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May 1 2016 3:05 PM

No, Maureen Dowd, Trump Didn’t Actually Oppose the Iraq War From the Start

Here we go again. Donald Trump likes to say that he has good foreign-policy instincts because he was opposed to the Iraq War from the beginning and pushed back against the invasion. Problem is, that claim has been thoroughly debunked over and over again. He may have expressed some concerns after the war started, but not before. And, in fact, BuzzFeed even found a radio interview with Howard Stern in which Trump said he supported the invasion about six months before the war started.

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, though, writes her column Sunday as if the debunkings are not the first thing that pop up when you type Trump and Iraq into Google. In Dowd’s piece, she claims that the election could end up being between “Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove,” noting that “in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.” And then Dowd notes that “the prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea.”

Dowd goes on:

You can actually envision a foreign policy debate between Trump and Clinton that sounds oddly like the one Obama and Clinton had in 2008, with Trump playing Obama, preening about his good judgment on Iraq, wanting an end to nation-building and thinking he could have a reset with Russia.

Except, of course, Obama actually opposed the Iraq war, loudly and clearly months before the invasion took place.

May 1 2016 1:07 PM

Alabama Boy, 11, Shoots Burglar, Mocks Him for “Crying Like a Little Baby”

Chris Gaither—an 11-year-old boy from Talladega, Alabama—was home alone on Wednesday when he suddenly heard a strange noise. He went to look and saw a suspected home intruder. Chris says he was scared, but he grabbed a 9 mm handgun to protect himself. “When he was coming down the stairs, that’s when he told me he was going to kill me, F-you and all that,” Gaither said.

The alleged intruder then made it to the front door with a hamper in his hand. And that’s when Chris started firing the weapon. He fired 11 shots until the 12th finally hit the “bad guy,” as WVTM reporter Kyle Burger calls him, in the leg with a “full metal jacket bullet.” “He started crying like a baby,” Chris says. Burger then puts in his two cents: “A baby that learned his lesson.”

Why did an 11-year-old boy have access to a fully loaded handgun? That question obviously never comes up.

May 1 2016 12:22 PM

Malia Obama Will Take Year Off Before Heading to Harvard in 2017

The mystery is over. After lots of speculation of where the most coveted high school senior would go to college, the White House announced on Sunday that Malia Obama will be attending Harvard University. But the 17-year-old will first take a gap year, meaning she will start attending Harvard in the fall of 2017 and will be a member of the Class of 2021. Both her parents are alumni of Harvard Law School.

Although it was unexpected, the gap year appears to be a clear way to make sure the Obamas will be able to experience the last few months of living at the White House together without having to worry about shipping the oldest daughter off to school. The White House gave no hints about what Malia would be doing in her year off, but the Obama daughters have been traveling with their parents more and more over the past few months, as their father’s presidency comes to an end.

Malia Obama was 10 when Barack Obama became president and is now a senior at elite private school Sidwell Friends. Younger sister Sasha, 14, is finishing up her freshman year at the same school.

Harvard says on its website that it “encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.” Around 80 to 110 students decide to take a gap year before beginning their undergraduate studies at Harvard.

May 1 2016 1:41 AM

Wow, Larry Wilmore Really Flopped at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Yes, it’s never easy to follow the president. But boy did Larry Wilmore miss the mark on Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The vast majority of his jokes fell flat in a room that seemed to be groaning more often than smiling. Beyond a joke here and there, the whole monologue was really boring. A full 10 minutes could have easily been chopped from the whole thing and nothing would have changed.

It ultimately seems Wilmore wanted to pull a Stephen Colbert, speaking truth to power. Problem is, he never really found his rhythm. Part of the problem may have been that the obviously cool reception that his jokes received seems to have knocked him off his game a bit. “You guys are tough, man,” Wilmore said at one point.

Wilmore did manage to utter one brutal zinger against Obama that all in all wasn’t too bad. “It looks like you’re really enjoying your last year of the presidency. I saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry,” Wilmore said. “It kind of makes sense too because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances.”

Wilmore also suffered because many of his jokes were about Obama’s age. Some weren’t bad, but the president himself made jokes about that earlier, so it just seemed repetitive. “Look at you. Your hair is so white it tried to punch me at a Trump rally,” Wilmore said.

The comedian really laid into the media, but, once again, fell flat almost every time. There were a few exceptions, including “MSNBC got rid of so many black people I thought Boko Haram was running that network.” He also targeted specific journalists. “I should say, some of our finest black journalists are here tonight. Don Lemon is here too.” That got him a middle finger from Lemon.

Wilmore did manage to turn it around in the end a bit, when he spoke emotionally about what it meant for him as an black American that a black man had been president for eight years. “When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world,” Wilmore said.

And then he turned to Obama: “Yo Barry, you did it my nigga.”

May 1 2016 12:34 AM

Watch Obama Ask Boehner for Advice as He Prepares for Post–White House Life

One of the funniest moments in a White House Correspondents’ Dinner that was decidedly short on laughs was a pre-taped video that President Obama showed to joke about his decision to stay in Washington, D.C., after he leaves office. The video starts out with reporters joking about the president’s decision. “F--k you, Chuck Todd,” Obama says.*

Vice President Joe Biden makes a cameo as a melancholic Obama lies down on his couch wondering what he should do with his life. And there’s even room for a birth-certificate joke in a little scene that takes place at a (very fancy) DMV.

The highlight of the video though is when Obama suddenly realizes who could help him out. “I know who I need to talk to,” the president says. All of a suddent Obama and John Boehner are watching a Toy Story movie. (Boehner is crying, obviously.) “So, got any advice for me?” Obama asks the former speaker. Boehner tells the president to just be himself, and Obama says he would start wearing his mom jeans again. “Yesterday, I had a beer at 11:30 in the morning, and you know McDonald’s now serves breakfast all day long,” Boehner says, before proceeding to tempt Obama with a cigarette.

*Correction, May 1, 2016: This post originally misspelled Chuck Todd’s last name.

May 1 2016 12:04 AM

Obama’s Best Jokes From His Last White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Obama did not hide his joy that Saturday marked his last White House Correspondents' Dinner. For his final foray into stand-up comedian land at the Washington Hilton, Obama delivered a relatively solid performance. It was far from his best but the president still managed to utter a few funny lines. And no one was spared, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Like the best comedians, Obama also turned the spotlight on himself, making several jokes about his post–White House life and his age.

Without further ado, Obama’s best jokes of the night:

  • "I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make."
  • “Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of politics, in hindsight I really should have been more specific.”
  • “Hillary once wondered if I’d be ready for a 3 a.m. phone call. Now I’m awake anyway ‘cause I have to go to the bathroom.”
  • “While in England, I did have lunch with the Queen, took in a performance of Shakespeare, hit the links with David Cameron. In case anyone is still debating whether I’m black enough, I think that settles the debate.”
  • “Savannah Guthrie left the White House press corps to host The Today Show. Nora O’Donnell left the briefing room to host CBS This Morning. Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.”
  • “As you know, Spotlight is a film about investigative journalists with the resources, the autonomy, to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since Star Wars.”
  • “GOP Chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you’ve earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success! The Republican Party, the nomination process—it’s all going great. Keep it up!”
  • “I am hurt though, Bernie, that you’ve been distancing yourself a little from me. I mean, that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.”
  • “Hillary trying to appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative signing up for Facebook. ‘Dear America, Did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hilary.’ It’s not entirely persuasive.”
  • “I am a little hurt [Donald Trump] is not here tonight. We had so much fun the last time. And it is surprising. You’ve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras, and he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for The Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home, eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel?”
  • “There is one area where The Donald’s experience could be useful, and that is closing Guantanamo—Donald knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.”

The best part though came at the end. “I would like to close on these two words: Obama out,” the president said before literally dropping the mic.

April 30 2016 4:38 PM

Baghdad in State of Emergency After Protesters Storm Parliament

Hundreds of protesters burst through Baghdad’s Green Zone and parliament building on Saturday demanding government reform and escalating a political crisis that has been brewing in the country for months. The protests appear to have been sparked by a fiery speech from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been calling on his followers to push for reform in the government to tackle corruption.

Sadr has been speaking up against Iraqi leaders for months and has been warning that his supporters would enter the Green Zone if the government failed to move forward with political reform efforts. In a televised speech, Sadr said he was "waiting for the great popular uprising and the major revolution to stop the march of the corrupt."

Although the initial protests were largely peaceful, security forces did end up firing teargas to prevent more demonstrators from entering the Green Zone. So far though there are no signs the protesters have any plans to end their demonstration and many set up tents outside Parliament.

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Iraqi protesters open a breach in a concrete wall surrounding the parliament after breaking into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on April 30, 2016.

HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images

For many, merely being inside the Green Zone was a sign of protest. The New York Times explains:

To Iraqis who have lived through the reign of Saddam Hussein, the American occupation and the current turmoil, the Green Zone has long symbolized tyranny, occupation and corruption. Above all, it has been a sign of the separation between ordinary people and a ruling elite unresponsive to the aspirations of Iraq’s citizens.

The political crisis that has engulfed Iraq’s rulers is not only hindering the fight against ISIS but is also holding back any potential solutions to the country’s economic woes, which are largely caused by the global plunge in oil prices. The large protests on Saturday have naturally raised doubts about whether Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will be able to stay in power and move forward with his efforts to reform the country’s politics.

April 30 2016 2:18 PM

Black Teenage Boy Charged With Possession of Child Porn for Sexting With White Girlfriend

Sexting may be common among teenagers but for one 17-year-old black boy from Louisiana it could be an act that will haunt him for the rest of his life. His family says race clearly played a role in why Levar Allen, a three-sport high school athlete, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile and possession of child pornography after sexting with his 16-year-old white girlfriend.

“A little girl sent him a video, she was 16. He sent her a video and he got charged,” Allen’s mother, Chasity Washington, said. She says race has played a factor in the arrest. "I think because she's white, the parents got upset that she's been doing what she's been doing,” she said. Washington is hardly alone. "Millions upon millions of teenagers are doing this very thing and he was selectively targeted among them, and made an example of, because he crossed a line that clearly irritated not only her white parents but white law enforcement officers as well," notes the New York Daily News’ Shaun King

Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Bill Davis was quick to push back against any suggestion that race played a role in the charges. "I have nothing to say about that. It doesn't matter what your race, what your religion, what your ethnicity, don't do child pornography! Plain and simple," he said.

April 30 2016 12:56 PM

Watch Kenya Set Fire to 105 Tons of Elephant Ivory, One Ton of Rhino Horn

Kenya made a play for global attention to the continuing scourge of poaching by setting fire to huge piles of elephant ivory and a smaller pile of rhino horns. All in all, 11 pyres and finished ivory goods totaling some 105 tons of elephant ivory were set ablaze as well as one ton of rhino horn, representing around 8,000 dead animals. It marked the largest ever burning of an ivory stockpile. "Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said before lighting the first pyre.

The decision to burn so much ivory has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks. Some critics have said that the estimated $150 million that the ivory is worth could have been used to protect Kenya’s wildlife. But Kenya’s leaders have said that the whole point is to emphasize ivory should not have any commercial value.

Noted conservationist and politician Richard Leakey recently explained to Scientific American the logic behind the burn:

“My feeling is that many people who are buying this ivory in China and elsewhere simply don’t know what it is doing to elephants. Maybe they think that it is coming off elephants that have died of natural causes. When Kenya burns $100 million worth of ivory, they’ll say, ‘What the hell was that about?’ It will help open their eyes to what is actually happening.”

Kenya has been pushing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for a complete ban on ivory sales. Although selling African elephant ivory has been banned since 1989, some one-off sales are permitted allowing some countries to make money from the tusks of elephants that died from old age or had to be killed by park rangers, among other reasons.

Despite global condemnation of the ivory trade, demand for the product across Asia, particularly China, has not waned. More than 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2010, according to researchers. There are now fewer than 500,000 elephants in Africa, down from around 1.2 million in the 1970s. And the rhinos are in far worse shape with only around 30,000 across Africa.

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This picture shows stacks of ivory and rhinoceros horns burning at the Nairobi National Park on April 30, 2016.

TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

April 30 2016 10:48 AM

Trump to GOP: I Can Win Without Party Unity

Hundreds of protesters gathered to demonstrate against Donald Trump on Friday in what was the second day of protests in a row against the GOP frontrunner. The protesters blocked off the road to the hotel where the billionaire businessman was scheduled to speak so Trump was forced to leave his motorcade and walk through the side of a highway to get to a back entrance. "That was not the easiest entrance I've ever made," Trump said at the California Republican Convention in Burlingame, which is outside San Francisco. "It felt like I was crossing the border actually."

Clashes broke out amid the protesters, some of whom tried to rush the barriers that had been set up next to the hotel. Protesters reportedly threw rocks and eggs at police and Trump supporters say they were shoved and even spat on. The two days of protests are largely seen as a sign of just how rowdy the run-up to the June 7 California primary will be. The Golden State has rarely played an important role in the presidential selection process since it always votes so late in the game. This time around though it could very well be the state that puts Trump over the 1,237-delegate threshold he needs to clinch the nomination.

Once he actually made it inside, Trump called on Republicans to unite behind his candidacy in order to beat Hillary Clinton. “I think it’s going to come to an end very soon,” Trump said. “And really, I’m speaking to the people in this room, because there has to be unity in our party.” At the same time though, Trump made clear he is not going to change his rhetoric just because he is close to the nomination.

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Protesters clash with police during a rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Donald Trump was speaking in Burlingame, California on April 29, 2016.

Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

The GOP frontrunner made fun of his opponents and criticized those in the party who have opposed his candidacy. “Is he the dumbest human being on earth?” Trump asked about Karl Rove, a top adviser to former president George W. Bush. He also harshly criticized the party’s nominating process and accused his opponents of bribing delegates.

Trump at one point even seemed to mock conservatives who have expressed concern about the real estate mogul’s beliefs on key issues such as abortion. “Folks, I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares? We got to straighten out the country,” he said.

Trump’s words in California really serve as a summary of where the GOP frontrunner stands with the party. The New York Times explains:

Mr. Trump’s remarks offered a vivid illustration of the current state of his campaign: As he edges closer to the nomination, he is under pressure to curb his hard-edged language and exude a more statesmanlike demeanor. But the continuing attacks from other Republicans plainly rankle him, and he appears to have little appetite to make peace with his critics.
“Ideally we’re going to be together,” he said. But then he said: “I think we’re going to win even if we’re not together. There are some people I honestly don’t want their endorsement.”

He emphasized that last point later in his speech. “There should be and there has to be unity,” he said. But it’s hardly essential. “Would I win, can I win without it? I think so.”

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A banner hangs from inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Donald Trump was speaking in Burlingame, California on April 29, 2016.

JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

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