New Musical Sets Heartbreaking Love Story In The Hidden World Of Afghan Sex Slavery

Now playing at New York?s June Havoc Theater, ?The Boy Who Danced On Air? tells the story of two young men who find love in a hopeless place. But star Troy Iwata says he?s surprised when people define the new Off-Broadway musical as being patently ?gay? or ?queer.? 

?We never use the word ?gay? at any point. There?s not a lot of representation of ?gay? versus ?straight? in our show,? Iwata told HuffPost. ?To me, it?s just a story about two people who happen to fall in love in a dire situation.?

Written by Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne, ?The Boy Who Danced On Air? could very well be one of the most daring offerings of the 2017 Off-Broadway theater season thus far ? and if viewers feel uncomfortable watching it, that?s exactly what its composers intended. 

Set in rural Afghanistan, the Abingdon Theater Company-produced musical depicts the underground tradition of bacha bazi, in which wealthy Afghan men ?buy? young boys from poor families, dress them in women?s clothing, teach them to dance and ? in many cases ? sexually abuse them. The illegal practice and others like it are underreported, but nonetheless common: a 2014 survey conducted by the human rights advocacy organization Hagar International and cited by Newsweek in 2015 found that one in 10 Afghan boys had experienced some form of human trafficking. 

Iwata, whose television credits include ?Orange Is the New Black? and ?Quantico,? stars as Paiman, a 14-year-old boy who has been sold to Janandar (Jonathan Raviv), an American power plant employee. At one of his performances, Paiman is introduced to Feda (Nikhil Saboo), a boy owned by Janandar?s cousin, Zemar (Osh Ghanimah). At first, the boys treat one another with contempt, but before long, Paiman finds himself falling in love with Feda. However, Janandar has other plans for the rapidly maturing Paiman ? namely, an arranged marriage to a woman ? as their country is engulfed in war.

Sohne told HuffPost he got the idea for the musical after viewing the PBS Frontline documentary, ?The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan.? That 2010 film helped Sohne to realize he?d mentally ?painted Afghanistan with a very broad brush? because of the media?s emphasis on the nation?s ties to the War on Terror. A musical take on bacha bazi, or ?boy play,? had the potential to ?emotionally hit home in a way that didn?t feel like an intellectual exercise,? he said. ?One of the most powerful things about musical theater is its ability to bring you close to people,? he explained. ?If someone is singing a song, I think you can emotionally understand them in a deeper way.?  

Rosser, meanwhile, needed more convincing that the subject matter would lend itself well to a theatrical interpretation. ?I was afraid I wouldn?t know how to interact with this, and I wouldn?t know how to write music for a story like this,? he said, citing ?Carousel? and ?South Pacific? as two of his favorite musicals. As Rosser reassessed the politically-tinged components of those classics, however, he realized such a treatment of bacha bazi didn?t seem so far-fetched after all. ?I don?t think I understood how subversive some of those shows were for their time,? he said.

?The Boy Who Danced On Air? received solid reviews after its 2016 premiere at the Diversionary Theater in San Diego, California. ?Bacha bazi is a repellent practice, but it?s approached in ?The Boy Who Danced on Air? with nuance and sensitivity,? The San Diego Union-Tribune?s Pam Kragen wrote, noting that the the musical ?touchingly, thoughtfully and surprisingly explores this ugly, centuries-old Afghan tradition.?

The New York production, which opened May 23, received similar acclaim. ?Despite the violence and troubling subject matter, the show has moments that are quite beautiful,? USA Today?s Bill Canacci wrote, while Time Out New York called the show ?profoundly affecting.? 

In spite of the reviews, the show?s five-member ensemble are aware that pedophilia, homophobia and Islamophobia are tricky to dramatize, and say they are determined to present those subjects in as sensitive of a light as possible. 

?It?s difficult to lift that Western lens and see these characters as humans, because by our definition, what they?re doing is monstrous,? Iwata, who is making his Off-Broadway debut, told HuffPost. Though the actor has to remind himself to approach the piece with ?as little judgment and as much understanding? as possible, the show?s controversial elements are a welcome challenge, too. ?As an actor and an artist, it?s really exciting to be a part of something that?s new and progressive,? he said. 

Though the New York run of ?The Boy Who Danced On Air? wraps June 11, Rosser and Sohne are currently in talks to record a cast album of the show, and are hopeful their creation will live on beyond its current incarnation.

Above all, however, Sohne said he and Rosser are thrilled their work is allowing audiences of all political and religious affiliations to ?find common humanity with characters who, for one reason, they might want to hold at a distance.?

?That part of our piece has become more important now than ever,? he said.

?The Boy Who Danced On Air? plays New York?s June Havoc Theater through June 11. Head here for details. 

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‘Get My Gun!’ Spear Fisherman Films Surprise Shark Attack Off Florida Keys

A spear fisherman diving in the Florida Keys went from being the hunter to being the hunted, dramatic video footage shows.

Parker Simpson was swimming off Boca Chica Key with a fish in his hand on Sunday when an estimated 8-foot reef shark appeared, charging at him from out of the blue.

?This shark came out of nowhere,? Parker wrote in a description on YouTube. ?He first went at my dive buddy Justyn but immediately turned toward me.?

The video shows the shark lunging at Simpson?s feet, taking a bite out of his leg and tearing his flipper.

?I assumed he was trying to steal the black grouper I was holding. But after I lost the grouper and watched it swim to the bottom, the shark kept coming at us,? Simpson wrote.

Once breaching the surface, Simpson cries out: ?Justyn, get my gun! Get my gun! I have a chunk out of my leg.?

Fortunately, the attack ended almost as soon as it began ? though it did leave Simpson with a pretty nasty wound on his leg that cost him more than a liter of blood, he said.

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Mom’s Speech About Her Baby With Down Syndrome Will Take Your Breath Away

A mother?s heartbreaking and honest speech about what it was like to learn her daughter had Down syndrome is captivating the internet.

In 2015, comedian Bethany Van Delft teamed up with The Moth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to storytelling, to share her experience of being a mother of a child with Down syndrome. In her nearly 15-minute story, Van Delft discussed her ?perfect pregnancy,? her weekly ultrasounds and the expectation of that ?rush of love that new mothers talk about.? She then unflinchingly told the audience that she was ?terrified? the moment she learned her daughter, born in November 2011, had Down syndrome. 

?That first few weeks is just a blur of tears and forms and doctors? appointments and lists I made of all the things that were never going to happen now and all the things that she would never do,? she said.

Van Delft remained heartbreakingly truthful as she told the audience that for months she never saw her daughter as actually being her baby. 

?I slept on the couch with her for months with her skin on my skin so she could feel loved, but every time I looked at her all I thought was, ?Where is my baby? Whose baby is this? When do I get to see my baby??? she said.

Van Delft believed she wasn?t ?cut out to be this kind of mother? until she went on vacation with her partner and her daughter at the invitation of a friend. The other people she met there helped her see how charming, funny and smart her daughter was.

The touching story has made the rounds again online since The Scene, a site focused on videos for women, shared footage of it on Facebook. The video has been viewed more than 1 million times since Friday.

After her vacation, Van Delft realized her journey of new motherhood wasn?t all that different from many other moms? experiences. 

?Once I stopped fearing being this kind of mom I realized that all moms cry a lot, all moms doubt their ability to raise this child, all moms worry about the future,? she said.

When she returned from her time away, she also let go of the negative feelings she couldn?t help but harbor for expecting mothers, happy families and friends who stopped keeping in touch.

?I didn?t see anymore the faces of the people who weren?t there,? she said. ?I saw the faces of the people who were there and who wanted to be there.?

For more info about Van Delft, check out her site and Facebook page.

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

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Professor Who Defended Bill Maher Replaces Sen. Al Franken As ‘Real Time’ Guest

Georgetown University sociology professor and author Michael Eric Dyson will replace Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Friday?s episode of ?Real Time with Bill Maher? after a controversy surrounding a racial slur.

A spokesperson for Sen. Franken told HuffPost Monday that the senator would not attend, given the backlash over host Bill Maher?s use of ?n****r? last Friday during his show.

Dyson, who is black, tweeted a defense of Maher over the weekend, writing in a statement, ?Bill?s been a champion of many fights for black justice.?

But the professor also condemned the host?s use of the word. In the statement, Dyson wrote: ?I?m emotional about this. I love Bill Maher. He?s a very dear friend. But as I?ve made plain through the years, the n word should be reserved for black use. Period.?

In an opinion piece about the controversy, The New York Times? Wesley Morris posited that ?[i]t would be fascinating to see [Maher] in the next episode, if there is one, surrounded by a cast of characters who have castigated him for Friday?s scandalette.?

It appears that suggestion ? or something like it ? is the plan. And at this point, a majority of Maher?s upcoming guests are sticking with ?Real Time.?

?I will be participating,? former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) stated in an email to HuffPost, responding directly to news, first reported here, that Franken had canceled his appearance on the show

?Politics is the arena where hard issues are confronted, and as [Theodore Roosevelt] said, faces get a little dusty,? Jolly wrote. ?We need more politicians with the courage to get in the arena, instead of sitting out tough debates in the name of self-preservation.?

HuffPost has confirmed that Jolly is joined in his decision by two other scheduled guests, Ice Cube and Symone Sanders, an activist and former national press secretary for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Journalist David Gregory is also scheduled to appear on the show, but HuffPost has not been able to reach him for comment. HBO has also not responded.

On Friday, Maher used a racial slur in a joke, using the phrase ?house n****r? after Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) invited him to ?work in the fields? of Nebraska.

Sen. Sasse didn?t appear to condemn the remark in the episode. After the show had aired, Maher apologized and called his use of the term ?offensive.? 

Franken issued a statement on Monday explaining his decision to cancel his ?Real Time? appearance.

?Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of ?Real Time,?? a spokesperson for Sen. Franken told HuffPost in an emailed statement. ?He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.?

To Ice Cube and Sanders, however, appearing on ?Real Time? is an opportunity to confront the controversy in addition to discussing their current work.

?Ice Cube will still appear on Bill Maher this Friday as scheduled to talk about the release of ?Death Certificate: 25th Anniversary? edition, an album that was recorded in the wake of the Rodney King beating in 1991, which sadly, speaks to many of the same race issues that we as a society are still dealing with today,? the spokesperson for Ice Cube told HuffPost in an email.

Sanders addressed the controversy over email herself. ?I thought Maher?s comment, Ben Sasse?s reaction and the crowd?s applause were all equally distasteful, inappropriate and offensive. I am glad Maher, too, recognized as such and issued an apology,? she wrote.

?I look forward to a dialogue about it and other pressing issues of the week on Friday. The n-word is not a joke to be thrown about and it is never OK to make light of slavery and/or the experiences of enslaved people.?

HBO has stated it has no plans to fire the host.

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George Weasley Offers A Solution To The Biggest ‘Harry Potter’ Plot Hole

As much as we love J.K. Rowling, there are a lot of things that don?t make sense in the ?Harry Potter? series.

For example, there?s no discussion of kids taking subjects like math and science. If Muggles have to suffer through algebra, wizard kids should, too. And why didn?t Voldemort just break Harry Potter?s glasses or something? So many plot holes. So little time.

Beyond these little annoyances, one glaring plot hole remains the chosen one: Why didn?t Fred and George notice Peter Pettigrew sleeping in Ron?s bed on the Marauder?s Map?

The Weasley twins had the map, which is able to show the location of each person in Hogwarts, for years before they gave it to Harry. During all that time, wouldn?t they have noticed Ron hanging out with a guy named Peter Pettigrew, who was really an Animagus disguised as Ron?s rat, Scabbers?

We first posed the question to Rupert Grint, who said he didn?t know for sure but added, ?That?s a good point,? after we suggested that Ron was technically going to bed with Pettigrew every night.

Thankfully, Oliver Phelps, who played George in the movies, came to the rescue. 

?Maybe it?s a boo in the family that no one talks of. ?Who?s this Peter bloke??? said Phelps. He later added, ?Maybe it was an unspoken word in the Weasley?s family,? insinuating, perhaps, that Fred and George didn?t want to press Ron on a relationship he wasn?t yet comfortable talking about. Sure, Ron was 11 years old when he first brought Scabbers/Peter to Hogwarts, but maybe the relationship wasn?t romantic. 

Phelps suggested that the family was probably surprised when Ron and Hermione got together.

?When it came out that he got with Hermione, they were like, ?Oh.?? said Phelps.

The actor admitted he didn?t know for sure, but Phelps? answer is as good as anyone?s since he?s basically an authority on the Weasleys. Phelps and his brother James, who played Fred Weasley, apparently even know secrets about their characters? backgrounds from J.K. Rowling, but he wouldn?t reveal them unless it was already out there.

?It was kind of family-based, from her side of it? was all we could get out of him.

So as far as the plot hole goes, it looks like the Weasleys just let Ron do his own thing.

Phelps has to be used to questions like this. Despite getting involved in various charities such as WellChildHelp Harry Help Others and Teenage Cancer Trust and working on other projects, like a potential new TV show with his brother, ?Harry Potter? still follows him around every day.

What was it like when the movies ended? Are you working on things with your brother or separately?

I remember the day we wrapped. It really felt like we were trapezing, and they pulled the safety net because we?d always had that balance. We could always go back to the next film, and it?s only subsequently since that I realized what a big thing it is. We were always pretty impressed to be part of it, but it?s a bit weird like, ?Oh, what? Not every film is $150 million budget?? You know what I mean? Those sort of things. So it?s certainly been an eye-opener doing it the other way around, I suppose, to what conventional actors do. But since [then] we?ve been very lucky to get in the room with people and talk and meet.

James and I have been doing a few things separately, but I think we both realized that our niche is together in some aspects of it, so we?ve got some other projects of our own we?ll be working on, which has been, again, a new side of it, learning different things. We got a show we?re trying to get off the ground at the moment, so that?s been quite cool.

What?s the show going to be?

It?s still under wraps to a point. I can say it?s a travel documentary show, so the premise is we go to a certain city and we do two sides of the same city.

That actually sounds great. So you two never opened a joke shop?

No, but every time I ever go into Hamleys [Toy Shop] in London, I get a funny look. It?s one of those things, I think, because we are known as pranksters and everything else like that. We never quite went that way, but the good thing about being those characters is that people find us very approachable, which is brilliant. It?s nice when you?re out and about and some people recognize us, and they?ll take a second because the hair is different.

Do people recognize you all the time? Or only when you?re together?

If we?re both together, people know straight away where they recognize us from. I?d say it happens daily.

What?s a memory you have that fans don?t know about?

I remember instantly, the first time we did the read-through. For me, that was one of the funniest bits to sit there and think, ?Wow, we?re actually doing this.? That was cool. In terms of stuff you don?t realize, there?s just lots of stuff. Playing football in the Great Hall, which I?m sure Warner Bros. wouldn?t like me talking about. Playing cricket on Privet Drive and things like that.

Did you ever interact with J. K. Rowling on set?

She was probably the most intimidating person I?ve ever met in my life, not by any fault of her own, just by ? she made everything that we were doing. I remember we were in Rupert?s dressing room on one of the later films, and she came in and totally blindsided all of us. I think we were doing something silly, like, we were playing darts but with a crossbow or something not very mature. And she explained where the twins characters came from and where their influences are and stuff like that. I didn?t want to rock the boat too much and ask, ?Well, what do they do afterwards … what does one of them do afterwards?? But it was quite interesting learning the backstories and where the characters came from.

Did you ever hear you weren?t supposed to say the T in Voldemort? It?s supposedly pronounced ?Voldemor.?

Oh, really?

Yeah. Rowling revealed that. It was a big thing for days.

No. Wow. Probably could?ve done with knowing that while we were filming it. [Laughs.]

One of my favorite scenes of you was when you caught Ginny and Harry and said, ?Morning.?

It was awkward as hell to do, but I remember for some reason the night before I was watching Looney Tunes and you?ve got Bugs Bunny walking around trying to be quiet, so if you watch that scene I pretty much do an over-exaggerated, long, quiet step in the background just because I thought that made it a bit more obvious that he?s goofing about. And the way I said, ?Morning,? that comes from my parents, on the phone always speaking like, ?Hello, morning.? To me, it made a bit more sense to do it like than to make it more awkward. But it?s kind of taken on a life of itself now.

There are a bunch of Harry Potter theories. One is that George became Willy Wonka.

Maybe. I supposed he?d stick with the entrepreneurship. I thought maybe Ron would come to work with him but he?d be the all-seeing guy. Maybe he would go a little bit mad as Willy Wonka did, to a point. James often talked about maybe Fred became a ghost, like he?d always be jumping out at people or stopping people from stealing in the shop or something like that.

Ever do the switcheroo with each other?

We did on the second film in a long shot rehearsal. I actually read somewhere that we got caught and they had to reshoot the whole film, which I?m pretty sure they wouldn?t. And we were playing identical twins, so it prob wouldn?t have made much difference.

Do you have a lifetime entrance to Harry Potter World?

I think so. I mean, they did say that they would. I wanted a gold card they give you at Disneyland to get in. They said, ?Well, we don?t do that at Universal. Just call the office, and they?ll get you in.?

I want a gold card to show you. [Laughs] To be fair to the guys, they?ve always been awesome when we?ve been down, and they?ve had close friends in as well.

From June 1 to 30, HuffPost is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the very first ?Harry Potter? book by reminiscing about all things Hogwarts. Accio childhood memories.

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Breitbart Fires Reporter Over Her Islamophobic Tweets Post-London Attack

Ultra-conservative news site Breitbart has fired one of its writers over her Islamophobic tweets following last week?s terror attack in London. 

Katie McHugh confirmed reports of her firing Monday morning on Twitter and linked to a fundraising page on the site WeSearchr, where she reiterated some of the comments made in her most inflammatory tweets and asked for $10,000 to help her with interim living costs and medical expenses.

?Breitbart News fired an editor for speaking frankly about Islam and Muslim immigration,? McHugh told WeSearchr, according to the fundraising page. ?If there were no Muslims in London, there would be no Muslim terror attacks, period.

?I said nothing wrong. As President Donald Trump says, if we don?t get smart, it will only get worse.?

McHugh has not backed down from her statements and even pinned one to the top of her Twitter feed.

Less than 2 percent of terrorist attacks carried out in the European Union between 2009 and 2013 were religiously motivated, ThinkProgress found in 2015. And according to Pew Research findings shared last month, Muslims living in Muslim-majority countries have a strong negative view of the Islamic State terrorist group. 

While extreme, McHugh?s tweets aren?t a far cry from the Islamophobic sentiments published by Breitbart

McHugh also got into a Twitter spat with Iranian-American actor Pej Vahdat, who called her out on Saturday for conflating the Islamic State group with Islam. 

?You?re a real moron,? Vahdat tweeted at McHugh.

?You?re an Indian,? McHugh responded in a since-deleted tweet. 

McHugh has a long history of racist, inflammatory tweets, reported CNN, who first shared news of her firing. Other Breitbart employees who spoke with the network described her tweets over the weekend as ?appalling,? ?terrible? and ?dumb.?

Breitbart did not return a request for comment. 

At least she has conservative commentator Ann Coulter on her side: 

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Brandy Norwood Released From Hospital After Falling Unconscious On Plane

After falling unconscious aboard a Delta Airlines flight Friday at Los Angeles International Airport, singer Brandy Norwood was released from the hospital, her rep confirmed to The Associated Press.

?The stress of all of the traveling and working so incessantly has exhausted her. She will be relaxing for the next few days,? Norwood?s publicist, Courtney Barnes, said in a statement, noting the singer had recently traveled on on more than 10 long flights. 

Barnes told The AP Norwood was up late recording music before she arrived for her flight at LAX. 

Norwood was hospitalized early Friday morning after she lost consciousness while aboard a plane that was preparing to takeoff, TMZ reported.  

Paramedics rushed to the scene to help, according to TMZ, and once they arrived, they removed the singer from the plane. 

?The flight crew of Delta flight 763 from LAX to New York?s JFK International Airport returned to the gate, prior to departure, after a customer fell ill on board,? Delta said in a statement obtained by ABC, though the company did not identify the passenger. ?Medical personnel met the flight and transported the customer to a local hospital.?

TMZ was told Brandy regained consciousness while she was being treated on the runway. Sources told the outlet Brandy was in stable condition. 

HuffPost has reached out to a representative for Norwood and will update this post if we receive further details. 

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Michael Moore Posts Zingers Galore On Trump Climate Pact Withdrawal

Michael Moore has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, but he pulled out all the stops on Thursday.

In the wake of the president?s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord intended to stave off climate change, the filmmaker launched tweet after tweet of venom-laced humor directed at the commander-in-chief?s move.

Without further ado: 

Moore?s audience followed suit.

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This ‘Elegy For The Arctic’ Is A Soul-Stirring Love Song To Our Planet

Composers typically perform their masterworks in concert halls and similar venues, but the award-winning Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi chose a different spot for debuting an original piece he wrote last year at the request of Greenpeace: the Arctic Ocean.

Floating on a platform in the Arctic Ocean, Einaudi plays his soul-stirring ?Elegy for the Arctic? on a grand piano, with Norway?s towering Wahlenbergbreen Glacier slowly melting in the background. Greenpeace filmed the moving tribute, which you can watch in the above ?SuperSoul Sunday? video, providing a somber soundtrack for a majestic yet fragile ecosystem in crisis.

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Emmy Rossum Found A Heartwarming Way To Reuse Her Wedding Flowers

Emmy Rossum found a beautiful way to give her wedding flowers a second life.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the ?Shameless? actress tied the knot with ?Mr. Robot? creator Sam Esmail in New York City. On Wednesday, the bride revealed that she donated her flowers to Repeat Roses, an organization that picks up arrangements after the event, repurposes them and then delivers them to hospitals, nursing homes and other places where they?ll provide some comfort and happiness. 

A post shared by Emmy Rossum (@emmyrossum) on

?Thank you @RepeatRoses,? Rossum wrote on her Instagram Story. ?@RepeatRoses brought these and many more to Mount Sinai hospital. [The company] repurposes flowers from weddings and events so they don?t go to waste.?

Repeat Roses founder Jennifer Grove told The Knot that the combination of garden roses, ranunculus and peonies from the couple?s wedding created a number of stunning arrangements for the patients and staff at the hospital. 

?[Emmy and Sam] graciously donated their reception table centerpieces, which we repurposed overnight into 28 arrangements,? Grove told The Knot. ?[The flowers were] delivered first thing the next morning to the Phyllis and Lee Coffey Geriatrics Department at the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai Hospital.? 

?We love their love story and are so thrilled they started their new chapter as newlyweds on a sweet note of kindness by giving back to the local community,? Grove added.

Rossum and Esmail said their ?I dos? Sunday at Central Synagogue in Manhattan followed by a reception at the Guggenheim Museum. On the big day, the bride ? who donned an off-the-shoulder Carolina Herrera gown ? was joined by her ?Shameless? costars, including William H. Macy, Jeremy Allen White, Shanola Hampton and Isidora Goreshter. 

To learn more about Repeat Roses, visit their website. 

H/T The Knot 

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Democrat Needs GOP Sign-Off To Get Question Answered, Federal Agency Says

A major government agency refused to answer a Democratic legislator?s routine inquiry unless she got a Republican to co-sign her request, the congresswoman told HuffPost.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) said she faced an unprecedented barrier when she asked the Office of Personnel Management about its training process and suggested changes that would help the agency recruit more cybersecurity workers. Janel Fitzhugh, OPM?s legislative director, told Rice?s legislative aide that she needed a Republican committee chairman to co-sign the letter in order to get a response.

It?s extremely unusual for a routine inquiry initiated by members of Congress to face a political hurdle, said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who reviewed Rice?s letter. Davis served as chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee during his tenure in Congress.

?This is a vanilla letter,? Davis told HuffPost. ?It?s not controversial at all. These are entirely appropriate questions. Congress has the right to ask these question and have these questions answered. Particularly on homeland security, you would hope this would be the one issue that could rise above the partisan divide.?

This is a vanilla letter. … Particularly on homeland security, you would hope this would be the one issue that could rise above the partisan divide.
Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.)

The apparent stonewalling is part of a troubling pattern. Democrats have expressed concern that President Donald Trump?s administration is encouraging federal workers to withhold information from them, The Washington Post reported in April.

Although federal governmental agencies are under the executive branch, Congress is charged with providing oversight and members of Congress send thousands of letters of inquiry to federal agencies every week. Most of these inquiries are routine and answered in an expeditious manner.

Rice and two colleagues, Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), sent their letter to the OPM on May 1. Eight days later, a legislative aide in Rice?s office contacted Fitzhugh to check on the status of a response. Fitzhugh said the congresswoman?s office wouldn?t receive a response to the inquiry unless it was co-signed by a committee chairman. Given that the Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives, this meant that OPM was asking a Democrat to seek Republican approval before it would answer a simple inquiry.

Rice offered to get a top Democrat on the committee to also sign the letter, she said, but the OPM said that would not suffice.

Rice?s aide asked Fitzhugh where the edict to require a committee chairman signature was coming from. She replied that Jason Simmons, the OPM chief of staff, had passed down the order.

Before Simmons was appointed as OPM?s chief of staff, he was the Trump campaign?s North Carolina state director and the intergovernmental director for former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R). Placing a political staffer who has no federal government experience in charge of the office that manages civil service employees is quite unusual. The last two OPM chiefs of staff, Elizabeth Montoya and Kiran Ahuja, came to the role with extensive federal government experience.

Simmons? appointment isn?t unusual in this administration, however. In March, ProPublica listed him as a member of the 520-person Trump White House ?beachhead team.? Members of the beachhead team are intended to serve as the eyes and ears (or ?spies,? as one congressional staffer put it) for an administration that is increasingly convinced that career federal government employees are trying to undermine the White House.

Neither Fitzhugh nor Simmons responded to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the OPM also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When told of Simmons? previous experience, Davis said he was surprised that someone with no federal government experience was serving in a critical role that deals with the intricacies of the federal bureaucracy.  

Although the language of Rice?s letter was routine, she says the topic ? cybersecurity at the OPM ? is critical. OPM essentially serves as the human resources department for all federal employees that quality for civil service status, which adds up to about 2 million people. Chinese hackers were reportedly behind a massive security breach at the agency in 2015. Over 21 million records were stolen, including highly sensitive security clearance forms, military records and millions of fingerprints. The breach led to multiple investigations, and Katherine L. Archuleta, who was serving as director of the OMB at the time, resigned under pressure.

The letter that Rice and her colleagues sent asked OPM to detail its overall training and testing policies, as well as its education requirements for cybersecurity jobs. Government agencies have a difficult time recruiting top cybersecurity talent because the compensation and benefits provided by the federal government often pale in comparison to what is offered by tech companies. Removing the requirement of a four-year degree, the representatives said, would allow for more successful recruitment.

Rice still hasn?t received a response to the letter of inquiry.  

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JetBlue Could Soon Let You Scan Your Face To Board Planes

Facial recognition boarding is about to take off. 

JetBlue is offering the technology to customers flying between Boston and the Caribbean island of Aruba this month.

The airline announced on Wednesday that it would test the new software on the route from Boston?s Logan International Airport in partnership with Customs and Border Protection.

The process begins after customers check in for their flights, go through security and arrive at their gates. Travelers will step up to a camera at a Self-Boarding station, where they will have their photos taken. CBP will match the photo with travelers? passport, visa or immigration documentation. A message indicating the photo has been verified will flash on a screen, and customers will then be allowed onto the jet bridge.

?Self-boarding eliminates boarding pass scanning and manual passport checks. Just look into the camera and you?re on your way,?said JetBlue?s Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president customer experience, in a press release. 

The airline hopes the paperless, device-less boarding system will make for a more seamless boarding process. 

Airlines have been trying to improve the boarding process for customers for years. Studies have shown that many boarding procedures are inefficient at best, and they can result in delays and increased customer frustration.

Delta also announced on Wednesday that the airline would test fingerprint boarding technology at Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. In March, American Airlines overhauled its boarding procedure to simplify the process for travelers. 

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Trump Quitting Paris Climate Deal Is About Ideology, Not Business

Quitting the Paris Agreement, as President Donald Trump is reportedly poised to do this week, will have steep political and economic costs.

But for an embattled president, it does do one thing: It fulfills a campaign promise popular with his base.

If Trump does indeed pull the U.S. from the deal, the country will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not to ratify the historic accord. The U.S. took a lead role in brokering the agreement, and leaving it would be a deeply isolationist move that could weaken the nation?s bargaining power in other agreements.

As the U.S. retreats, China is primed to become the new moral leader on this issue. Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping announced a $900 billion fund to invest in infrastructure and clean energy projects abroad.

The economic consequences could be worse. The United Nations estimates that the U.S. stands to lose jobs in the rapidly growing clean energy industry ? estimated to be worth $6 trillion by 2030 ? to Europe, India and China. Countries that tax emissions may put tariffs on American-made imports. And big companies that expect the U.S. to eventually regulate carbon are likely to see ditching the deal as delaying the inevitable, while also sowing the sort of instability that investors don?t like.

The decision would also defy the desires of many major corporate and fossil fuel interests. Oil giants including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell have pleaded with the administration to stay in the deal, as have coal producers and corporate behemoths such as Walmart, General Mills and DuPont, all of which operate internationally.

The deal is popular with the public. Sixty-one percent of Americans say the U.S. should stay in the deal while just 17 percent support backing out, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken this month. Even ousted Fox News pundit Bill O?Reilly urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the pact last November.

But by canceling the deal, Trump will make good on a 2016 pledge, appeasing ardent supporters and a small group of donors. He?d also win the approval of a handful of congressmen who made their names railing against widely accepted science.

?What we?re seeing is Trump being true to what got him elected, which is playing to a particular segment of the population,? said former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), the executive director of the conservative environmental advocate RepublicEN. ?He?s dancing with those who brung him. That?s the one thing that I think he understands.?

It?s unclear whether, or when, Trump will announce plans to withdraw. The country cannot officially begin the process of pulling out until November 2019 under the terms of the deal.

Taking the U.S. out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change would be the fastest and most drastic way to scrap the Paris Agreement, as it would completely withdraw the country from international talks on global warming. Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to draft plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but said nothing of the UNFCCC, according to a report Wednesday from the London-based nonprofit Responding to Climate Change.

Trump has already axed policies that are key to meeting the U.S. targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement, and outlined plans for an aggressive increase in fossil fuel production over the coming years. The voluntary accord obliges its signatories to come together every five years to set new, more ambitious goals in hopes of capping global warming at no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial temperatures. Withdrawing cements the fact that the U.S. will go it alone, come what may.

?I see this as mostly an exercise in honesty,? said Josiah Neeley, director of energy policy at the conservative think tank R Street Institute. ?It would have been inauthentic for the administration to stay in. It?s not true to them, it?s an honest assessment of where they want to go and what the country is going to do regardless.?

Deciding whether the nation should leave the accord split the White House into two camps.

In a twist, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly acted as one of the ?adults? in the Cabinet, advocating for pragmatic market incentives to reduce emissions, such as a tax on carbon. Tillerson is an authority on climate policy from his nearly four decades at Exxon Mobil, and the company is a top funder of climate science denial.

Behind Tillerson was Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who had seen the success of wind energy during his time as Texas governor; Defense Secretary James Mattis, who understood the security concerns unfettered global warming pose to the military; United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who as South Carolina governor courted wind energy giant General Electric to her state; National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who knew the value of hedging bets on climate science; and Ivanka Trump, the president?s eldest daughter who Politico named the ?climate czar? last year because of her plans to champion the science behind global warming. 

The side that opposed the climate deal took a more radical, ideological approach fueled by the belief that the overwhelming consensus among climatologists that the Earth is warming due to human activity is a conspiracy.

One of the foremost advocates for withdrawal appeared to be chief strategist Steve Bannon, a doctrinaire nationalist skeptical of global alliances like the United Nations and the European Union. The withdrawal camp also included EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who in his previous post as Oklahoma?s attorney general sued the agency more than a dozen times and cultivated such close ties to a gas company that he once allowed its lawyers to send a complaint to the EPA under his letterhead.

They were joined by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said it is unfair for the U.S. to fund renewable energy development in poor countries based on a theory; a handful of House Republicans; and 22 GOP senators who said staying in the Paris Agreement made the administration vulnerable to lawsuits by environmentalists.

Asked to ascribe motivations to that group, George Frampton, co-founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth, a D.C.-based conservative group advocating for a carbon tax, chortled: ?You want me to psychoanalyze Steve Bannon??

?It?s a refusal to engage in the fact that we are in a global economy and a set of global relationships,? Frampton said. ?Working together with other countries on climate change is actually a tremendous economic and competitiveness opportunity. But in the same way that they don?t see working with allies on a lot of other things is in our best interest and represents leadership, they don?t see applying the same lesson to climate change.?

By leaving the Paris Agreement, Trump plays to a handful of ?thought leaders on the right,? said Joseph Majkut, director of climate policy at the libertarian think tank Niskanen Center.

?The America-first, nationalistic narrative is satisfied by pulling out of the Paris Agreement, which is a non-binding, cooperative agreement,? Majkut said. ?There?s no real policy win that comes of this. It?s purely a political symbol.?

Early in any administration, the narrative of achieving campaign promises can be a grounding force, particularly for a White House faced with the high-profile failures. The House bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has paltry public support and could be difficult to pass in the Senate. And Trump?s temporary ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries has been struck down by every judge it has come before.

?It?s easy to see him viewing this as a victory,? Majkut said. ?He stumbled in achieving a lot of campaign promises, this is one that doesn?t require congressional consent, and a judge can?t get in the way.? 

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Indy 500 Winner Speaks Out On Newspaper Columnist’s Racist Tweet

Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato is speaking out about the racist tweet posted by a former writer of the Denver Post.

On Sunday, Sato became the first driver from Japan to win the Indy 500, but the accomplishment wasn?t appreciated in all quarters.

After the race, sports writer Terry Frei posted on Twitter that he was ?uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend.?

Frei later deleted the tweet, but a screenshot can be seen here:

On Monday, the Denver Post fired Frei and apologized for his ?disrespectful and unacceptable tweet.?

Sato finally commented on the incident on Tuesday, telling the Associated Press that it was ?unfortunate? Frei had lost his job.

Sato said he appreciated the support he?s received from people who considered Frei?s tweet to be inappropriate.

?I do respect the Denver Post decision,? Sato said.

Frei has apologized on Twitter, but tried to justify it by saying he had just placed flowers on the grave of his father who flew combat missions over Japan in World War II.

Frei?s original tweet and apology aren?t acceptable to at least one of his former co-workers at the Denver Post.

On Sunday, Gil Asakawa, a former executive producer at the Denver Post?s website, wrote a Facebook wondering what Frei thought about a Japanese man running the website that featured his sports coverage.

?Was he ?very uncomfortable? with me having power over his content?? he said, before questioning whether Frei would?ve reacted the same way had a German or Italian driver won the race.  

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Watch Dogs Play In The Mud Because It’s Too Darn Fun To Ignore

Dogs playing in the mud can be so amusing.

Even if you do have to wash them afterward, you can?t help but admire their ability to turn a quagmire into good, dirty fun.

CrazyFunnyStuff posted this compilation on Sunday. We hope these pooches have found more luck in the muck since then.

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Trump Wants To Defund Programs That Help Small Farmers Survive

When Marshall Bartlett describes Como ? the northern Mississippi town of 1,200 where he lives and operates a farm that?s been in his family for 150 years ? he says the statistics speak for themselves.

Among the Panola County town?s residents, 35 percent report income below the poverty line, far exceeding the statewide poverty rate ? which itself has been cited as the highest in the nation. And the county?s unemployment rate of 6 percent outpaces state and national numbers.

?It?s all pretty grim,? Bartlett admitted.

Bartlett says his father had encouraged him and his siblings to not pursue careers in agriculture, and he initially heeded that advice ? earning a bachelor?s degree in environmental studies at Dartmouth College and working with AmeriCorps to rebuild the homes of Hurricane Katrina victims in neighboring Louisiana, among other pursuits.

But about four years ago, the now-28-year-old returned to the farm with a lofty aim: to not only keep the farm in the family but also bring economic opportunities back to the place where he grew up.

The result was Home Place Pastures. Bartlett and his team grow and process pasture-raised pork, beef and lamb with a keen eye on humane handling and environmentally friendly practices. The farm now processes about 25 hogs, five steers and 20 lambs and goats a week, bringing in about $30,000 in revenue. And Bartlett has 12 farm employees, about half of whom live right in Como.

?We?ve gotten here in a little over three years, which is pretty crazy,? Bartlett told HuffPost. ?I?m really proud to have built this here.?

Though a lot of hard work contributed to that success, Bartlett also credits two U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development grants that helped make the farm?s steady growth possible.

In 2014, Bartlett applied for and received a USDA value-added producer grant (VAPG) of about $50,000 to help finance the farm?s expansion of its pork business, allowing it to supply products to area restaurants, retailers and consumers by helping to finance refrigerated delivery equipment. A year later, the farm received a second $50,000 grant to help establish its free-range lamb operation.

Bartlett doubts the farm would be in the position it is today without the federal help.

?We were able to handle these upfront expenses without borrowing a ton of money,? he said. ?Without that injection of those grants, we wouldn?t have been able to do all this.?

The VAPG program was created under the Clinton administration in 2000 to reward farmers, particularly beginners, who were working to diversify farm income streams by creating products and marketing opportunities that added resilience against volatile commodity prices. The program awarded $45 million in grants to 325 producers last year.

This kind of support, advocates say, is especially important when many U.S. farmers are struggling with falling income and rising debt, as well as the extreme weather challenges associated with climate change.

And yet the program is on the chopping block.

As part of a proposed 21 percent reduction in the USDA?s overall spending, President Donald Trump?s budget plan calls for eliminating the funding for VAPG and other rural development programs under the department?s Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

The programs were deemed ?duplicative and underperforming? in the president?s skinny budget. Neither USDA nor Office of Management and Budget officials responded to a request for further explanation of the proposal.

Wes King, policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said the elimination of these programs could be devastating for many smaller farmers.

?If this were to go away, I think you would have a number of farms that would probably end up closing up shop,? King told HuffPost.

Anna Johnson, a policy program associate at the nonpartisan Center for Rural Affairs, described the RBCS cuts as particularly alarming when combined with massive cuts proposed for other initiatives aimed at rural communities, like zeroed-out funding for the Rural Economic Development Program as well as the USDA?s water and wastewater loan program, which helps fund rural infrastructure projects.

?Economic opportunity in these rural areas is a really big issue, and these areas face higher levels of poverty,? Johnson said. ?These are really important programs. For the administration to propose eliminating these supports is troubling for rural communities.?

Criticism of the proposed USDA cuts has come from all sides of the agriculture sector ? including the conservative-leaning Farm Bureau Federation, which said the plan ?fails agriculture and rural America? ? as well as members of Congress from both parties

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared to be distancing himself from the president?s spending plan this week. Perdue attempted to assure lawmakers that he is elevating rural development concerns at the USDA, but his reorganization has eliminated the undersecretary for rural development. 

Some farmers appear willing to give Perdue a chance to make good on that pledge.

In 2015, William Powers, who owns and operates Darby Springs Farm in Ceresco, Nebraska, alongside his wife, Crystal, was another recipient of a $50,000 VAPG grant. The federal money helped finance the farm?s construction of a creamery that will allow them to make and sell ice cream using milk from their pasture-grazed dairy cows.

?The program is crucial for young entrepreneurs with a cash-flow situation,? Powers explained. ?We?re not independently wealthy, so that grant helps us make up some of those upfront payments.?

While Powers believes the proposed cuts to the VAPG and other USDA rural development programs would be detrimental to farms like his, he thinks it?s unlikely Congress will move forward with them.

?But who knows?? he added. ?I?m an optimist.?

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‘Price Is Right’ Contestant Breaks Plinko Record, Loses His Mind In The Process

It?s not every day you can lead a chant of your own name. 

In fact, don?t do that. That should never happen. The one exception is if your name is Ryan and you?re breaking the Plinko record. 

On Thursday?s episode of ?The Price is Right,? contestant Ryan Belz got the chance to play Plinko, and the guy made the most of it. The contestant?s chips landed in the $10,000 slot three times, and he ended up with a total of $31,500.

For those who don?t know ?Price is Right? history off the top of your head, host Drew Carey said that?s a new Plinko record.

And Belz lost his mind the whole time.

If you weren?t aware, Belz is somewhat of a ?Price is Right? fan. You know, somewhat …

In a video on TMZ, the contestant said he?s such a fanatic of the show that he scheduled his classes at Penn State around ?Price is Right? so he could watch. Belz even has an impression of the ?Price is Right? announcer George Gray.

He said he?s not allowed to appear on the show for another 10 years now, but added, ?10 years, mark my word, you know where I?ll be.?

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permeably

The mentee should also be an ideator , this means he should come up with new ideas to help the mentee. This is because the mentee will always need new ideas at some point in his careerThe growing family community in Raleigh is concerned about and tired of the lice epidemic plaguing the children in their schools. They are tirelessly researching the effectiveness and cost of hiring a reputable head lice removal company.. The role of a mentor will be to always help him focus on the bigger picture.

Sarah Lacina Wins ‘Survivor: Game Changers’ In Thrilling Final Tribal Council

Another successful season of ?Survivor? has come to an end ? and the last person standing no doubt deserves the $1 million prize for their gameplay. 

After 39 days of intense competition, Sarah Lacina was named the winner of ?Survivor: Game Changers? following a tribal council that switched things up a bit, focusing on each player?s strategy through outwit, outplay and outlast Q&As. Sarah earned the majority of votes from the jury, beating out runner-up Brad Culpepper and third place finisher Troyzan Robertson.

Tai Trang, Aubry Bracco and Cirie Fields were voted out earlier on in the finale episode. Cirie?s exit was particularly memorable as her torch was snuffed after a record-breaking three idols were played during tribal on Day 36. Not one person wrote her name down, yet she was sent home since Tai played two idols ? one for himself and one for Aubry ? Troyzan played his idol, Sarah played her legacy advantage and Culpepper won the immunity challenge. Technically, Cirie ended up being the only player who could be voted out. 

After the four-time player left, host Jeff Probst told the jury and the remaining five contestants, ?A ?Survivor? legend goes out in legendary style.?

Despite it all, real-life cop Sarah, who admittedly ?played like a criminal,? had a stellar run this season, managing to backstab the best of the best. ?Game Changers,? of course, featured esteemed past players including Sandra Diaz-Twine, Tony Vlachos, Ozzy Lusth, Malcolm Freberg and Andrea Boehlke.  

A teary-eyed Sarah told host Probst during the live after-show, ?I?m very proud of the game I played, I?m not proud of how I treated people.? 

Well, the jury members didn?t seem to mind the blindsides, Sarah. Congrats! 

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20 Times ‘Bridesmen’ Were The Stars Of The Wedding Party

These days, more and more engaged couples are bucking tradition by having mixed-gender bridal parties. That means brides and grooms are asking their nearest and dearest friends and family to stand by their side on the big day ? be it as bridesmaids, bridesmen, groomsmaids or groomsmen. 

Below, 20 fun-filled photos of the brothers, cousins and other guy besties that proudly accepted the role of ?bridesman.? 

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Trump’s Cruel And Deviant Budget

For years, conservatives warned that liberals were ?defining deviancy downward.? They said that by tolerating bad social behavior, liberals in effect lowered what was deemed acceptable behavior overall ? allowing social norms to decline.

There was never a lot of evidence for that view, but there?s little question that Donald Trump is actively defining deviancy downward for the nation as a whole ? whether it?s by lying, denigrating basic democratic values, celebrating tyrants around the world, using his office to build his family wealth, or stopping at nothing to win the presidency.

Now comes his budget. Budgets are overall expressions of values and priorities. Trump?s budget is cruel and deviant. He proposes to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade, much of it for programs that help the poor (Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security disability, and health insurance for poor children) ? in order to finance a huge military buildup and tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

Trump?s budget won?t get through Congress, but it defines deviancy downward in 3 respects:

1. It imposes huge burdens on people who already are hurting. Not just the very poor, but also the working class. In fact, among the biggest losers would be people who voted for Trump ? whites in rural and poor areas of the country who depend on Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security disability.

Yet will they know that Trump is willing to sell them out to the rich and corporate interests, or will they fall for the right-wing Republican propaganda (amplified by Fox News and yell radio) that the budget is designed to help people take more responsibility for themselves?

2. It sets a new low bar for congressional and public debate over social insurance in America, and of government?s role ? far lower than anything proposed by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. It pushes the idea that each of us is and should be on our own, rather than that we are part of a society that benefits from social insurance ? spreading the risks and costs of adversity that could hit any one of us.

As White House OMB director Mick Mulvaney absurdly put it, the government should show ?compassion? for low-income Americans but it should ?also?have compassion for folks who are paying [for] it.? That illogic eliminates the justification for social insurance altogether.

The budget thereby frames the debate over Trumpcare, for example, as ?why should I pay for her pre-existing health problem if I?m healthy??

3. Finally, the budget eviscerates the notion that an important aspect of patriotism involves sacrificing for the common good ? paying for public services you won?t use but will be used by others and will thereby help the nation as a whole, such as schools, roads, clean air, and health care.

Trump?s budget celebrates a cruel and virulent form of individualism ? much like Trump himself. Until Trump, this view of America was considered deviant. But Trump is defining deviancy downward.

We are a better nation than this.

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Hannity Continues Pushing Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory After Fox News Retracts Story

A week after publishing a thinly sourced, conspiracy-peddling article that linked slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich to Wikileaks, Fox News has issued a retraction and removed the story from its website.

The network?s statement, however, did not mention Fox?s television programming, where prominent commentator Sean Hannity has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory since the story published. Hannity was still peddling the theory on Twitter just before the retraction was published, urging his followers to read a post from hacker Kim Dotcom that claimed Rich had definitive links to WikiLeaks. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Hannity had invited Kim Dotcom on his show.

Hannity didn?t back off the Rich conspiracy theory a couple hours later on his radio show. He played a Dutch TV interview in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seemed to imply Rich was his source. Hannity also attacked those in the media criticizing his Rich coverage, calling them ?phony hypocrites? because they?re reporting on investigations into possible collusion between President Donald Trump?s campaign associates and Russia. 

Hannity, during the segment airing just before 4 p.m., notably didn?t mention that Fox News had just retracted its week-old story on Rich. 

Fox News? May 16 article, by investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman, ?was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,? Fox News said in a statement posted to its website Tuesday. ?Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.

?We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted,? the statement added.

Rich was shot to death walking to his Washington, D.C., home in July 2016. Washington police have attributed the killing to a botched robbery.

But soon after Rich was slain, WikiLeaks published a trove of internal DNC emails and documents. Some users of online forums like Reddit, and right-wing commentators ? Hannity included ? seized on the timing to push the conspiracy theory that Rich was killed because of his ties to WikiLeaks, and that the DNC, Democratic Party and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton played roles in his death.

There is no evidence to support those theories. U.S. intelligence officials said in January that the leaks were the result of a Russian hacking operation that provided the DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

Zimmerman?s Fox News story originally played off of a similar article published by a Washington Fox affiliate, in which Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor who was privately investigating the case, claimed Rich had ?confirmed? ties to WikiLeaks. Zimmerman and Fox News later added their own reporting, citing an anonymous federal investigator who reportedly said Rich had sent more than 40,000 DNC-related emails from his laptop to a contact at WikiLeaks.

That Wheeler, who was under contract with Rich?s family but was being paid by a third party, was the only named source in the Fox News report was always problematic. Wheeler?s claims were based on secondhand information, and he has a reputation for spreading baseless conspiracy theories in his role as a Fox News contributor.

The Fox News story began to fall apart almost immediately after it was published. Rich?s family criticized the articles for ?pushing conspiracies? about their son?s death. D.C. Metro police said Wheeler?s claims were false. NBC News reported the FBI was not involved in the investigation and had never examined Rich?s laptop, contrary to what Fox News said it had been told by an anonymous federal investigator. Wheeler later backtracked on his original claims. 

Fox News initially stood by its reporting, saying last week that it would ?continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants.? It repeatedly updated the story amid demands for a full retraction from Rich?s family. Fox 5, the local affiliate, last week updated its story to note that Wheeler had recanted, but did not retract its article.

Rich?s family issued a statement Tuesday saying it ?would like to thank Fox News for their retraction on a story that has caused deep pain and anguish to the family and has done harm to Seth Rich?s legacy.?

?We are hopeful that in the future that Fox News will work with the family to ensure the highest degree of professionality and scrutiny is followed so that only accurate facts are reported surrounding this case,? the family said.

Hannity isn?t the only Fox television commentator to spread the Rich conspiracy theory since the story published online. The ?Fox and Friends? morning show has pushed the story as well, and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich also raised it during an appearance on the network over the weekend. 

This article has been updated to include Hannity?s radio show comments.

Michael Calderone contributed.

 

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Healthy Peanut Butter Recipes That Satisfy Your Cravings

There?s no denying the allure of peanut butter and jelly, or even peanut butter and chocolate. Unfortunately, those two classic PB combos aren?t necessarily the healthiest.

But, fellow peanut butter lovers, we have good news for you: we?ve found 15 recipes that sneak peanut butter into our lives without any of the guilt. We?re talking healthy peanut butter recipes like overnight oats, peanut butter sauces and smoothies, too. These recipes keep the added sugar to a minimum, and are often paired with other healthy ingredients like vegetables, whole grains and oats. Check them out:

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MSNBC Hits Ratings Milestone Amid Blitz Of Trump Bombshells

During an especially frenzied news cycle, MSNBC scored its best week in its 21-year-history by beating out both CNN and Fox News in total prime-time viewers and among the demographic prized by advertisers.

The week of May 15 kicked off with the bombshell that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats, followed the next day with a report that he urged then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. More revelations about Flynn followed, along with the naming of a special prosecutor for the Russian investigation. Trump?s reported boast to the Russians about firing ?nut job? Comey capped off one of the more chaotic weeks in U.S. politics. 

MSNBC progressive hosts Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O?Donnell averaged 2.44 million total viewers and 611,000 viewers ages 25 to 54, a coveted demographic, according to Nielsen data.

But the network?s win comes as a third of it?s prime-time lineup may soon head out the door.

As HuffPost reported earlier this month, NBC News chief Andy Lack has continued shifting MSNBC away from its liberal brand by hiring more Republicans and former Fox News talent ? even as its ratings indicate there?s a strong market for left-leaning programming in the Trump era. Yashar Ali reported on assignment for the HuffPost that it appeared the network was not going to renew O?Donnell?s contract, despite his success in the hour following ?The Rachel Maddow Show.? 

The 10 p.m. host confirmed Wednesday that his contract ends June 4.

CNN came in second in the key demographic with 589,000 viewers, while Fox News ranked third for the first time in 17 years, with 497,000 viewers ages 25 to 54. Fox News was a close second in total viewers with 2.405 million and CNN ranked third at 1.649 million.

Fox News, which has led the cable news ratings race for 15 years, came out of the gate strong after ratings king Bill O?Reilly left last month in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. But the current prime-time lineup of ?Tucker Carlson Tonight,? ?The Five? and ?Hannity? has struggled in handling the big news of the day if it reflects poorly on the Trump White House. 

The network?s right-leaning hosts largely ignored the big Comey news in prime time last week, as 10 p.m. host Sean Hannity has continued promoting a bogus conspiracy theory about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Hannity apparently plans to give oxygen to the Rich conspiracy on Monday night, with veteran Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera joining in the conservative host?s ghoulish pursuit.

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Your Lack Of Sleep Is Not Helping You Make Any Friends

Here’s evidence that getting your beauty sleep isn’t just a cliche: Sleep loss can make you appear less approachable to people, according to a new study.

Researchers examined how strangers reacted to 25 men and women after only four hours of sleep and after the recommended eight hours. They found that the less sleep a person got, the less inclined strangers were to socialize with the person.

The study volunteers were first asked to sleep eight hours for two consecutive nights. A week later, the participants were asked to get two consecutive nights of bad rest, where they only slept four hours or fewer. The subjects wore sleep monitors to track their rest and were photographed without makeup after each experiment. They were not told what the purpose of the study was or what the photos were measuring.

A group of 122 strangers then observed the photos. The strangers were asked if they would socialize with the person featured in the image. They were also instructed to rate the participants in the images based on attractiveness, sleepiness, trustworthiness and whether or not they looked healthy. 

Unsurprisingly, the study participants got poorer results in their sleepy photos. Not only were strangers more likely to answer that they didn?t want to socialize with a tired participant, the strangers also rated the volunteers lower in attractiveness and they perceived the sleepy participants to be less healthy. (There was no significant change in trustworthiness ratings.)

?These findings suggest that naturalistic sleep loss can be detected in a face and that people are less inclined to interact with a sleep-deprived individual,? the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

There are a few minor caveats with this study. The sample size is relatively small, both with the participants and the strangers, so it?s hard to apply these perceptions to an overall population. 

The study also didn?t take certain psychological biases into account. The strangers had no background information about personality, interests or other factors that may play a role in how people perceive others in real life. The outcomes may have been different if the study participant were looking at pictures of loved ones, for example. It also may have been different if the strangers interacted with the person in person, rather than just judging their appearance based on a photo.

Regardless, the study gives some insight into how sleep affects physical attributes. We already know that good rest benefits a lot of internal functions, like the immune system, the mind and the heart. But this research shows that even just a few nights of sleep loss can take a toll on your outer appearance as well.

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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.

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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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