist scams in the place where you?re traveling. In Paris, for example, the gold ring on the ground scam is common.

18. Confirm whether you need a visa to visit the country for the period of time you intend to visit. An American needs a visa to travel to Brazil, for example, even as a tourist.

19. Find out if you?ll be required to pay an entry fee when entering the country. Americans can travel visa free to many countries. Some, though, that don?t require a visa do charge an entrance fee at immigration. In Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, for example, the fee is US$10. In Kenya it?s US$50. These kinds of entry fees must be paid in cash in U.S. dollars or other hard currency. We had only just enough U.S. dollar cash in our pockets to cover our family of five when passing through immigration to enter Kenya a few years ago.

Kathleen Peddicord

Original Feature: 19 Travel Tips I?ve Learned After Visiting 60 Countries

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These Rad Posters Of Powerful Women Belong In Every Kid’s Room

File this under ways to fill a kid?s room with a bit of girl power.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a kids? book filled with bedtime stories about women who changed the world like Frida Kahlo, Mae Jemison and Malala Yousafzai. After raising more than $675,000 on Kickstarter to help create the book, the team behind the massively appreciated collection released artwork from it for sale in poster form.

The special release marks a celebration since the team has sold more than 500,000 copies of the book worldwide. Each poster includes an illustration of the featured woman as well as an empowering quote from her. Because several artists contributed to the project, every poster stands out from the rest.

The Rebel Girls team is currently taking pre-orders for the $20 posters, which are 18 inches by 24 inches. According to the book?s site, they will be delivered in June.

Rebel girls (and boys), get ready to cover your walls.

See more of the posters, which are available online, below.

The HuffPost Parents newsletter, So You Want To Raise A Feminist, offers the latest stories and news in progressive parenting.   

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What Iran’s Election Could Mean For The Nuclear Deal And U.S. Relations

Iranians will head to the polls on Friday to vote in a presidential election that could significantly shift Tehran?s domestic political landscape and its ties with foreign powers.

It?s the first presidential election since Iran reached a historic 2015 agreement with six other countries over its nuclear programs, following decades of diplomatic tensions between Tehran and the West. Under then-President Barack Obama, the United States played a key role in negotiating the deal, in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear capabilities in exchange for relief from stifling economic sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is now seeking re-election for a second term, promised the deal would lead to jobs, economic growth and prosperity for his country. But many Iranians feel he has failed to deliver.

Criticism of the agreement has also been raised by Obama?s successor, President Donald Trump, who has already soured U.S. relations with Iran by threatening to put Iran ?on notice? and to ?tear up? the deal. The Trump administration has not yet taken steps to renegotiate or dismantle the agreement.

Ultra-conservative cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran?s supreme leader, the country?s highest-ranking authority. He oversees the Guardian Council, which must approve any presidential candidates before they?re allowed to run for office. Khamenei has responded to Trump?s provocative rhetoric by sarcastically thanking him for revealing the ?true face? of the U.S.

Rouhani will face off against three remaining challengers. His main rival is hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi. Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf dropped out of the race this week and backed Raisi, shortly before Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri withdrew to support Rouhani. If no one wins a majority, there will be a second round of voting on May 26. 

A Raisi victory on Friday would defy the polls and come as a political surprise, not unlike Rouhani?s own election in 2013. It could also forecast the slow death of the nuclear deal and increased pressure on Tehran from the Trump administration, according to Iran expert Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute.

HuffPost spoke with Maloney on Tuesday about what to expect as the election approaches.

Do you think voters feel that Rouhani has delivered satisfactorily on his promises surrounding the nuclear deal?

I think it?s accurate to say that he has delivered on what he promised, which was economic improvement and relief from at least some of the sanctions that were most onerous in terms of Iran?s ability to interact with the international financial system. He has done a very good job in terms of some of the other systemic issues that had a direct impact on the daily lives of Iranians.

What he hasn?t done in the 18 months since the deal has been in implementation phase is fully transform the Iranian economy ? in part because so much of what constrains Iran?s growth is the structural issues that have been developed over the course of the past 38 years: the dysfunction in the banking system, labor laws that aren?t terribly conducive to job creation, an educational system that isn?t well-suited toward creating the kind of skill set that?s needed in a modern economy. And that?s only scratching the surface.

These are long-term issues. I think Rouhani has a team in place that appreciates the scope of the problem, but in pitching the nuclear deal to both the political elite and his own population, there was a tendency to oversell the benefits. I think Rouhani bears the blame for the inflated expectations of many within the population.

Rouhani is the incumbent, but it seems as if he?s campaigning like an anti-establishment political outsider. Can you shed some light on his strategy?

I?ve seen echoes of his 2013 campaign, when despite the fact that he?d spent his entire political career within the system of the Islamic Republic, he actually campaigned as something of an outsider and seemed to try to co-opt the messaging of the reformist political faction, with whom he was not directly identified prior to his presidency.

He?s doing very much the same this time around. He?s using rhetoric that resonates with those who are disaffected from the system and who are frustrated about the lack of political and social freedom. Again there?s a danger in this, which is of course that Iranians aren?t blind to the fact that there was very little progress made in these areas during his first four years in office. It?s not clear whether going back to that is necessarily going to be as credible this time around.

If Rouhani wins, do you think his leadership style will change drastically?

No, I think we?ll see the same Rouhani: someone who?s a fairly astute politician, who knows how to navigate the very profound complexities ? ideological and bureaucratic ? of the Islamic Republic, who is focused primarily on economic reform and on rehabilitating Iran?s stature in the world, and who may believe in the long run that political and social change will come along with that, but isn?t going to prioritize those things in any serious way.

What are the most significant differences between Rouhani and Raisi as presidential candidates?

There are a lot of commonalities. They?re both clerics who?ve spent their political careers as functionaries of the Islamic Republic, but where they?ve spent that time matters greatly. Rouhani ? both in terms of his experience during the [Iran-Iraq] war, as well as his five terms in Parliament and his effective role as Iran?s national security adviser for a number of years ? has a much broader appreciation of the policymaking challenges that Iran faces on a day-to-day basis.

Raisi, by contrast, has spent most of his career in the judiciary, which is very much the kind of iron fist of the regime in terms of maintaining control and precluding social and political change. Raisi has a track record of absolute horror. He has been involved with some of the darkest and bloodiest episodes of repression in Iran ? beginning in the 1980s, but very much up through the 2009 protests and the torture of those who were imprisoned in the aftermath.

Raisi has a very different understanding of both the Islamic regime and of Iran?s role in the world. It would be a tremendous step backward for Iranians if they in fact had a leadership that was comprised of someone with such a track record.

Where does Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stand as the election looms closer?

The supreme leader holds ultimate authority in Iran and he has within his disposal the direct line of control over the security bureaucracy and the judiciary, so he really does dominate the political scene within Iran. I think it?s clear that he has put a finger on the scale for Raisi?s candidacy. There wouldn?t be a Raisi front-runner status were it not for a continuous effort over the past six to nine months to ensure that any other conservative of stature was forced out of the race.

Whether or not that extends to doing whatever?s necessary to get Raisi elected, I think we just really can?t say. Some of the polling that?s coming out of the Revolutionary Guard news outlets suggests Raisi is in fact in the lead, very much in contrast to more established polls that are done in Iran. It worries me that there?s a decision to throw this race his way.

That doesn?t suggest that Raisi doesn?t have a base. I think that there?s clearly 10 to 12 million voters at minimum for Raisi, but you know, it?s a 55 million voter electorate. It would shock me if Raisi were to win fair and square.

What does this vote mean for the nuclear deal and for U.S.-Iran relations?

All the candidates in Iran have in fact supported the nuclear deal, precisely because it has the backing of the supreme leader. I think that was implicit in the fact that it was approved in the first place ? it couldn?t have been done without Khamenei?s support. That said, if Rouhani were to lose, if his foreign minister were to leave office, I think the Iranian investment in that agreement would abate significantly.

The sort of implicit understanding that this is a necessary or even a useful condition for Iran?s diplomacy and economic growth ? which is core to Rouhani?s agenda ? is not core to Raisi?s agenda. We?ve seen in the past that Khamenei is in fact prepared to walk away from agreements if he feels over time that Iran hasn?t gotten the best of the deal.

So I would say that if Raisi wins, the deal doesn?t fall apart the next day or even the next month, but it will erode almost inevitably as a result of the lack of commitment from Iran and the pressure that the Trump administration is going to apply.

If Raisi wins, the [Iran nuclear] deal doesn?t fall apart the next day or even the next month, but it will erode almost inevitably.
Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute

Raisi?s not going to walk away from the deal ? it?s a question of when and how Khamenei would. He?s going to have an easier time walking away from the deal with a president who isn?t personally invested in it.

The other factor of a Raisi presidency is it would pave the way for Trump administration pressure, whether it?s sanctions or regional pushback. The optics of an Iran that?s led by someone with blood on his hands [and who?s] prone to irresponsible or even reprehensible rhetoric would begin to create a narrative to which other countries around the world may [become] more susceptible.

It will take time. It will take diplomatic effort. It will take probably a more coherent embrace of this agenda than the Trump administration has shown to date. But they?ll go a lot further in terms of putting pressure on Iran with Raisi as president than with Rouhani.

Is Trump a factor on Iranian voters? minds? Or on the supreme leader?s agenda?

It?s hard for me to say, but I think Iranians, like most people, vote on the basis of issues that concern their daily lives. At present, Trump is a dark shadow for Iran, in terms of a prospective threat, and he is also a factor of some amusement. But the Trump presidency has not yet made itself felt on the lives or livelihoods of individual Iranians, so I think they?re going to vote on the same kind of pocketbook issues that most people do around the world.

As for the supreme leader, it?s a good question. There will be those who will argue that the supreme leader sees a hardening American position and wants to respond in kind, and that may be part of the thinking. But I think that whatever the explanation for Raisi?s sudden emergence onto the scene, I think it has more to do with Khamenei?s own longevity and sense of his own [mortality] than it does with anything that?s happening here in Washington.

In a sense, for Khamenei, every American president is just a variation on a theme of interventionism and bullying and regional disruption. I think in the end, Raisi?s candidacy is a signal that Khamenei is thinking about his own legacy and how best to ensure it. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Surprise! Five Guys Is Now America’s Favorite Burger Chain

Five Guys is now the favorite burger chain in the United States, according to a new poll released on Tuesday. 

The burger chain took home the top spot on the 2017 Harris Poll EquiTrend category for burger chains. For the past two years, West Coast favorite In-N-Out burger was ranked number one and Five Guys ? which started in Virginia ? was at number two.

The poll, which was conducted from December 30, 2016 to February 21, 2017, asked over 100,000 respondents to rank brands based on familiarity, quality and consideration. Below are America?s top 10 burger favorites: 

1. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

2. In-N-Out Burger

3. Shake Shack

4. Wendy?s

5. Culver?s

6. Whataburger

7. McDonald?s

8. Sonic America?s Drive-In

9. Smashburger

10. Steak ?n Shake

The burger chains that didn?t make the top ten, but were still listed for consideration, are (listed alphabetically) Burger King, Checker?s/Rally?s, DQ Grill & Chill, Hardee?s, Jack in the Box and White Castle. 

Over the past few years, Five Guys has grown exponentially, which could help explain its familiarity with customers and rise in the rankings. 

?The burger brand category has become less fragmented, as regional brands expand and become available in more parts of the country,? Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at The Harris Poll, said in a press release. 

She added, ?This is certainly the case with Five Guys, who has shed its ?small regional player? designation as it expands its footprint and marketing budget along with its fandom, which is a tremendous contributor to brand equity.? 

Here?s hoping this adds some pressure to In-N-Out to expand, something the brand has been reticent to do.

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It’s Time To Impeach Donald Trump, Democrat Says On The House Floor

WASHINGTON ? Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) called for impeaching President Donald Trump from the House floor on Wednesday.

?I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America for obstruction of justice,? Green began in a sermon-like speech.

?I do not do this for political purposes,? he continued. ?I do it because, Mr. Speaker, there is a belief in this country that no one is above the law. And that includes the president of the United States of America. Mr. Speaker, our democracy is at risk.?

Trump is in hot water for, among other things, firing FBI Director James Comey, who had been investigating Trump?s campaign and its potential ties to Russian officials who interfered in last year?s election to help Trump win. On top of that, explosive news reports this week revealed that Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials during an Oval Office visit last week and previously asked Comey to stop investigating him and his team.

Details are still murky on the latter charge, but lawmakers in both parties have said that if it?s true, it constitutes obstruction of justice, which is grounds for impeachment. Green says it?s time to start the process.

?The president must be impeached,? he said. ?Impeachment does not mean the president will be found guilty. It simply means that the House of Representatives will bring charges against the president. It?s similar to an indictment. … Then the Senate can have a trial to determine the guilt or the innocence of the president.?

The Texas Democrat rattled off a website, impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org, and urged people to sign a petition there saying they agree it?s time to begin impeachment proceedings. It is ultimately the public, he said, that will decide whether impeachment happens.

?I am a voice in the wilderness,? Green said, now shouting. ?But I assure you that history will vindicate me … I assure you that no lie can live forever.?

His dramatic speech was capped off by a warning from the lawmaker overseeing House proceedings: ?Members are reminded to refrain from engaging in personalities toward the president, such as accusations that he committed an impeachable offense.?

Green isn?t the first member of Congress to bring up impeaching Trump. At least 16 House Democrats have talked about it, and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said Wednesday that if the allegations in the Comey memo are true, they are grounds for impeachment. In the Senate, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has floated the idea, and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, said Congress is getting closer to another impeachment process.

?Reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say yes, simply because obstruction of justice is such a serious offense,? King told CNN?s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday. ?And I say it with sadness and reluctance. This is not something that I?ve advocated for. The word has not passed my lips in these tumultuous three or more months.?

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Senator Thom Tillis Collapses During Race

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) collapsed while running a race in Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning, according to The Associated Press.

A spokesperson for the race told Lori Denberg of ABC News that Tillis had a seizure but was not hurt when he fell, and that he was alert while on his way to the hospital.

Tillis had tweeted earlier Wednesday that he was taking part in the American Council of Life Insurers Capital Challenge, a three-mile team race in Anacostia Park.

WUSA9?s Debra Alfarone tweeted a photo of Tillis being helped during the race.

Tillis? office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The senator?s office told WFMY that it had ?no comment? on Tillis? condition.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted a message of support for Tillis Wednesday morning.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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A Nutella Café Swirls Into Chicago And Our Hearts This Month

There?s a twinkling of light shining upon us during these dark times, and it?s lit with the glow of chocolatey, hazelnut-y, spreadable goodness. 

That?s right, folks, a Nutella café swirls into Chicago on May 31 to fill the industrial jar-sized holes in our hearts with Nutella-stuffed croissants, Nutella fondue, Nutella sandwich cookies, Nutella crêpes and… you get the point. 

A menu that Eater obtained shows the café will offer savory dishes, along with some items not served with Nutella (the horror!) Disappointingly, nowhere on the menu is ?one giant jar with a spoon,? to be found. 

The café is the latest in a recent trend of specific food-focused restaurants, and we can see the Instagram fodder developing now. Move over, Brooklyn?s avocado-everything joint

The Chicago Tribune reports stepping inside the café feels like you?re walking into an actual jar of Nutella. And really, isn?t that what we all deserve right now? 

We?ll wait here while you book a flight to Chicago. 

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Dave Chappelle Apologizes For Telling Viewers To Give Donald Trump A Chance

Dave Chappelle has one big regret about his appearance on ?Saturday Night Live? last November ? and it wasn?t a punchline.

Just days after Donald Trump was elected president, Chappelle went the magnanimous route during his monologue and asked viewers to give the new leader a chance.

But that was then.

On Monday, the comedian expressed regret for his ?SNL? remarks at a charity event in New York City.

?I was the first guy on TV to say ?Give Trump a chance.? I f?ked up. Sorry,? he said at the Robin Hood Foundation benefit, according to MSNBC?s Willie Geist.

Rewind to Nov. 12, when Chappelle said on ?SNL?:

?I?m wishing Donald Trump luck, and I?m going to give him a chance, and we the historically disenfranchised demand that he give us one too.?

Man, that seems like a long time ago.

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Ana Navarro Calls Out GOP: You’d Impeach Hillary Clinton Over This

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro responded with contempt for her own party after The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump had allegedly revealed ?highly classified? information to Russian officials.

Navarro, a Republican strategist who has been a vocal opponent of Trump?s rise in the conservative movement, summed up Congressional Republicans? subdued reaction to the report with two tweets:

Republicans, especially Trump and his surrogates, routinely criticized 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while on the campaign trail, arguing that the former secretary of state mishandled classified information.

?The almost crazy irony of this is that it?s what the Republicans tied around Hillary Clinton?s neck for a couple of years about her email, saying that by using a private server, she would expose highly classified information to the world,? MSNBC host Chris Matthews said on Monday. ?In this case, [Trump?s] giving it to the Russians first hand.?

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt agreed with Matthews, and railed against his own party for ?a real dereliction of duty? addressing what he called the president?s ?ineptitude? and ?dishonesty.?

?It?s shocking,? Schmidt said.

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Stop Snitching, Rodney Frelinghuysen

Like what you read below? Sign up for HUFFPOST HILL and get a cheeky dose of political news every evening!

Donald Trump?s legal team ran into trouble in court again Monday over the president?s habit of accurately describing his Muslim ban. Trump reportedly falls for fake magazine covers, so maybe Democrats should send him a copy of Time marked Jan. 20, 2021, and see if he packs up his things and leaves the White House. And Republicans are considering huge budget cuts, though Hill aides say anyone cut off from food stamps would be eligible for soup personally ladled by Paul Ryan every year on their birthdays. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, May 15th, 2017:

REPUBLICANS LOOKING AT HUGE BUDGET CUTS – Rachael Bade and Sarah Ferris: ?House Republicans just voted to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in health care for the poor as part of their Obamacare replacement. Now, they?re weighing a plan to take the scalpel to programs that provide meals to needy kids and housing and education assistance for low-income families. President Donald Trump?s refusal to overhaul Social Security and Medicare ? and his pricey wish-list for infrastructure, a border wall and tax cuts ? is sending House budget writers scouring for pennies in politically sensitive places: safety-net programs for the most vulnerable. Under enormous internal pressure to quickly balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate, multiple sources told POLITICO.? [Politico]

KEEP IN MIND: Budgets like this one don?t actually cut programs, they just tell committees of jurisdiction to make cuts. In the recent past the committees have declined to do so. Also, Republicans don?t seem very confident lately in their quest to cut safety nets.

JUDGES MAY NOT BE AS STUPID AS TRUMP NEEDS THEM TO BE – Laura Jarrett: ?For the second time in President Donald Trump?s young administration, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals pressed the Justice Department to explain the legality of his travel ban, this time with Trump?s record of campaign calls to ban Muslims from entering the US taking center stage.? [CNN]

J?recuse! ?The White House said it is perfectly comfortable with Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the search for the next FBI director, even though Sessions promised to recuse himself from all matters that may involve the 2016 presidential election?. Sessions was also involved in the decision to fire James Comey from the job.? [HuffPost?s Amanda Terkel]

HERE COMES ROD - Everyone totally trusts him, so this meeting definitely will be really fruitful. Sean Sullivan: ?Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein will brief senators Thursday afternoon on the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director, the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Monday?. Plans for the briefing come as Democrats and some Republicans have been raising questions and concerns about President Trump?s decision to fire Comey. Trump and his aides have provided shifting explanations for Comey?s dismissal.? [WaPo] 

Other than that, how was the play, Mr. Comey?

MEAN CONGRESSMAN COSTS LADY HER JOB – Rodney Frelinghuysen is the scion of an American political dynasty that predates the Revolutionary War, and we?re sure his ancestors would be very proud of him today. Nancy Solomon: ?The most powerful congressman in New Jersey, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, wrote a fundraising letter in March to a board member of a local bank, warning him that a member of an activist group opposing the Republican worked at his bank. The employee was questioned and criticized for her involvement in NJ 11th for Change?. ?Needless to say, that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome,? said Saily Avelenda of West Caldwell, New Jersey, who was a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at [Lakeland Bank] before she resigned. She says the pressure she received over her political involvement was one of several reasons she decided to leave.? [WNYC]

GULLIBLE PRESIDENT IS GULLIBLE - Donald Trump definitely believes everything he watches on YouTube, right? Shane Goldmacher: ?White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Donald Trump. Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter. Trump quickly got lathered up about the media?s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that?s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it. The episode illustrates the impossible mission of managing a White House led by an impetuous president who has resisted structure and strictures his entire adult life.? [Politico]

VOTING WHILE BLACK NOW SOMEWHAT LESS ILLEGAL IN NORTH CAROLINA - The only better news from the Tar Heel State would?ve been if SCOTUS repealed Duke. Cristian Farias: ?The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a long-pending North Carolina case that could have produced the biggest voting rights ruling since the justices four years ago invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. At issue in the case, North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, was a Republican-backed law that imposed a swath of restrictions on voters ? including a voter ID requirement, reduced early-voting hours, and a prohibition on registering to vote and casting a ballot on the same day. The justices? decision to not hear the dispute means, in effect, that all of these measures won?t be reinstated and can?t be enforced unless lawmakers pass a new law.? [HuffPost]

CONGRESS IS DISGUSTING – Nothing to see here! Move along, please! Maggie Severns: ?POLITICO found that 28 House members and six senators each traded more than 100 stocks in the past two years, placing them in the potential cross hairs of a conflict of interest on a regular basis. And a handful of lawmakers, some of them frequent traders and some not, disproportionately trade in companies that also have an interest in their work on Capitol Hill?. In some cases, these very wealthy lawmakers own significant stakes in private companies that are affected by their legislative work.? [Politico]

Like HuffPost Hill? Then order Eliot?s book, The Beltway Bible: A Totally Serious A-Z Guide To Our No-Good, Corrupt, Incompetent, Terrible, Depressing, and Sometimes Hilarious Government

Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It?s free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to eliot@huffpost.com. Follow us on Twitter – @HuffPostHill

NO FACTS EVEN BETTER THAN ALTERNATIVE FACTS – Juliet Eilperin: ?The Trump administration has removed or tucked away a wide variety of information that until recently was provided to the public, limiting access, for instance, to disclosures about workplace violations, energy efficiency, and animal welfare abuses?. Across the vast breadth of the government, agencies have traditionally provided the public with massive data sets, which can be of great value to companies, researchers and advocacy groups, among others. Three months ago, there were 195,245 public data sets available on www.data.gov, according to Nathan Cortez, the associate dean of research at Southern Methodist University?s Dedman School of Law, who studies the handling of public data. This week it stood at just under 156,000.? [WaPo]

CALLISTA GINGRICH SCORES SWEET FREE PAD IN ITALY – Sadly for Newt, Vatican City doesn?t have a zoo. Jeff Zeleny and Caroline Kenny: ?Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is the preferred nominee to be the next ambassador to the Vatican?. An administration official said the decision to nominate Gingrich has been made but the announcement has taken longer than expected pending approval from the Office of Government Ethics.? [CNN]

Mo Brooks wants mo power. ?GOP Rep. Mo Brooks announced Monday morning that he will run in Alabama?s special Senate election later this year?. His entry adds another challenger to the field against Sen. Luther Strange, a Republican who was appointed to the Senate by former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley after then-Sen. Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. attorney general. Strange is running to keep the seat.? [Politico?s Daniel Strauss]

SURELY TRUMP HAS A PLAN TO TAKE CARE OF ALL THESE BABIES - Laura Bassett: ?President Donald Trump announced the details Monday of his unprecedented international anti-abortion policy, which drastically expands the ?global gag rule? that past Republican presidents have placed on U.S. health assistance funds?. The policy applies the anti-abortion rule to $8.8 billion in global health funding furnished by the State Department, USAID and the Department of Defense, instead of only $600 million in family planning funding. This means that a clinic receiving U.S. assistance for HIV or Zika relief will lose all that money if it so much as gives pregnant women information about safe abortion care.? [HuffPost]

TRUMP TO TAKE ANOTHER STAB AT THAT WHOLE ?POLICY? THING – It?s going to be confusing when all the Interstate highways are renamed ?Trump Boulevard.? John Wagner: ?President Trump will outline his ?vision? in the ?next several weeks? of an infrastructure package that relies heavily on state, local and private money to make good on a promised $1 trillion in new investments over the coming decade, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Monday. Trump?s pledge to rebuild the country?s roads, bridges and airports was a key campaign promise that has been on the back burner in the early stages of his presidency as he has pursued health-care legislation and outlined a tax-cut package, both of which remain a long way from completion.? [WaPo]

DEMS PONDER NOVEL ?BEING LIBERAL? STRATEGY – David Weigel: ?As Democrats grow more bullish on winning coming special elections and midterms, a number of scrappy organizations are trying to encourage and crowdfund primary challenges to move the party to the left. The launch of Justice Democrats and We Will Replace you, which got copious attention at the start of the year, have finally led to some actual campaigns, with cues from the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.? [WaPo]

BLACK DEMOCRATS LOOKING TO 2018 - Alexander Burns: ?By moving swiftly into the most contentious midterm races, these candidates aim to cement their party in forceful opposition to Mr. Trump and to align it unswervingly with minority communities and young people. Rather than muting their differences with the Republican Party in order to compete in states Mr. Trump won, like Georgia and Florida, they aim to make those distinctions starker?. The determination to compete in 2018 may run deeper in the black community, where the sense of political exclusion is even more acute. With the end of the Obama administration, there are few black Democrats in senior positions of power: just two black Democrats in the Senate and no black governors of either party. A third black senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, is a Republican.? [NYT]

BECAUSE YOU?VE READ THIS FAR - The Architect of the Capitol installed new ramps to help adorable ducks waddle into the Capitol?s reflecting pool.

WE ALL NEED TO TAKE A SHOWER, KELLYANNE - Never be clean. Never be clean. Never be clean. Jonah Engel Bromwich: ?The hosts of MSNBC?s ?Morning Joe? said on Monday that the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway complained extensively about President Trump in private conversations with them before he was elected. Mika Brzezinski said during Monday?s broadcast that she heard Ms. Conway denounce the candidate in private after promoting him on television. ?She would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off, and she would say ?Blech, I need to take a shower,? because she disliked her candidate so much,? Ms. Brzezinski said of Ms. Conway.? [NYT]

COMFORT FOOD

- Hogwarts offers free tuition.

- The X-Files opening credits set to the Golden Girls theme song is too perfect.

- Pizza man delivers piping-hot heroism to broken-down Amtrak train.

TWITTERAMA

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffpost.com)

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pizzas

Hair extensions are a pain to deal with when you have short hair. The clips some products use careLice saloons provide wide range of services.. Also they can hurt if not attached correctly.

Flash-Mob Spells Out ‘RESIST!’ Next To Trump California Golf Course

A California grassroots protest group had a flash of inspiration: Members would scurry onto an open space near Donald Trump?s National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes and arrange themselves to spell out ?RESIST!?

The Saturday action by Indivisible San Pedro ? whose members sometimes refer to themselves as ?The Indivisibles? ? went off without a hitch. Los Angeles County sheriff?s deputies showed up, but the protest was peaceful and broke no laws. While the 30-foot-tall ?letters? look like they?re in the center of Trump?s coastal golf course ? and close to the clubhouse ? they were actually created by some 200 protesters in a small park that?s part of the grounds. 

Retired journalist and Indivisible group member Peter Warren told HuffPost the flash-mob action was something creative and effective the organization could pull off quickly without any funds ? though it took a major investment of volunteer hours. Members planned the strike to be lightning-fast. ?We wanted an element of surprise,? he said. ?By the time the Trump people figured out what we were doing, we?d be gone.?

The group studied public access and parking, and learned they didn?t need a permit for their protest. They met with a member of the Coastal Commission who told them they absolutely had a First Amendment right to protest at the spot, said Warren.

Theater professional and group member Melanie Jones planned out most of the logistics, said Warren. She calculated how many people ? two deep and lying down ? it would take to make each letter ?tall? enough to be easily filmed by a  drone arranged for the event. The group practiced once forming the letter ?T? during a weekly meetings.

Participants were told to be at the site at 9 a.m. and wearing white. They gathered at different picnic tables to meet with their specific ?letter captain.? The entire letter-creating operation took about 15 minutes, and people sang ?God Bless America? as they lay in their human ?Resist? message, Warren said. Then they were out of there.

?We had a good time,? said Warren.

Protesters were calling for a special prosecutor to be named to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election and any Russian connection to the Trump administration. Indivisible San Pedro also called for Trump to release his tax returns.

Indivisible San Pedro is part of the national Indivisible organization protesting the Trump administration?s agenda.

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Meet The Man Who Could Be America’s First Openly Trans Male Judge

Henry Sias went into law because he needed a practical career where he could ?go to the dentist every year.? Now, the 40 year-old attorney and co-founder of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity could become the first openly transgender man in the country to become a judge. While there are two openly transgender women judges in the U.S., ?the first transgender male judge to serve on the bench would make history,? Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Director for Lambda Legal, told HuffPost. 

But first, Sias must advance in the May 16 Democratic primary for a seat on Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania?s trial court. His bid comes at a time when states are debating the rights of transgender people in public spaces, and as the Trump administration walks back protections for transgender students. ?It would be a momentous step in achieving a judiciary that reflects Pennsylvania and the nation,? Lesh added.

HuffPost recently chatted with Sias about his path from Michigan, where he attended five different elementary schools in six years after his family lost their home, to running for public office in Philadelphia. 

The Huffington Post: Why should Philadelphians vote for you to be a judge?Henry Sias: I have many years of experience working directly with judges and justices, and I understand the First Judicial District from the inside. I learned from some of the finest trial judges in Philadelphia. I will take that experience directly to the bench. I also think that Philadelphians can and should send the message that transgender people belong in Philadelphia, and we belong in Philadelphia?s government. My experiences in the courts and in co-founding one of Philadelphia?s most successful legal nonprofits of the last decade show me to be someone who will continue to work to improve our courts and maintain them as safe, democratic spaces where citizens can tell their truths, and with those truths, change our community for the better.

A lot of the coverage of this race has focused on your gender identity. How have you felt about that?
When you want to get on the ballot, you have to spend two weeks kind of running around the city getting people to sign your petition ? your nomination. And, nobody really likes being approached on a sidewalk by somebody. You?re already starting off in an awkward position. And, then you say, ?Hey, I?m trans and I?m trying to become a judge.? It can?t get more awkward from there. Philadelphians were really wonderful during the petition period. They were very nice to me. A couple of guys asked, ?Well, why does it matter that you?re trans?? Like, ?why are you bringing this up?? And, about that I would say two things. First, in the age of Google, you don?t have the option not to. You can either control how it comes out or you can let somebody else control it. So, it?s better, from my perspective, to have some control over how it comes up because I know it?s going to.

But, everybody deserves representation in government. And, I think it would be helpful to the other judges to have a colleague who can be a resource if, for instance, they have somebody in their courtroom, maybe someone who?s genderqueer. They?re not necessarily going to know how best to keep the space respectful for that person. They can come to me and I can be a resource. So, that?s just one of the many reasons why we need all sorts of people involved in government.

Right now, transgender people experience a lot of employment discrimination. So, I think it would be very powerful for Philadelphia to elect somebody into government who?s out and who?s trans, because it sends the message that the city, the people in the city understand that trans people belong in the city, we belong in our community.

How do you think having more trans and queer people working within the judicial system could have an impact on various kinds of laws, like HB2 in North Carolina, where the underlying sentiment is to remove trans people from public life? 
Trying to exclude systematically a group of people from public life is the same way that aggressive catcalling is often part of the sort of systematic attempt to make women feel unsafe in public life, to make them feel that they shouldn?t be out in public life unless they have a guy with them. We think of ourselves as being this open democratic place, but when you have people who feel fear when they leave their house that?s not so open and democratic. So, we need to do everything we can to push back against that culture.

So, I would love to participate in my own little way, in pushing back against the narrative that transgender people are basically liars. That we are deceiving others. Obviously that has implications all over the place but in the court system, when your participation is often about whether you?re telling the truth, whether you?re a reliable narrator of your own experience, it?s important to push back and eliminate the idea that transgender people are sort of fundamentally false or that we?re not reliable narrators because of who we are and what happens to us. So I think having transgender people involved in the legal system in the courts in government helps to push back against that systemic discrimination.

Have you thought about what the visibility that would be gained if you were elected would mean for young trans people across the country who, if they saw you as a judge, could say to themselves, ?Wow, that?s an option for me??
I think it?s really, really important that we have people who are trans, who are visible, and who can demonstrate to younger trans people that there is a great future out there for them. That we are loved, that we can contribute to our communities and have our contributions seen and appreciated.

But, there needs to not be any limit to their ambitions for their future. It used to be that even parents who did not think of themselves as at all homophobic or transphobic would sort of go through a grieving period when their kid came out because they would think ?Oh, now my kid is not going to be loved. Now, my kid is never going to have someone in their life to take care of them or they?re not going to have the opportunity to spread their wings and have this beautiful career that they weren?t taught they were going to be able to have.? But, that?s not true anymore. The more we can show people that that?s not true, the better. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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A Painter Searches For A More Interconnected Vision Of Humanity

In Laura Berger?s inviting paintings and ceramics, everything extraneous has been stripped away. Almost featureless nude figures cavort or repose in geometrically iterated positions, set against flattened beige backgrounds. The world, in these scenes, appears harmonious and placid: Mankind at peace. 

?I?m interested in our search for a sense of belonging and meaning as individuals, and how that both contrasts and combines with our existential concerns of feeling small or insignificant in the larger world,? Berger told The Huffington Post in an email. She wants to capture ?the ideas of inclusion and interconnectedness? in these works. 

To evoke the profound underlying unity of the human race, she portrays the figures with pin-prick eyes and mouths, generic hairstyles and no secondary sex characteristics, á la Ken. (Barbie is different, thanks to the bosom.) ?I?m … trying to distill the environments and figures down to very minimal clean shapes as a way to really focus on emotion or story, color and composition,? she told HuffPost.

The earthy, warm colors of Berger?s paintings play into her peaceful aesthetic and the rosy browns of her scenes look visually reminiscent of ancient Greek pottery paintings ? which she cites as an influence. ?I?m really fascinated by ancient art that looks like it could have been made in contemporary time ? things like Japanese prints, Nayarit sculpture, Native American textiles and ledger drawings, Indonesian paintings, the modern illustrative style on Grecian vessels,? she explained. ?But I?m equally interested in really abstract, graphic work. I love the large, clean shapes in paintings by Carmen Herrera, for instance, or the loose free-flowing forms and color fields in Helen Frankenthaler?s work.?

The confluence of ancient and contemporary aesthetics infuses her paintings with a timelessness, a visual representation of humanity that seems suspended in amber. ?When you take away everything that the world puts upon us, we are all just these beings that are so similar and so connected to each other and to our collective global history,? she said.

The patterns of human figures and clean backgrounds have a geometric balance that juxtaposes with the soft bodily curves and muted palette Berger depicts. ?I guess it?s sort of how life is, so that?s interesting to me,? she said. Depending on how you look at it, the human condition is either squishy and random or guided by primordial patterns ? or maybe it?s both.

In her paintings, humanity isn?t divided by gender, color or class; they move as one. There?s a deeper pattern beneath the seemingly fragmented and squishy categories of people. On a cosmic level, the paintings seem to say that we have more in common than we have dividing us. ?Much of my focus has been around exploring alternate notions of ?family? and connection ? through our ties to the global community and to our collective ancestry, to nature and to the unknown,? Berger added. Her works soothe, suggesting a likely impossible vision of global cooperation and mutual respect. 

In the real world, we do wear clothes that mark our socioeconomic statuses; we have sex organs and we engage in vicious partisan battles instead of collaborating peacefully to build a society together. In looking at Berger?s wistful paintings, we can imagine a better way.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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Attorney For Bill O’Reilly Accuser Calls Fox News ‘The Bill Cosby Of Corporate America’

Lisa Bloom, the attorney for a former Fox News guest holding a press conference Monday, ripped the network?s handling of sexual harassment lawsuits against top-rated primetime host Bill O?Reilly and called for an independent investigation. 

?How many women have to come forward?? Bloom, who has also served as an NBC News legal analyst, asked Sunday on CNN?s ?Reliable Sources.? ?How many millions of dollars have to get paid before Fox News takes sexual harassment seriously?? 

?In my opinion, this network is the Bill Cosby of corporate America,? she continued, in reference to the dozens of women who have accused the famous comedian of sexual assault. ?Women over and over again are driven out.?

Bloom?s comments followed a bombshell New York Times investigation published Saturday that revealed payments of about $13 million to five women accusing the primetime star of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, or verbal abuse. One of the five suits, involving former producer Andrea Mackris, made headlines in 2004. Another suit, involving Fox News employee Juliet Huddy was only reported in January. The other three had not been previously reported. 

A sixth woman, Dr. Wendy Walsh, told the Times that she rebuffed O?Reilly?s advances and he later didn?t follow through on an offer to make her a network contributor. In a release, Bloom said Walsh will speak out at a press conference Monday in Los Angeles and they ?will reveal their new demands to the network.?

The revelations about O?Reilly only shed more light on the toxic culture inside Fox News.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who built the network with Rupert Murdoch in 1996 and ran it for two decades, resigned in July following a sexual harassment lawsuit from former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson and amid widespread allegations from women inside the network, including former primetime host Megyn Kelly and many others throughout the executive?s five decades in media and politics. Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is also suing Ailes and top executives at Fox News, which she compared to a ?Playboy Mansion-Like Cult.?

Federal investigators are currently looking into whether parent company 21st Century Fox didn?t properly notify investigators about payments to Ailes?s accusers and other business practices.

While Fox News recently posted its highest quarterly ratings ever, and enjoys the best access to President Donald Trump, the post-Ailes network continues to be embroiled in scandals related to allegations of employee mistreatment. 

Last month, 21st Century Fox reached a settlement with former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder after she accused former network Fox executive Francisco Cortes of sexual assault. And last week, two black former employees, Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, filed a racial discrimination suit against longtime comptroller Judith Slater, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox. The network had fired Slater just days earlier for what it dubbed ?abhorrent behavior.?

O?Reilly, however, has remained seemingly untouchable at Fox News despite the headline-grabbing allegations of sexual harassment over a decade ago and the latest revelations. That?s presumably because ?The O?Reilly Factor? draws nearly 4 million viewers nightly, the most in cable news, and his show brought in more than $446 million in advertising revenue from 2014 to 2016, according to the Times.

?Just like other prominent and controversial people, I?m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,? O?Reilly said in a statement on his website. ?In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.?

In a statement to HuffPost, 21st Century Fox ? the Murdoch-family owned parent company of Fox News ? noted that no current or former network employee used the company?s hotline ?to raise a concern about Bill O?Reilly, even anonymously.? The company said it had ?looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O?Reilly. 

?While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O?Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility,? the statement continued. ?Mr. O?Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.?

The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch?s News Corp., reported Saturday that O?Reilly?s contract, originally set to expire at the end of this year, was recently renewed.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Donald Trump’s Team Escalates Freedom Caucus Feud

The White House is ramping up its public battle with the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, singling out Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), one of the group?s most unflinching members.

President Donald Trump?s social media director Dan Scavino first needled Amash on Friday, tweeting that the Great Lakes State congressman refused to back the Republican Obamacare replacement bill because ?he puts politics before [Michigan.]? Scavino included screenshots of articles about the congressman?s decision not to vote for Trump, and of an Amash tweet criticizing the president?s rants about Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in January.

Amash, known for his stubborn independence from party leadership, was defiant as ever, defending opposition to the bill he called ?#Swampcare because it?s just another version of #Obamacare.?

Scavino continued hammering Amash on Saturday, calling for Trump supporters to primary Amash in the coming election cycle.

Amash responded in less than an hour, claiming the Trump administration and establishment ?have merged into #Trumpstablishment.?

If the White House is serious about ousting Amash, it will not be easy. A more mainstream Republican backed by the party establishment tried to defeat the four-term congressman in a 2014 primary and failed miserably.

Amash has emerged as the congressional Republican perhaps most willing to criticize Trump. He has maintained this maverick approach during the public feud that has erupted between Trump and the Freedom Caucus in the past few days. 

The president has settled on a deliberate strategy of calling out the Freedom Caucus for its role in sinking the Republican Obamacare replacement bill. The group of hardline fiscal conservatives argued that the legislation preserved too much of the Affordable Care Act?s original structure, noting that it would provide tax credits for individuals to purchase insurance on exchanges.

Trump tweeted on Thursday that Republicans ?must fight? Freedom Caucus members if they ?don?t get on board,? implying that they would be subject to primary challenges. On Friday, he singled out GOP Reps. Mark Meadows (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Raul Labrador (Idaho) ? all Freedom Caucus members ? in more conciliatory tweets that seemed aimed at cajoling them into cooperation.

Scavino?s call to initiate a primary challenge against Amash is the most explicit indication yet that the White House plans to try to push these members out if they stand in the way of the broader GOP agenda.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

All The News That’s Fit To Buy

?Fake news? comes in many different forms. Before the 2016 presidential election, the term was used to describe modern day yellow journalism?false or misleading news stories widely shared on social media platforms. The term was later co-opted by President Donald Trump and his rabid defenders to describe any news story not favorable to his corporatist, fact-adverse regime.

Before the term?s emergence as a political buzzword, however, ?fake news? has existed as a device of corporate marketers and advertisers whose deceptive tactics continue to evolve in the digital age. And has it evolved!

?Fake News is fast replacing recognizable advertising as the weapon of choice for the clear majority of advertisers and websites battling for revenue, and consumers,? says Will deHoo, cofounder and Executive Director of the FoolProof Foundation. DeHoo and iconic news anchor Walter Cronkite created their foundation to teach consumers to be healthy skeptics.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent by corporations each year on advertising, from flashy Super Bowl ads to banners on the sides of city buses. Just how effective these ads are in selling products is an ongoing debate kept mostly private within the advertising industry. Pioneering department store magnate, John Wanamaker of Philadelphia, once mused that half the money he spent on advertising was effective, but he didn?t know which half.

Fake News is going to be a big, nearly overpowering presence in all of our lives for a long time to come.
Will deHoo

Americans are now under constant bombardment by advertisers, from billboards to radio and TV commercials, internet ads, athlete jerseys and even in once off-limits schools. However, research shows that more and more Americans consciously attempt to avoid advertisements when they can. This is a serious problem to a multi-billion dollar industry ever striving to justify its relevance.

Ever flip through a magazine or a newspaper and come across an article that looks nearly identical to any other article in the publication, only to see ?advertisement? along the bottom in small letters? These are called advertorials?advertisements designed to look like editorial content. The practice is not new. Merriam-Webster dates the origin of the word to 1946. Back in the 1970?s, Mobil Oil famously bought ad space on the op-ed pages of major newspapers to push oil and gas interests and favorable policy positions.

The intent of an advertorial is shameless deception, to fool readers into absorbing a one-sided marketing release without even realizing it. With the oversaturation of easily-ignorable advertising in other mediums, this old tactic has re-emerged online with new life.

Now called ?native? or ?invisible? advertising, companies are investing big into Trojan horsing their sales pitches. An added benefit to these shifty sellers is that by shedding the legal baggage that comes attached to ?pure? advertising, they are more able to make even more outrageous and unprovable assertions about their products. Perhaps a more accurate term is ?ambush advertising.?

Even online articles from highly-respected outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post are routinely covered in banner advertisements, sometimes embedded in the middle of the article text. Similar to the old days of Mobil Oil, many of these ads can initially appear to be links to other legitimate articles from the same outlet, unless one is paying enough attention to notice that they are covertly labeled as paid for by a sponsor. Other websites show sponsored ads with innocuous labels like ?Recommended For You? or ?From Our Partners.?

?Advertisers have spent the last five years perfecting how to hide advertising within editorial content,? says Dr. Mara Einstein, author of Blacks Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing, and the Covert World of the Digital Sell. Einstein also serves on the FoolProof Foundation?s board. ?The newest research suggests that native advertising will soon represent almost 3/4 of display advertising. And most of that will be ?custom native? ? the kind that looks most like the website on which it appears.?

To savvy readers and internet users, these ad traps might stand out and be easily avoided, but many consumers of content are not aware of the ulterior motives behind what they see on their screens.

According to a Stanford University study, 82% of middle-schoolers could not tell the difference between a real online news story and an advertisement designed to look like one?even with the presence of a small disclaimer.

Corporate brands have also moved into social media platforms, blurring the lines between corporate advertising, human relationships and editorial content. With Congress now passing a bill allowing Internet Service Providers to sell the private browsing data of its customers, it seems nothing is off limits for those seeking to shamelessly sell.

The Walter Cronkite project at The FoolProof Foundation has put together a useful website with information on how to identify the signs of fake news advertising. It also has resources for teachers to help educate their students about this deceptive new wave of advertising. It?s worth a visit.

?Fake News is going to be a big, nearly overpowering presence in all of our lives for a long time to come,? summed up FoolProof Founder Will deHoo. Cronkite would have agreed with him.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

This Little Girl Loves Costco So Much, She Made It Her Birthday Party Theme

When Kimber Walker celebrated her fifth birthday, she picked a pretty unconventional party theme. 

The North Carolina preschooler commemorated the occasion with a Costco-themed party at her home in February. 

?She is obsessed with Costco,? Kimber?s mom, Niki, told The Huffington Post. ?We served hotdogs and pizza, set up sample stations, printed dollars with her face on them, had Costco pizza and Kirkland ice cream. We also had a little shop set up, and everyone designed their own ?membership cards?.?

Niki said Kimber had been requesting a Costco-themed party for two years, so the family finally decided to bring her dream to life for her fifth birthday.

The Walkers declared their daughter ?Employee of the Month? and set up a photo area for guests to take photos with a sign stating that. Their local Winston-Salem Costco even gave them a special employee badge for the little girl.

Kimber had a blast at the party, and her guests enjoyed the celebration as well.

?They thought it was hilarious and quirky, which both describe my daughter,? said the mom.  ?One of the little girls that came said that it was the best party that she had ever been to, including all of her own. ?

Keep scrolling to see more photos from Kimber?s awesome Costco party.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Bosses defend Peugeot-Opel deal under political fire

FRANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – PSA Group and General Motors mobilized their chief executives on Wednesday to defend the Peugeot maker’s planned acquisition of GM’s Opel against a German-led backlash that could derail the deal even before its terms are finalised.

.http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/zhSZtEv4M64/us-opel-m-a-psa-hq-idUSKBN15U12T
RANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – PSA Group and General Motors mobilized their chief executives on Wednesday to defend the Peugeot maker’s planned acquisition of GM’s Opel against a German-led backlash that could derail the deal even before its terms are finalised.

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